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In a recent popular survey of American architecture, Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial (The Wall) ranked number 10, beating out the Washington Monument, which was ranked 12. The memorial, both its physical form and the emotional response it generates, has been etched in the national collective consciousness. Even the back-story surrounding the memorial’s creation—from the design entry of an Asian-American female Yale undergraduate, to the controversy surrounding both design and designer, to the eventual compromise with flagpoles and representational statues— has become part of a familiar metanarrative that has affected all subsequent attempts at memorial creation. The normal trajectory of war memorialization (the physical act of commemoration) is from the local, to the state, to the national level, with the national recognition often coming years after the event being commemorated (note the WWII memorial dedicated in 2004, over a half-century after the armistice). In the case of the The Wall, this trajectory [sequence] was reversed, with the 1982 dedication, attended by over 200,000 veterans, kicking off an impulse to “bring it home.”1 This impulse, meant on the one hand as a metaphor for the healing and recognition the Wall had initiated, manifested itself on the other in various physical forms, including a traveling version of the Wall which is still on the road today, a Florida ‘facsimile’ (The Wall South), and various state and local memorials, many of which were initiated by those who had been at the dedication. These derivative memorials offer insight into the commemorative functions of the original. The Wall was national memorial aspiring to be local,
and brooding— and in its studied avoidance of war celebration and pietistic national motifs. The Wall reflected a dramatic shift in the nature of war commemoration in this country. which was actually not an innovation of Lin but rather a requirement of the competition brief. created a requirement for a different type of memorial. the Wall was conceived as a part of a process. The controversial nature of the war.attempting to establish a personal connection with the visitor much like a typical memorial situated in the town square. Most importantly. Instead of attempting to create a definitive narrative. Individuals who visit the memorial see themselves reflected in its highly polished face as they descend toward the center and reemerged. the memorial introduced the concept of purposeful ambiguity—allowing visitors to draw their own conclusions as to the meaning of the sacrifice made by those named. one of the almost . even among the soldiers who served in it (the “source community. The Wall was radically different from previous national memorials in its form—low. much as the Vietnam War had represented a sharp shift in the nature of American military engagement. in commemorating the warrior (as opposed to celebrating the war).” in the terminology of Susan Scafidi). As Scafidi writes. cultural products “provide a starting point for recognition of the source community as well as a means of allowing outsiders a degree of participation in and appreciation of that community. often leaving items at its base as part of a codified ritual. The role of the national memorial in the process was “to heal a nation” (as Jan Scruggs would later title his book about the effort) through recognition. the sponsors of the memorial recognized this in their program. not the end goal of one. This was the genius of including the names. dark.”2 The low barrier to entry for outsiders to personally relate to the Wall— one need only to have known. and Maya Lin delivered a design that met it brilliantly. even indirectly.
returned home in 1969 with a simple strategy for dealing with the war: “Forget about it.”3 This strategy was aided by fellow veterans and a nation that wanted to do the same. the cost of lettersetting the names would have been prohibitive. Wall). while not officially sanctioned by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF. a half-scale plexiglass replica. California with the conviction to build a traveling version of The Wall. Because Maya Lin had contributed her design as part of a competition. Minus these negatives. meant that the Wall was transformed from a piece of intellectual property into a cultural object. With the help of a local Vietnam Veteran-owned screen printing shop. an Army helicopter gunner who was part of the 1968 Tet offensive. According to Scafidi: . If the national memorial was the set-up.C. so that he could attend the dedication. used the same photographic negatives by permission.” Scafidi uses the term “cultural products” to describe the “intangible creations of a cultural group. which debuted in Tyler. local memorials were inevitably the follow-through [elaborate]. she ceded her right to the intellectual property. Texas in 1984. The Moving Wall. he returned home to San Jose. coupled with the immediate success of the Wall among veterans.” These cultural products she terms “‘accidental’ property” since they are typically developed without any intention of ownership or commodification. This legal passing of authorial authority.000 names listed—allowed the memorial to cast a wide emotional net. which I would describe as a physical object that is intertwined with “cultural products.60. meaning the VVMF had ultimate control over the dissemination of the memorial. Devitt produced the original Moving Wall. In 1982 friends and family bought Devitt a ticket to D.C. John Devitt. the group that sponsored the D.
