It’s a summer evening in Budapest and I am standing on the banks of the Danube.
Stretching before me is Pauer and Togay’s monument to the victims shot by the Arrow Cross in 1944-5 – the Shoes on the Danube Promenade Memorial. Sixty pairs of cast iron shoes are abandoned on the edge of the river, placed as if their owners had just stepped out of them.
There is an intimacy and immediacy to this memorial that is striking. The shoes are worn and it’s easy to imagine the people whose feet have shaped them and the moment of their death. Unusually this memorial allows us to contemplate both the individual victim and the wider idea of genocide.
But, there are lots of tourists in town, and as I stand watching I notice that none of them are reading the nearby plaque which states what this memorial is commemorating. Instead, they seem thrilled at finding a piece of public art they can interact with. They slip off their trainers and slide their feet into the shoes of the murdered to pose for photographs…their experience of the memorial providing a digitalised memory of their evening rather than a contemplation of the memory of the owners of the shoes.