lieu de mémoire

We may live without architecture and worship without her, but we cannot remember without her.
      John Ruskin

Exiled from Georgia during its civil war, artist Andro Wekua can only remember the architecture of his former home city, Sukhumi. Now working in Zurich and Berlin, Wekua has constructed fifteen architectural models based upon his memories and Internet photographs of buildings in Sukhumi. Much of his research has come from other Georgian exiles and their individual and collective memories of place. The models are arranged on a long platform that stretches through an entire room of the Arsenale’s Corderie, the space in which ropes were once corded and bound. We walk alongside the platform and Wekua’s constructed lieu de mémoire, piecing together facades, distortions and seeming absences. 
Many of the buildings have the appearance of stage sets because Wekua remembers only their faces and most obvious details. Like Hans Op De Beeck’s film Silence, which explores the trickery inherent in scale models and theatricality, Wekua uses the inconsistency of memory to his creative advantage. Early in his novel Vertigo, W. G. Sebald discusses the unreliable and easily manipulated nature of memory, the character Beyle recalling ‘a valley unfolding before him in the morning sun.’ We go on to learn that, ‘with severe disappointment […] some years ago, looking through old papers, [Beyle] came across an engraving […] and was obliged to concede that his recollected picture of the town in the evening sun was nothing but a copy of that very engraving.’[1] Wekua’s (re)constructed memories are perhaps equally mediated, but with them he has made a point of departure, a departure into a future, unknown and elsewhere. 

[1] Sebald, W.G. (originally 1990) (2002) Vertigo (trans. Hulse, M) London: Vintage p.5, 7, 8