Beauty, mourning, and the Commemoration of Evil
By: Samantha Vice
When we commemorate and mourn evils, through rituals, art, and public memorials, beauty plays a central and positive role: It can bring comfort or simply allow us to cope and move on; restore some sense of meaning to the events, or provide a tribute to victims and a pledge to honour them. None of us, it seems, wishes to be surrounded by ugliness when commemorating or mourning the ugliness of evil.
How can we understand the role of beauty in the commemoration of evil? We have plenty of evil in our history to consider, and its commemoration and representation has been extensively theorized. The role of beauty in particular, however, has not been much explored, and that is my interest here. Whydo we turn to, and desire, beauty here? Is it appropriate to represent and commemorate evil with beautiful objects and practices? How could it be, or not be, appropriate? A large part of my aim in this paper is to understand both the intuition that it can be appropriate, and the charge that it is not. Understanding these will, I think, shed some light on the roles of both beauty and evil in our lives.