Teresa Distelberger: Dialogical Art and Commemoration


Advisor/tutor: Antonia Majaca

Arnhem, August 2020


This thesis questions the role and potential of a dialogical approach to commemoration. Focusing upon the context of Austria, where I was born, and where I still choose to live, I will be examining commemorative practices that look back at the Nazi era of 1938-1945, and the Holocaust. I argue that dialogical art practices have a substantial role in the politics of memory when commemoration is perceived as a social process that happens as an interpersonal encounter. I will further argue that a culture of commemoration is needed in Austria that goes beyond representation and statehood memorial activities in order to create a space for multifaceted personal (and at the same time collective) relating to the past, to each other, and to the legacies of transgenerational trauma in the present. Drawing upon the analysis of historian Michael Rothberg, literature scholar Marianne Hirsch, art historian Grant Kester, literature scholar Shoshana Felman, film scholar Brad Prager and others, I will be exploring the role of multidirectional commemoration, postmemory, dialogical art, social practice and testimony within the irrepresentability of the Holocaust. In doing so I will be questioning the implications of these theories and approaches upon my own artistic practice, while situating it within the diverse field of alternative commemorative practices in Austria.