The National AIDS Memorial Competition, San Francisco, CA
AIDS is a global crisis, the first epic epidemic in the era of mass information. The catastrophe is singular, a slow train-wreck of death, infection, and loss. This ineffable, time-elapsed tragedy defies all previous paradigms of memorialization. We proposed a new paradigm of memorial to respond to these conditions. Since 1981, when AIDS was discovered and has become part of our awareness, we responded with shock, fear, and awe at the horror of the epidemic. Now, AIDS and HIV appear in our consciousness with an illusion of familiarity. Our consciousness of the epidemic operates like an automaton; we have become numb to the knowledge and unable to comprehend the massive impact of this epidemic to human race. The unperceivable numbers of dead and infected, lest they become mere statistics, must be part of our collective consciousness and conscience. This proposed design intends to experientially jolt and reveal the impact of these massively incomprehensible quantities. Personal names and symbolic gestures – the usual strategies of memorials – fail to express the magnitude of the loss and inadequately rouse consciousness. There is no place to put one’s own worded portrait: the experience is the only “material” one takes away. In short, they do not perform the “memorial work” demanded by AIDS/HIV. As a counter proposal to a traditional memorial, we eschew remembrance of individuals, and of AIDS as an historical event. Instead, this design critiques how we cope with the epidemic globally and as a human race.