Anti-monumentalism (or Counter-monumentalism) is a philosophy in art that denies the presence of any imposing, authoritative social force in public spaces. It developed as an opposition to monumentalism whereby authorities (usually the state or dictator) establish monuments in public spaces to symbolize themselves or their ideology, and influence the historical narrative of the place. According to artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, anti-monument “refers to an action, a performance, which clearly rejects the notion of a monument developed from an elitist point of view as an emblem of power.” Krzysztof Wodiczko’s Bunker Hill Monument Projections and Do-Ho Suh’s Public Figures can be considered examples of anti-monumentalism.
Some German artists, wrestling with the issue of remembering the Holocaust, have very intentionally moved away from any form of traditional memorialization. They have created instead what James Young, the University of Massachusetts scholar on Holocaust memorials, called “counter- monuments.”
Anti-monumentalism is a movements that has the purpose to existing monuments whose statement you no longer support, but they do not change (Denkmalumeabmung) or remove (Denkmalsturz) would like, for example, for reasons of monument protection, another statement (antithesis) display.
Anti-monumentalism artists have, “a deep distrust of monumental forms in light of their systematic exploitation by the Nazis, and a profound desire to distinguish their generation from that of the killers through memory.”
Part of the challenge has to do with the power of traditional monuments to suggest completeness, or a false sense of closure. We grapple with complex political, social, or historical issues and then construct a monument. That monument suggests that we’ve done what needs to be done; we’ve worked through the issues, and the monument is the answer to those issues.
There is an argument that suggests that monuments can ironically disconnect us from history and cushion us from it; they can anesthetize us rather than deeply connect us to the past. It is almost as if memory becomes invested in the monument rather than us, as if the existence of the monument takes over the responsibility for remembering.
This set of German artists realize that there would be a profound betrayal and a staggering irony if permanent German monuments to the Holocaust, no matter how well–intentioned, functioned as the final solution to the Final Solution: if the monuments served inadvertently to erase harsh memory and distance people from that painful past – if monuments made them comfortable enough to move on, forget, and abnegate the responsibility for not forgetting.
For the German artists who create countermonuments, there should be no forgetting, no moving on, no closure, no comfort zone in Holocaust memorialization, no abdicating the responsibility of holding the painful past directly in mind.
Holocaust countermonuments cannot aim to be beautiful or aesthetically pleasing. That beauty or aesthetic pleasure should come from such an event as the Holocaust would be another path to false comfort and consequently a lie.
The countermonuments that emerge from these stark premises are often short–lived rather than permanent. They are meant to engage people directly, not to achieve solace but rather discomfort. Some encourage people to write on them, invite desecration, rather than sit separately on pedestals or behind fences. Sometimes they try to capture a sense of loss through negative space – the experience of shire emptiness.
Built in 1936 in Hamburg 76er monument by Richard Kuöhl served as a memorial to the 1931 built Hamburg Memorial of Ernst Barlach. In the immediate vicinity of the war memorial was again in 1983 and 1986 from the two sculptures Hamburg firestorm and escape group Cap Arcona existing monument of Alfred Hrdlicka. In the early 1980s, a change and rededication of the ’76 monument was planned.
The war memorial of the sculptor August Henneberger from 1925 in front of the St. Johannis in Altona was supplemented in 1996 by a memorial monument by Rainer Tiedje.
Jenny Holzer installed a laser projection on the Völkerschlachtdenkmal near Leipzig in the period from June 14 to 16, 1996, to project texts directly onto the monument.
For the monument to the dead of the Prussian Fusilier Regiment 39 in Dusseldorf-Golzheim 2016 a monument was politically discussed.