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Collective Memory and the Public Realm in the United States
Nassim W. Balestrini 

Lecture 

Univ.-Prof. Dr.phil. Nassim Balestrini

Univ.-Prof. Dr.phil. Nassim Balestrini

Photo by Andreas Heller

Drawing on examples of US-American monuments, Prof. Dr. Nassim W. Ballestrini’s lecture will discuss collective memory in terms of contemporary debates in the US. Monuments, memorials as well as art in public space contribute significantly to a nation’s culture of remembrance, reflecting political currents and are therefore highly political. Departing from controversies such as debates surrounding Stone Mountain in Georgia, where à bas-relief carved in stone depicts the faces of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, (i.e. the president and two top generals of the former Confederate states) Ballestrini will debate various aspects of US-American remembrance culture. Black Lives Matter activists have long been calling for the removal of the Stone Mountain monument. Inaugurated in 1972, its realization can be traced back to a 1914 initiative directly linked to the Ku Klux Klan. This is just one example of the increasingly loud demands for and actual removals of monuments paying homage to people who were active supporters of slavery, segregation and the genocide of the indigenous population.

Balestrini will provide insights into the history of the erection of Civil War’s monuments both in the Southern and in the Northern States. In her lecture, she will address issues such as the strategic design both in the construction of the monuments themselves, but also their integration into public space and their intended impacts on certain demographics. Similarly, it is important to think about the types of public spaces and their usage, e.g. civil war monuments located in parks). Based on an interdisciplinary and inter-medial approach, Balestrini’s interpretation of specific monuments will draw from scientific research, literary representations, media discussions, images and texts, and invites a lively discussion after the lecture.

As part of the discussion, remarks on public remembrance cultures will also be read through Katherine Bradford’s practice. In her monumental paintings, Bradford depicts diverse communities populated by superheroes, superheroines and groups of everyday anonymous figures, overcoming constructed boundaries of race and gender. While her works are not directly political, they embody a deeply democratic approach to American collective memory. With larger-than-life representations of common people, Bradford’s monumental power is rather metaphorical, locating heroic social achievements in the everyday.

Prof. Dr. Nassim W. Ballestrini’s lecture on monuments, collective memory and the culture of remembrance in the USA starts at 6 pm at HALLE FÜR KUNST. Sandro Droschl, Director and Caro Feistritzer, Curatorial Assistant of HALLE FÜR KUNST Steiermark will expand on the lecture in relation to the exhibition Katherine Bradford: American Odyssey.

Artists

Participating artists

Univ.-Prof. Dr.phil. Nassim Balestrini

*1966 in Vienna, currently residing in Graz

is Professor of American Studies and Intermediality and heads both the Department of American Studies and the Center for Intermediality Studies at the University of Graz.
Her research interests focus on American literatures and cultures from the 18th century to the present. She enjoys working at the intersection of transnational and comparative subject matter, and engages in integrating different media, genres, cultures, and languages into her studies. In recent years, her research has focused on climate change drama and theater, on contemporary poetry by non-white and bi-cultural authors, on Indigenous hip-hop artists, and on intermediality theory. She particularly cherishes dialogue between artists and scholars.

Univ.-Prof. Dr.phil. Nassim Balestrini

Univ.-Prof. Dr.phil. Nassim Balestrini

Photo by Andreas Heller