On the Afterlife of Things in Artworks: Doris Salcedo’s Atrabiliarios and Other Contact Relics: The Twenty-First Horst Gerson Lecture held on October 12, 2023


Monika Walker


The Twenty-First Horst Gerson Lecture held in memory of Horst Gerson (1907-1978) in the Aula of the University of Groningen on the 12th of October 2023.

Everyday things, as they have increasingly led their afterlives in works of art since the 1960s, have a history of previous use attached to them. This made them particularly relevant for new artistic strategies developed in the context of the memorial debates since the 1980s. This publication is concerned with different forms of violence that are central to cultures of memory and explores how materials and things are made to talk about this in the new context of the artwork.

Initially it is about European examples that - as in the case of Christian Boltanski and Sigrid Sigurdsson - revolved around the Holocaust. Methodologically, the focus is on analysing the semantics of the materials, an approach that offers options of connecting to works from other parts of the world for which other incidents and traumata form the frame of reference. In the afterlife of material things and their encounters with forms of violence, artists as diverse as Xu Bing, Romuald Hazoumé and Doris Salcedo, whose eponymous work is at the centre of the publication, meet.

Edited by Simon Ferdinand
Graphic design by Rudo Menge
Cover photo: Doris Salcedo, Atrabiliarios, 1994-2004

Horst Gerson Lectures Foundation
P.O. Box 716
NL-9700 AS Groningen
Horst Gerson Lectures


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Author Biography

Monika Walker

Monika Wagner initially studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kassel, before turning  to art history and literature at the universities in Hamburg and London. She was a research assistant at the University of Tübingen, where she qualified as a professor in 1986. From 1987 to 2009 she taught art history at the University of Hamburg and directed the Funkkolleg Moderne Kunst. At the Hamburg Seminar she built up the archive for research into material iconography. Her work focuses on the art of the 18th-20th centuries, the history and theory of perception, the design of public spaces and especially the semantics of artistic materials (Das Material der Kunst, Munich 2001).
Fellowships at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and the Getty Research Center in Los Angeles offered the opportunity to extend material analyses to architecture (Marmor und Asphalt, Berlin 2018). As a fellow in the research group “Bildevidenz” at the FU Berlin, she prepared the book Kunstgeschichte in Schwarz-Weiß: Reproduction and Method, which appeared in 2022.

Cover On the afterlife of things in artworks



March 17, 2024


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