Memory Matrix: a Presentation by Azra Akšamija
Institute For Middle East Studies
About the memory matrix: “We live in a time when technology can be used to document an erasure as it takes place and to restore much faster than ever before. Hardly any other historic site has generated more intense public debate about these two issues than Palmyra. The impetus to defy Palmyra’s destruction notwithstanding, the questions of whether, when, and how to restore it remain controversial. These questions provide the conceptual basis for the Memory Matrix—a public space intervention referencing Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph—that counters the destruction of monuments with the creation of new ephemeral monuments that engage new fabrication technologies and transcultural collaborations. The Memory Matrix endorses the use of technology to foster solidarity and educate those who have been stripped of their home, culture, history, and identity. Preservation can also positively encourage human interdependence in the face of global problems that are affecting communities across borders, today and in the future.”
Azra Akšamija is an artist and architectural historian, Associate Professor at MIT Art, Culture and Technology Program. In her multi-disciplinary work, Akšamija investigates the politics of identity and memory on the scale of the body (clothing and wearable technologies), on the civic scale (religious architecture and cultural institutions), and within the context of history and global cultural flows. Her projects explore the potency of art and architecture to transform conflicts, and in so doing, provide a framework for analyzing and intervening in contested socio-political realities. Her recent academic research focuses on the politics of representation of Islam in the West, conflict in the Balkans since the 1990s, and the destruction of cultural heritage in the Balkans and Middle East.