6-23 April 2016
'NewMonument's: Exploding the Monument and Considering Radical New Ways to Occupy Public Space
Text by Thuli Gamedze
Takunda Billiat, Davis Ndungu, Rory Emmett, Lungiswa Gqunta, Rodan Kane Hart, Bronwyn Katz, Bonolo Kavula, Olivié Keck, Isabel Mertz, Siwa Mgoboza, Caitlin Mkhasibe, Ledelle Moe, Jacob van Schalkwyk, Brett Seiler, Marlene Steyn and Martin Wilson.
A new conversation has rapidly emerged in the past while, articulating, in various ways, that the notion of the monument is one that needs to be challenged and re-understood in the SouthAfrican context now. However, this assertion quickly glosses over the kind of institutionalised and seemingly inherent place that the monument, as it has been defined by outsiders (settlers) has in our society. What makes the monument, what forms its valued place-ness, and would it perhaps be more useful to try to uncover the ideology forming the very notion of ‘monument’ before attempting to transform it, liberalise it, democratise it, or diversify it?
Any solidly defined, articulated and aestheticised representation of the now that is privileged enough to presume its relevance in the future, is a dangerous object. As we have seen through multiple 2015 student protests, where many of us were conscientised through mobilising around the violence of colonial symbolism, a monument is not simply a representation, it gives strength to stacicity, it validates regime, and affirms its own position in an attempt to prove timelessness. While the monument still stands, so then does the status quo it holds in its (most likely bronze) hands. So, of course, for these reasons, we are forced to engage with the notion of the monument, and of course too, we must conceptually pull it apart, imagining new ideas that we would like to occupy public space. However, if we do this with the idea in mind being to replace, we give ourselves very little space in becoming, and in doing so we begin to validate a colonial action by mimicking its process of making power into object, and allowing object to be central in forming static ideology. Objects are not the problem, and neither is it power or ideology. It is the monument’s relationship with these entities that gives it the elite position it has in colonialist society. This position seeks to still time, and asserts itself as having proud and never-ending value. New monuments should perhaps not call themselves monuments at all.
The nature of the exhibition becomes rather playful, engaging with the possibility of the monument ‘object’, and attempting to push and pull its form; working around but within its constraints to find out whether there exists ideology or principle worth concretising, even temporarily.