A thin strip of copper encircling the city of Baghdad. A backpack that explodes confetti marked with the names of war victims. A satellite that passes over Iraq and casts a ray of light visible from the ground. A day on which the Baghdad River will turn red. A MySpace page created for every Iraqi civilian that has died.
These are among the more than 170 design submissions from around the world for a monument to civilians killed in the Iraq War. Sound improbable that they will be realized? Exactly, says Joseph DeLappe, the creator of the Iraqi Memorial competition. An artist-activist who teaches at the University of Nevada, DeLappe launched a Web site, in English and Arabic, in 2008. Though modeled after architectural competitions, this one has no deadline, no winner, and no funding scheme. DeLappe calls the project’s Web presence a “fleeting memorial.” Conceptually, “it’s a way of saying, ‘This is a thought. This is an idea. This is a memorial that doesn’t exist.’”
The idea for IraqiMemorial.org grew from the 2003 World Trade Center Memorial competition, after which 5,200 design submissions were posted to the Web for public viewing. DeLappe says his intent is to question what it means to memorialize war dead. “It’s rare for any nation to memorialize innocent victims, the victims that it has created. It’s much easier to call attention to those kinds of things when you’re the one who’s been wronged.”
The first physical exhibit of the project opened in February at the University of Nevada in Reno with more than 60 jury-selected proposals displayed. Meanwhile, the call for Web submissions of new proposals will remain open indefinitely. “That’s part of the process. This memorial is not going to happen.”
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