One of the outcomes of working on this exhibition is a nascent lexicon, allowing an investigation of the logic of monuments in the local and international levels at present times. Throughout the upcoming year the lexicon will evolve thanks to the labour of a artists and researchers who will formulate new outlooks on the treatment monuments demand, the treatment they are awarded in practice, as well as their place in corporeal and mental realms.
Following are several fragmented terms towards a lexicon for neo-monumental thought.
How many people noticed the Star of David shape created by Yigal Tumarkin’s monument at Rabin Square? Even more so, how many know that it is a monument to the Holocaust and the resurrection of Israel? Like other monuments, the majority of its uses are far more grounded in the everyday: providing shadow in a sunlit square, a platform for demonstrations, a meeting point for a city rendezvous. The physical presence of monuments in a space shakes off the narrative attributed to them, by those who commissioned and created them, and remain as physical objects for transient use instead.
The narrative, thanks to which any certain monument was created, keeps appearing in ceremonies and events, be it by those who wish to retell the tale the monument points at, or by those who want to address a certain inappropriate gap separating the monument and its subject from the current history and self-perception of an element within the community exposed to it or affected by it. In the case of the latter, the monument becomes the focus of a struggle over the narrative itself. That is the present case around the USA, in campaigns and attacks against monuments that praise Southern heroes of the Civil War; similar cases rise in Europe around monuments for racist figures from centuries past; and such was the case in the former Soviet Union in the early nineties, on the background of the crumbling of the communist bloc and subsequent national awakening. All of the above mark instances where the new narrative can no longer dwell alongside the story around which a monument was erected. Something must change.
The manner in which the charged meaning of monuments stand out in the public domain turn them at certain times to focus on conflicts between different groups. In these conflicts, often revolving around revised national tales, monuments are toppled by angry mobs, systematically taken down by a new regime, or endowed with an alternate history. Often, the above operates virally: the destruction of one monument leads to the destruction of another elsewhere. Monuments topple like dominoes. Destruction takes place over a period of time, until the conflict ends or until all monuments are erased or replaced.
The archive contains thousands of propositions for monuments never to be realised; ghosts of spatial gestures in architecture and sculpture. Examining these propositions serves as invitation to study the rationale of the monument, the unrealised sculptural ambition, and to learn about the role and operation of the monument prior to being cast and fixed in space, facing material constraints or getting embroiled in the policing of bureaucracy and politics en route to realisation.
Out of This World
The seemingly extra-terrestrial form is a distinct trademark of brutalist monuments of the Soviet Bloc and especially that of the monuments in Tito’s Yugoslavia. It is a phenomenon not to be seen in disconnection from the contexts of the cold war and the superpowers’ space race. Having said that, that alien formation too is just that certain period’s costume, worn by the basic principle of every monument as such. In other words, that outer space form is just an extreme, specific expression of the way every monument relates to the environment within which it is placed: alien, anomalous, from another place, standing out in its distance from the daily and the regular.
In a lecture from 2014 W.J.T.Mitchel askes “What do monuments want?” and answers simply, “They just want to live for ever. They don’t want to die. They want to survive, to defeat death [..] They don’t want to be history, they want to be alive in the present. They are creatures of memory [..] History put things in the past, they are dead and gone, and won’t come back, but memory is where the past come back”.
Despite the desire of monuments (and their builders) that they exist forever, many simply become forgotten, sad and neglected, crumbling as the generation or regime that built them disappears. Were they to be rediscovered, it would be as historical artefacts.
A World Without Monuments
Could a world without monuments be imagined? A world in which they’d have fallen, crumbled, vanished without trace, with no new monuments to replace them? What world should that be? A world without memory, without wars and death, without victors or enemies.