Peace in ruins – the value of mementoes, temporary shrines and floral tributes as markers of public sphere
Gough, P. (2007) Peace in ruins – the value of mementoes, temporary shrines and floral tributes as markers of public sphere. In: Harutyunyan, A., Horschelmann, K. and Miles, M., eds. (2007) Public Arts after Socialism. Bristol and Portland: Intellect.
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Introduction. John F. Kennedy argued that ‘Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures’. He had in mind not physical structures – such as reverential monuments, buildings and memorials – but social, economic and legitimising systems that might be nurtured and supported through osmotic processes of slow, but purposive, change. It was Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B Johnson, who captured this ideal when he suggested that ‘peace is a journey of a thousand miles and it must be taken one step at a time.’ Such values, however, have never lent themselves easily to artistic translation or interpretation. The language of gradual change, quiet erosion, and osmotic growth cannot be easily converted into traditional understandings of three-dimensional form. This difficulty is clearly evident in the aftermath of the Great War in Europe, a period that saw a profusion of sculptures, monuments and memorials to the dead buried in foreign countries. So extensive was this building programme across north-west Europe that it was described at the time as the greatest period of monument building since the Pharaohs ruled Egypt. In 1919, less than a year after the Armistice, the Imperial War Graves Commission had embarked on a programme to build 1,200 cemeteries; by 1921 132 in France and Belgium were completed, a further 285 were under construction. More than 40,000 headstones had been carved from the quarries of Portland in southern England. However, as Longworth states, ‘the pace was quickening, but it was only a beginning.’ (Longworth 1967: 76)