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Josep Manuel Berenguer

Berenguer: About Passegen, a memorial devoted to Walter Benhamin at Port Bou

  • Artist: Josep Manuel Berenguer
  • Title: Berenguer Islands, on a Walter Benjamin's statement in Gesammelte Schriften, 1,000 pixels x 700 pixels, 2000
  • Materials: Digital image linked to audiovisual work in the Internet

In the vicinity of Port Bou cemetery there is a memorial devoted to Walter Benjamin, who has been said to have committed suicide in this population in September 1940, thus ending a seven years persecution of the Gestapo. Designed and built by Dani Karavan, perhaps the most striking and spectacular part of Passagen, located at various points near the cemetery in Port Bou is a large parallelepiped steel sinking into the earth and passing it to come to light back into the cliff. In a perfect photographic frame of freedom to which some steps that descend inside the parallelepiped seem to want to drive, you see the sea beyond. However, midway, a wall of thick glass rod step. The sea continues in the background, something closer, perfectly framed, but unattainable. Carved glass, German, Catalan, Spanish, French and English, can be read two sentences of Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften learned from, I, S. 1241:

"Schwerer Ged ächtnis das ist es zu der Namenlosen ehren als das der ber ühmten. Dem Ged ä chtnis der ist die historische Namenlosen Konstruktion geweiht."1

I asked some friends to read them in their native languages. Johannes Zacherl read the original version in German, Ralph Bernabei, the English version and Helène Yousse, the French one. I myself read the phrases in Catalan and Spanish. I Granulated that sound material thinking allegorically in sound grains as if it were islands of content, like the historic ruins of Benjamin, allowing only the reconstruction of the original text at the end of the piece and giving way to a perfect understanding of their meaning.

The audio work of Islands was released near the monument as part of the inaugural concert of an international seminar about Walter Benjamin organized by Ingrid and Konrad Scheurmann held in Port Bou in September 2000. The visual work was conceived and developed in 2015 and won the I was there award at the Center for Memory and Testimony Studies

Note 1: "It is more arduous to honor the memory of nameless than that of the renowned. Historical construction is devoted to the memory of the nameless."

Copyright Notice

Permission has been granted for image use to the Centre for Memory and Testimony Studies. All rights to images belong to the artists.

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