The Work of Black

Amy Stewart

‘Sadness isn’t sadness. It’s happiness in a black jacket.
Tears are not tears. They’re balls of laughter dipped in salt.
Death is not death. It’s life that’s jumped off a tall cliff.

If tears are not tears and death is not death, then mourning is not really mourning, either. That is, to comprehend the necessity and utility of this age-old behavior, one must understand that it is more than the keening and sadness one associates with 'the act of a person who mourns.' And if happiness dressed in black makes it sadness, then the color alone is a powerful one. In much of Western culture, the act of mourning is portrayed as negatively as the death with which it is coupled. The sterility of mourning in La casa de Bernarda Alba or the nullity with which even a certain famous bishop of St Paul's, John Donne, wrestles in his famous sonnet often cast the somber performance of loss in a light that overlooks its profoundly positive and necessary nature.

The nature of this light, the nature of light and what it creates, is worthy of some sort of discussion. The absence of light is darkness, which, characterized also by its immeasurable expanse I will read as synonymous with black, and it is a fundamental player in this game. Black characterizes loss, and I also often neglect to examine the profoundly positive nature of this darkness. Because of the secularity and science-based, though still strangely superstitious nature of my culture, the staging of grief in black relies not of the religious undertones of the performance, but on its practical uses to aid survivors in the navigation of the trauma of loss.[2] Black, though terrifying, is perhaps the most basically useful tool of memorial.

In European and American cultures, the color black and the cultural phenomenon of death go hand in hand. It is necessary to specify the cultural phenomenon, as the color black has little to do with the physical realities of death (like the racial dimension of blackness, the colors of death – decaying flesh, for example – are not actually black). A sentiment solidified by the Victorians – the image of Queen Victoria shrouded in black lace looms large over the period – the associations of black in popular culture were then part of a widely observed convention. While still observed ritually, these conventions are now also markedly anti-social. Now, as mourning is less codified, black has been adopted as a mark of various marginalized subcultural groups (punks and goths, for example).[3] Outside of funerals – specifically times of death and loss – the prevalence of black in ones dress, for example, is notable. A few steps away from the Technicolor ‘50s, the wearing of black is edgy, dangerous, and most importantly, mysterious.

The phenomenon of trauma, by definition, is disabling. In his book Terror and the Sublime in Art and Critical Theory, Gene Ray asserts that in the wake of a traumatic episode – such as a death – ‘we refuse our traumas and thereby remain in their power. Or we succumb to their pathos and make a home of melancholy. Or we mourn them and learn to accept that we must now be different.’[4] Black can be read into this statement as the mourning, the melancholy. I inevitably read it into the negatives: trauma is black, melancholy is black. Black is those things, but it is also the space between those things. Black gives the mourner the space to sort out their difference, the difference that fits and will allow them to carry on. Black encompasses the values of chaos and the void that emerge simultaneously in the wake of trauma and death. The mourners must first be lost in black for them then to find themselves different and able to move on with their lives. The nature of black helps the mourner understand the (positive) nature of mourning, as well, the color that, in Western contexts, has long been associated with this period of tumult. To uncover the usefulness of misunderstood black, a look at the fruitful nature of mourning is instrumental.

Black is a word that, in English, smarts. In contrast to its Spanish ‘negro’, which draws to mind the racial, or the French ‘noir’, which suggests glamour, ‘black’ punches. However, I tend to think about black visually rather than linguistically. As a color, black is all things and no thing: it represents the inability of an object to reflect light; to participate in the processes of illumination that govern all other things. This lack of reflection is what makes black symbolically and literally cavernous. I imagine the spectrum of light as a philosophical spectrum that in black is cut off, cut short, blocked, or defeated. Loaded heavily with racial, historical, aesthetic, and philosophical connotations, black signifies in more ways than other colors because black is more than a color. Its ambiguity renders it complex. Black’s position in the spectrum is a window into its role as a philosophy – the simultaneous absence and presence of things. In black I see a void, but I must learn to also see a fullness. The black is packed with potential – for thought, for action. The black is liberating, and its endless potential for action can be – should be – more of a comfort than a fear.

