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Palestine to Cyprus and Northern Ireland.

The inevitable consequence of such parti-


tions, he writes, is “an ugly civic scarifica-
tion ... which spreads contagion well be-
yond the wound itself.”
This thematic approach, while provid-
ing a broad background, has the draw-
back of grouping together widely diver-
gent cases. In “Terror,” for example, the
9/11 attacks are equated with the failure

ERIC FEFERBERG /AFP/Ge t t y Images


of American forces to protect Iraq’s ar-
chaeological sites, as well as the German
blitz of Britain. While certainly indica-
tive of the U.S. military’s stunning lack
View through a broken office window
of cultural understanding, the looting of
of the World Trade Center wreckage. Mesopotamian artifacts was not a delib-
erate act of cultural destruction and was
carried out by Iraqis themselves. The
Books World Trade Center attack, by contrast,
entailed the removal not only of human was a deliberate symbolic act by a ter-
Architectural beings, but of all physical reminders
of their presence on the land—homes,
rorist cell, while the bombing of London
(though horrific) took place under the
Casualties of War mosques and monuments. Buildings oc-
cupy a special place in our consciousness:
aegis of conventional warfare.
This approach also leads to repetition,
By Joshua Arthurs They convey a feeling of permanence and with the Nazis appearing in almost every
belonging, and serve as “a prompt, a cor- chapter, along with the Soviets, Serbian

O
n Nov. 9, 1993, Croat artillery poreal reminder” of individual and col- nationalists and the conflicts in North-
relentlessly bombarded the Bos- lective memories. Consequently, their ern Ireland and Israel/Palestine. As a re-
nian town of Mostar. Their prin- destruction entails the extinguishing of sult, Bevan’s thematic divisions become
cipal target was the Stari Most, a grace- identities, the dehumanization of the blurred. When is the demolition of a
ful, arching Ottoman bridge that held no “other,” and an unshakeable sense of ab- Bosnian mosque an example of “cultural
strategic or military value. Linking the sence and loss. cleansing,” rather than plain old “con-
town’s Muslim east and Croat west, the To illustrate the range of motivations quest”? The book also relies on a famil-
bridge had long symbolized Mostar’s behind deliberate architectural devasta- iar rogues’ gallery of totalitarian regimes
proud history of tolerance and cosmo- tion, Bevan explores several key themes. In and nationalist fanatics. Little attention
politanism—its deliberate destruction the chapter “Cultural Cleansing,” he drives is paid to the acts of cultural destruc-
was intended to erase this legacy and home the connection between genocide tion carried out by Western democracies
physically rend its communities. and architectural destruction. The demo- in Southeast Asia or the Middle East, so
The bridge’s demise is one recent exam- lition of physical space, he argues, is of- often justified on the basis of “military
ple of the fate of architecture in wartime. ten part of a larger program of denying a necessity” or technological failure.
From the firebombing of Dresden in people “their history, continuing identity Despite Bevan’s emphasis on architec-
World War II to the present-day looting and … containers of memory.” In “Terror,” ture’s importance as a site of memory,
of Iraq’s archaeological heritage, the built he examines the symbolic power of these we also get very little sense of what de-
environment has suffered tremendously acts, from the German “Baedeker Raids,” stroyed buildings meant to the people
in the conflicts of the past century. But targeting historic English cities, to the at- who inhabited them. The only human
under what circumstances is it appropri- tacks on the World Trade Center. Terror voices present (drawn mostly from
ate to focus upon the architectural, rather lies not only in the threat to personal secu- newspaper reports) are those of govern-
than human, cost of war? rity, but in targeting structures laden with ment ministers and architecture critics,
In The Destruction of Memory: Archi- strong associations—whether as symbols most of whom echo the official line on
tecture at War (Reaktion Books), archi- of national heritage, colonial occupation the value of national heritage. Bevan
tecture and design critic Robert Bevan or financial might. In “Conquest and Rev- visited many of the sites he writes about,
argues that attacks on architecture and olution,” he looks at the Chinese occupa- but did not record the impressions of
crimes against humanity have consis- tion of Tibet and the Khmer Rouge’s anti- local inhabitants. Doubtless he would
tently gone hand-in-hand. The Nazi de- urbanism campaigns, in which a ruling have found that people’s relationship to
struction of synagogues on Kristallnacht regime attempts to impose new identities these spaces had less to do with national
was a “proto-genocidal episode,” its sym- upon a population through the manipu- symbolism and more to do with person-
bolic smashing of property foreshadow- lation of urban space. Finally, in “Fences al memories. Despite its stated intent,
ing the subsequent barbarism of the and Neighbors,” he examines the impact this book remains largely on a macro-
concentration camps. The ethnic cleans- of partitions and borders on the built en- historical landscape where human be-
ing campaigns in the former Yugoslavia vironment in contexts ranging from Israel/ ings are conspicuous by their absence.

