Making Ruins III

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Republic Gallery
732 Richards Street, Third Floor
Vancouver, BC V6B 3A4

Sabine Bitter & Helmut Weber
Making Ruins
November 15, 2019—February 8, 2020

Architecture can carry meaning, hold memories and make history. This capacity can be expressed on a small scale, such as in the representation of buildings on a coin or a banknote. It can also occur on grander scales that influence the construction and preservation of particular urban histories. Such histories live most tangibly at the scale of the city, but they are also expressed at a national level, where architecture can be deployed to reinforce or to challenge collective social memory.

While architecture holds intrinsic meanings and memory, it can also be reworked to project a vastly different historical narrative than the one it originally represented.What happens, then, to architecture’s capacity to constitute a collective memory when layers of a newly constructed Grand History enclose and cover up the original material body of a built structure? Once obscured, how are we to reactivate architecture’s capacity to hold lived history?

“How are we to understand the conflict and contradictions produced when the existing cultural memory of a city is covered over by a false narrative constructed from an imagined antiquity? The Skopje 2014 program has been met with significant controversy. Citizens, architects, artists, activists and intellectuals have criticized the program in local and international media, and have initiated a “colorful revolution”, where activists shoot paint balls or throw plastic bags filled with brightly coloured paint at the monuments and buildings central to the new constructed narrative of Macedonian history. Can art enable citizens to remember another past, to recall the body of architecture, evaporated or absorbed into those freshly fabricated ‘historical’ buildings? The photographs are part of an artistic work we have created called "Making Ruins". This work joins other forms of protest in questioning this thick layer of fictitious history. Photographs of the last remains of Tange´s and Konstantinov´s buildings point to the corpses of architecture hidden away under foamy camouflage. The artistic intervention is meant to rework the still visible architectural remains into ruins, acting to interrupt the linearity of false historization, preserving memories of a particular moment of past international solidarity and claiming an alternative future for Skopje.”
(Sabine Bitter & Helmut Weber)

(Excerpt from our essay "Making Ruins" on architecture and memory in Memory. Published by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies and UBC Press. Edited by Philippe Tortell, Mark Turin, and Margot Young, 2018)