25 Mar 2011 /

negative form

By horst hoheisel
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Horst Hoheisel, Negative Form



Negative Form is a “counter-monument” designed by the artist Horst Hoheisel in 1987.  The work revisits the history of a public fountain, financed by a Jewish banker, which was destroyed by the National Socialists. This “ghost” structure was reproduced as a hollow shell, inverted, and ultimately submerged into the site where the piece of civic architecture once stood.


Photos courtesy of Horst Hoheisel


“What did the artist have in mind?” - Ten years after the inauguration of the Aschrottbrunnen, people in Kassel still ask me this question. I like to throw the ball back at them, countering with a question of my own: What crossed people’s minds in 1939, when Nazi activists first demolished the fountain and then, by an official ordinance of the mayor of the city, the remaining pieces were cleared away? What crossed the minds of Kassel’s citizens when, in 1941 and 1942, the deportation trains left from track 3 at the main railway station, deporting more than 3000 Jews from Kassel to Riga, Majdanek and Theresienstadt?’

A simple counter-question is my way of meeting the never-ending stream of attempts to interpret the Shoah. The form that Germans destroyed between 1933 and 1945 can no longer be grasped, either mentally or physically. The destruction of the sandstone form, an “architectural folly” as the architect of City Hall then termed it, was followed by the destruction of the human form. The only way I know to make this loss visible is through a perceptibly empty space, representing the space once occupied. Instead of continuously searching for yet another explanation or interpretation of that which has been lost, I prefer facing the loss as a vanished form. A reflective listening into the void, into the negative of an irretrievable form, where the memory of that which has been lost resounds, is preferable to a mere numb endurance of the facts.

Horst Hoheisel

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