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Sacrality and Aura in the Museum: Mute Objects and Articulate Space Author(s): Joan R.

Branham Source: The Journal of the Walters Art Gallery, Vol. 52/53 (1994/1995), pp. 33-47 Published by: The Walters Art Museum Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20169093 . Accessed: 28/09/2011 00:32
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Sacrality and Aura in the Museum: Mute Objects and Articulate Space
Joan R. Branham

The

incompatibility of museum space and "sacred space, and the curious complicity shared by those two spatial con structions, render problematic curatorial efforts both to decon
textualize/desacralize tualize/re-empower religious such pieces. works Moreover, designed of art and to recontex enter muse

"

on a given pending such indeterminacy

spatial and

temporal

perception; any privi transform object? upon


ceremonial

precludes establishing leged response. How then do spatial scenes the so-called "inherent quality" of a sacred the meaning of religious
gestures,

Is

experiential to invest

art mutable
personages,

depending
and

prises?i.e.,

atmospheric

recreations

accompanying

um-goers with perceptions similar to those of the original ob server?throw into question the shifting meaning of art and
its relationship to an ever-changing audience.

Je

n'aime

pas

trop

Us mus?es...

Je

suis

saisi

d'une

horreur

This essay focuses on theories of the arrangements? sacred and the problematic notion of oscillating spa tial definitions for the museum in curator, specifically relation to recent exhibitions at the Rockefeller Muse um in Jerusalem, the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Wash
ington, D.C.2

sacr?e.Mon pas sefait pieux. Ma voix change et s'?tablit un peu plus haute qu '? l'?glise, mais un peu moins forte qu 'elle ne sonne dans l'ordinaire de la vie. Bient?t, je ne sais plus ce venu ces suis dans solitudes cir?es, qui tiennent queje faire
du venu temple et du salon, ou du cimeti?re mon et de l'?cole... m'instruire, chercher enchantement... Suis-je 1 ?

The Deracination
The hallmark

of SacraUty
museum has been the of

"Le probl?me

Paul Val?ry des mus?es"

of the modern

decontextualization
their centuries-old,

of art works
multilayered

and the divestiture


meanings. Moderni

dis setting, almost by definition, ritual objects out of context, plays thereby strip The and purging them of origi ping them of circumstance nal function on the and significance. This tendency,
part of the museum, to decontextualize works of art

museum

ty, in fact, inanimate


through pretations,

is often objects
the and new

of equated with the desacralization and their essential reconstitution


of new stage While sets, new these inter efforts attributions.

imposition

are meant pieces, gious


tions

deprives liturgical objects define and give meaning


them. when objects accurate A legion of related museum and curators to bestow of the

of the reciprocal power to to the space that surrounds


problems ensues, to however, art a more Efforts to

the formal of such integrity tenor of reli they seriously alter the original their primary objects and undermine implica
evocations.

to preserve

and

Walter Work

undertake upon piece's

re-empower

in his often-quoted Benjamin, essay, "The of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,"

the museum-goer initial "aura."

sense

of a work of art is insepara argues that the uniqueness ble from its "being imbedded in the fabric of tradi
tion."3 jamin's This uniqueness gives contradictory rise, however, notion of to Ben "aura":

invest and someone

the modern reactions and

museum

visitor with once

perceptions by face

similar

to those

experienced

seemingly

from another

time and place impasse.


studies

a logistical
ence/reader

conceptual

especially As some audi

that which
tance,

produces
close is the

"unique phenomenon
be." of Benjamin closeness.

of a dis
asserts that:

however Distance

it may opposite

reception

demonstrate,

the

meaning

of an art object

is inherently

changeable,

de

The essentially

distant object

is the (1994/95) 33

TheJournal of the Walters Art Gallery 52/53

Fig.

1. Fifth-century

chancel

screen with Greek

cross from Constantinople

in a "decontextualized

display"

in the Bode Museum,

Berlin.

one. Unapproachability is unapproachable indeed a major quality of the cult image.


True ever to close its nature, it may it remains be."4 "distant, how

nal "fabric of tradition"?that text and sential its originally intended

is, both its primary audience?remains

con es

Here

Benjamin

object's meaning. 34

inherent lays bare the tension On the one hand, the object's

in an origi

to its significance. On the other hand, the art in spite of its accessibility work's aura prevails and a museum in exhibition. decontextualized proximity Stephen Greenblatt interprets this latter phenomenon

as wonder,
the sense These viewer of

"the power
in his or her

of
to

the displayed
tracks, evoke to an convey exalted object's

object
an

to stop
arresting

uniqueness,

attention."5 intrinsic for

dual

characteristics?the

mal
seem

or aesthetic
to suggest) upon to

nature
and its the initial

(as Benjamin
object's context?allow was a cult once object

and Greenblatt
to and the modern the within ceremonial a sacred, con set. In a de

relation

pendence museum participant ritual setting

transform encountering into an objet then,

what

a detached d'art not on only an does

spectator/voyeur academic one stage abandon

templating gallery space

certain

liturgical
ence of

conventions,
a crucifix, but

like genuflecting
performing such

in the pres
gestures in an

extremely inap from Philip Fisher, the comment propriate?thus "Take the crucifix out of the cathedral and you take "b In Making and Ef the cathedral out of the crucifix. facing
images: attend

exhibition

hall would

be considered

taken by Alfred Stieglitz in 1915. Fig. 2. View of the 291 Gallery African works by ritual objects are juxtaposed with European Braque and Picasso. some seem

