Memory and Place and Monument

I was moved by Trinh Mai’s tender and careful artworks; in her statement, she writes: “Art is the channel through which I connect my spiritual to my earthly existence…For me, it has made the intangible tangible and the unseen visible, and at times, offers comfort in the seemingly unbearable. It is my form of study and prayer…”

Mai’s is one third of a ‘triptych’ of exhibits organized by @uwgradschool called ‘Memory and Place,’ showing until May 3 at Gould Gallery.

‘Memory and Place’ also featured the work of Studio Zewde. The exhibit explores the idea of the memorial as more than a discrete space. In particular, the Valongo Wharf project in Brazil remembers the transatlantic slave trade and its impact on the region through “a constellation of public spaces that highlight Afro-Brazilian cultural memory in the everyday life of the city.”

This and other projects made me think of Beirut and its stuttering attempts at articulating the past; but also, in the midst of these “series of dialectics between past and future, between research and practice, between speculation and resolution that suggest a design methodology for ecologies of memory,” as proposed and put on display in that room, I felt uneasy about the role that this kind of meaning-soaked monumentalism—object-oriented or otherwise—continues to play in the tacit assent to the logics of Empire… while rattling their chains.

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