From the City Plaza to the Virtual Database: New Media Interventions in the Mining of Memory


Session Title:

  • Performance (Papers)

Presentation Title:

  • From the City Plaza to the Virtual Database: New Media Interventions in the Mining of Memory




  • This paper examines two distinct approaches to the mining of memory in new media artworks that enfold testimonials, the silencing of trauma, and participatory viewer interactions within a technological frame. The first technological frame is that of the site‑specific public spectacle, as exemplified in the work of Rafael Lozano‑Hemmer (Voz Alta, 2008, commemorating the 1968 student massacre in Mexico City), Krzysztof Wodiczko (The Tijuana Projection, 2001, testimonials of Mexican border migrants crossing over to the USA) and Alfredo Jaar (Lights in the City, Montreal, Canada, 1999, giving presence to the homeless). The second technological frame is one that deploys the Internet to create online memorials, as exemplified by the human rights organization in Argentina, Memoria abierta (Open Memory), which has compiled photographic databases of portraits (Wall of Memory) and of artifacts (Vestigos, 2012) of desaparecidos (citizens kidnapped, tortured, and disappeared during Argentina’s military dictatorship from 1976‑83).Through a comparison of these new media approaches to memorialization, I consider how engaging the testimonial in a public space as a collective viewing experience differs from and relates to the use of photographic databases to create a memorial site that is animated through the virtual function of web browsing. In so doing, I ask if there is an essential role for new media in mining traumatic memory, and how the experience of group exchange facilitated in real time and space relates to a photographic archive that is dispersed through virtual space. I conclude by asking how and whether we can view these distinct sites of memorializing as part of a larger social and political project in which the specificity of site and the diffusion of representation converge.