Art, Fisher
"To to the silence

calls
them

this process
meant, that are...like stand in radiate

the "silencing"
in part, no out no longer from longer

of
to that in Re ventriloquism they to speak, they lie."11

imperatives objects

The mendacity
from from context, pieces in their their simple

of exhibited

objects
of a

does

not derive
but rather "other" the other of ob

content....Such use, we can just

tools their

decontextualization, newly itself famous created and

neutrally

presence."7

appropriation namely its the

moving
concludes attributes that echoing this

art works
Fisher, that one Benjamin's only

from
is "to exist

their unique
efface within of out"?an tradition."8 because brings

and
them the

initial
a cluster socialization assumption

site,
of

museum One

collection.

example

location

"fabric

of

jects adopting 291 Gallery (fig. 2). Here, works by Braque and Picasso African
over

new bedfellows

is the

1915 exhibit

at

Medieval represent such

chancel "effaced"

screens objects.

in modern As crucial

museums architec

Kota

reliquary
of ancestral

avant-garde European with Central commingle that formerly guarded pieces


bones. In such a configura

baskets

tural markers
chy and separated

that once
sacred

distinguished
from profane

priestly
space,9

hierar
these

tion, Kota reliquary objects


ny. As Andr?

the visitor

critically figure

and

cerebrally

evaluates

the

liturgical
charged porary to speak,

structures?displaced
environments spatial and irrelevant arrangements?now or a temporary fifth-century

from
to exist

their
their

earlier
contem so Figure plaque

intentionally
Malraux

alongside executed
expressed

unrelated functionally for such formal scruti


his view, "the modern

neutered,

in permanent reveals

exhibits. marble

gallery not only isolates the work of art from its con text but makes it foregather with rival or even hostile
works."12 Indeed, art but the museum's associations between affair is not works of the single work of art.13

1, for

example,

from Constantinople
once belonged

displaying

a Greek

cross.10
that was ap

It

to a chancel

construction

The
art objects museum scious art

predicament
has parlance zvork.14 The given as

of
rise

incongruous,
to two art

yet juxtaposed
known the self-con and the in

proachable charged
Berlin's side ment,

an explicitly only by the clergy within area. On display and restricted today in
Museum, separated to the from tourists chancel any from piece liturgical every stands arrange angle. Sev be

categories zvork and screen

the naive medieval

Bode a window, and

chancel

Kota
museum;

reliquary
they

figure were
are naive

not created
because

for display
their makers

in a

accessible

objects

ered
tates

from
matters

tian altar,

its ritual emplacement the silenced liturgical


of inclusion and

in front of a Chris piece


exclusion

did not

no

longer
for

dic

religious

their respective fates.15 Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party (fig. 3), on the other hand, specifical a gallery room in both size to dominate ly constructed
and intent, piece.16 works is just Yet one we example often the view space of a self-conscious both of the naive same and museum mu self seum conscious

intend

participants. Commenting on the mute status of such exhibit

ed pieces,
museum

Spencer
objects "are

Crew
not

and James
eloquent as

Sims
some

state
thinkers

that
in

within

and
As

equipped
Barbara

with

the same

set of formal
notes,

criteria.

the art museums

claim.

They

are dumb.

And

if by

Kirshenblatt-Gimblett

35

' mIB

Fig. 3. Judy Chicago's

"self-conscious"

museum

piece,

The Dinner Party.

The or not

litmus an and

test of object still hold

art can

seems be

to be whether of conti

gency salizing great scend

rhetoric works space are and of

of

stripped univer The great "art," the insistence up. that is they

that

and ritually impure Jews to cross it bidding Gentiles on pain of death. The book of Acts even tells us of the mob that almost stoned Paul to death for having taken
a pagan visitor past this important marker of sacrality.

universal, time,

tran on the

predicated

Although
the ancient referent, den

the screen was


observer the as modern

immediately
signifying observer a

recognizable
sacred now and views forbid it

to
in a

irrelevance

contigency.17

The works with alien

first

theoretical

of their

incipient pieces carries of a fragment

of stripping problem them contexts and coupling serious implications to be from believed

art

corner

at the Rockefeller

dred meters is accessible played


space and

for the the

(fig. 6) a few hun the soreg Mount. from the Temple Here, Dis to nothing. to all and referential Museum it no
from mise the

exhibition

atop a pedestal,
is removed to other showing soreg next to mind its original side of

as a divider longer acts


any en spatial sc?ne. composition Even lacks any its

of

soreg (fig. 4), an influential precur Jerusalem Temple and Jewish chancel screens. The sor to later Christian
soreg once stood in the inner precincts of Herod's

comparable set on the struction sees jects, the

label, recon one ob muse

doorway, context. of Roman claim

(fig. 5), Temple the Divine house

to a religious thought compound of God and known today Presence and religion as a crucial of architecture historians by stone The in for sacred model space antiquity.18 for Latin and carried Greek balustrade inscriptions

its original to a room Malraux's

Moreover, decorative that the

calling

um
each

is an

institution
While

"for pitting
it may not

works
be

of art against

other."19

feasible?practical

36

Gallery
Holy chapel stalled

mounted
Icons

a show
and Frescoes from an

in 1988 entitled
from the Greece.-^ P?loponn?se

Holy
A

Image,
was in fea

Space:

