22 April 2012

Earth Day 2012: Maya Lin's "What Is Missing?"

Maya Lin and me discussing "What is Missing?" in 2008.
A few years ago, Maya Lin told me about her plans for a "last memorial," an ongoing, multimedia, multi-site project that unfolds every Earth Day. 

She calls it "What is Missing?" 

I wrote about one component, "Unchopping a Tree," back in 2009.

Another component is a global online memorial that Lin hopes will "connect us personally to what we are witnessing diminish or disappear from nature, in the hope that raising awareness about these poignant stories of loss will help spur action."

Last year, she quietly launched phase one: a Map of Memory. But, as Maya says, "to focus only on loss was too depressing, which is why we waited until this Earth Day to go public." 

The second phase is called Conservation in Action and features stories about ecological restoration and conservation around the world. 

On the site viewers can learn what is being done by conservation groups to protect what is missing before it is missing, including partners such as  Cornell Lab of Ornithology and World Wildlife Fund

"We are here to give people hope that so much is being done to help," says Lin.

Yesterday, Maya sent around a helpful guide for using the site:

Click on Time Travel Inline image 6 to go between map of past (the Map of Memory) and the present (Conservation in Action).  
Check out View in Time Inline image 7and View in Place Inline image 8 and see what happens.  

Then select Sort  Inline image 9 to better understand the content.(On the Map of the Present, Red Inline image 10's and green Inline image 11's highlight conservation successes and disasters) we also allow you to see all the Core Videos we have produced. Those Core Video dots have a sound rollover. With over 600 historical entries on the Map of Memory, you can learn about what the world used to be like from an environmental standpoint.

Lin also wants this to be a truly interactive memorial, where you can add your own memory of what is missing for you -- a place that was important to you that is now paved over or a species that meant a lot to you that is no longer found where you remember it being. She also wants to know about the work you and others are doing to help save or restore a place that's important to you.

"What Is Missing?" Screenshot

Throughout her career, Maya Lin has challenged us to look at the world differently. Her art and architecture often use elements of the natural world to shake up our perception of what is around us. Her memorials have changed the way we think about memorials and how we interact with them and with our memories.

With "What is Missing?" Lin challenges us again to think differently about our relationship to the Earth and the species with which we share the planet.

This Earth Day, take stock of what is missing and spend some time on "What is Missing?" contributing your own memories.