Unconference Marking Absences - Shifting Narratives

Kenseth Armstead: Boulevard of African Monarchs © Kenseth Armstead

10/19 & 10/20/20


Kenseth Armstead's Boulevard of African Monarchs is on view at West 116th Street & Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem, New York through August 2021

Urban landscapes are augmented layers of hegemonic power that materializes in buildings, street maps, and monuments in the public space. After the killing of George Floyd in 2020, the removal of white supremacist statues and symbols from cities across the world has become one of the central demands of protesters. While removing monuments to past figures and events can be a daunting process, to imagine and facilitate the installation of new monuments seems just as relevant. What challenges do artists, city planners, and local communities face in the creation of public art for the 21st century? Who decides what is commemorated or celebrated in the public space? How are these decisions made?

Join artists, architects, city officials, scholars, and activists to exchange ideas and contemporary practices for creating new contemporary monuments for our age.

Marking Absences – Shifting Narratives, organized by curator Niama Safia Sandy, will take place in multiple formats including a digital conversation series, an interactive installation, and more.

Leading up to the events: A People’s Manifesto
1014 and the Goethe-Institut New York ask New Yorkers how they believe monuments and public art should function. In October, their answers will be displayed on the Goethe-Institut’s storefront at 30 Irving Place. Visit bit.ly/publicartmanifesto to contribute.

October 19, 12:00pm
Conversation #1: Un/making a Monument
With Kenseth Armstead, Olu Oguibe, Lava Thomas, and Kayla G. Coleman
Moderated by Desiree Gordon

Un/making a Monument brings together artists Kenseth Armstead, Olu Oguibe, and Lava Thomas with public art administrator Dr. Kayla G. Coleman to share their challenges and successes devising public art projects on the global stage. How are communities invited into the process of developing projects? How do artists and administrators envision art objects living on the landscape in the future? How has the public responded to the work? In what ways has the public inscribed these objects with their own ideas?

October 19, 2:00pm
Conversation #2: Projecting The Future
With Tomie Arai and Alisha B. Wormsley 

Tomie Arai and Alisha B. Wormsley are among the 2020 Shaping the Past fellows with Monument Lab and the Goethe-Institut. Individually, their work endeavors to hold space for who/what is already present and project their specific communities into the future against forces of structural racism (neglect, urban renewal, gentrification). Together, the two fellows will consider their practices at large, and methods for revisioning the past in ways that do not seek to harm.

October 20, 12:00pm
Conversation #3: Sound As Monument 
With Arielle Julia Brown, Lavender Freddy, Natalie Hopkinson

Every street, every city has an aural character and ephemeral texture. It is a document of the place, and the people who inhabit it, and the lives they lead. Each of the panelists of Sound As Monument grapples with the sonic textures of the places they work. Together they will delve into how sound functions as a monument to memory, whether it can heal and restore. The panel will interrogate whether advancing/acknowledging the culture of their sounds can be a functional framework for developing new futures for a community.

October 20, 2:00pm
Conversation #4: A Matter of Public Inspiration
With Naila Opiangah and others

A Matter of Public Inspiration invites a cross-section of those leading the charge to bring social justice to their communities to reflect on the landscape of their cities. At their best, monuments and public art installations can become part of a community’s psyche, acting as extensions of ourselves and our hopes and dreams. Together the panelists share about the fixtures in their communities that have shaped and inspired them and functioned in their life.

Marking Absences – Shifting Narratives is presented by the Goethe-Institut New York and 1014 as part of Shaping the Past, a project of the Goethe-Institut, Monument Lab, and the Federal Agency for Civic Education. Shaping the Past connects memory workers across Canada, Mexico, the US, and Germany who have piloted new approaches to shape the past in their own local contexts. Visit www.goethe.de/shapingthepast for more information on the project and all related events.