Evan Pavka | Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

Memento Mori: memory + identity in the typologies of death

Cemeteries have existed on the periphery of urban centers for centuries addressing social, cultural, and spiritual needs concerning the preservation of identity as well as memory. This focus on identity and memory is paralleled in the structure of museums and cultural institutions. While cemeteries themselves can be framed as cultural institutions they are, in fact, accretive immersive exhibits that speak to  our broader relationship with mortality.

Due to the emergence of personalized technologies museums, galleries, and cultural centers have reframed their exhibits to align with these digital narratives. This reframing has led to the formation of what many argue are immersive exhibits that rely heavily on interactive technology and site specific sculptural forms in an attempt to subject the user in a manner that reflects the interface of the screen.  However, cemeteries have connected to broader social and cultural narratives for centuries without reliance on technology. Through tactility, authenticity, memory, and identity cemeteries offer unique insight into the future of exhibit design.

The impact of  touch-screen  technology has resulted in a thirst for a new form of tactility within the museum experience. Cemeteries, often formed as public structures merging the typology of the park, enable a meaningful form of tactility through the participatory nature of the environment. Due to their integration in the public realm, cemeteries offer one of the few democratic spaces within the urban environment. Free from the political or social agendas and the architectural determinism of the museum environment, cemeteries offer space for authentic expression. Finally, These environments house the collective memory of various individuals that are immortalized through the built structures, which attempt to materialize the identity of those interned. Through physical markers, hieroglyphics, materiality, and location these built structures develop a distinct experience that can be viewed as a precedent for meaningful spatial narratives.

Mounted as tour and discussion, Memento Mori will explore the ritualistic use of the cemetery environment as collection of artifacts contributing to our personal as well as collective memory and identity. Through this exploration, the city will be reframed as the contemporary cultural center where authentic and meaningful expressions are explored; transcending traditional temporal and spatial barriers.