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PRINT March 1992

The Emperor's New Monument

IN OCTOBER 1986, when there were still two Germanies and one Eastern bloc, a fairly unconventional public monument was inaugurated in the Harburg district of Hamburg. Jointly conceived by Jochen Gerz and Esther Shalev-Gerz, Mahnmal gegen Faschismus (Monument against fascism) initially consisted of no more than a stark lead-coated column, nearly 40 feet high and just over 3 feet square. But as a temporary inscription explained (in German, French, English, Russian, Turkish, Arabic, and Hebrew), passersby were invited to sign their names in the lead in a common gesture of commitment “to remain vigilant.” And once the signatures began to fill the accessible space, the column was to be lowered gradually into the ground, until the surface was entirely covered and the monument would disappear altogether, leaving only a flat commemorative plaque on the empty site.

The column has now been lowered

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