BROKEN COLUMN: THE MONUMENTS OF FORGETTING
SITES OF MEMORY
This is an ongoing site-specific, research-based art project that interrogates the role of public monuments in the formation of collective memory. was conducted in South Asia at monuments in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India, created to commemorate the Partitions of 1947 and 1971. The primary sites of my research are the Jallianwallan Bagh memorial in Punjab, India; the Minar-e-Pakistan memorial, in Lahore, Pakistan; and the Martyred Intellectuals monument in Rayer Bazar, Dhaka, Bangladesh. In addition, certain historical objects from these years have also been included in this project as objects of memory. Casts of the Soap Factory in Minneapolis, are also subversively included in this installation to localize this work here in the US.
This project investigates how collective memories of the partitions of 1947 and 1971 are made legible or erased through these monuments.These relational sites of memory are architectural palimpsests where memories of multiple events have sedimented over time. These national monuments are complicit in creating a narrative that aggrandizes the nation. As significant as these monuments are to the collective memories of the two partitions and the three nations, they fail to acknowledge or memorialize the trauma that the women of the three countries endured during these violent events.
Latex and silicone casts of sections of the monuments such as stairs, walls, doors, niches, and ornaments, capture details and textures of intimate spaces within the larger architecture. The skin-like materials make the “body” of the monument accessible in a corporeal manner. I think of these casts as the “skin” of the monuments which reveal every mark, stain, and blemish that has accumulated on their surfaces since they were constructed. In this visceral and abject form, these casts are able to allude to the counter-memories that are elided from these monuments, and are thus able to function as anti-memorials.
The monuments are completely separate from each other geographically and politically, and indeed function in contradiction to each other as they each imprint the nationalistic version of collective memory of each nation. However, these latex panels are now dislodged from their original geographical and architectural context. An installation comprising of all these panels is then able to create a metaphoric triangulation of the counter-memories of these three sites of memory despite the geographical and political disconnect between these monuments and the countries in which they exist. Hence, this anti-memorial is able to function as a “memory triad” which was never the intention of the original monuments. In their anti-monumentalism, this work connects as well as exceeds each individual historical context.