The link between black and death is embodied in Damien Hirst’s foray into the discourse of the monochromatic canvas with his Black Sun (2004). Intended to masquerade as one of many monochromatic black canvases from the likes of Reinhardt and Malevich, it is not until the spectator gets within a meter of the work that they realize that what they are looking at is a canvas covered in dead flies. Once again, the appearance of blackness is created by a mass of dark brown bodies. By setting the flies in lacquer, Hirst effectively uses a black death as a medium. Hirst remarks that the intended reaction is for the viewer to think ‘that’s a lot of death.’ Unlike the monochromatic canvases of Malevich, the close proximity of the viewer to Hirst’s tiny corpse blackness is meant to jar and alarm rather than create a meditative space. Such is the shock value of death, and the vast interpretive possibility of black.

Black is a color and a feeling, an absence and a presence. My fear of black is born of the incomprehensibility of its darkness, and my perception of black as merely an absence prevents me from harnessing its utility, or experiencing the sensation of envelopment it provides. Rather than the confrontational shock of Hirst’s Black Sun, the work of British artist Anish Kapoor distils this sensation into a visual and visceral experience that, when removed from the memorial context, allows an exploration into the properties that afford black its memorial potential.

For Kapoor, black is more than a subject matter: it is his medium. He works in black, but not in death as Hirst does. Perhaps more than any of his pure colors works, Kapoor’s works in black mean differently because of black’s role as a color beyond colors. The artist explains:
One of the phenomena that I've worked with over many years is darkness. Darkness is an idea that we all know about, in a way an idea about the absence of light. Very simple. What interests me however is the sense of the darkness that we carry within us, the darkness that's akin to one of the principal subjects of the sublime - terror. A work will only have that deep resonance that I try to indicate is there if the kind of darkness that I can generate, let's say in a block of stone with a cavity in it that's very dark, if the resonance that's in that stone is something that is resident in you already. That's to say that you are completing that circle, but perhaps without knowing you're completing that circle. It's not a verbal connection, but a bodily one. That's why sculpture occupies the same space as your body.[5]
The viewer feels black before they see black. Unlike the monochromatic works generated over decades of modernism by the likes of Malevich and Reinhardt, the sculptural form of black moves and means more because of the reasons the Kapoor points out. Sculpture is bodily, and sculpture that employs darkness as a medium allows the viewer to externalize their darkness in order to enable them to look into it, to examine it. Sculpture or installation allows black the three dimensions it needs to show the viewer its potential space. Works such as Void #13 (1991-92) and Hole (1988) mold darkness into a sculptural form that sits in the middle of the room. One can walk around Kapoor’s darkness, get behind it, see darkness ‘in the round’. These works invite one to look into black, but not to get lost, absorbed, or enveloped in it. The viewer remains present and firmly outside – in control of – these works. This is a physical, not a metaphysical darkness.

In other works, however, Kapoor invites the viewer to understand the physical darkness as a metaphysical one. The titles of some of Kapoor’s other works reference a more elemental darkness. In Adam (1989), the sandstone that forms the body of the pillar can be seen to reference a human beginning. Meanwhile the black, depthless void cut into the stone suggests a beginning before the stone, before our present, before us. The viewer is not looking through the stone, but into it: not into the material of the stone, but past the material, past the stone, past Adam, past ‘human.’ The darkness, the black, is both inside the sandstone and beyond it – absence and presence. Likewise, The Origin of the World (2004) evokes a similar message. The darkness here, however, does not stand on the ground at eye level – a trait that made Adam more humane – but hovers on a concrete slope just above where the viewer stands. This is the expanding black, the endless black, molded into a shape that suggests interminability while remaining comprehensible. The darkness is still physical – this is Kapoor’s forte – but the primordial titles guide the viewer’s appreciation of the darkness.

Black is the place where work can be done, but, as the titles of some of Kapoor’s works suggest, black is also particularly the place where work must start. Trauma theorist Ray explores the nature of large-scale traumatic episodes, and the processes a person goes through as they begin to process those traumatic episodes. Ray refers to the moment of the event of the trauma as the ‘hit’.[6] At the moment of the hit, viewers are physically present – they must be in order to experience – but they are not consciously present. As such, viewers might feel the moment but they do not remember it. They miss out on it:
The encounter happens, belatedly, but remains missed. What is assimilated is the miss itself. Trauma, we could say, threatens to disenchant the subject. Mourning would be, precisely, an interminable movement of disenchantment: enlightenment as endless, ever deepening self-critique.[7]
It is possible to read the ‘miss itself’ as the blackness, the forgetting of the ‘hit’, and also the mourning as blackness. The black of the void of the moment of miss gives way to a further blackness of mourning. The black, therefore, exists at all stages of the traumatic episode, through the mourning, and remains after. After the episode, Ray explains, ‘we are now different’ – the black does not leave, but the person emerges from it and preserves it as a place to return to. Having experienced a sort of residency in black, a person is made aware of its constructive potential. In order to build, there must be an empty site. This site is black. This preservation of the black is the memorial work of black. The subject no longer dwells in it (making a ‘home of melancholy’), but reserves the possibility to retreat to it when they require the interminable memorial space that only black can provide.

