A community exists when it remembers. When it can tell a story about itself, imagine the future, touch the stones on which time has left its mark. But we in Ukraine are now at a point of time rupture. Russia wants to convince the world that we will not exist, do not exist, and have never existed. Our Time is out of joint. We hold in our hands the wreckage of the destroyed world we love. We are trying to understand what we must not lose in order to remain ourselves.
Our world is destroyed — it will never return to the point "before the war". Entire cities are physically destroyed — they have ceased to exist. Part of the country has turned into a Wild Field. Where will our memory take root? After all, we cannot even touch some of the places of our memory because they are still in the hands of the enemy. Thus, the focal point of our project is the Mariupol Drama Theater, which was hit by the Russian Army with a bomb in March 2022. The remains of the theater, where hundreds of people died, were first covered with plaques with portraits of Russian writers, before the building was demolished. We are asking ourselves whether the theater will be rebuilt when we return to Mariupol. But is such reconstruction not an immoral act — by restoring the building, one might allege that we are making the crime disappear, as if it never existed. What then should the architecture of commemoration look like?
As long as we live in a time warp, we cannot follow the normal path of commemoration. Our path now is to create an imaginary architecture of memory, to outline the emptiness that cannot be filled. We can build models of the lost world in virtual space. Here and now, Ukrainian memorials cannot be embodied in something tangible. From what should we build? How and where do we draw the contours of what cannot be lost? In this wasteland of a destroyed world, we draw an image of the future with sound. What is more intangible than sound? This is the only way Ukrainian memorials can be today.
In a torn time, memory ceases to be linear. History crumbles into fragments that we hold in our hands and carefully put together into a new whole. What was once in the past appears right in front of our eyes, and we recognize ourselves in a new way, in the mirror of the distant past. The former Wild Field was swept by waves of military clashes, interventions of industrial breakthroughs, the Soviet project of building a "new world" out of "nothing". Against the backdrop of the torn time of this war, we recognize fragments of the past in a new way.
When the war is over, how will we remember everything that happened? Our first commemorative gesture is to talk about what cannot be lost. We do not just cry over our losses. Our feeling is not only grief. It is love and desire for the future. While we are defending our future, our memorials are being built in atopia. Only here do we find a foothold.
The statement on commemoration is the result of a joint interdisciplinary reflection by architects, artists, and researchers of collective memory. The projects presented in the joint statement include spatial research and artistic gestures, united by the search for a language of commemoration of the Russian-Ukrainian War, and an idea of what war memorials are today.