“No people who turn their backs on death can be alive,” write the authors of A Pattern Language (see Design Patterns. “The presence of the dead among the living will be a daily fact in any society which encourages its people to live.” We turn away from death, and in some sense, amnesia can be seen as an essential part of the culture of conquest. Settled territories get described as pristine wilderness; class and ethnic conflicts are buried in racial identities. Yet, Huyssen notes, "the spread of amnesia in our culture is matched by a fascination with memory and with the past."* Museums and memorials are constructed at an unprecedented rate. People obsessively document their lives with snapshots, camcorders and journals. New art is increasingly addressed to museum culture rather than private buyers. Perhaps history is produced as a way to manage the past, to create a narrative that yields the present as a happy ending. In this version of memory, history manages the past by eliding multiple competing stories. And these untold stories ache unbearably, like shrapnel embedded in the body politic.


Lyotard urges us to practice memory outside the paradigm of progress. He writes: “to fight against forgetting means to fight to remember that one forgets as soon a one believes, draws conclusions, and holds for certain. It means to fight against forgetting the precariousness what has been established, of the re-established past; it is a fight for the sickness whose recovery is simulated.”**



Since 1992, a Valentines Day March has been held to honor the murdered and missing women of Vancouver's downtown eastside. Native women and their supporters gather to remember with a healing ceremony and a march which stops periodically at sites where women have died violently. The Valentine's Day demonstration works on multiple levels: It is at once art, social analysis, ceremony and media event. The occasion is one of solidarity and community resistance that asks us to see patterns and take sides. At the same time, the event reveals the city as a whole community, where some profit and others die because of their class, race and sex.


(photos by Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun)


Paula Jardine is the artist-in-residence at Mountainview Cemetery in Vancouver. Night for All Souls at the Mountain View Cemetery is designed to provide opportunities for the public to commemorate their dead through a series of workshops, culminating in a family oriented community art event. For some people observing All Souls Day is a regular tradition, and for many this will be a new experience. The Night for All Souls at the Mountain View Cemetery is a non-denominational sacred event, and opportunity for people to share their own customs and experiences. The project includes public workshops in Memorial Lantern Making, Prayer Flags and shrine making.


image from the Night for All Souls


In Underground Suzanne Lacy and Carol Kumata worked with battered women from the Greater Pittsburgh Women's Center and Shelter to create a sculpture with three "getaway" cars. The sculpture commemorated murdered and missing women. In addition, it marked the site of a buried river and drew attention to the history of the Underground railroad, active in Pittsburgh during slavery.


Caffyn Kelley worked with the community of Trout Lake to create a 400-foot long environmental sculpture commemorating a buried creek. The piece was built out of plants, earth, and river rocks. It was an image of Trout Lake in a natural or restored state,. Engraved rocks incorporated into the sculpture formed a poem about water.



*Huyssen, A. (1988). "monument and memory in a postmodern age. Yale Journal of Criticism, Vol. 6, No. 2.


**Lyotard, J. F. (1990). Heidegger and ‘the jews’. trans. A. Michel & M. Roberts. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.