Byzantine

transported for the exhibit,

audiovisual

presentation

tured Byzantine
Pantocrator

music,
stood

and a Byzantine
isolated

icon of Christ
from the

dramatically

other

at the end of objects of display and highlighted a dark gallery (fig. 7). Commenting on such theatrical
tableaux, states that: the come so-called boutique in recent lighting that has of be ubiquitous in museums today, Greenblatt

years?a pool popular that has the surreal of effect light seeming to emerge from within the object rather to focus an it from without?is than upon or the heighten museum if modern was experi de

to attempt provoke ence as of wonder, signers difficult feared

that wonder

increasingly

to arouse.22

Employing
texts ern ters in an audiences, attempt

staged

lighting

and reconstructed
the indifference curator "Our of interest

con

to combat Vikan?the wrote,

of mod The in Wal Holy

Gary

exhibition?recently

Image, Holy torically evocation

Space was

less the articulation

of

architectural appropriate setting of [an] historically object-audi appropriate ence in the Walters dialogue."23 Theatrical techniques
show were used, therefore, to intensify intercourse

[an] his than the

be

and object; it evidently worked because some Greek Orthodox visitors entered the exhibit and kissed
Fig. 4. A fragment scription grounds. warning the Jerusalem soreg with a Greek Temple not to enter sacrificial sacred, foreigners of in

tween viewer

the displayed icons! Such a participatory dia inanimate object and living, breathing logue between
echoes associated with Greenblatt's objects. second Resonance, descriptive he states,

museum-goer, category

is "the power
ly, financially, soreg medieval Jerusalem or chancel apse, soreg's or logistically?to screen one original into ascertains fabric of its own reincorp?rate temple very tradition little in every t?menos of this or the ex yond in the its formal viewer

of the displayed
boundaries the complex,

object
larger

to reach out be
world, cultural to evoke forces

to a

dynamic

from which
taken suggests viewer structs by

it has emerged
to stand."24 is of art that the resonance aware on

and

for which

it may
Greenblatt when

be

a viewer that

Moreover, accomplished historical as well their and as

hibited

configuration.20

the con

is made imposed practices A er resonant away

social the

objects, negotiate often

represen

The Experiential Enterprise: Putting the Cathedral Back into the Crucifix
Laudatory efforts to recontextualize and resacralize

tational

import.

exhibition from the

celebration a series of and

the view pulls of isolated ob implied, questions: the viewer's re they a only

objects within
these attempts

the museum
stress the art

backdrop
object's

have
original

intensified;
potency

and jects half-visible

toward

relationships is the

How did the objects come


. . What . lationship are displayed specific meaning to those same in a specific of

to be displayed?

normally
to form of

lost in decontextualized
silenced objects to

displays.
and the to

The
impart

desire
some can

re-empower "vicarious

when objects museum on

sacrality"

museum-goer

be,

however,

equally

problematic.

The Walters

Art

day?2;>

37

Fig. 5. The

.vorhin a reconstructed

drawing

of the Jerusalem

Temple.

In resonant aura,

order show

to

devise goes

an beyond

object's notions properties

meaning, of of wonder an art

then,

a or

in a facile any art work

recontextualization. is inextricably

Rather, linked to an

the

import

of re

audience's

bound

to

the

formal

work,

and beyond
the object has

the larger fabric of tradition


been extracted. Indeed,

from which
dis

ception and perception of it. Reader literary criticism have proposed


textual potentials.28 meanings Likewise, on the readers'

theories reception the dependency


interpretative meaning of

in of
an

a resonant

play foregrounds
er perceives the piece.

the contextual place from which the view


Enter the role of the audience.

construed

art object of
takes those

is indivisibly
discerning

cemented
it.

to the perceptions
on present

of
re

The
art works

place

of the spectator
that some

in the interpretation
sort of experience

currently

Reflecting

implies

sponses
wrote

to ancient
that "both

objects,
curators

Richard
and

Brilliant
must

recently
con

place
Vikan sional riential pact

between
goes even

the observer
further of to

and
suggest

the exhibited
that derives

object.

academics

a multi-dimen from that are "expe "im

front
another

the issue of what


site and into another a

is this thing,
time,

this artwork
somehow and open

from
be to

understanding

art works

that must shaped by

contextualism"?presentations defined"?and not merely that object.26 Experiential from

incorporated

context

"archaeological the orig

contextualism"?exhibitions inal he setting explains, rests such on the notion cannot of the and that be of an

reconstruct

contextualism,

the disciplined of the mind."29 Affirming operation to the disciplined of objects the susceptibility opera tion of the mind, Kirshenblatt-Gimblett reminds us
that "there interpretive when of are as many contexts These attempt for an object are influence of evoke the as there are issues to essence order reaction" virtually to from

objects

the meaning from divorced for which authenticity fully

of the they of

strategies."30 curatorial efforts reception?the after historical it is in reaction all?in

compli the cu

cated nature ratorial re sort um ars nal, of

reception were made, their alized dynamic experiential An

audience that voice" the is

audience business,

some

"historical when that

only art-audience

to be

"authentic, Because

the muse for any a schol origi

is part of our own "art equation."2' does

experiential and cognitive

visitor. to

impossible terms, it seems

reconstruct,

epistemological to the objects,

universal to try to

frustrating tourist with

object's

meaning

not,

therefore,

solely

lie

aim

invest

twentieth-century

in its intrinsic
techniques. Nor

aura heightened
does an object

by uncanny
realize its

lighting

significance

that original, elusive dynamic. And while the processes of learning?brought about by the educational goals of

38

V'J-

-*?

