Vienna: Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial, Rachel Whiteread, 2000
October 13, 2021.
The acclaimed art historian and cultural critic, Dora Apel, W. Hawkins Ferry Professor Emerita of Modern and Contemporary Art History at Wayne State University, talks about her recent monograph, Calling Memory Into Place (Rutgers UP, 2020). Her many books include Imagery of Lynching: Black Men, White Women, and the Mob; Memory Effects: The Holocaust and the Art of Secondary Witnessing; and Beautiful, Terrible Ruins: Detroit and the Anxiety of Decline.
"In this deeply personal work, acclaimed art historian Dora Apel examines how memorials, photographs, artworks, and autobiographical stories can be used to fuel a process of “unforgetting”—reinterpreting the past by recalling the events, people, perspectives, and feelings that get excluded from conventional histories. The ten essays in Calling Memory into Place feature explorations of the controversy over a painting of Emmett Till in the Whitney Biennial and the debates about a national lynching memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. They also include personal accounts of Apel’s return to the Polish town where her Holocaust survivor parents grew up, as well as the ways she found strength in her inherited trauma while enduring treatment for breast cancer.
"These essays shift between the scholarly, the personal, and the visual as different modes of knowing, and explore the intersections between racism, antisemitism, and sexism, while suggesting how awareness of historical trauma is deeply inscribed on the body. By investigating the relations among place, memory, and identity, this study shines a light on the dynamic nature of memory as it crosses geography and generations."