Altars of Remembrance
How can we visualize and pay homage to something as fragile as a life lost from this unending virus, and bring remembrance and beauty to something as terrifying as death?
The founding concept of this installation is based on lit altars (pillars). These vertical pillars will use light and movement as a metaphor for transcendence and transitioning from this life to the next. The installation will be created in concentric circles, the first year of the pandemic being the innermost circle of 12 pillars, and moving outward, each pillar representing a month during the pandemic. These pillars are installed 6 feet apart from each other, with room to move through and around them.
Within each pillar, horizontal “day prisms” are stacked spine- (or tomb)-like, and are further divided into a 24-hour notation. Each lighted dot projection within these prisms represents an individual lost to COVID-19. Each day had surges in deaths at differing times, and this will be reflected in the way each horizontal day prism emanates white light projected from within — brighter when there were more incidents, and lighter/softer when there were fewer. In addition, each prism will rotate in clockwise direction – the rotation speed determined by the number of lives lost that day — the higher the number the faster the prism will spin; fewer deaths will be reflected by a lower speed. These will reset to start position every 12-minutes (five times per hour).
The materials for “Altars of Remembrance” will be digital projections (within each prism) onto gray fabric/scrim that has hourly marks; the prisms will be stacked and grounded by a metal pillar (spine); and each light pillar will be covered with a glass structure to protect it and emphasize the fragility of our human existence. Additionally, there could also be a sound element attached to each lit pillar — a story from a surviving family member or friend about the loss of a loved one. Visitors will also be encouraged to share their own stories through an app/website on their phone.
For a visitor experiencing “Altars of Remembrance,” the number of monthly light-emitting pillars and the spinning prisms within them will provide an overview of the monumentality of this pandemic’s loss of lives — through movement, light, and sound.
Nilou Moochhala is an artist and creative director based in Greater Boston.