Think back to the last time you travelled to some place new. What was going through your head? Excitement? Expectation? Nervousness at the prospect of venturing into the unknown? I experienced all of these emotions in the run up to my first trip to Narva in eastern Estonia - as I set out in the article Narva: past, present and future soon to be published in the magazine Lennuk.
Letter left at the VVM on 21/03/2008
Traumatic events often lead to the creation of spontaneous memorials prompted by outpourings of collective grief. The spot where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, for example, became a shrine. The demise of Princess Diana led to something similar in the UK. However, the fact that her death occurred abroad meant that proxy spaces had to be found for the laying of flowers and leaving of messages. These sites tended to be situated outside civic or religious buildings as well as adjacent to existing monuments, including war memorials. However, unlike obelisks in stone or statues in bronze, these spontaneous acts of commemoration were temporary. The flowers for Diana are no longer there. Yet the memory of them remains.
A further such memorial is being carefully dismantled in central Oslo. The area outside the cathedral has become a makeshift shrine to those killed in the terrorist attacks of 22nd July. The flowers and other organic material will be composted and the wax from the candles recycled. But the messages and mementos are to be preserved in the national archive.
A similar process of preservation and documentation has taken place at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. Artefacts left there continue to be gathered up and safeguarded to become part of a living and very public collection.
This will also be the case in Norway. Those traces of collective grief left on a street in central Oslo are destined to become sources of collective memory.
Curtis, Paulette G. (2010) "Stewarding a living collection: the national park service and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection", Museum Anthropology, Vol. 33, Iss. 1, pp. 49-61
Phelps, Angela (1998) "Memorials without location: creating heritage places", Area, Vol. 30 (2), pp. 166-8
Parliament Square, 12th September 2009
Brian Haw died on 18 June 2011. A former sailor in the Merchant Navy, he came to prominence in 2001 when he decided to establish a peace camp in London's Parliament Square. This was prompted by his opposition to British foreign policy in countries such as Iraq and, later, Afghanistan. The visibility of Haw's protest and its proximity to parliament led to attempts to pass legislation that would enforce his removal. These were largely abortive and he continued his campaign until his death earlier this year.
Should Haw be remembered? If so, how? There have been calls for the raising of a statue or plaque in his memory. Another approach would be to rename the area outside parliament "Brian Haw Square". An alternative form of commemoration might be for a fund to be established in his honour and the proceeds used to further the causes he promoted.
Naming things and places after "famous" people can be problematic - as becomes clear from this interesting article: Spencer, Clare (2011) "The pitfalls of naming places after famous people", BBC News, 29/07, accessed 30/07/2011 at, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14323173.
But what would motivate us to remember Brian Haw? Bear in mind that some - particularly those in power - would no doubt prefer it if we forgot both him and what he stood (or rather crouched) for...
A monument is currently being erected in the main square of Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. Entitled "Warrior on a Horse", it is a colossal figurative sculpture by Valentina Stefanovska. The work is scheduled to be inaugurated on 8 September 2011 - the 20th anniversary of Macedonian independence. The Greek authorities are opposed to the work because of its connotations with Alexander the Great. This is part of a wider dispute over territory, national symbols, cultural heritage and collective identity - as explained in articles such as:
Anon (2011) "Greece Criticizes Macedonia Over Alexander The Great Statue", 16/06, Radio Free Europe, accessed 25/07/2011 at, http://www.rferl.org/content/macedonia_alexander_the_great_statue_greece_dispute/24237371.html
Testorides, Konstantin (2011) "Macedonia erects giant warrior on a horse statue", Associated Press, accessed 25/07/2011 at, http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2015383271_apeumacedoniastatue.html
For another "statue war", see: Burch, Stuart & David J. Smith (2007) "Empty Spaces and the Value of Symbols: Estonia's 'War of Monuments' from Another Angle, Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 59 (6), pp. 913-936 -- available here.
The American artist, John Seward Johnson II (born 1930) is famed for his gargantuan bronze statues. His latest effort is a 26ft tall representation of Marilyn Monroe. She strikes a pose made famous from the film The Seven Year Itch. The work has been placed on a temporary basis on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The response has been mixed to say the least:
See, for example, Ritchie, Abraham (2011) "Marilyn Monroe sculpture is 'creepy, sexist'", Chicago Tribune, 13/07, accessed 21/07/2011 at, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-07-13/entertainment/chi-marilyn-monroe-sculpture-creepy-sexist-20110713_1_sculpture-marilyn-monroe-sculptor
Perhaps Seward Johnson's Forever Marilyn should be proposed as a temporary resident for Trafalgar Square's "empty plinth" (http://www.london.gov.uk/fourthplinth)? The response of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson would surely make the effort worthwhile.
The house in which the writer J.G. Ballard lived from 1960 until his death is for sale, reports The Guardian:
Leith, Sam (2011) "If we can't buy J.G. Ballard's former home, then we should at least erect a statue to him", The Guardian, 18/07, G2, p.22, accessed 18/07/2011 at, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jul/17/j-g-ballard-former-home
It would be marvellous if it were museumified. Visitors would be able to join Ballardian guided tours and then go "shopping for the memories of his childhood" in the museum store. By the way, that quote is from Ballard's The Drowned World (1962). One of the book's protagonists is Strangman. He and his fellow pirates strip the world's flooded museums of their "objets d'art" and "bric-à-brac: votive urns, goblets, shields and salvers, pieces of decorative armour, ceremonial inkstands and the like". The Ballard Museum in submerged Shepperton filled to the brim with Ballardian bric-à-brac would surely be high on Strangman's shopping list...
Para, jämsides med.
En annan sort.
Bevingaren, 1980: 90
Even a parasite like me should be permitted to feed at the banquet of knowledge
I once posted comments as Bevingaren at guardian.co.uk
Note All parasitoids are parasites, but not all parasites are parasitoids
Parasitoid "A parasite that always ultimately destroys its host" (Oxford English Dictionary)
I live off you
And you live off me
And the whole world
Lives off everybody
See we gotta be exploited
By somebody, by somebody, by somebody
<I live off you>
Germ Free Adolescents
is a short step.
The word is
now a virus.
key words: architecture | archive | art | commemoration | design | ethics | framing | freedom of speech | heritage | heroes and villains | history | illicit trade | landscape | media | memorial | memory | museum | music | nordic | nottingham trent university | parasite | politics | science fiction | shockmolt | statue | stuart burch | tourism | words |