Preserving Memory/Displacing Memory: Historical Shifts in the Understanding of the Agency of Monuments and Memorials

By Russell Rodrigo.

Published by The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Collective memory could not be preserved and passed on from one generation to the next generation were it not able to reside in physical objects of remembrance such as monuments, memorials, museums, archives and cemeteries. Communities often go to great lengths to create and maintain such sites of memory, a recognition of the understanding that our link with the past is through those physical memory sites that give permanence to memory.

Memorial artefacts allow for the past to be represented and made meaningful in the present. Dominated by figurative representation until the mid-twentieth century, the typology of memorial design in the West has since this time been under challenge to respond to the uncertainties and discontinuities of the contemporary.

This paper examines the historical shifts in the understanding of the agency of monuments and memorials, the material objects that are the means of transfer of cultural memory. The paper argues that contemporary approaches to memory sites, whether through preservation or through new interventions, is ultimately bound to the conflicting impulses of convention and invention inherent in the impulse to define new ways in which the past can be invoked and sustained meaningfully in built form.

Keywords: Memorial, Public Art, Memory

The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review, Volume 7, pp.59-68. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 281.820KB).

Dr. Russell Rodrigo

Lecturer, Faculty of the Built Environment, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Russell Rodrigo is an architect and academic with an interest in the architecture and philosophy of memory and place. He is the designer of a number of memorial projects including the New South Wales Police Memorial and Gay and Lesbian Memorial in Sydney and has recently completed a research-through design Ph.D., which seeks to question the basis of the way we, as scholars and designers, think about how memory is spatialized in the design of public memorial spaces and how spaces of memory can be designed as ongoing, meaningful places of engagement in late modernity.