The Tangible Locations of Politics

The collective memory of communities is often linked to specific locations or places, that are loaded with positive or negative, often ambivalent memories.

Even in our “digital age” the articulation of political interests is focused on tangible locations in the public space. Generally publics and counter-publics use specific squares in capitals or other big cities to form perceivable masses. Protest movements often adopt their names from such specific squares (such as the Tiananmen Square in Bejing, the Tahrir Square in Cairo, the Taksim Square in Istanbul or the Maidan in Kiev). In most cases, these squares are also used by states as locations for official ceremonies and important national monuments.


In some cases, the symbolic meaning of such squares is branded for a long time by specific important, in many cases traumatic events: e.g. the Place de la Bastille in Paris (start of the Revolution of 1789), the Viennese Heldenplatz (Hitler’s annexation-speech in 1938), the Hősök tere in Budapest (demolition of the Stalin monument in 1956), Plaza de la Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco, Mexico City (massacre of demonstrating students in 1968), Tiananmen Square in Bejing (massacre on protesters in 1989), Maidan in Kiev (massacre of protesters in 2014). Later political acts in, or architectural transformations of these spaces necessarily deal with the commemoration of such events. All political acts on these squares, official as well as oppositional, gain part of their importance from their temporary occupation of these relevance-loaded locations.


Publications: Peter Stachel