I recently published a short essay on the topic of recent monument wars that places my experience as part of the team that developed BZ ’18-’45 in the northern Italian city of Bolzano in dialogue with the conversations taking place in North and South America over monuments and historical memory. The essay begins:
Where do monuments go to die? The question may appear incongruous given the urges that have motivated the making of monuments since the beginnings of human time. Monuments are gestures of defiance and bulwarks of resistance against the inevitability of oblivion. Written, sculpted, chiseled and etched in durable materials resistant to emendation or relocation, they seek to render memories indelible by means of indelible modes of marking and making. The operation usually succeeds for as long as the memories in question linger within the lived experience of a given community. Sometimes they survive for a generation, even two. On rare occasions they persist for longer periods, particularly when associated with moments of collective trauma or battles over collective identity.
The essay, entitled Monument Cemetery, goes on to address such topics as historical memory and forgetfulness, the modern era’s ambivalence towards monumentality, and the typological characteristics of counter-monuments. Its core is made up by a suite of reflections, accompanied by concrete cases in point, of how strategies of elimination, modification, recontextualization, détournement, and relocation may (or may not) address enduring wounds in the body politic.
Published in ReVista. Harvard Review of Latin America, the essay is available in full here.
From among the illustrations, one of the historical forerunners of contemporary anti-monuments: