Spatializing Memory: Bodily Performance and Minimalist Aesthetics in Memorial Space

Russell Rodrigo
2009 Conference

Memorial spaces are a significant form of commemorative public art that are increasingly being utilised by communities to give recognition and built form to significant events, people and histories.

While the incorporation of minimalist aesthetics and design strategies in public memorial design post Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial have established a range of new relationships between public and private space, personal and collective memory and abstraction and representation, its understanding by memorial designers is overwhelmingly stylistic. Recent memorial responses it is argued, are concerned predominantly with the aesthetics of physical and symbolic form the creation of an object in space rather than a concern for the transaction between the individual, the community and the space of memory. Designers approach memorial design from a visual perspective, minimalism understood as a formal language rather than its original conceptual basis as an aesthetics of reception and one of corporeal experience.

The aesthetics of minimalism it is argued, are key to the potential for memorial spaces to spatialize bodily performance. Minimalism, if understood and employed as an art practice that is more corporeal than visual, has the potential to engage the memorial participant on a sensory, embodied level, rather than simply a visual one.

Successful memorial spaces, it is argued, are those that are designed from the basis of bodily and sensory engagement with the memorial space and the events that are represented within it, rather than those that are designed with a focus on the material artefact of memory. The memorial participant then becomes part of an embodied experience of memory, mediated by architectural form

Download Full text PDF (38.61 KB)

About the author

Russell Rodrigo is an architect and academic with an interest in the architecture and philosophy of memory and place. He is designer of a number of memorial projects including the NSW Police Memorial and Gay and Lesbian Memorial in Sydney and is currently completing a research through design PhD in memorial architecture.