>*

1 > i;

.^

^>

Fig. 6. The

Jerusalem

Temple

soreg as it stands

today, atop

pedestal

and

in a corner

at the Rockefeller

Museum

in Jerusalem.

museums?and the affective


always inherent

the operations devices employed


Vikan between

o? feeling?evoked in galleries?are
that the "there aesthetic-emo

by not
is an

Fabricating
Curatorial

Sacred Space
attempts "to work" an object's aura have

irreconcilable, incompatibility

concurs

led to the sophisticated


space ty in an as effort the to enhance visitor's as well

manipulation
the art work's

of museum
numinosi with it.

and the cog contextualism tive impact of experiential a nitive act of label reading."M One activity demands
sensory one. evoked, pends meaning. No response matter and entirely In while which in whatever on Benjamin's the the of other these solicits two a cerebral is de for noth its conditions the perception aura "represents object

experiential

encounter

The
Image, cates

title of the Walters


Holy to the Space: viewer Icons that

Art Gallery
and spatial Frescoes

exhibition,
from Greece, among

Holy
indi other

combination, audience's words,

sacrality,

things,
intended

is on display
to represent

here. Whether
the existence

or not
of

the Walters
space,

sacred

ing but
of art in

the formulation
categories of

of the cult value of the work


space and time perception."32 A

the mere

reconstruction

its gallery walls provides


rapport The between fashioning of sacred "holy

of a Byzantine chapel within an interesting test case for the


space space" and in museum the museum space. pre

nuanced
spectacle tial and

exhibit
and temporal

that prioritizes
considers, situation

the rapport
therefore, visitors,

between
the spa arriv

spectator

of museum

sents numerous
gallery curator can one

challenges
and the simply an

and dilemmas
the as

for both

the
For

ing with Moreover,


ject's shifts,

their own
in the from

set of attitudes

it acknowledges
the

and prejudices. of an ob the multiplicity


dialogue. and locative Aura posses

architectural carry object one away such

theoretician. sacred a

meaning therefore,

object-audience static

example, that once icon or

space

surrounded chancel screen,

Byzantine the ob

when

transplants

sion of the object itself, to the object in conjunction with its context, and finally to the critical custody and
presence of the viewer.

ject

into the museum? in the new


Is sacred

Or must setting
space used

a fresh sacred through


as a

generated
secration?

space be ritual and con


to en

backdrop

hance

the meaning

of

liturgical

objects

on display

or 39

^m???^a^^^^a????ma:

icon of Christ Fig. 7. A Byzantine in The Walters 1988 exhibit Holy

Pantocrator, Image, Holy

ca. 1400, theatrically isolated and Space: Icons and Frescoes from Greece.

lit

are objects gathered as props in order to conjure a true object of exhibition? certain spatial entity?the Once notion of aura sheds again, Walter Benjamin's light on
duction

extracted
museum?suggest

from

its original
that the

site and reproduced


propagation,

in the in

simulation,

exportation,
sundry locations

and

reassemblage
that

of
space's

sacred
meaning.

space

the meaning
and relocation.

of spatial and elemental in the age of mechani


is the an aura of the work of

repro

attenuates

But

it's more

That which withers


cal art. reproduction . . .To pry its aura, "sense of

argue that there and affinity between


museum space.

than that. I would complicated is both a fundamental dissonance sacred space, mimetic
works on sacred

space, and
space re

destroy whose

to from its shell, object is the mark of a perception the universal of equality

Theoretical

things" has increased to such a degree that it extracts it even from a unique object by
means of reproduction.33

this paradox. and Jonathan Z. Mircea Eliade Smith are two scholars who provide useful ground on holy space. In Eli work for academic conjectures
ade's view, sacred space revolves around the concept

veal

These

assumptions?if

transferred

to a spatial

totality

a break in the homogeneity of rupture and constitutes of mundane This break, often associated with space.

40

?to

^^

Fig. 8. Silvia Kolbowski's

1993 Postmasters

Gallery

installation,

Once more, with feeling,

equipped

with

its own

"aura railing."

is usually sacred mountains, festation of a transcendent

the ontological changes self. Sacred space, then, the heavenly nication between
curs and passage from one

by the mani and reality thereby of the space it significance is the point at which commu symbolized and earthly
region

of um

a miracle?in arena. however, Smith's for

recreating concept the museum

sacred of

space

in

the muse is rele

"emplacement" context and

vant,

presents

realms oc
to another is

the possibility In opposition first time


on

of oscillating to Benjamin's

there. spatial definitions that "for the proposal

cosmic

in world

made
native

possible.34
set of

Jonathan
to

Z. Smith
explicate a

develops
"theory

an alter
of place."

emancipates
dence

history, mechanical reproduction the work of art from its parasitical depen
Smith's notion of emplacement

categories

ritual,"36

Ritual,
force

not rupture,
that construes

according
the sanctity

to Smith,
of a space.