The use of black in a memorial context holds clues to its philosophical and cultural connotations. In the field of memorial, black has an important role to play. While the traditional history of mourning, in the broadly European context from which I descend at least, has always centered on blackness, the tradition of memorial has more commonly been expressed in white. Polished marble towers, horses, eternal flames emitting eternal light project a message of hope and victory, but the memorial possibilities of white are starkly limiting. White, black’s inverse, lifts where black oppresses, and fits more readily with the desired discourses of noble deaths, innocence, triumph and sacrifice preferred in posthumous narratives, particularly those having to do with war. Black, on the other hand, was too close to the phenomenon of death itself – an unknowable and unseen thing.

An examination of the role of white is necessary before delving into black and memorial. As meaningful as black is, white is also. Both colors are misunderstood as each has the potential to take on the qualities of the other. There are some cultures that associate white with death and mourning, indeed, in Medieval Europe queens wore white to mourn, such as Mary Queen of Scots. White is heavenly, it is spiritual. However, as with black, the associations of white and ascension are purely symbolic, the only literal connection being perhaps that of the curtain of white clouds that separates Heaven and Earth. The properties of white, though, lead to a better understanding of the duality between the complete absence/presence of black, and likewise that of white. Though black may be terrifying, it is quiet. White, on the other hand, has the potential to blind where black envelops. The brightness and lightness of white, the seeming entire exposure and presence of knowledge overwhelms entirely. Contrary to perception, white is a barrier, a wall, where black is a gateway, a space.

The use of black in memorial has been deployed more recently and more frequently as the ability of the mourning public to accept their role as ‘in mourning’ has become, likewise, more widespread. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, a discussion of victor and vanquished was unacceptable, and so a narrative of triumph in death was impossible. From these circumstances emerged the counter monument – a memorial form that demonstrated that the emotions that traditional memorial form eschewed were in fact the emotions that were most necessary in the process of mourning. Instead of triumphantly, largely phallic, almost always white objects, the counter monument is often black, and sunken into the earth. When dealing with absolute – death and life, black and white – these dichotomies are unavoidable.

The opposition to such markers is articulated most succinctly in the debate surrounding Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The impossibility of a triumphant American narrative in white in response to the Vietnam War led the commissioning body to specify that no ostensible stance should be taken on the war itself.[8] White would declare something; black declares, but ambiguously. The controversy that has surrounded the making of a black, sunken wall in memory of causalities of war surfaced primarily because Lin shifted the emphasis of the memorial from a broad discourse of loss for a greater good, to an individual discussion of loss of individual lives for individual families. Lin’s design was so radical because it embraced the black, the perceived negatives.

Embodying the inverse of the traditional monumental memorial dichotomy, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a black, recessive wall – a counterpoint to the penetrating whiteness of the Washington Memorial to which it points. Inscribed along the wall, also in black, are the names of the dead. By inscribing every individual name, Lin returns the focus to the individual. Once the focus is returned to the individual – to the real human loss rather than the symbolic and political victory – the discourse can no longer be about triumph, but must instead allow room for mourning and sadness. Of the many veterans to protest the work, one man had a problem specifically with the work’s blackness, what he, and many others, interpreted as an evil color, drawing on the traditional dichotomy of the good white and the foul black. In this critic’s words, the memorial was a ‘black gash of shame.’[9] Like all dichotomies, this perception of black is founded on convention. More difficult to fathom than the brilliance of white, black is not evil, rather it is amorphous, challenging to meaning, and difficult.

Mourning, as well as being tragic, is a deeply frustrating phenomenon. At its core, mourning is the time during which one grasps at the ungraspable and peer at the un-seeable. Invisibility and absence are maddening, vexing. From these sentiments the memorial urge is born. Figurative, white, phallic memorials are perceptibly pleasing during this time because they are resoundingly present. They force themselves into the consciousness of the mourner, and intend to fill any undesirable voids with sculpted faces and bodies and words. When white is not molded into these forms, it is blinding and, both like and unlike black, entirely empty.

