In chapter four, The Artful Eye Learning to See and Perceive Otherwise inside Museum Exhibits, of the book Holocaust Memory Reframed: Museums and the Challenges of Representation we learn how cultural theorist Mieke Bal has argued that specific exhibits demonstrate “a grammar of exhibition space”. This concept comes from Bal’s general argument that some exhibitions are structured and presented in terms derived from other forms of media. Bal used the issue of walls imposing frames like the rules of grammar on art as an example. She encourages the reader to explore how an asymmetrical space, and its art, may be both in harmony and disharmony with the general “grammar” of what they are observing. The frame of a certain exhibit might be different from the broader rule the building has established and create a certain degree of tension within the space.
Yad Vashem is Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocausr. The museums purpose is to preserve the memory of those who died and those who fought their Nazi oppressors. The permanent exhibition in Yad Vashem’s uses display techniques, such as slanted angles, asymmetrical hangings, and the deliberate exposure of wires, that deviate from the dominant grammar of many conventional museums. The intent of conventional practices is to avoid distracting the viewer’s gaze from objects of interest and therefore prefer symmetrical hangings, perfect angles, and transparent rods to create the illusion of weightless suspension.
However, images in Yad Vashem’s gallery are suspended at angles that connect with the degree of slant of the wall, creating the impression that the images are asymmetrical and unstable. An example of this is a Yad Vashem gallery of images of deportation. The walls are much closer together than in other galleries in the museum and do not fully extend upward towards the celling. The purpose of this is to create an environment the resembles a cage in order to evoke the feeling of entrapment.
I have been to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and have noticed many of the techniques discussed in this chapter put into practice their. Specifically how the overall mood of the museum is violent and how the violence dominates the museum and how “video monitors behind privacy walls (imitating a “peep-show format”) engage in a “constant recycling of slaughter.”
I think it would be particullary interesting to draw comparisons between museum “grammar” discussed by Hansen-Glucklich and public memory discussed by Kuper. Particularly with Hanger 24 and Hanger 24 Square and the accompanying sculpture there is little to no sinage to indicate what these sites represent. Typically in museums all works are clearly labeled so the viewer knows what they are looking at. After reading what the members of the Hanger 24 committee had to say it seemed that it was more important to them that it was there than that people knew it was there. I think this more or less goes against the idea of public memory, generally you want people to remember, not be unaware. When I tried to google Hangar 24 I couldn’t even find a single picture of it, showing just how forgotten it, and the history it represents, is.
Kuper, Simon, Ajax: The Dutch, The War – The Strange Tale of Soccer During Europe’s Darkest Hour (2012)