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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Literary Dose #26

"The words 'memory' and 'public space' are almost coincidental. Currently we have a very tortured relationship with that coincidence, particularly in the West. Our anxiety -- about the past, about memory -- is in direct proportion to our success in destroying it. This is exemplified in Hitler's former headquarters at the Berchtesgaden in Germany, which has recently been turned into a wellness center. A western culture that makes such drastic and thoughtless site and function transformations, driven by the private sector, is seriously dysfunctional in what is public. It shows a tendency towards indulgence in vast projects of artificial memory that often occur at the expense of the original memory. The Berlin Wall is another staggering example: a monument itself would have shown louder and harder what the former tragedy had been on this site. Instead it has literally been dismantled and replaced by a series of more professional memory fabricators that now dedicate vast territories to a memory that could have been kept in its original form. It is a cliché that public space is not what it once was, that it has increasingly been contained. Less evident is the fact that we allow ourselves to be lulled into a false privacy, in which privacy is in fact traded for security, where we become willing participants in a regime of constant surveillance. We live on a curious diet of harmlessness alternating with catastrophe."
- Rem Koolhaas, "In Search of Authenticity," in The Endless City, edited by Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic (Phaidon, 2008).

2 comments:

  1. Powerful stuff. Nice choice.

    Dunno if this is his mistake or yours, but this part seems wrong:

    "The Berlin Wall is another staggering example: a monument itself would have shown louder and harder what the former tragedy had been on this site."

    Surely that should be "a monument itself, it would have shown...", otherwise it reads as suggesting that a new monument should be built.

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  2. No mistake. Just checked it and the transcription jibes with the book. I agree that the choice of wording indicates a NEW monument versus turning the wall into a monument ITSELF, but I think ol' Rem meant the latter. Admittedly the essay in the book is "based on the author's participation at the Urban Age conference in New York, February 2005," so perhaps any confusion can be attributed to the editors.

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