In previous posts I have discussed the complex locales in our present-day landscape that become a focus of votive offerings, ash disposal and memorial plaques. These are a varied spectrum of semi-permanent to temporary, from monumental to ephemeral. Some are located to be public, whilst many others are in public locations, but their precise character and positioning, their scale and substance are carefully designed to render them private and in some cases almost secret.
From road names to statues, war memorials to roadside memorials, we regularly encounter a web of sites of memory. There are those that are publicly sanctioned, in contrast there are various types of ‘gorilla’ commemoration, attempting to subvert public spaces by memorialising victims of murder, traffic accidents and other violent and untimely deaths.
We find these everywhere, and they include cemeteries and crematoria themselves, situated alongside the range of formal burial plots for ashes and bodies available. They might exist in parks, gardens and even botanical and zoological gardens. They also operate in country parks and heritage locales, as well as along our roadsides and pathways.
All our landscapes have become mortuary landscapes, significant to someone in the remembering and forgetting of the dead.
Visiting a Playground
Previously, I haven’t considered children’s playgrounds as further sites of memory. I’ve encountered play areas within schools dedicated to children who have tragically passed away. In public parks, I’ve noticed many memorial benches close to play areas before, but not in them. Likewise, I’ve noticed votives close by, but not seemingly positioned in relation to play areas. Child’s play and memorialisation site in uneasy tension.
Then recently I noticed a series of votives tied to a tree right beside the entrance to one of my kids’ favourite playgrounds. Who is being remembered? Whose loss, whose memory, whose love?
These traces touch those that see them, impinge on our routines and our play and these are situated be suspended right from trees next to one of two entrances into the playground.
Are these from a specific religious or ethnic group? Do they represent mourning for a child? How many parents and children visiting the playground notice them? Will they endure or will they be temporary? Private and public intertwined, they frame the approach and no matter how subtle, without text, without names, they represent personal acts of mourning and remembrance, and yet they also attempt to connect the living who know nothing of those loved and lost.
Note: 2 weeks later, I note that these items have now gone…