Monday, March 12, 2018

Maya Lin: 'Boundaries' (2000)

Maya Lin, Boundaries. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.

Anyone aware of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is aware of Maya Lin's work. Boundaries explores her poetic and philosophical approach to memorials, monuments and architecture in general.

Given ongoing fights over the purpose and placement of memorials and monuments, Lin's thoughts retain their relevance.

With the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, I needed to ask myself the question "What is the purpose of a war memorial at the close of the twentieth century?" My question led me to a study of war memorials, from the earliest funereal stelae to the monuments of the great world wars. I felt that the design should focus on the individuals who died and not on the politics surrounding that war. I sought a design that would bring the viewer to an honest acceptance of the deaths of those individuals. (Boundaries, 3:05).

First World War (1914-1918) memorials resonate with Lin (born October 5, 1959). "The images of these monuments were extremely moving. They captured emotionally what I felt memorials should be: honest about the reality of war, about the loss of life in war, and about remembering those who served and especially those who died." (Boundaries, 4:09).

A monument dedicated to 100,000 missing and unidentified dead from the Battle of the Somme in Thiepval, France, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, influenced her approach to the Vietnam Memorial (1982). "This memorial acknowledged those lives without . . . creating a political statement of victory or loss. This apolitical approach became the essential aim of my design; I did not want to civilize war by glorifying it or by forgetting the sacrifices involved. The price of human life in war should always be clearly remembered." (Ibid.)

Lin asks, what is the purpose of this memorial? Her answer helps create the design.

When we look at monuments and memorials and placement, and reasons behind their placement and design, we can decide whether they belong where they are or need to be moved. 

If you had to design a memorial for the next major war involving your nation, what elements would you want to include? 

I would emphasize all war deaths, not just military deaths. It's rare to think of any 20th or 21st century war in which overall casualties are not or have not been far higher than strictly military ones.

Much more to consider with Maya Lin's Boundaries -- at some point.

Today's Rune: Initiation

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds like she knows her history and where she can fit in