Chair: Gabriel Doherty, University College Cork
Ryan Johnston, Australian War Memorial
Highways and Roadblocks: The First World War and Utopian Public Memory in Australia, Then and Now
The forthcoming centenary of the First World War raises, once again, a series of important questions about the contemporary commemoration of historical conflict. These include: How should we publicly remember events that can no longer be personally recalled? Which histories do we commemorate and with who’s authority? What, one century later, is the relationship between the site of commemoration and the site being commemorated? And, how do these vicarious public memories shape our national and international futures? While these questions are not necessarily new, they have been rendered particularly urgent by the unprecedented international scope of the proposed centenary commemorative program, and by the power such large-scale acts of public remembrance inherently possess. The stakes of these questions are also particularly high in Australia where the First World War, and the 1915 Gallipoli landing in particular, have long provided a popular but much debated narrative of national origins.
It is against this backdrop that this paper will examine several unconventional Australian First World War memorials that take the future, rather than the past, as their point of focus. The first is the Great Ocean Rd coastal highway project (1917-), led by local politician and serial memorialiser Howard Hitchcock and arguably the largest war memorial in the world, while the second is Comparative monument (Palestine) (2012), an ephemeral, participatory installation by artist Tom Nicholson that proposes construction of a memorial roadblock in the city of Beersheba, Israel. Despite the historical chasm between these two projects, this paper will argue that both adopt the road as a memorial medium in order to use the occasion of remembrance as an opportunity to point up utopian futures.
Josip Zanki, University of Zadar
The Stone Flower in the Pannonian Plain
In my presentation I will deal with the relationship between commemorative celebrations and problems of social remembrance, taking as examples the Stone Flower monument by Bogdan Bogdanović and the Memorial Museum permanent exhibition, both situated in Jasenovac Memorial site in Croatia. Jasenovac Concentration Camp was built in 1941 by the Fascist government of The Independent State of Croatia. It remained open until 1945, and in accordance with racist regulations, it operated as a place of killing and torturing Serbs, Roma people, Jews and anti-fascist Croats. The data gathered show numbers of more than 80000 victims, predominantly Serbs. After the liberation and establishment of The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the question of a memorial centre at the camp location was very delicate as it opened traumatic levels of historical relations between the two largest nations in Yugoslavia, Serbs and Croats. Bogdan Bogdanović’s monument was constructed in 1966 and the Jasenovac Memorial Museum was opened in 1968. Very soon the monument became a symbol of reconciliation, not just for the camp victims but for their descendants, as well as for advocates of the former Quisling state. The Memorial Museum exhibition was changed several times, under the pressure and influence of the ruling political ideologies. Today’s exhibition, opened in 2006, was followed by many controversial issues. During my research on various forms of remembering and symbolic perception of the place itself I have conducted several interviews with Leonida Kovač, the art historian and curator of the Memorial Museum’s permanent exhibition, as well as with members of the Anti-Fascist movement and members of Serbian and Jewish communities. I have used Lelow and Žarki, famous Jewish community centres in Poland as a reference point in my comparative fieldwork. This community was wiped out during Holocaust, and during the Socialist period completely vanished. Its history and culture can be compared to that of the Serbian community in Croatia, which almost entirely disappeared after the war in the nineties. Both communities shared a complex space, impossible to define by national or generalized historical narrative. Coming to terms with one’s own history can be compared to a ritual act, represented in an art work such as Christo’s Wrapped Reichstag in Berlin in 1995, or to war instigation as in Serbian and Croatian examples of the pilgrimage of prince Lazar’s relics and memorial activities around Jazovka and Bleiburg in 1990. This work presents the analysis of various different historical, ideological and cultural paradigms in the bloody Balkans.
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Connerton, Paul. 2004. Kako se društva sjećaju. Zagreb: Antibarbarus.
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Carolyn Malone, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana
The Arts and Crafts’ Aesthetic and Memorials for the Fallen in World War I Britain
How could the nation pay suitable tribute to the fallen? As early as 1916, members of the Arts and Crafts movement began to discuss this important question. William Lethaby and his associates in the movement believed that they could and should play a leading role in the anticipated movement to commemorate the fallen. They would guide the public in this important national endeavor and ensure the nation would not (as it had in the past) erect ‘ugly and trivial’ memorials. To this end, they urged the public to patronize architects, designers, and skilled craftsmen to create simple, well-made stone memorials for placement in carefully selected locations. They also promoted stained glass windows, tapestries, church fittings, and other art forms that figured prominently in the pre-war Arts and Crafts movement as appropriate forms of commemoration. Between 1916 and 1920, they promoted these ideas through meetings, articles, pamphlets, and war memorial exhibitions held at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Academy. Through these activities members of this important artistic community played a key role in shaping and framing the public discourse on war memorials. In this paper, I explore the Arts and Crafts movements’ precepts for the design, production, and consumption of war memorials. It is my contention that they viewed the war as an opportunity to apply their pre-war ideals to the creation of war memorials. Prior to the war, its members (following the ideas and practices of William Morris) had railed against the production and consumption of mass-produced, shoddy, and useless household goods and sought to revive handicraft production of such goods. Moreover, they attempted to elevate the status of art forms, such as tapestry weaving, which had been considered the ‘lesser arts.’ During and after the war, their proposals about war memorials were discussed at the national and local levels and the responses to them illustrate the tension and conflict between art and commerce in commemoration. Some communities commissioned members of the Arts and Crafts movement to create stone memorials and, for example, memorial tapestries and stained glass windows. But many communities decided on a more traditional form of memorial, a stone or bronze memorial, and opted to hire their local stone mason or purchased memorials from companies that sold cheaper, mass-produced memorials. They were not successful in their attempt to revive the handicraft tradition. However, the trend of simplicity in design is evident in the stone and bronze memorials that were built after World War I.
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Lethaby, William K. (1919). ‘Memorials of the Fallen: Service or Sacrifice?’ In The Hibbert Journal 7, 621-625.
Royal Academy of Arts (1919). Catalogue for the War Memorials Exhibition 1919. London: William Clowes and Sons.
Victoria and Albert Museum (1919). Catalogue of the War Memorials Exhibition, 1919. London: HMSO.
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