Maya Lin's Last Memorial

Renowned for her Vietnam Veterans Memorial, architectural designer and artist Maya Lin has a new project she's been working on, something she's referring to as her last memorial.

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Focusing on ecology—more specifically biodiversity and habitat loss—Maya's work gives credence to the impact that we, as a race, are having on this planet. Highlighting the need for a public forum, her website whatismissing.net provides an elegant home for the voices of activists and concerned, alike. As the nexus of the project, she wants the website to focus on past, present and future, using our memories and our personal connections to nature, to inspire action.

The mission of the What is Missing? Foundation is to create, through science–based artworks, an awareness about the present sixth mass extinction of species, connect this loss of species to habitat degradation and loss, and emphasize that by preventing deforestation, we can both reduce carbon emissions and protect species and habitats. What is Missing? is a wake up call and a call to action. It will build awareness about species loss and highlight what scientists and environmental groups throughout the world are doing to protect species and habitats. It will also show what each individual can do to help protect species and their habitats. What is Missing? will give people a sense of hope and purpose as to what can be done to help.

The website begins as a metamorphosing series of glowing dots, taking shape in a variety of natural forms, finally cascading across a global map; each dot represents a story and these stories can be accessed both geographically and chronologically, with additional control over past, present and future. As a user you also have the ability to add a memory of your own, categorising by personal or historical or factual; you are also given a variety of domains to choose from, or the choice of a habitat related memory.


In addition to the website, Maya states that the project will take on as many shapes and forms as she has the energy for. She describes her overall work as a multi-sited memorial with recent exhibitions in New York and London. For further details on her installations, see her Artlog interview.

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Designed as Maya Lin's last memorial, the project proposes that we look at a memorial not as a singular static object, but as a work that can exist in several forms and in multiple sites. Its purpose is to create media and sound works that can be seen in different venues. These formats include permanent Listening Cones placed at select science institutions, smaller site–specific sound and media installations, an Empty Room exhibit that can travel to art, science and public venues, independent video works that can be shown at events, a physical and digital book, and other formats that help convey the message. All works will be connected through the whatismissing.net website, which will allow access to the other installations as well as create a place where people will be able to access the media that has been developed. People will be able to add their stories of what is missing from their surroundings, creating a collective digital memorial that will continue to bear witness to what we are losing in terms of biodiversity, habitats, and species.

The project has been a five year collaborative journey, but up until now is has remained largely in private. With such big groups and organisations, including the likes of the BBC and National Geographic, surely her reach will be great; adding to that the voices of those with internet access, it might not be too optimistic to foresee real change as a result of work like this.


What is Missing? includes multiple artwork installations-some permanent and others temporary-that involve the creative talents of artist Maya Lin in collaboration with artists, writers, scientists and environmental advocates. What is Missing? Foundation has created over 70 videos thus far. These videos are made possible by the generous audio and video donations from Cornell Lab of Ornithology (birds.cornell.edu/), National Geographic (nationalgeographic.com/), ARKive (arkive.org/), and BBC Earth (bbcearth.com/).

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She hopes that people can focus on things we can reset and looks to governments and people in general, to rethink their priorities. She wants us to ask: what are we spending our money on? My own long term opinion is that it wouldn't take much effort to create a lot of change for the better, it's just a question of compromise. As she so sensibly states, this shouldn't be a partisan issue

If this project interests you, you can access the foundation's website, Tumblr, Facebook, and Vimeo for more information.

Sources: Artlog - (Videos and images); whatismissing.net - (blockquotes)