FLPI | Frameworks of Loss and Permanence Initiative

Rivendell Center for Theology & the Arts

FLPI | Frameworks for Loss
and Permanence Initiative

Framing/Re-Framing Loss and Permanence

While death, transience, and loss are universal to human experience, humanity has exhibited no singular response to these experiences. Across centuries and cultures, humans have continuously framed and re-framed how they understand these themes from within a variety of worldviews.

Through works of the imagination these frameworks and experiences of loss and permanence have been articulated or challenged, and ultimately shared with the broader human community.

Frameworks inform not only personal responses to loss but also the methodological lenses through which we pursue discipline-specific research into loss and permanence, whether our subject is Alzheimer’s, art conservation, immigration, or human mortality.

In the autumn of 2019, the Rivendell Center for Theology and the Arts, launched the cross-disciplinary program series “Framing/Re-Framing Loss and Permanence,” which takes up these issues through small colloquia and other public events.

In collaboration with scholars from the Arts and Sciences, we focus our consideration of frameworks through collective engagement with works of the imagination.

Upcoming Events

Next in the FLPI Colloquium Series: 

“Frameworks of Representation”
May 7, 2021 | By invitation only

Dr. Kyle Dugdale, from the Yale School of Architecture,
will facilitate our third colloquium in the FLPI Series:

Over the past year, a series of unusually vivid images has emerged from America’s public spaces. A frieze of witnesses forms a circle at an urban intersection to honor the memory of George Floyd. Weeks later, the body of Representative John Lewis lies in state in the nation’s most famous Rotunda, witnessed by the deeply unrepresentative “Frieze of American History” circling overhead. The same space is subsequently occupied by rioters, who document their experience of the architecture with astonishing enthusiasm, followed shortly by young recruits, their military fatigues blending with the variegated sandstone of the building itself.

These are images of architecture, documenting both the loss of life and the aspiration to permanence. But they are not only images of architecture. They also embody the monumentalization of figural representation, where the word monument is understood, according to its etymology, as a reminder. And they circle around the question that shadows architecture’s commitment to figural sculpture: whether these figures can legitimately be held to represent others.

What do we see when we look at these images from within the frameworks of our own disciplines? And how are these in turn shaped by the larger structures of our conceptual, narrative, or even theological assumptions?

Past FLPI Events

  • November 20, 2019 FLPI Colloquium: “After Catastrophic Loss: Finding What Is No Longer There”

    Alongside the poet Elizabeth Gray, the second colloquium in the FLPI series explored the unique issues which catastrophic loss presents, through cross-disciplinary engagement with Gray’s 2020 work, Salient, and its meditations on loss and permanence.

    Our twenty-first century world is no stranger to catastrophic loss, whether it results from large-scale violence, wildfires, a tsunami, a terrorist bombing, or an unchecked global pandemic. In these instances, the familiar has been obliterated or altered beyond recognition; before is now unavailable; the assumptions, landmarks, and frameworks by which we oriented our lives are unsettled, or have even disappeared. The desperate struggle to restore a sense of stability amidst shock and upheaval is common, as is the desire to avert or prevent such disasters in the future.

    In the early part of the twentieth century, the devastating loss of life during World War I radically upset perceptions of the present and the future. Millions of young men went to war; tragic numbers died on, or vanished into, the battlefields. Many came home broken in mind and body. The number of dead overwhelmed traditional processes and rituals of mourning. New ways of remembrance and commemoration had to be found. Families tried to access the spirit world, desperate to connect with their lost one.

    In Salient, poet Elizabeth Gray wrestles with what it means to try to find what is no longer there. In this poetic sequence, an account of her efforts to find ‘The Missing’ of a specific time and place––the Ypres Salient in Belgian Flanders in October and November 1917 and the soldiers who vanished there, Gray insists that before we can think about moving forward after catastrophic loss toward healing and protection, we need to access the catastrophe itself. Only then are we able to get our bearings in an altered and unrecognizable landscape. She asks, “By what landmarks (literal, figurative, spiritual) might we orient ourselves? Where is North?”
  • December 10, 2019 FLPI Colloquium: “Framing/Re-Framing Loss and Permanence: Absent Presence”

    Held at the Whitney Humanities Center (Yale University), this cross-disciplinary colloquium examined the methodological lenses through which we pursue research into loss and permanence. Three memorial installations formed the backdrop to our discussion of ‘Absent Presence’: the “Lynching Memorial” in Alabama, USA (National Memorial for Peace and Justice), the “Confiscated Shoes” installation at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Keiskamma Altarpiece in South Africa (Keiskamma Trust).

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Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash