Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Powerful memorials ~ Sarajevo's Red Line of chairs and the 'Blooms' installation in the Massachusetts Mental Health buildings ~

Painful memories can be helped by public acknowledgement.  Commemorative events usually take the form of concerts and speeches, and are marked by statues and plaques.  All of these can be helpful for providing a focus for those who are grieving or dealing with difficult memories.  Some memorial events go further and can take unexpected forms.  I found both the two events included here remarkable as well as moving: 

Sarajevo's Red Line:
Last week Sarajevo marked the twenty years since the beginning of the Bosnian war with a range of commemorative events, the most striking being the Red Line of 11,541 empty plastic chairs, one for every person who was killed in the 1992-96 siege of that city.  These were arranged in 825 rows across the width of the main street and stretched for 800 metres along it.  A concert was performed for all these absent citizens.  Thousands of passers-by came to pay their respects and many in the nearly silent crowds were reduced to tears.
In this article one observer is quoted: 
"It's as if the whole tragedy materialised, became visible," said Asja Rasavac, who covered her face with an umbrella, embarrassed for not being able to control the tears. "One cannot even describe the feeling. It's not hatred. It's not anger. It's just endless sadness."
The event was staged by the EastWest Theatre Company, which has a page dedicated to the event:

Blooms: an installation of 28,000 potted flowers crammed into a disused building:
Back in 2003 a memorial of a different although similarly powerful type was staged in a mental health facility that was scheduled for demolition.  Artist, Anna Schuleit, directed and staged an installation of potted flowers throughout the buildings, filling rooms and even corridors with colourful growing plant-life.  The visual effect was extraordinary and transformational!  You can read about it in this article on the Colossal art and design website dated 12th March 2012:
In the article the writer says:
"After an initial tour of the facility [the artist] was struck not with what she saw but with what she didn’t see: the presence of life and colour.  While historically a place of healing, the drab interior, worn hallways, and dull paint needed a respectful infusion of hope."
 The photographs are outstanding!
 You can read more about the installation on the
The effect of this installation proved to be moving as well as helpful to those who visited it, many of whom were former patients.  Comments written in the guest book relate that it provided an uplifting context for their memories.

After the exhibition closed Anna gave away all the plants to mental institutions, shelters and other such places - an inspired action.  It's a good example of a small gesture which may lift the spirits of those in need.  And let's not forget those in prison.

I extend grateful acknowledgement to Anna Schuleit, for permitting her copyright photos to be displayed with the article.  I do hope they remain there so that others may benefit from seeing them as I have.  They are inspiring.

I was helped by seeing both these installations, and link hands with those who stand in quiet remembrance.  

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