40 J u ly 2 0 0 6  In These Times

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Bevan’s most thoughtful and provoca- settings, giving communities the chance Film

Perpetuating the
tive contributions come in the final sec- to both start anew and remember the past.
tions on reconstruction, commemoration, A useful example of this approach was the
protection and prosecution. He writes, recent proposal to maintain a fifteen-story
“rebuilding can be as symbolic as the de- fragment of the World Trade Center as a
struction that necessitates it. Construction memorial to the events of 9/11. Though the
Yellow Peril
By Lakshmi Chaudhry
can be used to cement a violent sundering plan held powerful symbolic resonance,

A
of the built environment or to weave the it was quickly rejected in favor of a new t first glance, Jeff Adachi’s
fabric of a former life back together.” In building, “bigger and better than before,” Slanted Screen is an earnest doc-
some instances, rebuilding can be every bit reflecting the desire to shift the focus from umentary that covers familiar
as violent as the original act of demolition, feelings of loss to a triumphant celebration ground. The shameful depiction of mi-
leading to forgetting as much as remem- of American democracy and freedom. norities—in this case, Asian-American
bering. In postwar Munich, for example, In the closing chapter, Bevan returns to men—in television and film is hardly
all structures dating from the Nazi period his original connection between genocide news. What makes the movie special,
were promptly bulldozed, and rebuilding and architectural destruction in order to however, is that it offers a rare view of
efforts were devoted to re-evoking the press for more vigorous prosecution of Hollywood from the inside. Apart from
city’s glorious 19th century past. The result crimes against architecture. Although the occasional talking head, the inter-
was a landscape of “willed forgetfulness,” a cultural heritage has been protected by viewees are actors, producers, directors
Disney-like reconstruction that not only international treaties for more than 50 and screenwriters.
lacked authenticity but also erased all years, it rarely features in war crimes tri- Part of the movie’s interest lies in their
traces of the Nazi past, whitewashing this bunals. Yet from the Nazi looting of syn- horror stories, which are likely to make
dark episode in the city’s history. As an agogues to the Taliban’s demolition of the even the most jaded viewer cringe. Pro-
alternative to this wholesale, unreflective Bamiyan Buddhas, deliberate destruction ducer Terence Chang—whose big-bud-
rebuilding, Bevan supports “critical pres- of the physical environment has often get credits include Mission Impossible II,
ervation,” which aims to preserve traces presaged devastating conflicts. Bevan’s Face-Off and Broken Arrow—describes
of past conflict—bullet holes, crumbling timely book urges us to remain attentive being told to change the race of the white
walls—and incorporate them into new to such early warning signs.  n villain in the script for the Chow Yun

[ art s p a c e ]
In The Artooning Show, 24 art-
ists demonstrate a variety of con-
ventional cartooning techniques,
along with approaches drawn
from abstract and traditional
art. The exhibit showcases this
combination through drawings,
prints, paintings, sculptures and
ceramics. “We wanted to show an
all-around view,” says Adrienne
Bea Smith, co-owner of Main Street
Gallery, “and politics are so much
of a part of cartooning.” At left is
an untitled piece from the “Politics
Propaganda Series” by Christopher
W. Weeks, an artist, graphic de-
signer, and photography teacher.
He cites Art Spiegelman’s graphic
novel Maus as a major influence
for his work. The exhibit will be on
display at the Main Street Gallery
in Groton, NY, through July 23. For
more information visit www.main-
streetgal.com.

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