Cristina Buta, Charles Esche | Third Text
This article stresses the need for an investigation into how the wounds of colonialism are treated in the West European public sphere. It uses a decolonial lens to look specifically at artistic actions in the form of both monuments and interventions in existing public space that reference European guilt around the genocidal crimes of colonial occupation and the Holocaust. In the course of the research it became clear that little comparative work has been done on the monuments to these two catastrophes. The article therefore serves more as an introduction to the reasons why the Holocaust and colonial violence might be brought into closer relationship with each other, arguing that establishing such a relationship through public art, among other sites of critique, can and should contribute to contemporary articulations of anti-fascism in Europe. The article looks at art monuments by Jochen Gerz and Hans Haacke in the 1980s and 1990s and laments the lack of similar responses to colonialism in the continent. It looks further at more recent anti-colonial and decolonial public actions and at a few artists, such as Yael Bartana, who do draw parallels between the Holocaust and other genocides. Finally, the article speculates on how future monuments might respond to a broader understanding of the causes of land occupations, slave labour, ethnic cleansing and mass murder by thinking about the colonial matrix of power as a common European epistemology that developed after 1492.