while not intended for outsiders. Whereas cultural products were typically co-developed in an iterative manner from a pre-existing source community. the process Scafidi describes happened simultaneously (and spontaneously). authentic cultural products are intrinsic to quotidian activities and celebratory occasions within the source community.” I would argue that in the case of The Wall. The emotional performances. if not as participants as well. in this case the emotional response evoked by the The Wall. was almost immediately situated in the “marketplace. they instantiate the internal dynamics. Only through the passage of time. the tourists were not necessarily outsiders.” if one considers the marketplace to be defined by the extensive media coverage that the dedication precipitated. certainly as observers. at least for a time. They are not intended as performances for outsiders.“Cultural products originate and exist outside the marketplace. and value systems that bind the community together. Instead. the source community had barely existed. shared experiences. nor are they destined for sale to tourists. And in this case. with the Moving Wall and other derivative memorials seen as “souvenirs” from The Wall. were immediately accessible to them. owned by the Vietnam veterans. As such. more often than not they were the veterans themselves. meaning they had almost no collective identity (although they did have innumerable shared experiences). The cultural product. Vietnam Veterans had been forced and/or had forced themselves underground. The impulse to “bring home The Wall” can be seen as localized within the narrative of tourism. The dedication of The Wall meant that it immediately became both cultural object and cultural product. or interaction with the majority public do cultural products take on the characteristics of property. The . attempts at organization or standardization. in this case.
Although it would have been easy enough to hinge the “arms” of the Moving Wall at any angle. When you tell people you want to build a half-scale replica.C. the souvenir is viewed as inferior to the original object. version: “The Wall is a visual thing. with additional copies produced in subsequent years. There are currently two copies traveling. so that at the extents large amounts of blank space sit above and below the diminished lines of text. Whereas in the latter case one descends into the memorial. as The Wall pointed on the one hand toward the Washington Monument. Devitt indicates his debt to the original object.”4 In this statement. In some cases. the Moving Wall differed from the D. version in its architecturalization. The original Moving Wall was replaced only a few years later by a version made of black anodized aluminum. the transaction of souvenirs is the result of tourist guilt that results from having had an “extraordinary” experience. the 125 degrees of Maya Lin’s original design were typically maintained.” which was only possible only with a permanent installation where excavation was a possibility. If he thought that the power of the Moving Wall were just in the names etched on the panels. while mimicking the layout of Lin’s wall. Devitt was conscious of how the Moving Wall would relate to the D.C. with a third held in storage in case of a booking conflict. In most cases.word comes from the French meaning “an act of remembering. were not designed to taper in the same manner. they think miniature and model. The panels. he could have as easily said that. Lin had conceived of her memorial as “a rift in the earth. not just to the form of commemoration it embodied. Of course. they don’t realize the power of Maya Lin’s design. For practical reasons. and on the other to the Lincoln . in the case of the Moving Wall the memorial ascends as the viewer moves toward the center.” and the transaction of souvenirs often involves an act of sharing as well. for Lin the 125 degrees was not arbitrary. and.
it made up for in the range of backdrops that were provided to it. it can be said that once the “formwork” of the memorial was removed. with all of its metaphoric relevance. the assembly logic and labor of the Moving Wall could be said to be part of the memorial itself. There is nothing pretentious about the Moving Wall. It is difficult to envision the Wall in this latter configuration. the site of the Moving Wall was America itself. Likewise. Whereas the site of Lin’s Wall was the Mall in Washington. The . Perhaps what the Moving Wall lacked in site specificity. The official handbook for the Moving Wall indicates that the arms should be spread no wider than 125 degrees. on some level it is similar to the humble formwork bolted together to produce a foundation. using techniques (framing) and materials (wood studs) that are familiar to any residential contractor or home improvement aficionado. visiting 50-60 cities each year. Architecture easily fell victim to the dominance of iconography. Lin considered her design to be “super site-specific” and could never have envisioned that it would travel the country. and the latitude indicates that while Lin’s design was seen as critical (as Devitt’s statement suggests). Many of those who served in Vietnam came from blue-collar backgrounds and returned from the war to work in factory or construction jobs (if they were able to work at all). the actual movement of the Moving Wall is part of the memorial. Almost any site—from a parking lot to a high school to the front of a state capitol—was fair game. the integrity of her design was not. the only technical requirement was that a metal stake (normally used for concrete foundation work) could be put in the ground. a foundation for collective identity was left behind.Memorial. In fact. but can be brought as close as 90 degrees to allow for a smaller site to be utilized. The Moving Wall is designed to be simply assembled and disassembled. Without extending the cementious metaphor too far.
