Xavier Cortada, “Memory Box Monument: Miami Beach (rendering),” 2022.
The Memory Box is a place for mourners to remember and honor loved ones who lost their lives due to COVID-19. It is a repository of deeply personal feelings and emotions. Mourners conceptually enter the Memory Box by imagining an 8-foot by 8-foot square on the floor and stepping inside. They proceed to speak the name of the person they lost and the words they would have said to them if they had been able to be by their bedside. Participants are invited to share these sentiments online, each a contribution to a growing virtual memorial. In this way, the Memory Box captures the sorrow of those who died alone with no one to speak for them, with only the sound a respirator and the kind, gloved touch of a nurse or doctor. They must not be forgotten.
Hundreds of physical Memory Boxes, black cubes 8 feet high by 8 feet long by 8 feet deep, will also be placed in public and private spaces throughout the country. People will be able to walk up to the Box and scan a QR code to access all previously contributed memories and share their own. COVID-19 covered the entire country, every state and county, urban and rural. It struck people from every walk of life. The ubiquity of the Boxes reflects the ubiquity of the virus.
The individual narratives and photos compiled become a collection of remembrances, a million souls gathered inside the Box in a virtual mausoleum. Anonymous and personal suspended in a realm of energy and eternity.
Yet the virus came to be defined as much by politics as by science. It became a litmus test of ideological purity and there were cases of people on their death bed denying the existence of the virus to the very end.
All who died, died human, consumed by disease. All humans deserve to live lives of dignity and to die the same way. Their memories are honored by the presence of a testimony, the pronouncement of unspoken words on the quiet, slick surface of the cube. All are there.
Death in America during our first pandemic of the 21st century.
It is not over. There is room for many more stories in the Memory Box.