• Palimpsests of Destruction

    Rashmi Gajare (see profile)
    Architectural History and Theory, Cultural Heritage, Cultural Studies
    Collective memory, Cultural property, Group identity, Historic preservation, Phenomenology, Place (Philosophy), Space
    Item Type:
    Architectural Conservation, Theory of Narrative, Destruction, Cultural heritage, Cultural identity, Phenomenology of place and space
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    What role does destruction play in the continued existence of a historical monument? Is destruction an inevitable part of its identity? Huyssen in his 2003 book, Present Pasts, suggests that, “…the only monument that counts, is the one already imagined as ruin.” On the other hand, the creation of the monumental itself is led by a quest for immortality, by the human need for a legacy, and is thus, expected to outlast its creators. Ironically, such acknowledgement of the perishable nature of life, included within the very process of a creation, also lends a certainty to future destruction of the monument. Destruction comes in many disguises, monuments and other heritage artifacts bearing the brunt of destructive events, often act as proxy for the motivations and urges of the humans involved lending legitimacy to some arguments and righteous outrage for others. Changing narratives become tools used to mold the futures of these monuments, some pushed to the forefront of modern wars, others relegated to lie neglected in nostalgic ruins, without even a nod of remembrance. Such changing fortunes are inevitable, Heraclitus would agree, since one can’t possibly step into the ‘same’ river twice. The certainty, though, lies in the unavoidable involvement of humans in the process. Some insist on freezing the monuments in their present state, others on reclaiming their past ’beauty’ by adding layers of makeup, the rest on letting the patina take its course. This essay tries to look at ways in which this destruction takes place with cyclical manifestation of states of rejuvenation, and depends on many factors: physical, political, sociological, aesthetical, economical; some strategic, others inadvertent. As a mechanism for the interpretation of a monument, a palimpsest of historical interventions presents a temporally layered biography, be it through physical alterations -additions, subtractions and adaptations or through changing narratives enveloping its identity.
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    3 years ago
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