Americana: Washington D.C.
When entering the District of Columbia from Virginia, you have the option of driving over the George Mason Memorial Bridge, the Arland D. Williams Memorial Bridge, the Arlington Memorial Bridge, the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge, or the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge. Entering the city by way of five memorial bridges proclaims to visitors that they are entering a place where the history of the United States has been and will continue to be written. For most Americans, a visit to Washington, D.C. consists of a string of visits to the monuments and memorials that represent the country’s past, present, and future.
The distinction between a monument and a memorial is worth noting. A monument is an object, place, or area that was designated to a particular person, place, or event, whereas a memorial is the specific location in which those monuments are held. One monument, such as the bridges listed above, or a grouping of monuments can make up a memorial. The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, for example, is comprised of three separate monuments: the Three Soldiers statue, the Vietnam Women's Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. The physical form of a monument can also be diverse. Within the District of Columbia there are over 134 officially-listed monuments and memorials.
Marc Augé stated that for a place to have significance, a situation must have happened within it*. A place is transformed into a space through the attachment of this significance to some other person or event. By representing a place, event, or area that is worth remembering because of an event, monuments and memorials shift from spaces into places. Within the District of Columbia, most of the monuments and memorials commemorate events that happened outside of the district, and often outside of the country, gesturing to a larger shared history.
After extensively researching the District of Columbia and its monuments, I was left with a sense of admiration for projects that constructed the on-going Americana exhibition series. The purpose of each exhibition was to create a singular curatorial monument to the individual states and territories of the United States. Taken as a whole, Americana presents an exterior interpretation of what each state could represent historically and in the present. This final installation of Americana is a memorial to all the monuments that have passed through the Mary Augustine Gallery from September 5, 2007 to May 31, 2012.
For this installation, all evidence of the display apparatus has been removed, returning the gallery to its original state. Left in its place is a plaque installed on the wall, turning the idea of the monument on its head by memorializing the exhibition, the curators, the ideas and the states they represent.
*Auge, Marc Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermondernity, (London: Verso, 2008), 63.