“All War Memorials in the United States operate as cultural sites, performing social functions for the community of the city. In order to see music, lectures, operas, sporting events — in order, in other words, to have access to culture, one must go through the showers. One passes through displays, environmental arrangements of images, memorabilias, and mythical objects, like the bullet which grazed the leg of some general on some battle. The buildings invested with neoclassic, purifying, disciplining order. It imposes through monumental scale and all kinds of signs and symbols on its surface, such as texts related to patriotism and commemorating all wars, without distinction, wars very democratically listed. From this point of view veterans have an enormous forum to infiltrate their sentimentality for war. On one hand there is this sweet sound, on the other, cannons. In Memorial Hall, Dayton, the imagery was from art history, from a painting about sacrifice and patriotism by David, together with missiles, crowds, a whole set of separate images thrust close upon the viewer to be connected in the tradition of montage. In Pittsburgh, one’s distance from the structure is much greater, so images could be related to the entire building. In Dayton suggested impending disaster, Pittsburgh involved post-disaster imagery. There is an iconographic tradition of the skeleton playing an instrument in European popular art, the dance of death. The accordion is the most complex but portable instrument for wandering musicians. It is also a very working class instrument and Pittsburgh — its history and memory and social culture — is still a working class city . . .”
Krzysztof Wodiczko, in Counter Monuments: Krzysztof Wodiczko Public Projections, exh. cat. Hayden Gallery, List Visual Arts Center (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1987).
About Krzysztof Wodiczko
In large-scale slide and video projections on architectural facades and monuments, Krzysztof Wodiczko explores the relationship between art, democracy, trauma, and healing. In countries all over the world, Wodiczko has projected images of the faces, hands, and bodies of local community members onto the built environment, accompanied by the voices of marginalized citizens, activating public space in his examination of human rights. Born of a Jewish mother who fled the ghetto in World War II Poland, Wodiczko is concerned with the impact of war and violence on individual lives, and aims to use his art to “break the code of silence, to open up and speak about what’s unspeakable,” as he says. He also produces what he calls “Instruments”, objects made collaboratively to facilitate the survival, communication, and healing of homeless people and immigrants. His Homeless Vehicle Project (1987–89) is a one-person mobile shelter designed in collaboration with members of the homeless community.
Polish, b. 1943