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Monumental Cares & Creative Iconoclasm

November 22 @ 6:00 pm 7:30 pm

The practice of monuments, historic and contemporary, continues to generate discussion surrounding the culture of commemoration in the public sphere. From reframing existent monuments to creating counter-monuments and performative monuments, art and culture have responded to the idea of the “monumental” through acts of recontextualization, activism and iconoclasm. CREATURE is delighted to host a special public seminar on this subject, featuring a launch of Dr Mechtild Widrich’s (Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago) new book Monumental Cares: Sites of History and Contemporary Art (Manchester University Press, 2023). The event will also feature a provocation by Dr Anna Marazuela Kim (international Curator, Scholar and Specialist Adviser in the role of images in conflict) on the subject of creative iconoclasm. This seminar builds on CREATURE’s research series “Performance, Monuments and Public Spaces”, which began in 2021 with interventions by scholars and practitioners from around the world. The event is hosted by Dr Jacek Ludwig Scarso, Deputy Director of CREATURE.

Basing her intervention on her new book, Widrich will explore how monument debates, site specificity, and art activism relate to problems that strike us as monumental or overwhelming, such as war, migration, and the climate crisis. What does it mean today to talk about the ‘public sphere’ responsive to local needs and global constraints, and how do current political concerns interact with history?

Kim’s presentation will give an historical view of the early origins of “monumental cares” in Rome of the 1500s, when Raphael wrote the first official document concerning the importance of preserving monuments of antiquity, against their destruction and reuse in the rebuilding of the city. With the inscription of these debates against destruction in their artworks themselves, she argues, Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo engaged in performative, “creative iconoclasms”: imaginative, prophylactic forms or critique, as safeguard against this and the real, physical destruction of images and statues of the Protestant Reformation.

Monumental Cares. Sites of History and Contemporary Art


Monumental cares rethinks monument debates, site specificity and art activism in light of problems that strike us as monumental or overwhelming, such as war, migration and the climate crisis. The book shows how artists address these issues, from Chicago and Berlin to Oslo, Bucharest and Hong Kong, in media ranging from marble and glass to postcards, graffiti and re-enactment. A multidirectional theory of site does justice to specific places but also to how far-away audiences see them. What emerges is a new ethics of care in public art, combined with a passionate engagement with reality. Familiar questions can be answered anew: what to do with monuments, particularly when they are the products of terror and require removal, modification or recontextualisation? And can art address the monumental concerns of our present?

166-220 Holloway Rd
London, N7 8DB United Kingdom
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