Ongoing since 2016, the Memento series takes as its subject the ubiquitous image of the crowd, sourced from newspapers around the world. The crowd has become a marker for large-scale news events: mass crisis and tragedy, rising activism, and shifts in the socio-political landscape. Initially intrigued by the aesthetics of grief and portrayal of collective catastrophe, Van der Auwera turns our attention to the witnesses of these stories, who, through their abject stares, never articulate the nature of their concern. As the crowd gazes out at the horizon, the reader isn’t privy to the image in the distance. Like the pictured crowd, we look towards something that isn’t actually there and are reminded that ‘seeing’ through media is an active task. This is something the works, made at the newspaper production plant in Belgium on the paper’s aluminum offset plates, demonstrate as images are revealed through movement and close inspection.
This work is part of the second series of "Memento" works, marked by a more monumental, horizontal hanging and an intensified monochrome saturation. From a distance, they resemble color field paintings. Yet these works contain a subtle play of light that subvert the viewer’s expectations. In the case of Memento 21 (Farewell, Blue), the image of the public attending Obama’s farewell speech is spread across four plates and burned into them or 'painted' with light.