is the critical
Ritual de

the interdependency pends such as symbolic ingredients,


time, specific gestures, and

on

of a wide objects,

spectrum of consecrated
personages.

reproduced theoretically joins a in of recipro with ritual space dynamic relationship The enactment of a liturgical rite cal empowerment. Greek Orthodox in the museum by, say, a modern priest,
day,

even

a mechanically

appropriate

in a reconstructed
authentic ritual

Byzantine
instruments

chapel,
that

on a holy
are parti

Only

of these com the merging and "emplacement" can items transform and qualify a space, plementary it sacred.35 rendering
For the museum curator, Eliade's theoretical

using

tioned
the

off by chancel
setting into

screens,
a sacred

theoretically
space?a

transforms
contempo

gallery

rary sacred participant


missing

tenets
dence

of divine
point to

rupture
the

and

ontological

transcen

the genuine Byzantine space, that is.While and Byzantine reality remain temporal
from this Byzantine reenact

insurmountable

obstacles?short

components

41

ment,

the

space's

contemporary

authenticity

relies

on

its connection
doxy. The

to the living religion


creation is,

of Greek
a

Ortho
twenti

Byzantine

therefore,

eth-century
be seen as of placement

spatial
such.

and
The

liturgical
art works

construct

and must
and the em

recontextualization provide

Byzantine

present

day spectator
enhance the

with
meaning

an imaginary
and

bridge of

to the past and


of Byzan

understanding

tine

space and objects. then, is the key element


ing both the connections and and porally, ticipant

The

notion

in acknowledging
and the the

the "bridge," and affirm


tem ancient par Fig. 9. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum inWashington, D.C

distances?spatially,

ideologically?between the modern one.

The
setting ny, the ing

engineering
creates a certain the ritual demands the museum. cannot of the greater be

of sacred
friction, demands

space
and of

in the museum
at sacred by the times harmo and

between ceremonial space of

space pre-exist

established The severed museum recreated from and the is

Byzantine prevailing

en con

vironment ditions posed its own

merely setting

superim elicits that

on set

it.37 Furthermore, of behavioral

the museum gestures. Fisher

notes

galleries
cess. The

include
museum are medieval once denoted matters one

"the signals
signs example chancel a of that of

that permit
warn us not a denial in

or deny
to or touch access."38

ac
the

sculpture Whereas tecture articulating

screens qualitatively inclusion and

religious

archi space?

different exclusion?mu

seum guidelines
response, but for

and

roped-off
of

areas
crowd

solicit
control,

a similar
security,

reasons

and preservation. Silvia Kolbowski's Once more, with feeling installation,


own art "chancel work from railing," the viewer separating and from

1992-93
the

satirical its
re Fig.

10. Reconstructed

barracks

from Auschwitz.

(fig. 8), boasts


original,

"real"

mechanically

produced
bare modes mass reverent the of

posters.
museum's inclusion

The

piece
exclusion shop

thus mimics
of and sales.39 aura by Hushed gaits

and

lays

manipulation and for gift and

through means of tones, in the

reproduction observation,

processional

museum
essence, cred

imitate
ancient

behavior
rules and personage,

in liturgical
taboos and associated time

settings.
with give way

In
sa to

space,

objects,

museum hours. Ritual


the

policy, membership privileges, and operating an In and the essay "Art Museums insightful on of Citizenship," comments Carol Duncan
experience, in its own monumental

museum

right, and on
seum architecture. It was

the telling use of temple motifs


that years the facade popular The was for

for mu
Fig. 11. Display of Holocaust victims' shoes.

fitting two hundred the

temple the most

signifi temple up ....

er for facade both

public had the and

art museum. advantage ritual

secular

of calling associations

42

Fig.

12. A rail car,

like the one

that transported

Jews

to the death

camp

at Treblinka.

Museums

do

not

architecturally; and shrines, And space designated like

simply they work such

resemble like

temples ....

memorial

museum

seeks

to

invest

the museum

visitor

other

temples, monuments sites, off museum

with
what

the emotions
the museum The modern and

of a Holocaust
director sojourner passport

victim by fabricating
calls an "anti-sacred an to identifica that of a receives

traditional

ritual marked

is carefully as

and

space."41 culturally tion

special

. . .4()

number

corresponding

real Holocaust differences


and therefore, the

victim

The
demands sacred tension,

similarities
of space one the place with museum them, the

and

between
proscriptions in complementary

the
of

way,
the

through the Holocaust


Holocaust

the terrors

and starts her pilgrimage in the 1940s. In this of Europe to individualize Museum attempts
and thus the encounter, by ex

victim,

other.

tricating
mous lion." and

each and every Jewish victim


alienating the or umbrella tourist's/victim's gassing, the traveler figure,

from

the anony
six mil deporta au is

"the fate

Whether liberation,

Reconstructing
Spatial experiential connotations reconstructions,

"Reality"
the take recently

in the Museum
notion on even of and complex Holocaust the

tion,

encounters

thentic
aura, more U.S.

barracks of victims'

from shoes

mounds Warsaw
These

enterprise in the

lit rail car like the one to the death


artifacts, touted

(fig. 10), real a dramatically and 11), (fig. used to transport Jews from at Treblinka
as

Auschwitz

opened

camp
by

(fig.
"relics of

12).
the

Memorial

Museum

inWashington,

D.C.

