The Wall in View; the Wall Itself                                                                  page 3

A purely documentary approach to the experience of the Wall has its limits with regard to variability. But a work of art would by definition approach that complex experience with poetry that incorporated a certain indirection and indeterminacy closer to the experience of the Wall itself. The project proposed by Tamiko Thiel and Teresa Reuter promises to approach the historic site with the necessary concern for the variability of the experience and its starkly spatial component.

Thiel has already shown what such an approach can bring in Beyond Manzanar, her art work on the Japanese internment camps in the United States during WWII. In that work she transforms
the beholder into a participant who can vary her or his experiences by controlling entry into a computer simulation. The beholder uses the means offered by the computer to explore the virtual space. Both the personal memories of the internees and the history of the place, mementos, pictures, furniture, all sorts of meaningful objects are accessible to the viewer in the spaces of the barracks. The imagination of the attentive beholder can venture through windows and doors to virtually experience the objects and the spaces of the camp. The active contemplation of the beholder is sometimes interrupted by the image of a former resident intervening in a view out of a window. This underscores the virtuality of the view and the imaginary aspect of past experience. But what is most significant in this virtual experience is how the memory of the time and the historical imagination of the participant-beholder are supported in three and perhaps four dimensions (time). One is thoroughly engaged.

This is a way to at least approach both the historical experience and lived experience of an individual at the Wall. This is why one should support the project of Reuter and Thiel. It promises to augment a consciousness of history and to engage one in pondering about a historical experience.

John Czaplicka
Cambridge, April 2005

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