The National Parks service teamed up with the National Capital Planning Committee and the Van Alen Institute to create a call for art that expanded the future of memorials in Washington D.C. They wanted it to inspire the artist to think outside the status quo for memorials to date. They wanted this call for art to turn into a call for action. The issues at hand were not wars but instead climate change and political problems such as immigration. Many of these calls were proposed as temporary pieces because of the already overcrowded National Mall but also the fast-paced society that we live in today. If they were not temporary, they were meant to change over time.
The winner, Climate Chronograph, proposed at Hains Point, Washington D.C., the point where the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers meet the Washington Channel by Azimuth Land Craft was meant to represent the future rise of sea level. They want to plant a succession of cherry trees on a gradual gradient that the viewers could walk around. As sea level rises over time, the trees begin to die, and you are left with the skeletons of these trees, below them a growth in wetland ecology. This memorial is not only one to experience over time but also hold educational purposes as well. Azimuth Land Craft describes it as a “memorial of decay.”
“An embrace of indeterminacy, Climate Chronograph matures as it decays and evolves with natural succession. By ceding control of the tip of an island that serves as a keystone of flood control and is maintained by a steward expressly committed to non-intervention, the memorial sacrifices itself to what will be. Its entropy makes legible in the scale of inches and feet the global effects of rising seas.”
Azimuth Land Craft
I find this to be an unyielding statement and something that can be applied to many future monuments and memorials to come. Regardless of whether or not you are talking about sea level, immigration, or climate change, we are going to have to sacrifice ourselves to what is to come. To be able to create memorials to represent this inevitable loss we can better accept and maybe help prevent events from occurring. There were also many honorable mentions that were a part of the competition that also brought some great ideas to light.
American Wild: A Memorial
For example, the proposed American Wild: A Memorial by Doyle, Holzman, Lipschitz, and Steiner was a project that brought National Parks into the D.C. metro railway. Using 3D imaging, they would project these photographs onto the walls and ceilings of the metro stations. The hope would be to invite the public to visit these National Parks. After experience the park they come home and then may have the urge to vote for acts that promote clean air and healthier National Parks. View, Visit, Vote, was the initial concept for this memorial, to motivate change.
Another honorable mention that I found to be ingenious was the piece entitled VOICEOVER by the team TALK TALK. Their vision was simple, for “the memorial we create in the future can become more representative, not a single voice, but of a multi-cultural people that hold diverging understandings, and even, conflicting perspectives, on the events of their past. I feel as if there is constantly an opposition to a memorial when it is proposed and to bring this concept into the designing of a work may solve many of these issues. It is also a good representation of our society today. Essentially they proposed for mechanical flying parrots to populate our National Mall and tell stories to the visitors of our national history. These stories would be actual recorded people from diverse background, possibly discussing different viewpoints about the same event. As visitors walked around the Mall and saw the great monuments of the past, they would also be greeted with a backstory, one they may not have known anything about. The reason for using parrots hold many significances, one being that parrots like many Americans are not indigenous to the United States, they only speak in captivity, play a role in colonization of the exotic, and they ease the trouble of not wanting to speak directly with another human about our troublesome past. It is these conceptual ideas that memorials will be shifting into as we dive further into the future.
I’m(migrant): Honoring the Journey
One final honorable mention, I’m(migrant): Honoring the Journey, proposed by Coston-Hardy, Johnson, Lin-Luse, and Mohan wanted to use the cities bus lines and streets to tell the stories of immigrants coming to America. Many of the streets in D.C. are named after states and gives an excellent opportunity for a visitor to use a podcast or something of that nature to hear than a story of an immigrant who made it to that state while traveling on that street in the bus. Bus stops would also second as story telling locations. The act of using oral stories and voice is essential for this proposed memorial. It makes it much more personal. These are important aspects to think about when considering memorials and monuments of the future.
