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ISSN 0869-5377
The Logos Journal

Stones of Memory: Monument, Document, Crypt, Bunker

Author: Vaneyan Stepan

About author:
Professor at the Department of the History of Art, Faculty of History, Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU). Address: 27 Lomonosovsky ave., Bldg 4, GSP-1, 119991 Moscow, Russia.

An interaction with a work of art is always a meeting with something which both once existed and then became part of a past and, at the same time, something which is here and now, new and unique. The historical and aesthetic always coexist and compete in a work of art occurring in the visual field and in a space of contemplation. This is why understanding a work of art means three things at once: remembering, memorizing and reminding; in other words, such understanding is an effort of memory and imagination together with feelings, thoughts and emotions. For this reason, a work of art is a monument and an epiphany, something hidden and buried and also something which rises from the dead and comes alive before the spectator. For the understanding of the analytical features of the monument it is useful to consider the history of the tombstone as a type of monument which started in antiquity and—following all its metamorphoses of meaning—acquired its modern meaning in the 19th century. Apart from more traditional concepts, the newly coined metaphorical term “mnemotope” will be also useful. It should be distinguished from related concepts of “monument,” “relic,” and other similar terms. The term “mnemotope” highlights the sacral spatial constituent which shows its difference from “crypt.” While “mnemotope” is open and needs “reading,” “crypt” is an image of unwillingness to cognize (rather than just the desire to forget). Thus, any analytical discourse on art is a system of places—“topoi,” a special “topica” as a system of transition from the reality of creation and art to the related complimentary reality of cognition, knowledge and science.

Keywords: monument; stone; the numinous; eschatology; document; ruin; crypt; mnemotope

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