Magdalena Mellin


Restaging Dissaperance

This project is a part of a much larger research on the concepts of absence and presence as fundamental states of being, which are inexplicable and transcendent but exist within a certain frame. It began for me in April 2011 in Beirut, in the backyard of one of the buildings in Sasin Square on Achrafieh Hill. Sasin Square lies close to the Green Line where some of the most severe fighting of the civil war took place. During my first days in Beirut our guide there, Tony Chakar  took me on a city tour and revealed the personal mysteries of his Beirut. He also introduced me to my own mystery, the meaning of which I have been trying to discover since then.

Tony starts with a quotation from Wittgenstein: ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent’. He recites this quote in front of the wall where one of the most famous Lebanese street writers then Phat, now Phat2, had written a tag with a blue aerosol,


Behind this wall in 1988…nothing happened.

I feel as if he has put a spell on me…and since then I have been trying to understand what meanings can be drawn from this nothingness and my practise turned to be a stadium on which disappearance is restaged. By this sentence I’ve realized that even though we want to remember, the forgetting always comes to us and somehow simultaneously the forgetting has always been here, and when I forget, I have always already forgotten everything. The constant  movement toward forgetting made me focus on plasticity of memory, the social nature of individual memory and how it function in the structure of the politics of memory/the politics of forgetting.

I try to get on the other site of the wall and fill it with memories.


 Let’s this absence, this nothingness gain substance of all recalled memories. Your every word is as if Phat2  did his tag again, every image is a different story, which one by one, only makes  the nothingness more apparent, and the lack more visible. It’s like writing into disappearance.


As a part of this project I invite participants ‘behind the wall’ so they could together create a space of memory exchange where they can experience the matter of memory, its instability and plasticity, inserting “authentic experiences”, forgetting and oblivion, unspoken memories, absent memories and memories “that should have been forgotten”.

Memory, the same as thought, love and belief, is an images. And these inner images have been collected since the 25th of March 2012 and the process is ongoing. Using different means such workshops and performances as also email and social networks and more traditional ones like newspapers, advertisements and leaflets, I have tried to reach as random and large a group of people as possible. By encouraging them to share with me different kind of memories (by drawing, texts, photos) I invite them to take part in the project of building the collective consciousness of not-knowing. I ask them to try to recall a memory, one they are ready to share and ‘forget it’. In exchange, they can take a memory of somebody else and ‘remember it’. Since then it is their new memory.

Streetwaves, Gdańsk, June 2012








I emphasise that building a database of factual memories has never been my aim but rather an activation of the potentiality which comes from collective action and imagining the impossible.

This project is focused on descriptions and recalling things from memory. Description and memory constitute our continuing “presence”. The gap between description and interpretation is everything. The description varies. I try to organize the space for this performance of memory to take place in more conscious frame. However it cannot be saved, recorded or documented.

Performance is.



Up till now project has been realised in different forms:( among many others) publication, Workshop in Dakar, performance with participation of audiance, memories exchange platform.