metasurface

metasurface-archive

The Small Multiple Memorial

A shady lawn stretches out in front the administration building at the University of Idaho - a reminant of the original campus designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the designer of Central Park in New York.

Maybe it is that New York connection that made it a interesting place for a 9/11 memorial. This morning the lawn was covered in 3000 minature flags.

That's quite a number of flags. In fact, I assume that was the desired affect. The small multiples (as Edward Tufte calls them) work in a number of ways:

- a visual rhythm is produced through the repetition of colors and symbols
- a reference to graveyards is made with row upon row of headstones
- a certain 'wow' factor is achieved as our visual field is consumed with little flags

It is not my goal to critique someone's display (although I did wonder what 100,000 little Iraqi flags would look like) but I sort of wondered if this mode of presentation - in particular the use of small multiples - actually works against the idea of it being a memorial. We lose the fact that each flag really represents someone.

Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial is powerful in part because every single name is written on that wall. Other displays (sometimes during protests) have used props to remind the viewer that the numbers represent actual people.

Regardless, it is interesting that someone felt compelled to sit on the grass and plant each flag by hand.
gregory turner-rahman