Lectures 2006
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"Monument... counter-monument" Argyropoulos Epameinondas

The need to commemorate everyday moments, historical facts, but mostly the loss of human life is present in all civilizations, even from the ancient years. This emerging need for commemoration is served by monuments of different forms. But what is the form of contemporary monuments? What aesthetic criteria do they follow? In what way do they attempt to transmit the collective memory? Do they serve any other social needs?

The aim of this piece of work is, in part, to provide an answer to all those questions but mostly to incite a thinking process on the questions posed earlier. This is going to be achieved through the study of the ideas of contemporary architects and artists, who via their work they reveal their own ideas concerning the theme of memory. In particular, it is under research the way in which these monuments prompt the memory procedure, try to transmit the collective memory to posterity and serve the modern social needs. At the same time, it is made clear that those monuments share some common features which show that their creators deal with the idea of memory in the same way.

In the very beginning, the notion of memory is being analyzed as a mental process. Furthermore, there is a reference to the conceptions which rejected the traditional form of the monuments, as well as to those which led to the new forms of contemporary ones. Then, the most essential monuments are analyzed in detail, so as to denote their function and role in modern society.

James young calls those monuments "counter-monuments", which are closely related to the memory issue emerged in Germany.

 We could say that the counter-monument is beyond any doubt a tangible experience of sight, hearing and touch. The distant which existed before between the monument and the audience, no longer exists. The counter-monument interacts with the audience, provokes profound feelings to the viewer and urges him to meditate.

This reaction on behalf of the audience relates him not only with the material aspect of the work but also with his personal memories and thoughts. The audience in this way transforms the facts of the past into shaping forces of the present. The abstract form of the counter-monument does not, by no means impose concrete images from the past; on the contrary, it allows the constant re-interpretation of the collective memory.

It is true that these new types of monuments provoke much reaction as it is evident that today’s society cannot accept this cynicism and sharpness. Despite these reactions, there are architects and artists who question those traditional values and dare to create the counter-monuments.

The influence of the first counter-monuments of the Holocaust in Germany is evident in those of the terrorist attacks in America. This influence which is really essential is due to the common characteristics of those tragic incidents; that of the unjust and crude loss of human life.

 This commemoration of the human life leads inevitably to this common course which imposes the use of counter-monuments.

By questioning the traditional form, the counter-monuments have already created a "new tradition" concerning the way in which the monument prompts the memory procedure and transmits the collective memory to posterity.