Creating memorial artwork (including tombstones) is an exercise in looking forward to remember, or rather ‘memory in the future.’[10] History is written by the victors, they say, and judging by the majority of the memorials in the United States for example, triumph weathers history more effectively than gloom (read darkness or black). A walk along The Mall in Washington D.C. eloquently illustrates the visual rhetoric of memorial sculpture. Beginning with the Washington Monument, a singular, white monolith confronts us – a simple visual metaphor for the importance of the person it commemorates: George Washington. Across a grassy knoll, we encounter the relatively recent National World War II Memorial, completed in 2004 (Fig. 0.1).[11] Comprised of a fountained plaza encircled by an army of cenotaphs, topped by temples containing enormous eagles gripping laurel wreaths, the visual language is confused at best. Inspirational quotes from various American leaders are dispersed along the walls, and the Freedom Wall comprises 4,000 gold stars to represent the 400,000 dead. The memorial is the visual equivalent of a textbook entry: a jumble of confused statistics and data cloud the experience of mourning and remembrance that should take place there.[12] Most notably, it is completely and blindingly white. Among all this white marble, the viewer has no time or space to work on his or her own narrative. This memorial is memorial chatter. Empty chatter, quotes and trite imagery, does much to fill the void but little to help with the necessary mourning work. By providing too much information with too little feeling, the triumphant memorial – and the tone is nothing if not triumphant – puts historical function ahead of memorial function, resulting in an object that does much for the country’s historical narrative and little for the memories of the individuals who died.

A few steps further, in the shadow of the vast Lincoln Memorial, Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial changes the mood entirely. The result of an anonymous competition and privately funded, the memorial is as opposed to the WWII memorial as two objects in close proximity could be. The wall is made of reflective black granite and contains little writing except the names – the full names – of each individual killed in the Vietnam War. The tone is reserved – it is sad. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is often more crowded than any other on the mall. Lin asserts that the tone is meant to be sad, and that she intended for people to cry,[13] and her design can be said to be more successful because of this. The work’s black materials undoubtedly contribute to this tone. The piece was designed not just to enter in the design competition but as part of a Yale graduate course in funerary architecture. By returning to the cemetery, so to speak, Lin engages with the tradition of funerary artwork. The association of black and mourning, centuries old, guides us in our mourning and focuses the memorial on the mourners, mining the affective relationships the mourners of veterans need.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial recedes where the traditional memorial projects. Cut into the earth on a gradual slope, the memorial is designed so that the viewer/mourner enters the piece, enters the place, so it becomes a protective blackness rather than a frightening one. Lin suggests a universality to the work, that ‘it was always meant so that it is a timeline of a specific war, but it in essence it is about maybe the universal loss of people in war.’[14] Furthermore, she states ‘I think there is a universalness to it, maybe it’s the psychology of what it is.’[15] Though not a complete envelopment – such as thing would not be possible or practical – the wall towers over the visitor at its highest point, so that it dominates the plane of looking.  One of the many critics of the memorial called it a ‘gash’ or a ‘scar,’ which was meant, of course, to describe its unsuitability for the memorial purpose. But the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, as a counter monument, demonstrates that this recessive quality embodies the blackness – not to say sadness particularly – of the memorial quite literally. When I think of the memorial as a gash or scar, I am able to embody it – or it us – as a bodily gash or scar. It is something that cuts without violating – rather it envelops, supports, and shelters.

So – what the Vietnam Veterans Memorial provides is a blackness inscribed with the names of the ones that need to be remembered. A more perfect distillation of the memorial work of black is not possible. A black wall without the reflective surface would be a wall, but by polishing the surface to a high gloss, Lin mobilizes the power of black to expand a field, and to create space – endless space. This mirrored and amplified blackness creates an endless space with hovering names, and is as the realm of memory is – a timeless space, limited only by the limits of attention and consciousness. Most importantly, though, it is a space that the visitor enters willingly out of a drive to memorialize, to engage with the memorial potential of blackness. While the blackness of trauma and grief is not entered into willingly, the return to that place in order to revisit mourning is willing and conscious. The mourner is willing to reenter the blackness because, having passed through the initial abyss of grief, they are now aware of the calm of black, the potential for positivity of black. They enter again because they know what work can be done from within the space that only blackness can provide. The memorial work of the mourner is literally reflected in the work - a reflection of the face of the mourner in the name of the dead. This is the spirit of absence and presence, and of death, and it is only visible in the light of black.

