By Hanan Rawashdeh
The word memorial is defined as “serving to preserve remembrance”- Merriam Webster Dictionary In other words a memorial functions as a public memory that is radically bivalent in its temporality as it attaches the future to the past by further remembering the same event . When we look at the many forms of memorial throughout history we will notice that the functionality of the memorial has developed. Historical monuments such as the Triumph Arch served as a public reminder of victory and triumph of Napoleon’s army. Its monumentality and stable form stands out to send a message of power and stability in the ruling of Napoleon and honoring the sacrifice of the soldiers.
“Public monuments embody characteristic massiveness and solidity almost literally enforce this futurity, while inscriptions and certain easily identifiable features (such as those of the giant seated Abraham Lincoln of the Lincoln Memorial) pull them toward the past they honor. The enduringness of the construction itself acts to cement the strong bond between past they honor. “Edward Casey continues to explain in his article “Public Memory in the Making”. Of course this doesn’t mean that public memory acquires something of long lasting physical properties to remark … sometimes a eulogy serves as a memorial the simplicity of reading these words aloud before others directs their attention to the character and accomplishment of the deceased. Sometimes a simple image can become an icon of public memory for what started as a record of a transient moment gains its own permanence in the annals of such memory, for example the killing of the Palestinian boy Mohammed Al Durra while clutching against his father in protection from the Israeli shootings.
What does it MEAN to be part of a Public memory?
It’s almost like holding responsibility of keeping someone, something or some event alive in memory ….for instance in the case of the triumphal arch a victory not to be forgotten, In the Lutyens memorial an honor to the missing British and South African Soldiers who died in the Battles of the Somme of the First World War unexpected experience when one visits. Cases like the victims of 9-11 attention is brought to the public as if to say that these victims can’t speak for themselves so we need to speak for them. As Edward Casey describes the act of “Remembering it for you, if you were not there yourself”
The Role of place in memory:
Location and place plays a special role in the functionality of the public memorials. “Place provides the vital substructure of public memory not only by virtue of certain of its overt features such as being polygonal park or a curving black marble wall but also for the very practical reason that it offers an arena in which human bodies can come into proximity. Such proximity is for the sake of a shared public presence that can be accomplished only when people congregate for a common purpose. This presence is really a co presence; of each to the other, a specifically antihuman presence, an embodied community.”Edward Casey
In conclusion, memorials are processes involving a constellation of meanings, symbols, emotions, memories and narratives. Memorials are not inherently about reconciliation but they can come to be used to communicate reconciliatory message. As a result a memorial can come by many forms from high monuments to simple landscape elements as long as a message is perceived.