Memory Waka

Memory Connection Journal

Current Journal

Previous Journals


Re-enacting Traces: The Historical Building as Container of Memory

Sarah Bennett


In this article I refer to an aspect of my recent artistic practice—“wall-wounds”—that was created in response to the site of a former lunatic asylum. This was carried out to explore how art can operate in the interstices between historical narratives, memory, and material evidence relating to the inhabitation of institutional space. The key artistic method was re-enactment, a critical tool that was activated through interaction between my body (and my embodied actions) and the metaphorical “body” of the historical building. This was in order to explore the gaps between architectural spaces and the indexical remainders that point to institutional frameworks and regulatory systems employed therein. I direct my attention to the hollowed traces left behind doors that index the operations of constraint and control through aperture and enclosure, and investigate the role of the body as the means by which the past is brought into the present through re-enactment. My processes address the inherent problem of a lack of verifiable witness accounts by regarding the building itself as “witness” and container of memory relating to absent bodies. I propose that imagination plays a central role in re-enactment by activating a past that we cannot altogether know, and that it is equal to interpretative and analytical modes of enquiry.