An Epiphany: Anti-memorials and Counter-memory
Updated: Feb 17
I have been pondering over my artwork, social media pages and website, and I have come to realize that my website needed a new name! Let me explain. So, as you know, I have described my works as "memory sculptures," an eloquent term coined by Andreas Huyssen, as well as mobile and temporary memorials. And as you know, my works are about bringing into focus that which is forgotten, meaning traumatic events that we would rather not remember. The kind that leave unbearable memories.
As it happens, I literally stumbled upon these words by James E. Young, and a light bulb went off in my head - "Anti-memorials aim not to console but to provoke, not to remain fixed but to change, not to be everlasting but to disappear, not to be ignored by passers-by but to demand interaction, not to remain pristine but invite their own violation, and not to accept graciously the burden of memory but to drop it at the public's feet."
Wow, just wow. And I realized, that this is what I have been doing all these years with my art projects - I have been creating anti-memorials and engaging with counter-memory, i.e., those traumatic memories which are rather forgotten than remembered. Such as the 300,000 (or more) women that were abducted and raped in the partition of India in 1947, or the 200,000 - 400,000 women that were raped during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.
The monuments that have been created in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh mourn the people who perished in the partition riots in 1947 and the Liberation War in 1971, but none mention the hundreds of thousands of women that were raped during these traumatic events. Those women still live in the silence of the monuments. These are the unbearable memories that India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh still carry.
And that silence, that elision, that erasure, these unbearable memories is what my art projects wish to lay bare. These anti-memorials are temporary, they only exist for the duration of an installation, but during that time, they seek not to console but to provoke, not to remain fixed but to change, not to be everlasting but to disappear, not to be ignored by passers-by but to demand interaction, not to remain pristine, but to invite their own violation, and not to accept graciously the burden of memory, but to drop it at the public's feet. With the plea, "Remember those women, feel their trauma, and speak their silence."