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Using Sculpture to Heighten the Experiential

Melanie Manos discusses 3 non-traditional commemorative monuments: Stolperstein, Sto te nema, and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
<v ->In this video, learners will gain insight</v> into the practical and conceptual design considerations of three nontraditional commemorative markers. Stolpersteine, located across Europe, Sto Te Nema, various global sites and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in the United States. Sto Te Nema, which translates in English to why aren’t you here or where are you? Is a participatory public monument to the 1995 Srebrenica Bosnia genocide of 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Serbian forces. In 2006, artists Aida Sehovic created the concept of an annual nomadic commemorative monument using traditional porcelain teacups and Bosnian coffee. A very different style of monument from the figurative single individual raised on the pedestal.
Since then in partnership between the artists and Bosnian diaspora communities, Sto Te Nema has been recreated at various public squares around the world. The first commemoration in 2006, consisted of a donation of 923 cups from Srebrenica women who lost loved ones in the massacre. Each filled with Bosnian coffee, brewed onsite. The monument is now up to over 8,000 cups, matching the known number of victims. In 2020 for the first time, Sto Te Nema will be presented in Potocari Srebrenica the site of the mass atrocities, where it will remain permanently in its final iteration as a Memorial.
It is also the story of 15 years of collective labor and global community building, through our participatory art action.
Stolpersteine, which translates in English to stumbling stones or blocks, is a project by artists Gunter Demnig, commemorating those persecuted by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945. Demnig placed Stolpersteine in locations throughout Europe, directly in front of the last known voluntary dwelling place of the memorialized individual. Each Stolpersteine is a brass square, hand engraved, with the person’s name, date of birth, and fate, such as Auschwitz. Demnig called the blocks stumbling stones as a metaphor stating quote, “You won’t fall, but if you stumble and look, you must bow down with your head and your heart.” End quote. There are now 70,000 Stolpersteine around the world. Constituting the world’s largest decentralized Memorial.
Michael Friedrichs-Friedlander is now the chief engraver, working out of his private studio. Stolpersteine is another unusual, non-traditional form of monument, focusing on single individuals, in this case by name. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is a museum in Montgomery, Alabama, United States, which opened in 2018. It is the nation’s first Memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, including those terrorized by lynching and humiliated by racial segregation, permitted through a system called Jim Crow. Museum literature states that it is also dedicated to quote, “people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.” End quote. The Memorial structure on the center of the site is constructed of over 800 corten steel monuments.
One for each county in the United States where racial terror lynching took place. The names of the lynching victims are engraved on the columns. As you see in the image, the cortens are large planks hanging from the ceiling of the museum gallery spaces in an open air way, such that they can be seen from a distance mimicking the sight of a lynched person, hanging from a tree. As viewers move into the space, the floor angles down, so that they are gradually standing directly beneath the hanging slabs, a powerful effect. The strategic placement of sculpture creates a physical experience for the viewer of looking up, but with a very different effect than when viewing an elevated figurative historical monument.

Three examples of non-traditional commemorative monuments are Stolperstein, Sto te nema, and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

Stolperstein consists of over 1200 site-specific commemorations of victims of the Nazis across Europe. Sto te nema is a participatory nomadic monument to the 1995 Bosnian Genocide; you can view more on this website. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, racial segregation and inequality.

To view another non-traditional commemorative monument not covered in the video, visit this website on the Steilneset Memorial to the Victims of the Witch Trials in Vardo, Norwary.

There are common types of sculptures that are used as commemorative monuments, such as tombstones. What commemorative monuments have you seen that use sculpture in a non-traditional manner? Please share your thoughts in the comments area below.
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Visualizing Women's Work: Using Art Media for Social Justice

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