Is the Western Monumental Tradition Still Relevant?

The above link shares the opinions of 12 art historians and scholars engaging with the ongoing debate about Confederate monuments (taking place mostly in Southern spaces). As this week’s class pertains to memorials, monuments, and place-making, Gonzalo Casals’ comments struck me the most. Casals urges artists from underrepresented groups to explore more nuanced ways of interpreting and presenting their shared “Confederate” history. Casals uses the example of Ken Gonzales-Day’s “Erased Lynching” series, which depicts historical photos of Latino lynchings, absent, however, of the lynched body. This visual forces the audience’s gaze towards the act of white violence, a group of white men and women gathered to witness the sinister spectacles. This opens up what Upton declared a central question of southern monument makers: “What can and can’t be said in this medium? What is it possible to say using the inherited visual conventions of the Western monumental tradition that most monument buildings prefer? What is permitted to be said in contemporary public discourses”? After pondering over those questions I wanted to push even further in questioning whether the Western monumental tradition remains an effective or relevant form of memorializing our nation’s history? What are alternative forms of memorialization?

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