Monument/Action – Introduction

Monument/Action is a trilogy of exhibitions mounted at the Center for Digital Art, Holon, between 2016 and 2018. The series examined strategies and forms of artistic action in the local public domain during the twentieth century, and proposed contexts and responses in contemporary art. The project developed as part of ongoing research by Udi Edelman and Yael Messer at the Institute for Public Presence, which was established at the Center for Digital Art in 2015. The series of exhibitions and catalogue were created with the support of Mifal Hapais Council for Culture and the Arts.

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Public space is where social and political relationships are revealed, examined, and formulated. It is both a planned and random meeting place for struggle and passion, a venue for forming and dissolving relationships. Public space exists and is experienced in different and sometimes contradictory ways by different people and groups. Art in public space can appear as a temporary or lasting presence, and as an active element in shaping and changing social relationships, be it in the physical, spiritual, or virtual space. This raises questions concerning the spatial and visual aspects of public happenings, as well as the definition of “public” in and of itself.

The principal focus of this project is public space and the art unique to it. Over the past decades, public space art projects, community art, and actions have become leading practices in many places around the world, and stand at the forefront of the discussion on the place of art in a changing world. This is art that is actualized in public space, and maintains a discrete and even differentiated relationship from the art displayed within the boundaries of the museum and gallery. Especially in the present time, when contemporary art is becoming increasingly more exclusive and inaccessible, public art has the ability to reach additional and wider audiences, to challenge the status quo, and encourage social and political change.

The unique way in which art in public space has developed in local history, mainly since the 1970s, mandates special attention. Although the local case is always associated with parallel practices that have developed around the world, as presented in this series, local endeavor is characterized by important local contexts.

The trilogy presents documentation of action and endeavor in public art, from sculptures and monuments, to performance, action, and intervention. The three chapters comprising the project sketch the outlines for a variety of questions regarding the possibility of art in public space, its attitude to the place and the political contexts in real time, and a critical view of their historical significance. Each chapter engages with a different sphere of artistic action: the first, Launch Sites engages with land and space art through the archive of works by sculptor Ezra Orion; the second, Instruction Manual, engages with ephemeral activities in public space in 1970s and 80s; and the third, Neo-Monumental, engages with the creation of monuments in the local space and the attitude towards them today.