Creative Speculations for PhiladelphiaEdited by Paul M. Farber and Ken Lum
What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia? That was the question posed by the curators, artists, scholars, and students who comprise the Philadelphia-based public art and history studio Monument Lab . And in 2017, along with Mural Arts Philadelphia, they produced and organized a groundbreaking, city-wide exhibition of temporary, site-specific works that engaged directly with the community. The installations, by a cohort of diverse artists considering issues of identity, appeared in iconic public squares and neighborhood parks with research and learning labs and prototype monuments.
Monument Lab is a fabulous compendium of the exhibition and a critical reflection of the proceedings, including contributions from interlocutors and collaborators. The exhibition and this handbook were designed to generate new ways of thinking about monuments and public art as well as to find new, critical perspectives to reflect on the monuments we have inherited and to imagine those we have yet to build. Monument Lab energizes a civic dialogue about public art and history around what it means to be a Philadelphian.
Contributors: Alexander Alberro, Alliyah Allen, Laurie Allen, Andrew Friedman, Justin Geller, Kristen Giannantonio, Jane Golden, Aviva Kapust, Fariah Khan, Homay King, Stephanie Mach, Trapeta B. Mayson, Nathaniel Popkin, Ursula Rucker, Jodi Throckmorton, Salamishah Tillet, Jennifer Harford Vargas, Naomi Waltham-Smith, Bethany Wiggin, Mariam I. Williams, Leslie Willis-Lowry, and the editors
Artists: Tania Bruguera, Mel Chin, Kara Crombie, Tyree Guyton, Hans Haacke, David Hartt, Sharon Hayes, King Britt and Joshua Mays, Klip Collective, Duane Linklater, Emeka Ogboh, Karyn Olivier, Michelle Angela Ortiz, Kaitlin Pomerantz, RAIR, Alexander Rosenberg, Jamel Shabazz, Hank Willis Thomas, Shira Walinsky and Southeast by Southeast, and Marisa Williamson
“Monument Lab is a stunning achievement—at once a profound meditation on the crisis of the public monument today and an inspirational guide for the future of democracy. In the voices of artists, scholars, curators, and citizens of all ages, colors, and life experiences, this book overflows with ideas about how to remake the monumental spaces we’ve inherited into living places of creativity, community, truth, and hope—places where all of us can declare, as the artist Karyn Olivier says, ‘This is me.’”—Kirk Savage, Dietrich Professor of History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh, and author of Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America
“ Public art has a long and distinguished history in Philadelphia. The Monument Lab project was designed not only to bring that history to the present but also to interrogate the very notion of what constitutes art in the public realm. Monument Lab is a testimony to the success of the endeavor, a record of the works and conversations related to the project, and a brilliant contribution to the wide conversation about the urgent topics related to the production and display of art outside the walls of a museum.”—Carlos Basualdo, the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art
“ The Monument Lab project has taken the current controversies of public art and the future place of monuments and creatively engaged the public in serious and often playful ways. Using as its inspiring springboard the city of Philadelphia, with its prominent history and diversity, each monument described soars with meaning and conviction. This book reflects the many accomplishments of Monument Lab, which leads the nation in envisioning cities where public art is embraced by all.”—Elizabeth Goldstein, President, The Municipal Art Society of New York
“ Paul Farber and Ken Lum’s provocative report on the Monument Lab project asks important questions about public art and provides inspiring answers. What kinds of monuments do we need today? Start by engaging an entire city in thinking about whom and what we commemorate. What kind of art is appropriate? Ask the public to consider this as you commission twenty of today’s most thoughtful artists to create prototype monuments. The results are stunning: art that enlarges our understanding, inspires public participation, and both occupies space and operates through time.”—David B. Brownlee, Professor of the History of Art, University of Pennsylvania
"This text, and its accompanying exhibition, serve a dual purpose in the City of Brotherly Love: to make sense of monuments of the past and represent a new world order memorializing the present and the future.... (T)he editors have brilliantly enabled the artist (or creative teams) to have their say, which is then dissected by the author with their unique (intro)perspective.... The dialogue of the book enables back and forth conversation, allowing the reader to flow through the process of all of the projects and through the eyes of many of the audience who has chosen to lend their views to the project. The journey of the book is accessible and intelligent."
—Journal of Urban Affairs