If you happen to be in Ithaca, NY anytime between now and June 11th, make sure to check out the exhibit “The War to End All Wars”: Artists and World War I. I ran across a review of this earlier in the week while searching for war photographers. Carol Kammen, a local correspondent, wrote her opinion on the exhibit that is currently on view at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell University in the Ithaca Journal. I found it troubling that she opened the article with, “how an art museum deals with history of a particular war is an interesting problem.” I wouldn’t exactly say it is a problem, but it is certainly a field of study, one that Kammen apparently hasn’t looked too far into.
James Montgomery Flagg, Be A U.S. Marine, 1915
On the other hand, she did present an excellent description of the exhibit, once you got past the two paragraphs on parking and public transportation. It seemed as if the curator, Nancy E. Green, wanted to tell the story of World War I, through art. She included poetry from soldiers, propaganda posters, maps, and photos taken from airplanes, clothing, and other such materials that truly told the story of what life was like. What the World War I society must have been like.
Otto Dix, Blinder, 1923
I don’t see this as a problem at all. I feel that there are many ways of looking at the history of war and it is up to the curator’s vision to present it to the world. Jenny Hontz, Exhibit: War Photos of Iraq and Afghanistan is a great example of this. The curator took photographs taken by embedded soldiers and turned it into a fine arts show. Another example would be Bringing the War Home where the curator uses photography in a more interdisciplinary fashion and presents about the backstories of the war. Essentially there are many ways of dealing with Kammen’s “problem, ” and if you look into it further, you will see that it is no issue at all.
In the Smithsonian’s article, What Will Future Monuments in the Nation’s Capital Look Like?, Michelle Z. Donahue explores the idea of how the monolithic marble statues are no longer desired in our times. Clearly, they are on the checklist of things to do when visiting the National Mall but as representations of our age today they no longer hold suit. The article quickly shifts into a competition that was hosted by the National Park Service, National Capital Planning Commission, and the Van Alen Institute titled Memorials for the Future. Artists were asked to submit proposals for memorials for future catastrophes or happenings. Many of these pieces were conceptual ranging from climate change to immigration.
Lida Abdul, White House, 2005
The future of monuments from what Donahue pointed out would mean “changing perspectives both of what a memorial means as well as how it’s viewed and experienced is central to creating meaningful monuments in the future.” Janet Echelman, artist and winner of the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in 2014, stated that “memorials should not preach, or be definitive answer for questions raised in the viewer’s mind.” This is something that Lida Abdul wanted to accomplish in her work White House. I agree that this is an important aspect to grasp the likes of many.
Janet Echelman, 1.8, London, U.K., 2016
In short, it was decided that temporary monuments would be the best solution for the future of Washington D.C. With already overpopulated Mall with monuments and memorials, there will be a necessity to add more as time passes. For example, Echelman’s piece, 1.8, was hung for only four days in London, UK. The structure was designed off of the tsunami’s wave patterns across the Pacific Ocean. The title refers to the microseconds that the earth day was shortened because of the event. It is conceptual pieces like this that we will see in the future.
Janet Echelman’s 1.8:
While searching for articles and talks on memorials, I ran across the TED talk Architecture That’s Built to Heal by Michael Murphy. It is a little off topic from what we are learning in our Art and War class, but it does bring up some good points to think about. He brings up an excellent point that “architecture can be a transformative engine for change.” This follows a story where his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Murphy moved back to his parents and began working on their house, remodeling it. Soon his father started to work with him and over time beat cancer. He told his son that it was that house that saved his life.
Butaro Hospital, Rwanda
Murphy then goes into his work with hospitals. He noticed that the way hospitals were designed was making people sicker. There was a lack of care for the architecture and design put into these hospitals. After this Murphy worked on a hospital in Rwanda. The Butaro Hospital was revolutionary not only for Rwanda but the rest of the world. They discovered that tight hallways were making people sicker, so they simply placed the hallways on the outside of the building. The ventilation system was always failing at the old location, so they designed the building to be more of an open circulation air system from the outdoors. This saved energy and solved their electrical problems. The care rooms themselves were closed in and dark before so they redesigned it so each bed, even though still close nit, would still have their window. This would not add to the costs and be easily done, providing a better experience for the patient.
