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Discover & Research

Monuments

Autumn 2021

New research uncovers the underlying messages behind monumental sculpture.

In this season we explore the relationship between monuments, gender and sexuality; re-examine monuments in the light of colonial memory; and consider artists’ responses to monumentality.

About this season

The issue of monuments has become ever topical in the current global climate. In 2019 we began planning our Monuments research season, prompted by the research of Henry Moore Institute Post-Doctoral Research Fellows Dr Rebecca Senior and Dr Elizabeth Johnson, both of whom are working on different aspects of this topic. Since we first planned the season, monuments have become headline news all over the world. Our rescheduled online Monuments season includes further contributions to reflect new responses to the subject since the season was conceived in 2019.

The twenty-first century has seen direct action taken against monuments across the world, as diversely motivated as the 2001 destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan by the Taliban, the #rhodesmustfall protest movement initiated at the University of Cape Town in 2015, and the numerous campaigns to remove Confederate monuments in the wake of the 2017 Charlottesville massacre.

Most recently, the toppling of monuments connected to slavery in the wake of mass anti-racism and Black Lives Matter protests across the UK and internationally in 2020 has raised questions of who we commemorate and how, opening up conversations in different communities and contexts all over the world.

As part of the Henry Moore Institutes ongoing commitment to championing diversity in sculpture across our programmes, our online Monuments research season aims to reflect the wide-ranging and interdisciplinary nature of these debates, and provide a platform for a range of new research and thinking on the subject.

Commemorative Space: Artist Reflections on Monumentality in Leeds

Online publication launch in collaboration with Corridor8, Wednesday 1 September 2021

 

Commemorative Space explores what monuments mean to artists living in cities today.

Edited by Rebecca Senior, designed by Ashleigh Armitage and featuring commissioned works by Leeds-based artists Emii Alrai, Simeon Barclay, Samra Mayanja, Jill McKnight and James Thompson, it foregrounds artistic practice as a powerful mechanism for engaging with the complexities of monumentality in commemorative landscapes.

For this online publication launch, editor Rebecca Senior and artists Emii Alrai, Samra Mayanja, Jill McKnight and James Thompson reflect on their positions on monumentality and contributions to the publication.

About the speakers

Emii Alrai

Emii Alrai

Samra Mayanja

Samra Mayanja

Jill McKnight

Jill McKnight

James Thompson

James Thompson

Rebecca Senior

Rebecca Senior

Monuments, Sexuality, and Contested Spaces

Online lecture by Dr Martin Zebracki, Wednesday 8 September 2021

 

How can public spaces be memorialised through art, and what critical role may sexuality play in this to promote (more) inclusive spaces? At the heart of this lecture lies a concern with the effacing of sexual minority groups. Drawing from insights gained in the multi-site AHRC-funded research project Queer Memorials with case studies based in the USA, the Netherlands and Poland, the focus of this talk is on a salient case of failure: Tęcza, Polish for ‘rainbow’.

Unveiled in Warsaw’s city centre in 2012, this 26m-wide, rainbow-coloured arch by the artist Julita Wójcik was introduced as a symbol of joy, peace and connection. However, the artwork’s largely perceived LGBT+ symbolism met heated opposition from an amalgamation of ethno-nationalist, far-right, and religiously conservative parties.*

The hostility against Tęcza, or a deemed ‘importation’ of Western LGBT+ rights and values, was accompanied by repeated arson attacks, leading to its destruction and removal in 2015. The social reproduction of Tęcza, spanning immaterial, imagined and digital ‘afterlives’ and mediated through social media platforms, presents a post-material narrative after the work’s physical destruction.

The debate about Tęcza continues to mark the increasingly precarious position of LGBT+ people within a growing conservative national climate. This talk tracks the erratic journey of public engagement with Tęcza and discusses how the politics over (anti-)LGBT+ memorialisation turned this public artwork into a dissonant, or ‘que(e)rying’, monument.

