The prayers of well-wishing citizens are sent to Hiroshima in the form of thousands of pounds of colorful origami cranes. In a transmutation from cultural meme to sacred rubbish the totems are classified as “non-burnable” trash. This semantic redefinition of folded paper formalizes a social contract wherein sympathetic gestures eclipse the value of environmental or infrastructure concerns, converting social consideration into a societal burden: an ever-expanding archive of care. Maintained by the state, the trash-chive converts morally beneficent acts into sanctioned eco-terrorism, conflating objecthood with fulfillment of a sympathetic ritual.
Meticulously crafted, long, narrow, wooden tables topped with earth and another upended table crowd the gallery. Viewers carefully wind their way through the maze-like, sacred space. The intimate proximity to the sculptures prevents distant, passive viewing. Sparse, straggly shoots of green grass sprout from the tabletops. Resembling coffins, the installation references the thousands of youth killed on the streets of L.A., as well as youth murdered by the military in Colombia. Rather than a somber memorial focusing on the dead, the grass symbolizes resilience and perseverance. Plegaria Muda, translated as “silent prayer,” suggests hope and a collective call to witness.
Conflating poetics with the politics of victimization Salcedo contextualizes her work with exhumation of the dead. Metaphorically and literally fecund, the dark platitude of survival through hardship physicalizes loss as symbolic graveyard. Plegaria Muda references Columbian youths found in mass graves, while mentioning 10,000+ youth deaths on the streets of LA. Disturbingly, the work offers no specific voice to the victimized voiceless of LA, relying on its powerful, universal vagueness to co-opt any tragedy. From a stratospheric art career the strategic franchising of the distant dead becomes questionable as empathy, yet highly valuable as cultural capital.
~ Ryder Richards
images courtesy of Colette Copeland
Michael Arad (architect), Peter Walker and Partners (landscape architects)
New York, New York
The 9/11 Memorial is an unfortunate success. Vast dual cubic wounds swallow torrents of water, forming inverse fountains guarded by the names of the lost. The names, a gesture towards humanization, spark an abstracted empathy quickly obstructed by smiling tourists posing for selfies: social capital trumping intent and decorum. The site functions as grand destination park, nominally about remembrance and devoid of mourning, except within the distastefully toppling museum providing commoditized relief. The scale echoes the symbolic, versus statistic, value of the tragedy, flexing green-space to life against a voracious market, signaling vast power in the economics of loss.
Ruins are self evident historical palimpsests fundamentally different than designed memorials. Here the opportunity to mark and preserve the sacred site of an epic calamity and the memory of those who lost their lives is given to a flattened corporate park surrounded by a haphazard display of new skyscrapers. The awe at the sight of the reflecting pools at the footprint of towers owed to their massive scale is a short lived spectacle; having seen one, the casual visitor might peek, but is unlikely to pause for a redundant scene which nullifies the whole idea of reflecting let alone memorialization.
images by Ryder Richards