The most oft-voiced complaint about the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is that, as one of the first ‘abstract’ memorials, the visiting public would not be able to ‘understand’ it.[16] It was this mentality that lead to the eventual erection of the other figurative works in the area. Despite the uproar and the subsequent erection of figurative pieces, the wall maintains its status as the primary memorial, and attracts the most visitors. The insistence on a figurative piece is indicative of the need to focus grief, to channel it, rather than let it expand and envelop. The solution to such an expanding, frightening grief is the placement of these human figures, human people, cast in marble or bronze. The trouble with such figures is that while they are recognizable human figures, they are not the figure of the person who you have lost to the blackness. While inhabiting the blackness, or melancholy, the goal is not to find replacements for the person that is lost, but rather to find surrogates. Surrogate forms are most useful when they share the physicality or substance of a human person without necessarily appearing as one. Thus the figurative whiteness of traditional forms, though more comforting for the conscious mind, does little to support the need for an abstract grief.

An example of a work that exists between these two disparate ideas is Ellsworth Kelly’s monochromatic white work titled simply Memorial (1993). Created specifically for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the work consists of two parts: a massive fan of white that covers an entire wall, which faces another wall of four white panels. The walls of the room are white, and the floor is grey. The pieces project several inches from the wall, and are designed so that the natural light cast around the causes the shadows cast by Memorial to morph. The piece is places in a room that comes immediately after the exhibit that chronicles the horrors of the Holocaust. In that sense, after experiencing the secondary trauma of the exhibition halls, the space that one emerges into is this space filled only with these white panels. But the panels alone, the whiteness on its own, does little to engage with the grief that the exhibit conjures. It is not until the visitor sees that the work is called Memorial that it actually does any work. The white space does serve as a balm, a breather, after the very graphic display of the previous rooms. The whiteness of this room erases those horrors. As a memorial, though, it fails. Kelly intended the title of the work to resemble ‘memorial tablets that, in their anonymity, bear the names of all victims of the Holocaust.’[17] The whiteness of the piece, though, indicates, ironically, more of an absence than a presence. The absence of names is just the absence of names. The presence of names in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is certainly a luxury, but the emphasis on the absence of those same names leaves the mourner with nothing at all to grasp – even less than in the blackness.

By focusing on the individual needs of mourners (including the inclusion of every single individual name of the victims) instead of a pseudo-fictionalized heroic discourse, Maya Lin created arguably the most effective memorial in modern history. Describing the healing process post-death, Lin explains: ‘It is up to each individual to resolve or come to terms with this loss, because death is, in the end, a personal and private matter.’[18] This statement hearkens back to Ray’s assertion – we either make a home of melancholy, or we accept that we must be different and mourn constructively. Death in large numbers is still a large number of individual deaths, and in the wake of each of those individual deaths is a group of people capable of conceptualizing the life of the lost in an entirely particular way, provided they are given the tools – and the space – in which to do their memorial work. Public art scholar Cher Krause Knight observes that all deaths result in a performance that ‘may or may not result in a built form.’[19] Be it built form or mass performance, tombstone or computer tablet, candle or crucifix, old form or new, all deaths are remembered, and all remembering is potential for memorial. The spatial and temporal memorial expanse of black is crucial in this process.

Lin describes watching a group of ‘rowdy’ school children enter the memorial, and observes how their behavior changes: ‘They didn’t have any connection to the war specifically [but] the minute they started walking into it, the teacher didn’t have to say anything, they just quieted down.’[20] The environment the black wall creates, which is an environment not unlike entering a space of perpetual night, hushes the children. The phenomenon is not unlike what Maurice Merleau-Ponty describes in his Phenomenology of Perception:[21]
When for example, the world of clear and articulate objects is abolished, our perceptual being, cut off from its world, evolves spatially without things. This is what happens in the night. Night is not an object before me; it enwraps me and infiltrates through all my senses, stifling my recollections and almost destroying my personal identity.[22]
As Lin indicates, the reaction of the schoolchildren had nothing to do with a personal connection to neither the war the Vietnam Veterans Memorial commemorates, nor a personal identification with mourners and veterans visiting the site. Nor does the memorial engage any of the commonly perceived (once again, in the West) Christian symbols that many children would recognize and react to with reverence. Their silence was inspired by the closeness of black that surrounds the viewer, which, Lin suggests, is universal.

