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Seminar BA2: Art and Cultural Memory


Admission requirements

Not applicable.


In visual culture, monuments hold a prominent position when it comes to the construction of cultural memory. As the word implies – deriving from the Latin verb monere, to remind – this category of artifacts is focused entirely on remembrance. Nonetheless, the usefulness and functioning of monuments in processes of collective remembrance is not quite straightforward. In fact, the monument may actively hinder the process of remembrance, a notion discussed by scholars such as Rosalind Krauss, Pierre Nora and James Young. In constructing monuments as ‘containers’ for memory, the danger arises of deferring the task of remembering to the inanimate object, entrusted with the memory. As Young puts it: ‘once we assign monumental form to memory, we have to some degree divested ourselves of the obligation to remember.’

In exploring ways to successfully engage audiences, artists have taken up the notion of the monument and extended its boundaries. The countermonuments discussed by James Young in The texture of memory: Holocaust memorials and meaning (1994) are good examples of this. They expand the functionality of the traditional monument and raise questions about the nature of memory, memorialization and commemoration. As such, the countermonuments do not only commemorate, but critically reflect on the concept of the memorial as well.

In this course, we will read texts from a wide range of authors discussing the workings of monuments, countermonuments and artists dealing with the phenomenon of cultural memory. We will encounter a broad selection of influential (contemporary) monuments and artworks. The difficulties of usefully representing something as complex and fickle as memory will be discussed and students will work on research projects that will force them to not only passively consider existing monuments, but also actively work through the process of designing new monuments.

The first half of the course will consist of readings and discussions, in order to create a thorough framework of knowledge on monuments, cultural memory and artistic strategies dealing with commemoration and monumentalisation. For the midterm assignment students will work in groups to create online audio guides (using the platform, in which they critically discuss self-selected artworks and monuments. The second half of the course will be focused on research. Students will work in groups on the design of a monument; each group will decide what event, person or group of people will be commemorated and how. Plans for the design (considering question like: where should be monument be placed, should it be accompanied by text, what medium should be used, etc.) will be presented to the other groups and discussed in class. Finally, each student will write a 2000 word individual research paper, which may be (but does not have to be) related to the group assignments.

Course Objectives

At the end of the course:

  • Students will have obtained insight into the contemporary debates about cultural memory, monuments and artworks dealing with cultural memory.

  • Students are familiar with a range of influential monuments and contemporary artworks.

  • Students will have practiced writing in different styles, for different audiences and media, and will be more aware of the diverse skills required to do so.

  • Students will be able to collaborate on research projects in culturally and nationally diverse groups.

  • Students will be familiar with the audio guide as a medium to communicate information about contemporary art to a larger audience.

  • Students will have gained more insight into the relevance of art in society and cultural identity.

  • Students will be able to initiate and execute a research project, in which they position themselves critically in contemporary scholarly debates, and in which they explicitly frame their own reading/approach.


See the Timetable

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar series

Course Load

Total course load for the course: 5 x 28 hours= 140 EC, broken down into:

  • 24 hours: spent on attending lectures and seminars: 2 hours per week x 12 weeks

  • 40 hours: time for studying the compulsory literature (8 to 10 pages per hour, depending on difficiulty): 5 hours per week x 8 weeks

  • 38 hours: spent working in groups on group assignments (research, group meetings and writing)

  • 38 hours: time to write essay (including reading / research)


Assessment method

  • Overall participation in seminar discussions (15%)

  • Group work on audio guide, individual grades for written texts (20%)

  • Group work on designing plans for a new monument (25%)

  • Individual paper of 2000 words, exluding bibliography and notes (40%)

Individual feedback will be provided on the final paper and the audio guide text.

Compensation: The weighted average of the (constituent) examinations must be at least 6.0 (= a pass). The mark for the final examination (or the main assignment) must be at least 6.0 (= a pass). The mark for all other constituent examinations must be at least 6.0 (= a pass). However, it is possible to compensate for one constituent examination a 5.0 (but not a mark lower than 5.0) with the grade of another constituent examination which has the same weight in the average as the constituent examination it compensates.

Resit: A resit/ rewrite can be done for constituent examinations which are failed. As far as applicable all resit/ rewrite examinations take place at the same time, after the final (constituent) examination.

Exam review: How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.


Blackboard will be used for communication, submission of assignments and distribution of reading material.


Relevant texts will be made available through Blackboard.


Through uSis

Registration Studeren à la Carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. L.M.F. (Laura) Bertens


Not applicable.