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

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SueAnne Ware


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.

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Author Biography

SueAnne Ware, RMIT University

SueAnne Ware is an Associate Professor and co-ordinates postgraduate studies in landscape architecture at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. Recently she completed her PhD which speculated on the design and exploration of progressive and ephemeral memorials. It is entitled: Anti-memorials: Re-thinking the landscape of memory. The project work explores the ways in which contemporary memorial design can reflect ephemeral conditions of site and memory while maintaining its importance in the public landscape. She has published widely with regard to concepts engaging in anti-memorials. She was co-organiser of the 2001 Memorials to the Stolen Generation Competition in conjunction with the Museum of Victoria. Her design work entitled, An Anti-Memorial to Heroin Overdose Victims was featured in the 2001 Melbourne Festival and won a national design award from the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects. Her most recent memorial project the Road-as-Shrine was featured in Victoria’s State of Design, exhibition 2004 and also received a Merit Award from the Victorian chapter of AILA. Previous work includes, A Moment in Death: A Memorial to Victims of Gang Violence and received a national merit award for research from the American Society of Landscape Architects. It is also featured in Landscape Narratives by Jamie Purinton and Matthew Potteiger. In August of 2005 she was a visiting professor at The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico.