Re-imagining memorials

Last month, I accepted an invitation from Kate Tiernan to undertake a ‘residency’ at her studio at Platform in Southwark. Kate and I have worked together before, most recently on a walking project using art and contemporary archaeology to look at the built environment.

As destruction of Confederate memorials in the USA was a frequent topic in the news at the time, I decided to devote my time to looking at memorials in Southwark and to investigate a little how we might, as creative archaeologists, approach a contemporary landscape in which existing memorials may be considered relatively good or bad, things deemed worthy of memorialisation may be ignored, and where people can, perhaps, intervene to create their own memorial sites.

I wanted the four days of the residency to develop collaboratively, so we structured it to start with some walking and observation, then on successive days to discuss what we had seen and work out how to address it. On the last day we went out and had a go at making memorials. Time being short, we didn’t go so far as to actually create memorials to real things, but we did experiment with memorial acts, creating memorials out of things and in places that are already there and waiting to be used.

Kate recorded the two discussion sessions and I’ll post about them when the recordings are available. Until then, here are some pictures of memorial spaces we discussed and the ‘memorials’ we made in them.


Here we are on our walk looking at this (broken?) light installation under the railway bridge on Southwark Street. We were mostly taken by the visual similarity of the installation to those cemetery cremation walls, although this, of course, lacks name plates and any other offerings.


So we went back to make some. Tesco flowers and masking tape for a temporary memorial.


People who weren’t us stopped to join in. I did the first one and the flower slipped as I was sticking it on. Everyone else copied the angle on theirs.


We devised this one after Saini Manninen talked to us about craftivism. There are a number of key points to craftivism as a memorial act, including the highlighting of traditionally female labour and the importance of the time invested in creating what you do. Here we did some pre-fab craftivism, transforming a set of railings with some collars left over from re-use of shirts in pillow making.


Lastly, stemming from some discussion we had about performance and labour, we tried doing some cleaning to turn a space conducive to a variety of uses (the raised platform, the seating, the god view along the street) into a memorial space. We didn’t do much, just cleaned a single row of ceramic bricks.


The space as encountered on the Day 1 walk.


Cleaning. I did help, honest.


The end result.



As I said above, I’ll post the recordings of the discussions when I can and probably a slightly longer , more analytical piece of writing at some point. Keep an eye out.


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