Die Heimkehr der Erinnerung (Fragen für Walter Benjamin)

The Return of Memory (Questions to Walter Benjamin)

CR 122. Year 1996

Die Heimkehr Jochen Gerz CR 122 3 cut web

Is it human to remember or is memory a doctrine and the idea of its temporality and of oblivion, a wrong rather than an error?

It is always important for Gerz to simultaneously define the position of the artist and the audience. This concern cannot be dissociated from his main aim, the activation of memory. It cannot but have an effect on the formal realization of each individual work. To these concerns are added elements of refusal or outright criticism of conditions in society. EXIT. The Dachau Project, a sound and space installation created in 1972, is a meaningful example of the complexity of Gerz’s work. (…) This work expresses his mistrust of institutionalized middlemen, but also and above all his fear that memory, one of the principal human faculties, may be corrupted by precisely the institutions and/or persons whose duty it is to keep memory alive and alert. This naturally includes museums and archives, but also and equally the great mass media, in short all those who participate in social life in one way or another. In this regard, Gerz is not simply concerned with memory as a form of cultural knowledge. For him, memory is rather the mainstream of human uncertainty and self-questioning. And it is only in this continual and self-induced uncertainty that there is, paradoxically enough, a chance of developing a self-awareness that is not in permanent danger of degenerating into self-deception, whether in the form of a superiority or an inferiority complex. Historically, self-deception has always had catastrophic social consequences, and so, according to Gerz, it is not just a matter of remembering, but above all one of making memory relevant to the present situation and of gaining insight into its fundamental importance if an ethics for the future is to be developed.

Friedmann Malsch 2002


Work in public space

Glass bookcase with 14 shelves, 52 x 300 x 539 cm, shelf pane thickness approx. 4 cm, repeatedly fused and glued, stainless steel rails, l = 17 m, w = 11 cm, brownish-red enamel plaque with white printing, 50 x 64 x 1.5 cm, stainless steel lectern, 140 x 64 x 30 cm, exposed concrete wall, 539 x 574 cm, partially covered with gray paint

A glass bookcase on the rooftop terrace of the new Deutsche Bibliothek building lies on two library rails set in the ground and leading to a wall. The outline of the bookcase is reproduced by an unpainted area. A lectern with a printed panel is installed 140 cm from the wall.

Deutsche Bibliothek, Adickesallee, Frankfurt


I: Frankfurt 1996, p. 39. Stuttgart 1997, p. 120 - 121. Bolzano 1999, p. 130. Leipzig/Bochum 2022, pp. 59, 78-81

II: Fleck 1995, p. 80

V: Schmitz 1997, pp. 120-121. Langen-Wettengl 2017, pp. 74-85

Access general bibliography

My name is Jochen Gerz