Monday 14 April 2014

Monuments and memory

People are so used to seeing monuments in public spaces they don't really look at them closely.

Paternoster Square
For example, Paternoster Square in London was designed around a monument as its central point. However, it doesn't commemorate anything. It is just part of the design. I was interested to read on Wikipedia that the monument serves as a ventilation shaft for a service road that runs beneath the square.

I was talking about this to a friend who mentioned the work of James E. Young. Young argues that monuments 'absorb the responsibility of memory', that they take the burden of history from us and soak it up so that we don't have to carry it around with us. I wonder how guilty we are of this emotional displacement, or whether it is a good thing that we don't carry the weight of history with us.

What is beyond doubt is that people should be aware of what and whom a monument stands for. The brutality of the First World War is almost impossible to comprehend, given the scale of the bloodshed and the terrible loss of life.

That is why The Heart of Conflict is important. We will use the names on monuments as a starting point for the project. Each name listed is a person, an individual, with a unique story that needs to be explored and expressed.

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