C. both as a physical artifact and as an emotional prompt. D. considers escorting the Moving Wall to be a “Special Mission. Some see the Moving Wall as pure stagecraft. without possessing its substance or proper qualities”). While on one level this makes them further removed from what is actually being commemorated. mimesis plays an important role in our understanding of the derivative memorials and the emotional response their physical forms are intended to elicit. a propped up set that. many of whom are Patriot Guard Riders. Not all are convinced that the Moving Wall succeeds in eliciting the “whole emotional spectrum. Indeed. which consists of many Vietnam veterans. John Devitt has said. it’s what happens at the wall in Washington. in the derivative works we can analyze authenticity vis a vis both object and emotion. “Basically” indicates both sameness and difference that suggests the experience of the Moving Wall cannot be certified authentic. “Basically. This organization.”5 A close reading of Devitt’s statement is telling in this case.trailer carrying the panels is typically escorted by state troopers and often also by local citizens on motorcycles. while “played out” indicates a pre-conditioned notion of what is supposed to happen at the Wall. lacking the weight and permanence of the original (not to mention the 90˚ 125˚ . As derivative works. on another it makes them more powerful because they are operating not just as pure commemorative objects but as cultural objects situated in relation to a larger national narrative. You just see the whole emotional spectrum played out. the memorials based on The Wall have dual referents: The Wall itself and the individuals for which the names serve a metonymic function.” accusing it of being just a simulacra (“something having merely the form or appearance of a certain thing. The question of authenticity relates to the dual functions of the original Wall.” Speaking about the reactions of those who come to the Moving Wall.
in the websites created to publicize the visit. within a Veterans’ park. One commentator compared the Moving Wall to the fall carnival that came to town at the same time: “I was struck by the comparison. was built a memorial to the memorial. cannot approach its capacity for an “authentic” experience.”6 This escape from reality bring us back to the reading of the derivative memorials as souvenirs. while at the vertex of the temporary memorial’s .. even if the integrity of the architectural design was perhaps critical in establishing the reputation of the referent.” And indeed what we see in many of these derivative memorials that architecture is the first thing to go. a visit to the memorial was certainly as much about touching the names and leaving behind objects as it was about experiencing the “architecture. can certainly be analyzed through the lens of kitsch. But more importantly. the emotional aspects of The Wall eclipsed its physical form. In Bristol. A brick path. Both were foldup traveling shows. “Kitsch is art (whether or not it is good art) that is deliberately designed to move us. named very much in a literal vain but productively misread (“moving” in the emotional sense). The Moving Wall. Connecticut.. Lin’s memorial became packaged emotion..metaphoric placement on the Mall in Washington). by presenting a well-selected and perhaps much-edited version of some particularly and predictably moving aspect of our shared experience.”7 Stripped of its artistic integrity in the form of derivative memorials. both were occasions for human beings temporarily to escape from the reality of our actual lives in the world. Traces of the Moving Wall were often left behind. in the 501(c)3 organizations that were formed to bring it to town. attempts to mimic the long arms. or in physical remembrances. awkwardly orthogonal. As Robert Solomon writes. situated with a tourism discourse. Maya Lin’s design had very quickly resulted in cultural conditioning. In that vein.