(fig. 9). The

the museum

43

volvement stir an active

rather and

than emotional

contemplation."44 response in

In

order

to

the Holocaust

Museum

visitor, the architect James (of Ingo Freed New York City) has I.M. Pei and Partners, Architects, a powerful building of brooding, designed comprised
oppressive, constricted and unsettling and spaces crooked, punctuated false with passageways perspective

and pathways (fig. 13). Even the ubiquitous use of bricks and industrial metal alludes, albeit ab stairwells
stractly, to the architecture of camps and crematoria.4'

Commenting
ture, Freed I felt not an

on
explains: that

this form of highly

affective

architec

intellectual

working visceral

building ... I was building with the idea of a visceral memory, . . .You as visual as well pass screen We [facade] disorient to

this was

an

emotional

the limestone through a concrete enter world. shifting and recentering

you emotionally separate from Washington.4()

you, three times, you as well as visually

to

Although
tectural the Holocaust vacation

more

daunting
at

and
recreational

solemn

than archi
theme parks, of these

reconstructions Memorial lands?creates

Museum?like a momentary

some

environment

in the Hall Fig. 13. Staircase of Birkenau. reminiscent are to conjure

of Witnesses

leading

to entrance

way

that requires tourists to suspend disbelief temporarily in order to be swept away with the invented reality most in the is have entered. This just prominent they
section entitled the Holocaust make-believe Daniel's Story, an to ghetto area children. quarters designed Here equipped to the make visitor accessible

Holocaust," meant

displayed both their

as

synecdochal concrete

devices reality

greater

enters

and

the totality of the ineffable. Visitors from all over to to the museum their pilgrimage the world make
these genuine as Robert relics of destruction, has causing pointed out, one if to wonder,

with
babies for

dingy
crying, dinner.

cots for the entire


and a single

family,
cooking by

sound
on

effects
the

of

turnip signs

stove

view

Handwritten

"Daniel"

encourage

Bergman

these
come torture cross

transported
relics in and of the the U.S.

objects will
such tradition, of thorns.42

in some
as the

inverted way be
instruments the wood of of the

the young observer to participate with the stage set by looking at clothes under the bed, by opening windows
to see the view Daniel's outside, or personal by pulling articles. out Ada drawers Louise to examine

veneration, Christian crown Holocaust

e.g.,

Huxtable
Museum to engage effects the possible. employs viewer As that

writes

that this kind


vacationers

of

"doctored
consists

reality"
of "a

The

Memorial techniques

American

encounter,

multimedia-sensory and to achieve

skillfully
a chosen

edited,
place,

engineered,
or theme."47

and marketed
At the

version
Holocaust

of

the most

sobering

John

Burgess
have

of

the Washington
on the new

Post

commented,
as the

Museum,
emotional

however,
responses

the
from

mingling
modern

of
viewers

solicited
with real

"Planners

settled

technology

and to give best way to reach the MTV generation a jolting to the older visitors exposure sights and
sounds seum's folk of son the et era of the Nazi presentation exhibits because rather than their death camps."43 finds The mu in as states Ivan in lumi?re its analogy

artifacts
"naive

like victims'
museum objects")

shoes

and yellow
and fictitious

stars

(that

is, the this

"anti-sacred"

suggests ambiguity just as to what atmospheres of real "object" of display is. The indeterminacy
memorial's ed Holocaust perceptions focus, victims, of us the then?whether themselves, visitors, i.e., it be or the the represent reactions witnesses?

festivals?ethnic shows "is active

characterized emphasis,

"blowout" Karp,

and

passive,

encouraging

the new

44

The caust and

museum

as

a mimetic prominent

signifier

of location

the

Holo

the memorial's

disclose

yet another
Americans, Judaism. The

problematic
non-Jewish museum,

relationship
Americans, centrally and located

among
the on

Jewish
of Na the

history

tional Mall

inWashington, the Wash D.C, overlooks Monument and the Memorial ington Jefferson (fig. site makes 14). This charged geographical palpable and
to the

the presence
according

identity
conceptual

of Jews
thrust

in America,
of the museum,

which
is

inextricably Holocaust.
ence Fig. 14. Location National Mall. of U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on the in

to and expressed in terms of the monument to This public the Jewish pres linked
landscape commemorates the de

the American

struction
culture.

of Jewish

civilization,

not

the fruits of Jewish that exist


by museums, and experiential return to the

In view of may
caust Jonathan may, ing of propriate scrambled to survive There

the complex
objects of museum museums,

relationships
sheltered space, one must

indeed The

reveal on

the

key
led

to its effectiveness. at the Holo


controversy. to much that the

among the

museum-goers, ritual demands within

emphasis
has, Rosen to be

the experiential
wrote home also not

Museum

however,

constructs

recently sure,

the museum: horror of

simple

and underlying

the Holocaust vicarious

bring but it may

foster

a feel ap irony

meaning compromised initial site to the exhibition


may spite a piece's argue its for temporal meaning entirely the universal and as upon a

how is an object's question: when it is transported from its hall of the museum?
value contexts. of of an Or the art one work, may

One
de see de of

suffering necessarily awareness. to historical The

is that many Jews during


acquire the war?the to false

the Holocaust

spatial

construction the

is a reverse

in order papers of non Jews. papers at work as here, principle to enter leave, the mu fash in some

particular, powers

pendent

interpretative

the

individual

viewer.

