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From the toppling and removal of statues to ongoing debates about contested objects, buildings and landscapes, the series reconsiders the design and construction of monuments in relation to wider processes and the structures of memorialisation that reify social configurations. Architecture cannot help but inscribe sets of ideas, beliefs, events and figures into the built environment and suture them into the daily experience of history.

Part of the traditional function of monuments is to resist the passage of time and the subsequent transformation in meaning inherent in any form. But social relations can change to the extent that actions are taken to dismantle their reified configurations. The recent resistance and violence enacted against monuments, from public statues to buildings and street names, reveals their inherently democratic nature. Monuments are representations of people; they are meant to be identified with. Yet not all monuments represent everyone, and in their exclusionary potential, they enact political violence.

When the ideological function of monuments expires, the formal properties of the reified structure are laid bare. Such instances are often met with calls for the monument’s removal and destruction. Yet other approaches are also common, such as profanation – returning it to the commons – and re-signification through the establishment of new rituals and performances to make it mean something ‘other’. Such strategies fall within an expanded and experimental approach to the practice of preservation.

Preservation starts from the way things are today, but fundamentally, designates what is worth keeping for tomorrow. As a discipline, preservation has significantly departed from Unesco’s conception of “world heritage”, giving rise to a wider understanding of the importance of local and immaterial forms of historical meaning. Monuments are not always built as such, but can accrue significance over time. All it can take to write history today is an act of recognition and, for better or worse, reification.

Screenings

Unearthing Monuments and the Construction of History

1 October

The first screening in the Monument series took place on 1 October. You can watch Four Hundred Unquiet Graves by Manuel Correa and Sebastia by Dima Srouji here, plus the discussion about the practice of unearthing monuments that followed the films.

 

Monuments and the Reification of Anti-Black Violence

15 October 2020

A screening of films by The Black Archives and Quinsy Gario will be followed by a conversation on new rituals and performances to make monuments mean otherwise.

Resignifications in Central and Eastern Europe

12 November 2020

A screening of films by Vasyl Cherepanyn and Milica Tomić will be followed by a conversation on expanded approaches to the practice of preservation through the lens of monuments in Central and Eastern Europe.

Restitution of African Cultural Heritage

10 December 2020

A screening of a film by Sumayya Vally will be followed by a conversation on the restitution of African cultural heritage.

Essays

Bulletproofing American History

Memorials and the Cult of Apology

Auschwitz and the Architecture of the Reversed Gaze

Marina Otero Verzier
Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Katia Truijen, Marten Kuijpers, Anastasia Kubrak
k.truijen@hetnieuweinstituut.nl
Alex Walker