” At that point. with a bit of local flavor sprinkled in as well. a Marine who returned from Vietnam in 1971 and the founder of the group that created The Wall South. The Wall South claims to be the only Vietnam memorial outside of Washington to include the names of all veterans killed in action. where a permanent version of the Moving Wall (or is it a half-scale permanent version of the D. 1998.C.” no longer wanting it to be a part of his life. Wall?) was built. According to Lenny Collins.” Although it would likely have been feasible to set the memorial completely below grade. a reference to a reference to a reference. The most significant trace can be found in Pensacola.C. the creation of the Pensacola memorial allowed those involved to feel a sense of “finishing” what they had started in Vietnam: “Wall South shows that if you put a handful of Vietnam veterans together. in the form of the Huey helicopter that sits behind the wall (a symbol of escape). meant to reference the specific experience of the Moving Wall while drawing on the power of the original. Lenny Collins. “routinely wrote ‘None’ in the block that asked about military service.8 When he saw the Moving Wall. While substantively similar to The Wall (North). August 11th – 18th. The Wall South is a hybrid of the Moving Wall and the “Wall North”. one of the veterans who led the effort to recreate the Wall in Florida. “On this site stood the Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall. No longer moving.site sits a “tombstone” which reads. the memorial is three steps removed. they can do things that no .” a interesting play on the original impulse to “bring it home. The Wall South is built from a greyveined domestic granite. Florida. the builders of the memorial chose to berm up behind the stone panels as well. rather than the jet-black Indian granite used in D. the Wall was given the permanent name The Wall South. he felt the impulse to “keep it here. This example is a true souvenir.
” Recognizing that perhaps a 10-inch version of the Wall lacks the ability to elicit a true emotional response.”10 In this statement we are presented with the dual-identity and dual-authenticity of the Wall. A replica of the Hart statue was erected in Hartford. if we had been left alone to get the job done.one thought was possible. but in most cases the Lin design served as the antecedent.”9 This narrative of accomplishment was seen in conjunction with many of the other memorial projects. Connecticut (perhaps due to some name-based affinity). In case a potential buyer is unable to scrutinize the low-res image on the website. Just as consumers at the Franklin Mint website are forced to choose between Hart or Lin (or purchase both. the Mint indicates that “The names are real. etc. irony are sculpted by Hart himself. for a combined price of $690. The mini-Wall. minus tax). thankfully has a “mirrorlike surface” that “recalls the reflections that make a visit to The Wall such an involving experience. The names and the emotions are what are at stake. the Mint provides miniature figures. who in an incredible.” describing a set of objects that are clearly related but each different. The Franklin Mint offers commemorative versions of both the Frederick Hart statue (offered as the representational compromise) and the Maya Lin wall. The Wall in its form provided basic iconography that could easily be replicated. if not blatantly offensive. Wall South is proof that Vietnam veterans have the power to overcome any adversity—just like we had the power and the will to win in Vietnam. As are the emotions of the family. communities looking to build a Vietnam memorial were forced to confront similar issues. while not made from actual granite. was created through the memorials that were erected at the state and local level. many of which contained reflective black marble (in some cases . of representational versus abstract. A “nonstandard series.
who then fed these thoughts and . the Wall became an acceptable way to deliver the message of healing with less potential risk than starting anew. “Unlike a mechanical imprint.”12 Having weathered the controversy surrounding its design.”11 As a 1986 survey of Vietnam memorials nationwide observed. By tapping into the iconography of the Wall. Local memorial builders did not view Maya Lin’s design as a sacred single unit and instead felt free to choose and use the aspects that were deemed to be strongest. Society’s attitude toward the Vietnam veteran was inseparable from the veterans’ attitude toward themselves. Local memorials were thus seen as a tangible example that Vietnam veterans had been “reintegrated” into a community. in other words. But in many cases. the Wall was also a recognizable material icon. she perhaps most significantly succeeded in providing a memorial algorithm that could be used to create imitations. local memorial builders were guaranteed immediate visual recognition for their designs. As Mario Carpo indicates. Where Lin intended to create an object with great specificity. just as the negative feelings toward veterans had caused a downward spiral. positive thoughts and actions from the public affected the veterans. extending the healing process to the local level. “The wall itself proved to be a powerful symbol that was incorporated into many of the memorial designs. This healing was best achieved by side-stepping the larger issues of the war and focusing on the warrior by drawing on vernacular themes. an equally important aspect in creating memorials was localizing the symbolic aspect of the Wall. an algorithmic imprint lets outward and visible forms change and morph from one item to the next in a series. which physically stamps the same form onto things. Therefore.from the same quarry as the Wall) or some interpretation of the chevron form. Because of extensive media coverage. that the healing begun by the Wall had already occurred.
