Anti-Memorials and the Art of Forgetting: Critical Reflections on a Memorial Design Practice

SueAnne Ware

Abstract

Andreas Huyssen writes, ‘Remembrance as a vital human activity shapes our links to the past, and the ways we remember define us in the present. As individuals and societies, we need the past to construct and to anchor our identities and to nurture a vision of the future.’ Memory is continually affected by a complex spectrum of states such as forgetting, denial, repression, trauma, recounting and reconsidering, stimulated by equally complex changes in context and changes over time. The apprehension and reflective comprehension of landscape is similarly beset by such complexities. Just as the nature and qualities of memory comprise inherently fading, shifting and fleeting impressions of things which are themselves ever-changing, an understanding of a landscape, as well as the landscape itself, is a constantly evolving, emerging response to both immense and intimate influences. There is an incongruity between the inherent changeability of both landscapes and memories, and the conventional, formal strategies of commemoration that typify the constructed landscape memorial. The design work presented in this paper brings together such explorations of memory and landscape by examining the ‘memorial’. This article examines two projects. One concerns the fate of illegal refugees travelling to Australia: The SIEVX Memorial Project. The other, An Anti-Memorial to Heroin Overdose Victims, was designed by the author as part of the 2001 Melbourne Festival.

Keywords

Memorials, Anti-Memorials, Commemoration, Forgetting, Design Practice, SIEV X, boat people

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