“I was there.” A statement shared by both the survivors of past tragedies and the tourists of the present. Although similar in phrasing, the statement carries a differing weight of meaning and experience, wherein the former’s knowledge is superior to the later’s. The intensity of first person accounts from survivors of tragedy creates a strong feeling of validity to this understanding, but the ‘truth’ of their testimony is only one of the many present at memorial sites and therefore a tension can be experienced. As visitors travel to these sites and take notice, are they not in their own way ‘bearing witness’?
In the words of Roger Hallas, “the act of bearing witness presupposes hapeas corpus – you must have the body. The witness must be present at the site and the moment of testimony’s enunciation” (Hallas 37). The body of the witness, survivor then tourist, is separated by time, but through their presence both lay claim to having bared witness.
This is due to the inherent nature of the memorial site, constructed spaces created around the testimonies of the past in order to connect the present.
… memorials provide the sites where groups of people gather to create a common past for themselves, places where they tell the constitutive narratives, their ‘shared’ stories of the past. They become communities precisely by having shared (if only vicariously) the experiences of their neighbours. At some point, it may even be the activity of remembering together becomes an event in itself that is to be shared and remembered. (Young 17)
Memorials provide a space where knowledge and testimonial can be exchanged, creating a dynamic place of memory and narrative rather than a stagnate singular voice. Therefore we ask the question, “how do we respond to the current monument in light of our remembered past” (Young 17)?
With this in mind our artists have responded by choosing a memorial in which to interact with, creating yet another dynamic exchange of experience. These amazing pieces explore the tension at these sites between testimonies and in the process discovered their own artistic inspiration.
– Madeline McCaffrey
Hallas, Roger. “Sound, Image and the Corporeal Implication of Witnessing in Derek Jarman’s Blue.” The Image and Witness: Trauma, Memory and Visual Culture. Ed. Guerin, Frances and Roger Hallas. London: Wallflower Press, 2007. Print.
Young, James. The Texture of Memory: Holocaust, Memorials, and Meaning. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994. Print.