Surely
different

the Jerusalem
to a Roman

Temple
soldier in

were if everyone seum an American ion, a Jew.48

expected and

soreg meant

something

the first century


twentieth. Likewise,

than it does
the heaps

to a Roman
of Holocaust

tourist

in the

victims'

The be

danger

in that

this the

vicarious surrogate,

adventure faux

seems reality?pow

to

the moment

carry dis luggage and shoes on display inWashington for the skinhead youth and the Is parate connotations on the same day. raeli rabbi, both visiting the museum
Yet we have taken our initial question about the ex

erful and gripping at every turn?potentially promises the visitor that by proxy "you too can experience the Holocaust." The language of the official press packet
corroborates struct and the historical blurry line presence, between stating artificial that on con the

tracted
broached

object
a more

one

step

further
issue:

in this article
the supposed

and
con

perplexing

text from which


the ject Can when um toms actual space

it was removed. What


that once surrounded to or maintain to face

happens
a in religious

when
ob

third
with

floor
the grim

(1939-45),
reality of

"visitors will
the ghettos,

come

face-to-face
murder

is transferred such a space face

reconstructed any with bearing These of the its

the museum? character of muse set and of cus criti

the mass

original authority its own

by mobile

assembly On the fourth


ence the agony

killing units, systematic deportation line factories of death?the killing floor


of

and the centers."


state un

coming space?a and

construction requirements?

(1933-39),
'Kristallnacht,'

visitors
when

"will experi
the

questions

leashed
ish The floors tor's term taneous museum-goer. owned

terror and hundreds


businesses chronological reduced temporally of Nazi imaginary to were

of synagogues
burned to the on covered of minutes a real

and Jew
ground." these in the two visi long instan by the

cisms, although only tentatively drafted here, may pro vide one possible key to the curatorial discipline if in into shows and with the corporated presented along
objects tary?a would tered struct of they gesture reveal in and the address. that the actual re-present and Such Greenblatt tensions construction a sacred to go and self-referential termed negotiations of space one exhibits. within step To the further commen "resonance"? encoun recon arena and

twelve are tour,

years a matter distancing persecution sensations

victim's the

endurance and

from perceived

the museum,

then

45

effectively
is even

ask the visitor whether


reveals more about

or not
the

this practice
nature of sa

19. Malraux, 20. The

Voices,

14. See Fisher,

Effacing

Art, 22.

possible,

label. Such self-impli than any declarative also lead the viewer to grasp cating techniques might more that of meanings the multiplicity profoundly cred space
fluctuate object, the among space, the and various the entities own involved?the perception in viewer's

connotations when it left soreg took on additional Temple an exhi Israel in 1992 to appear as part of 'J?dische Lebenswelten," for "Patterns in Jewish Life," in Berlin?the bition commemorating mer seat of the Third Reich. In this exhibition, the soreg acquired the status "Patterns of a religious of Jewish Life" artifact appeared signaling to some a defunct critics In fact, simi disturbingly past.

lar to the exhibitions and 1943. He

that Hitler

had mounted to erect

relation
ing the

to original
audience

historical
to a more

responses?thus
nuanced awareness

bring
of the

the Jews, tion." In other

shifting nature

called "aura." of what Benjamin The Getty Center for the History Humanities ofArt and the Santa Monica, California

having to stand the first-century words, soreg came to Berlin as charged as its original in a negative in a landscape one, albeit sense. See "The Precious and A. R. Cohn Legacy" by L. A. Altshuler in the book by the same name, D. Altshuler, ed. (New York, 1983),

intended ultimately an extinct after people,

in 1942 in Prague museum a permanent to solved "the Jewish Ques

24-39. 21. Holy Image, Holy Space: Icons and Frescoes from Greece, M. Acheimas ed. (Athens, tou-Potamianou, 1988). "Resonance," Exhibiting Cultures, 49.

22. Greenblatt,

Notes
1. P. Val?ry, 1290-91. 2. I would "Le probl?me des mus?es," Oeuvres, II (Paris, 1960),

23. G. Vikan, read Context," tion of Museum 24. Greenblatt, like R. Brilliant, M. Meadow, and D. to thank 25. Greenblatt, 26. Vikan, 27. Vikan,

the Numinous: Method?Ancient Modern "Working at the June Associa of the American 1992 meeting 11. Directors, "Resonance," "Resonance," 2. 10. Exhibiting Exhibiting Cultures, Cultures, 42. 45.

M. K. Frieden, G. Vikan, com Fane for their helpful A. Glass, Hause, on this paper. to the Kress Foundation, ments I am also indebted Association of University Women, and the Getty Cen the American ter for the History of Art and the Humanities and rewriting of this piece. ing the writing for their support dur

"Numinous," "Numinous,"

"The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical 3. W. Benjamin, Repro ed. (New York, 1969), 223. H. Arendt, Illuminations, duction," 4. 5. Benjamin, "The Work of Art," 243, n. 5.

see W. Iser, The Act of Reading: A 28. For reader-response criticism, The Re (Baltimore, 1978) and E. Freund, Theory of Aesthetic Response turn of theReader (London, 1987). 29. R. Brilliant, "Editorial: Out of Site, Out of Mind," Art Bulletin,

74/4 (1992), 551.


30. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, 31. Vikan, "Numinous," "The Work "The Work classic 15. of Art," of Art," definition 1959), 20. Toward Theory in Ritual (Chicago, 243, n. 5. 221, 223. of sacred space, see The Sacred "Ethnography," 390.

Poetics

S. Greenblatt, and Politics D.C,

"Resonance ofMuseum 1990), 42.

Display,

Cultures: The and Wonder," Exhibiting I. Karp and S. D. Lavine, eds.

(Washington, 6. H.

P. Fisher, Making review Risatti's Art Journal, Effacing Effacing

and Effacing

Art the

Museum," 7. 8. 9. cle, Fisher, Fisher,

interpreting 51/4 (1992), 19. 15.

(New York, 1991), 19. Also see in "The of museums rhetoric 103-106.

32. Benjamin, 33. Benjamin, 34. For M. and

Eliade's

Art, Art, of

theProfane

(San Diego,

For a discussion "Sacred

the function

of chancel

screens,

Churches,"

in Ancient Erasure Synagogues Space Under The Art Bulletin, 74/3 (1992), 375-94. and H.-G. (Mainz, Severin, 1992), 112. Authenticity: Das Museum f?r

see my arti and Early

35. J. Z. Smith, 1987), 109. 36. Smith, Theory

To Take Place:

in Ritual,

224. is the appearance of secular mu tourists can enter to pho

37. A reversal 10. A. Effenberger byzantinische Kunst 11. S. R. Crew Dialogue," andj. sp?tantike und seum tograph Fragments of a 38. Fisher, spaces

of this phenomenon in cathedrals, which and liturgical altarpieces Effacing Art, 11.

modern

objects.

E. Sims, Cultures,

Exhibiting

"Locating 159.

39. See S. Kolbowski, Effacing of Silence, trans. Art, 11. S. Gilbert (New York, (Summer 1993), "Silvia Kolbowski 40. C Duncan, 91.

12. A. Malraux, 1953), 14. Also 13. Fisher, 14. Fisher,

The Voices see Fisher, Art, 8. Art, 6.

"Once more, with feeling...already," October, 65 review of the exhibition, 29-51 and K. Johnson's at Postmasters," Art in America, 1 (1993), 98. and the Ritual of Citizenship," Exhibit

Effacing Effacing

"Art Museums

ing Cultures, the intended or unintended and the Museum," 38-42. 19-21, 27. Exhibiting destinies New of York 41. M.

15. For further artists' works, Review

on reading see F. Haskell,

"The Artist

of Books, 34/19

(December and

3, 1987), the Museum,"

in this to me orally in a telephone transmitted a report on the of and the conception development see M. Berenbaum, U.S. Holocaust Memorial "On the Pol Museum, itics of Public Commemoration of the Holocaust," Shoah (1981-82), Berenbaum For terview. 6-9, 37. Holocaust in the context of other this Holocaust memorial place see J. E. Young, The Texture ofMemory: Holo monuments, caust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven, 1993). To thank R. Bergman for bringing up to a shorter version of this paper, this parallel presented when he re Art

16. F. Haskell,

"The Artist

17. B. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Cultures, 391. 18. Branham, "Sacred Space,"

"Objects

of Ethnography,"

375-79.

42.1

sponded

at College

46

Association, 43.J.

February

1993. Museum's 1991 ). Multimedia Experiment,"

Washington

Burgess, Post

"Holocaust (July 28,

suc 44.1. Karp, "Festivals," Exhibiting Cultures, 282. One of the most this is in the trav Museum cessful ways the Holocaust accomplishes of the Children." On the wall are pictures "Remember eling exhibit faces made up of one-and-a-half million children's dots, the number of children in the Holocaust. As you touch a dot you leave killed fingerprint?a way of contacting your distinctive and participating to you?as set of patterns unique with that single life. a

to its four years prior 45. Addressing the museum's architecture of the New York Times (April 30, 1989) Paul Goldberger opening, warns in literal fashion ends up representing that if the museum Nazi his concentration thus kitsch and title, themselves, camps trivialize the events of Evokes "it could Events become somewhat As sug not the Holocaust still more."

"AMemorial

gests, Goldberger fall into this trap. 46.J. I. Freed, 9,

Unspeakable as I am, is convinced,

with Dignity," does that the building

"The United (1989), 59, 65. "Inventing (December

States

Holocaust

Memorial

Museum,"

Assemblage,

47. A. L. Huxtable, view of Books, 39/20 48.J. Rosen

American 3, 1992),

Reality," 25. (April

The New

York Re

, "American

Holocaust," 1, J?rgen

Forward Berlin,

12, 1991). fig. 2,

Alfred

fig. Liepe, Malibu, California, Stieglitz, J. Paul Getty Donald Woodman, Judy Chicago; by permission Israel Antiquities Toledano, Jerusalem, Authority; Dov,

PHOTOGRAPHS:

Bode Museum; Museum;

Walters Jerusalem; fig. 7, Baltimore, New York, Postmasters figs. Gallery; U.S. Holocaust Memorial D.C, Washington, Noble, Arnold um. Kramer, Washington, D.C, U.S.

fig. 3, figs. 4, 6, Leo fig. 5, Meir Ben Art Gallery; fig. 8, Kevin 9-13, Alan Gilbert, fig. 14, Muse

Museum; Holocaust Memorial

47

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