and municipalities instead used the narrative of healing and reconciliation established by the national memorial to create their own local homage to the sacrifice of the veterans. By focusing on the service and sacrifice of veterans. citizens. Although we say that memorials are built “to remember. to draw on the supposed “authenticity” of emotion to justify derivative memorials that. an avenue is finally opened to the public to express the respect and honor that they have felt for those amongst them who answered their country’s call under the most difficult of circumstances. much of our identity is based around acquisition. As described in detail above.actions back to the public. at the same time as they have been written into a larger narrative themselves. . This was certainly the case for Vietnam veterans. not memorials. many states. Sandra and Jerry Strait observed the mechanisms of these feedback loops. In the process of surveying hundreds of memorials from around the country. these memorials have created new stories for veterans. counties. local memorials have attempted to write or rewrite the narrative of the war. First. The success of the Wall made it safe to build Vietnam veterans memorials around the country. ‘Yes. and to pay homage to the people they served with during the war. for whom the “acquisition” of a local memorial allowed for a feeling of recognition that did not exist previously. to receive the recognition and gratitude of their peers that went unsaid for so many years. from the perspective of artistic integrity. In going beyond simple memories of the past. the veterans themselves are able to say.13 As Scafidi points out. Secondly. I was there’. and the nation. in our consumer culture. were anything by authentic.” it is people that remember. and the healing they both indicated and fostered: Two important things happen when a community works together to erect a monument to its Vietnam veterans.
8 Art Giberson.” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 49 (Winter 1991): 1-14. Robert. ed. I’ve been to the real life memorial and thought to myself. May 20. These are the words of “glsims99”.On the one hand. Vietnam War Memorials: An Illustrated Reference to Veteran’s Tributes Throughout the United States (Jefferson. New York chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America.” Philosophy & Geography. 16 Christopher A. 15 The Project on the Vietnam Generation.” http://grunt.C. “The Building of the Suffolk County Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial. 1. told the VVA Veteran magazine. 13 Jerry Strait and Sandra Strait. 3 Karen Sandstrom. I felt a deep sense of loss. “The Last Full Measure of Devotion. which I found just yesterday. “I came back dedicated to putting up a memorial to our area service people. “On Kitsch and Sentimentality. 2008): xx-xx 12 The Project on the Vietnam Generation. “Moving places: a comment on the traveling Vietnam Memorial. as individuals have always remembered their losses.htm. 10 http://www. 17 Ibid.franklinmint. Vol. commemoration has always functioned at a very personal level. No.” 135. 18 Ibid. “I visited the Virtual Vietnam War Memorial in Second Life the other day. Solomon. p 8.edu/collins. 4. 2. Ohio). One thing I noticed immediately was that my reflection was not apparent in this virtual version. I won’t go in to more detail here. Susan. 141. 1990.” VVA Veteran (March 1994). Report on the Survey of State and Local Vietnam Veterans Memorials Nationwide (Washington: Center for the Study of the Vietnam Generation. 7 Solomon. “Nonstandard Morality: Digital Technology and Its Discontents. “The Moving Wall.com/product1. 2. 19 http://flickr.” (Marc Leepson. 4 Gerry Stegmaier. 138. Hall. 20. 13. 14.. USA: Rutgers University Press. how in the world could they create a meaningful virtual version? As I approached the virtual wall. San Jose Mercury News. 14 The group responsible for building the Wall. Life juxtaposed against death. Architecture between Spectacle and Use (New Haven: Yale University Press. 454.” http://www. “Moving Wall Becomes Vet’s Life Work. NJ. New Brunswick. but suffice it to say. “The Name Behind Wall South. 2001. One last observation.org/docs/stegmair.19 1 Ned Foote. I’ll never forget the effect the real memorial had on me as I saw myself in the wall as I read the names. I was comparing my SL experience to my memory of my real life visit. Who Owns Culture?: Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law. July 16. 2005. In my mind. 85.htm. that I was truly moved by this SL experience.com/photos/glsims99/2383796569/ .swri.space. former president of the Lake George.” in Anthony Vidler.aspx?SID=2&Product_ID=9292 11 Mario Carpo.themovingwall. 9 Giberson. 1990 6 Ronald L.” The Plain Dealer (Cleveland.: McFarland & Co. 5 Michael Oricchio.. Gennari. Only in commemorating the Vietnam War has the personal become so public. 1988). N. who writes. 1986).) 2 Scafidi.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?