When it comes to large-scale atrocities, it stands to reason that memorials should be put in place in order to remember the lives that have been lost; now, the coronavirus pandemic has received just such a memorial. Conceived by the artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg, the temporary memorial, which will be in place for 17 days, consists of more than 660,000 white flags being planted on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Each of the flags represents a life lost to the coronavirus pandemic, and more will be added to the installation as more people continue to die.
People who’ve lost family members and friends during the pandemic will have the option of filling out an online form in order to dedicate a flag to someone, or else they can visit in person and plant a flag themselves. “I wanted to have enough pathways, where people could wander the paths privately for their own quiet reflection,” Firstenberg said. “So people would have plenty of special spaces where they could plant their personalized flags.”
A lot of art has been made over the last few years that directly addresses the coronavirus pandemic. Mirko Ilić, Maira Kalman and Pablo Delcan were among the artists who contributed to a digital PSA billboard campaign last year, and the Public Art Fund has also launched exhibitions spotlighting the work that artists have made during the outbreak of Covid-19. Many creatives struggled with producing work during a time of such acute stress, while others thrived.
When explaining the flag memorial, Firstenberg explained that she chose white for the flag color because it represented innocence and purity. “Early on, we gave in to our lesser selves, and I hope now that seeing all these flags gives our nation a moment to pause and to think about who we are,” the artist said. “This says something about who we are as Americans.”