Monument | Anti-Monument

by Monika Weiss, presented by Creative Exchange Lab

March 31 — April 22, 2021
The Gallery at The Kranzberg*

*Gallery visits by appointment only with COVID-19 mitigation policies in place. For questions or concerns, please contact [email protected]

Virtual Panel Discussions — Register for free on Eventbrite

March 12: Nirbhaya – Two Sister Monuments

March 26: Nirbhaya – Film, Sound, Water and Lament

April 9: The Arch of Imperialism

April 23: The Architecture of Memory, Gender & Intersectionality

May 7: Monuments & Memory

May 21: Collective Memory and Its Futures

Curatorial Statement

The interdisciplinary exhibition Monument / Anti-Monument invites us to ask who is remembered and who is forgotten in our collective memory and in its manifestations within public space. This is achieved through the work of the internationally celebrated artist Monika Weiss and her paradigm-shifting monument/anti-monument project Nirbhaya.

Monika Weiss’ work is predicated on the act of unforgetting past traumas. It has particular resonance at a time when we rethink our histories and our ways of remembering. A forthcoming permanent outdoor monument by Monika Weiss is slated to be built in both Europe and the US. In this video/sound sculpture, the artist transforms the traditional vertical form of the triumphal arch into a horizontal sarcophagus filled with water and projected video. The exhibition includes drawings, photographs, films, musical compositions, a new performance piece, and renderings of the monument itself.

Exploring the intersection of the arts and humanities with civic concerns, the exhibition is accompanied by panel discussions that engage the public in exploring shared memory; our collective memory. The panels bring together the artist with local and National scholars to debate the role of monuments and commemorative architecture in shaping cultural identity in the public sphere. They will also address new approaches to create a more inclusive commemorative landscape.

Artist Statement

Who is remembered, who is forgotten, and how do we unforget violence, in order to remake a world without it?

In my films and performances, the protagonist’s eyes are closed. She lies down in a state of meditative, symbolic, and peaceful resistance, leaving marks and traces of presence in opposition to heroic fantasies of conquest and power.

Nirbhaya is named for Jyoti Singh, aka ‘Nirbhaya’ who was raped and killed at the age of 23 in New Delhi in 2012. It is a memorial not for conquerors and war heroes but for forgotten victims of everyday violence.

The inspiration for the Nirbhaya sculpture comes from the long tradition of triumphal arches, which embody victorious verticality, making wars and colonial invasions into heroic history. In Nirbhaya, I place a triumphal arch down, mirroring with its own double, to create a vessel filled with water. The triumphal arch no longer hovers above us. Instead, we look down into the water and see a specter of a woman, her body shrouded in long black robe and veiled, her face morphing from one woman into another, making slow, universal gestures of lamentation. She eventually becomes a tree.

Resembling an ancient sarcophagus, Nirbhaya honors women of all cultures and times who continue to undergo trauma of rape, torture, and death. A site of meditation and stillness, the monument offers a pathway for reimagining collective remembrance, abandoning victorious monumentality, and celebrating the horizontal and peaceful future of humanity.

Monika Weiss is an internationally celebrated contemporary Polish-American artist based in New York and in St. Louis, whose interdisciplinary work in performance, sculpture, drawing, video, and sound, addresses collective memory and its representations in the public sphere, as well as the role of lament in shaping the future of history. Her new forthcoming permanent outdoor monument Nirbhaya is planned concurrently in her native Poland and in the US.