Death is not a material thing. Nor is it the end of material things. It is the end of the material life of the person for those that are left behind to mourn.  The idea of death ceases to be abstract when it becomes a reality, an inevitability, for he or she who is to die (as well as those who watch); the disappearance of the live person, or rather the relocation of that person underground, into an urn, or to the sea, returns the problem again to the abstract. Black may have little to do with the physical realities of death, but symbolically it is sacrosanct. Instead of a person, a mourner has a memory of a person. That memory lives in the blackness that is the memorial consciousness. There may be a site of burial, or a site of scattering of ashes. Anonymous forms, modelled on a generic ‘person’ that in many cases is constructed of pure stereotypes, are unhelpful. In any case, one locates the physicality of the person, construct, or determine a site of meaning, in order to counter the inherently destructive, obliterative nature of death.

In his book Art and Death, Chris Townsend observes that ‘Death has in common with birth that it is an event that cannot belong to us, but rather only to those around us.’[23] Townsend’s statement underlines the reasons for and importance of memorialisation in art history and social history. Regardless of cultural or religious affiliation – and the extent to which black plays a part – death is an important event that punctuates existence: finally for the deceased and firmly for those left behind. Memorial is the final trace, the surrogate funerary object, but it is also the reaction, and the orchestrated sentiment of mourning. Death spawns the artless mourning that makes artful memorialisation necessary, and black provides the basis for that memorialisation. One cannot mourn without first creating a site, an invisible site, on which to construct our memorial framework.

Black creates a mourning space that is necessary and not negative, or rather, it is essential to the construction of a positive. Black allows a space to assume the presence and absence of the newly deceased. It allows for adjustment because it denotes chaos and turmoil and also void. Black is all colors together (chaos) but no color (void), and similarly, a distinction has been taken away between the dead and those that they left behind. The dead person does not exist separately from the living, they are all unified (chaos) but that melding of identities also means a lack (void) – that person no longer exerts a separate agency, and must depend on those that do to perpetuate a memorial afterlife. Black suggests that time, and then one can distinguish the dead again as separate from them when they come into the light of memorial. The void opened by the loss of life is never exactly filled, but the lack if defeated by a coming to terms with loss and the creation of surrogate forms.

The instability of black echoes our psychic instability in the wake of death, but this relationship should not inspire fear, but is, rather a changing of subjectivity into intense or dispersed modes. Black is mysterious and unknowable, as is death and night, and Ray muses that ‘even if all that is worth thinking is intelligible, it does not follow that it is knowable.’[24]

When I embrace black, I access its unlimited spatial and temporal potential, its absence and presence, its sublime comfort. The memorial is resounding proof of the work, and brilliance of black.

[1] McCartney, and Adrian Mitchell, Blackbird Singing: Poems and Lyrics 1965-2001, (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002). 25.

[2] I acknowledge the multiplicity of cultures, and the variations of the significance of black within each of those cultures. I write here from my own experience of death and memorial, being from a British-New Zealand background.

[3] This is a phenomenon that I myself suffer. On several occasions that I have remarked to my own mother that I was to give a talk on death, she has requested that I not wear all black, as is my wont.

[4] Ray, Gene. Terror and the Sublime in Art and Critical Theory: From Auschwitz to Hiroshima to September 11. (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2005). 2.

[5] Tusa, John. ‘Transcript of the John Tusa Interview with the sculptor Anish Kapoor.’ BBC Radio. British Broadcasting Company. n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2010.

[6] Ray, 2005, 1.

[7] Ibid, 1.

[8] Mock, Freida Lee. Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision. 105 min. (USA: New Video Group, 1994).

[9] Ibid.

[10] Townsend, Chris. Art and Death. (London, New York: I.B. Tauris. 2008). 4.

[11] Design by Friedrich St.Florian.

[12] Rangers are on hand to provide brochures with a diagram of the memorial and explanations of each of its composite parts, that relate to not just the dead, but also the war effort of farmers and workers at home.

[13] Mock, 1994.

[14] De Young Museum. ‘Maya Lin on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial’ [Video File]. October 24, 2008. Retrieved from

[15] Mock, 1994.

[16] Ibid.

[17] ‘The Art.’ United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 15 July, 2012. <>

[18] Ibid.

[19] Knight, Cher Krause. Public Art: Theory, Practice and Populism. (Malden, MA: Blackwell. 2008). 63.

[20] De Young Museum, 2008.

[21] I would like to acknowledge the help and advice of the anonymous reviewer for raising some of these points.

[22] Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenology of Perception. 1958. 330-331.

[23] Townsend, 2008, 1.

[24] Ray, 2005, 7.

Amy Stewart lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand. She has recently completed a Masters thesis in Art History at the University of Auckland.