* LGBT+ is an acronym for people who are (self-)identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or any other non-heterosexual sexuality, including non-binary, asexual, pansexual, queer, or questioning.

About the speaker

Dr Martin Zebracki

Dr Martin Zebracki

‘I Should Have Been Born a Man’: The Displacement and Replacement of Women Sculptors within Contemporary Sculptural Debates

Online lecture by Dr Klairi Angelou, Wednesday, 15 September 2021

 

This lecture focuses on the marginalisation of women in the context of modern Greek public sculpture, highlighting the way women have been memorialised within the Greek narrative.

Any examination of Greek public sculpture has long been connected to the ancient Greek past, and any understandings of gender have long been omitted. Angelou challenges the existing narrative, seeking a more nuanced approach through a wide variety of sources – ranging from unpublished documents and archival resources, as well as information derived from interviews with some of the sculptors discussed. In doing so, she reveals how (predominantly male) art historians and art critics fixated on the gender of Greek women sculptors at the expense of seriously engaging with their work.

What qualities were regarded as ‘female’ and were celebrated in Greek monuments? Placing the whole debate in the post #MeToo era, Angelou discusses what changes need to be made in order to make women (sculptors) more visible in public sculpture.

About the speaker

Dr Klairi Angelou

Dr Klairi Angelou

When Unity Trumps Liberty: The Politics of Monumental Statues in India

Online lecture by Dr Kajri Jain, Wednesday 29 September 2021

 

In 2018 India broke the record for the world’s tallest statue with Statue of Unity, a figure of the country’s first Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Patel. At 597 foot tall, the statue is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated it there were already two other even taller colossi in progress: statues of the Maratha king Shivaji (696 foot) and the god Ram (725 foot). Since the 1990s, in tandem with India’s economic liberalisation, monumental statues, secular and sacred, have become a central feature of Indian politics.

In this talk, art historian Kajri Jain discusses the emergence of this distinctive genre and the ways in which its efficacies are both similar and different to those of politically charged monuments elsewhere.

About the speaker

Dr Kajri Jain

Dr Kajri Jain

Britain’s #BLM Statue

Podcast series by Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman, September 2021 – January 2022

 

There has been a lot of talk, to put it mildly, about Britain’s statues and slavery. But what about Britain’s statues and anti-slavery? It turns out, that, while statues of slavers are among the statues Britain shows off, statues of anti-slavery activists are, in curious contrast, some of the statues Britain hides.

To take us into Black History Month in the UK, Dr Coleman asks what, exactly, in its anti-slavery statues, Britain is hiding.

Episode 1: Statues They Hide

Episode 2: Back to Plaque?

Further information about the Birmingham 2007 Children’s March can be found on Birmingham City Council’s website (via archive.org) at A Shared History, A Shared Future: March for Justice and Family Discovery Day and in MarcusBelben’s YouTube video, Breaking the Chains Birmingham – A Shared History, A Shared Future: March for Justice.

Dedication: Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman would like to dedicate these episodes to the memory of the late Charles W. Mills (1951-2021), Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at The Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Episode 3: Sturge Before Scarman part 1 – Peace and Police

Episode 3: Sturge Before Scarman part 2 – Britain Against Police

On 30 January 1981, ten months before the Scarman Report into the ‘Brixton Disorders’ was published, the Final Report of the Working Party into Community/Police Relations in Lambeth was published – and promoted at a press conference. By remembering neglected connections between 1981 and 1839, Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman, argues that the central claim, of that Final Report, was shared by Joseph Sturge, and was the reason Sturge’s statue – Britain’s BLM Statue – was put up.

Dedication: Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman would like to dedicate these episodes “To the siblinghood of my fellow Black Queer/Trans Men, like me living and thriving with HIV, in this, the 40th year of a pandemic that began in 1981. For more information about our siblinghood, visit the House of Rainbow; for more information on the pandemic we survived, listen to We Were Always Here.”

About the speaker

Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman

Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman