The Debate Over Monuments

Today, I watched a lecture on the place and role of monuments.

When I worked in public art, monuments were always an issue of debate. We had to ask ourselves:

  • if they needed to stay or should they move and if so to where?
  • who should pay for maintenance or moving?
  • should they be destroyed or preserved?
  • sometimes we had to even ask if they qualify as art.

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in collaboration with the University of Chicago recently had a lecture on the topic. Which is linked above, it's really good and I suggest you check it out!

There were a lot of really interesting examples and points that were presented. Here are some of my take aways from the lecture:

  • monuments want immortality
  • they keep the past alive BUT the past is past, the past is dead
  • monuments are like a gravestone for an event
  • the date of a monuments creation is sometimes far past the event it immortalizes
  • like any artwork the context of the time and place to display a piece can change how it's read
  • "a monument is a work...erected for the specific purpose of keeping particular human deeds or destinies... alive and present in the consciousness of future generations." -Alois Reigl
  • can more be added to a monuments story? can a response exist beside it?
  • can monuments that bring painful reminders to populations be moved? treated as an artifact. stored where they can be studied in respect to their place in history?
  • is debate over monuments a teachable moment?
  • the issue of art and it's relationship to audience.
  • ignore the monuments debate all together and instead celebrate pieces that never got attention at their initial creation.