The New York-based artist and architect Maya Lin — best known for designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as a senior at Yale University — has gone public with what she claims will be her final memorial, and one she plans to continue to work on indefinitely, a website called “What is Missing?” Her first memorial in Washington, D.C., bears testament to the soldiers whose lives were lost in the Vietnam War; her final, virtual memorial bears testament to the massive extinctions in our time.
The website incorporates interactive artworks, including sound and video, to reveal not only “what’s missing” in diverse regions from around the globe, but the causes of these extinctions, bringing together both art and science. As Artlog reports, the website greets visitors with a map of the world in dots, each dot representing a threatened location, species, or natural phenomenon. This map then gives way to chronological timelines, overviews by category, and in-depth information via videos, sounds, stories and links to resources. Like the Vietnam Memorial, it is a stunning testament to “the fallen,” and one that cannot help but stimulate reflection on the part of visitors.
The site consists of three main maps: the map of memory, consisting of historical, scientific, and personal accounts of what we have lost (visitors can add their own memories to this portion of the project); the map of the present, which charts the history of the environmental movement and what individuals can do to help; and the map of the future (still under development), which has been conceived of as a “greenprint for the future.”
Over recent years, portions of What is Missing? have been showcased in site-specific installations around the world, including Lin’s Listening Cone, an installation consisting of a giant bronze and reclaimed wood sculpture made to the scale of a fallen sequoia log that allows users a glimpse of an increasingly lost world. From the larger end of the cone, viewers can hear animal calls drifting from the opening, while a video screen (housed twenty feet inside the sculpture) displays sequences of bald eagles, gray wolves, red knots, orangutans, jaguars and more. The artwork’s sights and sounds were developed in partnership with scientists at the Cornell Lab, whose Macaulay Library owns the largest archive of animal sound and behavior in the world; the material is now a part of What is Missing?