Events | Counter-Memories: A Series of Virtual Dialogues

Online | October 26, 2020

In the United States, Germany, and throughout the world, citizens are questioning conventional historical narratives and reflecting on the meanings and implications of public monuments. Recent protests and interventions around statues of Confederate generals and figures such as Columbus and Bismarck reflect a yearning to correct and critically re-examine dominant histories and their ongoing legacies in the present.

Every two weeks, the conversation series Counter-Memories will investigate a number of international monuments and places of remembrance whose symbolic significance often reveals a great deal about our relationship to history. The Thomas Mann House, the Goethe-Institutes in North America, and Onassis LA will convene artists, activists, and intellectuals for illustrated virtual conversations around historical memory.

Episode 2 will focus on Pennsylvania Avenue in Baltimore. The release date will be announced shortly.

The Green Book was established by African-Americans in search of spaces for freedom of movement against a backdrop of white supremacist Jim Crowe policies throughout the United States. When the Green Book was most circulated, Pennsylvania Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland was a cultural hub that was vibrant with multiple bars and nightclubs. Utilizing Pennsylvania Avenue as a point of departure, artist, educator and cultural organizer Ada Pinkston will engage in a conversation with moderator and journalist Amira El Ahl to examine the contrast between the cultural vibrance of this past moment and the lack of resources of this present day. In viewing shifting forms of the architecture of these city blocks over time, this episode demonstrates how the technologies of white supremacy mutated at the end of Jim Crow to create urban blight in cities across the United States.


Ada Pinkston is an artist, educator and cultural organizer living and working in Baltimore, MD, where she is a lecturer in Art Education at Towson University. Her work explores the intersection of imagined histories and sociopolitical realities on our bodies using performance, digital media, and mixed-media sculptures and installations.

Amira El Ahl is a journalist and moderator. Raised by Egyptian and German parents in Kassel, she was interested early on in the Arab world – its culture, art, history and people. Her work focuses on the role of women in recent upheavals in Arabia, cultural topics and in particular on the contemporary art scene.


Episode 1 – Counter-Memories: Paul Holdengräber & Joel Garcia | Los Angeles

The series started on "Indigenous People's Day," a holiday that is meant to commemorate the history of Native Americans. Curator Paul Holdengräber  talked with artist Joel Garcia about the Serra statue in Los Angeles. A statue in honor of Juniper Serra, who was instrumental in building the California mission system during the Spanish colonization. The statue was removed by activists in June 2020.   

Paul Holdengräber is an interviewer and curator. He is the Founding Executive Director of Onassis Los Angeles (OLA). Previously, and for 14 years, he was Founder and Director of The New York Public Library’s LIVE from the NYPL cultural series where he interviewed and hosted over 600 events, holding conversations with everyone from Patti Smith to Zadie Smith, Ricky Jay to Jay-Z, Errol Morris to Jan Morris, Wes Anderson to Helen Mirren, Werner Herzog to Mike Tyson. Before his tenure at the Library, Holdengräber was the Founder and Director of “The Institute for Art & Cultures” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and a Fellow at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. He is the host of the ongoing series The Quarantine Tapes: A week-day program from Onassis LA and dublab.

Joel Garcia is an Artist, Arts Administrator and Cultural Organizer with more than 20 years of experience working transnationally focusing on community-centered strategies. His approach is rooted in Indigenous-based forms of dialoguing and decision-making (non-hierarchical) that uplifts non-institutional expertise. Joel uses art and organizing to raise awareness of issues facing underserved communities, inner-city youth, and\ other targeted populations. He’s the co-founder of Meztli Projects, an Indigenous based arts & culture collaborative centering indigeneity into the creative practice of Los Angeles by using arts-based strategies to advocate for and organize to highlight issues impacting native artists and youth.

Click here to watch the first Episode


Counter-Memories is a cooperation between the Thomas Mann House, the Goethe-Institutes North-America, the Onassis Foundation Los Angeles and the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung in collaboration with the project “Shaping the Past.”


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