• Forgetting capsules: Public monuments and religious ritual

      Vincent, Alana M.; University of Chester (LIT-Verlag, 2015-03-04)
      A curious characteristic of urban monuments is their invisibility. Even major monuments fade from view with sufficient time and familiarity. People rushing to and from work, travelling a long-familiar route and preoccupied with their own concerns, seldom pause to examine the scenery in any depth. The work of recall prompted by the monuments is a task reserved for the leisured gaze. And if this is true of even the grandest monument, how much more so of the smaller memory markers, the plaques and cornerstones, the benches and decorative fountains, always already effacing their claim on attention, blending by design into the surrounding landscape? They function less as memorials than as forgetting capsules: the non-gaze of the not-viewer sweeping past the obscure and self-effaced marker enacts on a small scale the larger cultural relation to the event or individual the marker represents; the invisibility of the marker signals its subject’s dropping out of cultural consciousness. The readiness with which smaller memorials obtain invisibility in turn illuminates an often overlooked function of even the major monuments: by fixing the locus of memory at a single point, they contain memory and limit the times and places in which the past is at risk of spilling over into everyday life. The process of constructing a monument is a key stage in cultural trauma recovery, in which the traumatic event is acknowledged and incorporated into the cultural narrative in such a way that it can eventually fade safely into the background, rather than dominating everyday life.