Jennifer Teresa Caffrey
Word Count. 508

“The Latin root of the word monument is monere – to remind or to warn…. ” (Durant 2009)

In his essay Oliver Marchart (1999) explores public space through examining the theories of Rosalyn Deutshe, Doreen Massey, Laclau and Mouffe. Marchart (1999) reveals how public space is political, a place that exists because of a division of classes and specialisations. It is activated by the conflict that occurs with communications between two or more of these groups. Deutsche (1996) in her book ‘Evictions. Art and Spatial Politics’ talks of how “Social space is produced and structured by conflicts. With this recognition, a democratic spatial politics begins.” This space is a shifting paradigm and it is“….by means of articulation, by linking different elements, that we open up…space.”(Marchart 1999).
Public spaces are contested and act as a catalyst for change, constantly reinventing themselves they lead to the past and project to the future. As this public space is being reinvented throughout time, reminders are left behind intentionally or accidentally. Some are visible others are concealed. These reminders are memories. They appear in many forms and when adapted to new situations they can “… make us recall, evoke, think, and perceive something beyond themselves.”(Bonder 2009) These elements of time and space are monumental and can gain importance with interest or through invention. They themselves can evolve to become a collective memory through repetition and chance or could also be excavated, arranged and re-presented. This could be looked upon as a form of inventing histories, memories and monuments.
Edward Said (2002) has written about this phenomenon;

“The invention of tradition is a method for using collective memory selectively by manipulating certain bits of the national past, suppressing others, elevating still others in an entirely functional way. This memory is not necessarily authentic, but rather useful”.

Memory is invented to different ends whether it is the denial of the Israelis to acknowledge any existence of the Palestinians history on their land or the over-emphasis put on the achievements or failures of one person/group (Said 2002). Trevor Blank (2009) in a similar vein discusses the selection of the elements that create a collective memory in the form of a museum/memorial etc. He particularly looks at the monument as a site of preservation and what criteria are used to choose what survives and what is erased. He talks about how our public spaces are places of multiple histories that are visible through the monuments and memorials that inhabit it. Said (2002) also explores the power of memory in times of crises. “Memory and its representations touch very significantly upon questions of identity, of nationalism, of power and authority.“ Said (2002) talks of how in the shadow of the holocaust a nation was created by the Zion’s for the Jews and they located themselves in Israel. Where many people are displaced from their structures and specialisations public space ignites with discussion, opportunities and invention. They enter this space looking to the monumental for an identity, a sense of place with an emphasis and pride in the local and familiar.

Blank, Trevor, ‘Contesting the Contested: Preservation Politics,
Collective Memory, and the first institution for the criminally insane in America.’ Mater Cult 41 no1 spring 2009
Bonder, Julian. ‘On Memory, Trauma, Public Space, Monuments, and Memorials.’ Places 21 no1 spring 2009.
Deutsche, Rosalyn: Evictions. Art and Spatial Politics. Cambridge, Mass-London: MIT
Press 1996, p.xxiv
Durant, M.A, ‘Notes on Photography and Monumentality’. Aperture no 196 fall 2009
Marchart, Oliver (1999), ‘Art, Space and the Public Sphere(s). Some basic observations on the difficult relation of public art, urbanism and political theory’, Transversal, eipcp multilingual web journal. [Online] Available at: (accessed: 27 October 2009)
Said, W.E, (2002) ‘Invention, Memory, and Place’, in Mitchell, W.T Landscape and Power, Chicago; University of Chicago Press, p241-260.

Politics of space, monuments and invention | 2010 | Writing