April 27, 2022

Monumental Cares: Activist Ethics and Representation in Public Space

University of Applied Arts Vienna

Emilio Rojas, He Who Writes History Has No Memory (still), 2017. Film. Courtesy the artist.

Nicole Six & Paul Petritsch, Walking around making pictures, 2022.

Kim Seo-kyung & Kim Eun-sung, Statue of Peace, 2020.

A discussion with Elke Krasny (Vienna), Nicole Six & Paul Petritsch (Vienna), and Mechtild Widrich (Chicago).

If monuments are public expressions of what societies care to remember, they also have to be understood as evidence to what societies choose to forget. Deadly colonial imperialism and patriarchal power glorified in stone or metal are the memory infrastructure of our cities. Can public space be freed from the violence of monuments? Can a democratic public space become the site for representing monumental worries? We argue for an activist ethics of im/permanent material articulations, spatial and visual solidarity, shared concerns, and planetary care.

Theorists Elke Krasny and Mechtild Widrich and artist duo Nicole Six & Paul Petritsch discuss new forms of collective care ethics and public aesthetic practices in relation to the current monument debate. Moving away from the discussion around individual monuments and the removal/approval of monumental objects, we argue for a broader concept of Monumental Cares and Activist Ethics that think about our spatial surroundings on a broader scale: the immense loss of human and non-human life under current anthropogenic, pandemic, and war conditions, might need to use different kinds of "monuments" to help us not to forget and care collectively.

Elke Krasny is Professor of Art and Education at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. She is a feminist cultural theorist, urban researcher, curator, and author. She co-edited Radicalizing Care. Feminist and Queer Activism in Curating (Sternberg Press, 2021). She is currently working on a book examining global Monument Activism.

Nicole Six & Paul Petritsch working as an artist-duo have realized films, photographs, displays, artist books, site- and context-specific installations as well as projects in institutions and public space.

Mechtild Widrich is a professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, currently Guest Professor at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, author of Performative Monuments (2014) and the forthcoming book Monumental Cares, which is in production with Manchester University Press.

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