chapter  1
22 Pages

The "Form of Absence": Writing Trauma, Writing the Body

FromhisJewishMuseuminBerlin,theFelixNussbaumMuseumin

Osnabruck,theImperialWarMuseumoftheNorthinManchester,andnow

thecommissionforthereconstructionoftheWorldTradeCentersite,the

internationallyacclaimedarchitectDanielLibeskindhasestablishedarepu-

tationasanartistwhovisiblyandtangiblygivesbodytowhatisnolonger

therebecauseitisdramaticallyabsent,vanished,andlost.Amasterofarchi-

tecturalcommemoration,Libeskinderectsstructuresthatemergeoutofthe emptinessleftbythousandswhohaveperishedviolently.Absenceisvery muchatangiblephysicalspaceinanarchitectonicstructure,andthisispar-

ticularlytrueinLibeskind'sJewishMuseum:Thestructureistraversedbya

continuousemptyspace,whichvisitorscancrossonlyononeofsixtybridges connectingdifferentpartsoftheexhibitions.Yettherealembodimentof

absencehereisaspace/nonspacethatLibeskindcallsthe"HolocaustVoid,"a naked,cold,andsilentroomlocatedoutsidethemainmuseuminahigh towerwherenoexhibitionsareallowed.Visitorscanactuallyaccessthis space,butmerelytoencounteritsunwelcomingemptiness.Similarly,Libe-

skind'splanforthereconstructionofGroundZeroafterthedramaticevents

onSeptember11,2001,turnstheseventy-foot-deepholeatGroundZero

intothecentralspacearoundwhichthememorialsitewillrise,atragically visiblespaceofabsenceintowhichvisitorswillbeableto"journeydown." Attheheartoftheholethatpreserves,visibleanduntouched,thefoundationsoftheTwinTowers,thearchitectimagines,"amuseumoftheevent, memoryandhope."Atthesametime,throughanelevatedspirethatreaches 1,776feet,thearchitectenvisionsaparalleljourneyupward,ajourneythat symbolizesresistance,rebirth,and"lifevictorious"(DanielLibeskind).