The Architecture of Memory

This September 11, an exhibition of memorial architecture has opened at The Centre for Architecture in New York City.

Memorial Sites: New York to Nairobi Photographs by Julie Dermansky includes images from Hangar 17, at  New York’s JFK Airport where the Port Authority  of NY & NJ is storing artifacts from the World Trade Center that have been cleaned and archived. These images have never been shown before. Many of the pieces saved will go to different museums, including the one planned to open at Ground Zero.

There is a photograph of the memorial for those lost in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina at St. Bernard Parish’s Shell Beach. The memorial was meant to be unveiled on Katrina’s 3rd anniversary but was postponed because of the impending arrival of Gustav and subsequent evacuation. Dermanksy drove there to photograph it the day before Gustav hit.

The exhibition reflects on the meaning and history of memorials while addressing site specificity and the culture of place.

“History belongs to all of us, but it is the memorial site commemorating a particular historical moment and connecting it to the present that infiltrates our being and transcends history.”

Dermansky is documenting memorials in diverse locations, from the site of the destroyed US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, to the Valhalla, New York 9/11 memorial by Frederic Schwartz. Her global perspective explores the range of realized memorial design solutions. With photos selected by curator Tracey Hummer, the distinguished writer and critic, the New York to Nairobi memorial exhibition captures the irony of sacred sites converted to tourist destinations.

Dermansky’s photographs capture traces of mankind’s unthinkable acts strewn across the planet in the form of monuments and residual artifacts. By presenting a global record of architectural structures, her work engages people in addressing issues of injustice and genocide that they might otherwise avoid when presented in the form of current events. Rick Bell noted that “the photos of Julie Dermansky record the remembrance of horrific events through a lens that makes them immediate and palpable – you do not walk away from these images indifferent or unmoved.” Dermansky’s images tie the past to the present and start a dialogue about society’s obligation to honor and preserve unspoken history through the architecture of memorials.

A photographer who began her career as s sculptor, Julie Dermansky has been featured in numerous publications including The New York Times. Her background in fine arts adds to her compelling vision. Julie’s photographs make us ask if the words “never again” are just a slogan. This fall, the artist will be named as an Affiliate Scholar at the Rutgers University Center for the Study of Genocide & Human Rights.

The exhibition runs from September 11 until October 3, 2008.

Photographs of Dermansky’s work at her website

Her blog

Copper footsteps of the righteous in Nanjing, China
Katrina Memorial at Shell Beach in St. Bernard Parish
Identity photos at Manzanar Museum


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