Proposed design for victims of lynching in America
Murphy ends with talking about memorials in Rwanda, Germany, and South Africa, “reflecting on the atrocities of the past to heal the national psyche.” He also noticed the America is yet to have anything like this. He discovered Bryan Stevenson who was documenting over the 4,000 lynchings and marked every county in which this occurred, and he wanted to build a national memorial to the victims of lynching in Montgomery, Alabama. When Murphy visited Montgomery with Stevenson, he was brought around to the many monuments and plaques erected to honor the Confederacy. They have designed a memorial that mimics the lynching of humans as floating white columns. Their names would be inscribed on the walls. They would then place “grave markers, one for each county, and as they put these markers in these counties, they would plant a tree and replace the soil from where these lynchings took place. I find this to be a very strong memorial and am looking forward to seeing its completion.
This TED talk with David Rockwell about the making of the memorial at Ground Zero gives an interesting background to the events that occurred after 9-11 for the immediate healing of New York. Much of this goes unnoticed because of how much change and rebuilding that has taken place at the site since 2001. I invite you all to watch this TED talk because it brings new light to topics we have touched on in class.
Ground zero became the main attraction of the city of New York. They immediately built an observation platform where the public could get closer to what is no longer there. “There was an overwhelming need to act now,” Rockwell stated. They then needed to create this memorial quietly to prevent controversy and opposition. They had a week to put this together, so they found contractors, funding, and of course ran into problems right away. The memorial needed to be built though, for the demand of the visiting public, and for the rebuilding of the City of New York.
David Rockwell’s firm created a simple piece that was about 300 feet on an incline, then a short viewing area, and then back down around a corner another 300 foot decent. This in my eyes gives you time for thoughts on the way up, you then experience Ground Zero, and then reflection as you walk back down. They created it with quick and cheap materials that would not be a permanent piece but very necessary at the time.
I find the whole situation to be very disconcerting, especially now in 2017 that we have the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. There was an immediate drive to have something for the people of New York to have to mourn and pay respect the loss that occurred on September 11, 2001. This was then met with direct opposition. There was no perfect answer and no matter what was presented there was somebody who had an issue with it.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial created by Maya Lin 1982 originally as a class project turned out to be a pivotal point in designing of memorials. Lin describes making the proposal simply for herself and nobody else. She never even considered submitting it to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. Like the memorial apparently projects, it is meant to be a slash or cut into the earth. Lin describes it as a surface or the moment where light and dark meet. The blackness of the granite is not meant to be a color but a mirrored surface where you can experience a fallen soldiers name through yourself.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
This idea of cutting away at the earth, memorializing the loss and pain of those who served for our country was new. Previously memorials were erected high and proudly, to commemorate those who gave their lives. By cutting into the earth and creating a void Lin is creating a space for visitors to mourn or experience emotion. Lin described this as “the memorial worked more on an emotional level than a formal level.” I think that this is an essential aspect for memorials in order for them to be successful to their visitors.
National September 11 Memorial and Museum
The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is another example of creating a void in the earth. This void happens to be in the center of one of the busiest cities on earth. The architects in this piece created a space where you can truly feel loss as the water flows deep into black whole in the city center. The names also bring a personal touch. There is always some criticism or critique on using names in memorials for any such reason that a person can make up. I find it to be successful.
Memorial Rotunda at Yale
Lin included names in her work initially because of the emotional response she got when visiting Yale’s Memorial Rotunda for the alumni killed in war. She describes it at the “power of the name.” I think the more we listen to these artist talk about their work the more we can understand and appreciate it for what it is, rather than find something that is wrong with it.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial