Gallery 3

Curated one person exhibitions of invited artists 

A Space for short-term one-person exhibitions and projects

produced for the site or reimagined and represented to configure an already existing project and exhibition in a different way.

                         Ideas for a contemporary Monument 


I want to start a conversation that starts with the work you showed in the 51zero festival at the UCA in November 2019, then back to the work you produced during your BA course that you completed in the summer of 2019, and then for you to say something about other works leading up to your finished work for your degree. 

I have several thoughts about the work, which of course has a relationship to the work you produced for your degree show, but l would like to discuss that version specifically in due course. 

There are a number of issues with the work that we can start with. The work that was shown at UCA and the work that you had in mind which wasn’t able to be realized. So, let’s start with my initial observations. The work was shown in three locations around the university which offered three different insights into the piece. The first two presented the work frontally, and the third version as a sculpture that could be walked around. Each version showed up different elements of the work which consisted of three parts, the model of the 4th plinth in Trafalgar square, an arrangement of objects that were displayed on top of the plinths flat surface, and a video sound work that was projected onto the middle surface of the plinth, transforming that surface into a screen. In each location the lighting seemed to play a very important role. The first set up in the kirk theater was in a dark corner of a large room where you had positioned the plinth, objects and video projection, but it was difficult to see the objects on the top, and the lighting changed some parts of the plinth colour black, so it looked as though parts of the plinth had been painted black or made of a black material, which was a strange optical illusion, and removed the idea of the mass of the plinth, so its intention to work as a monument appeared to be compromised, or at least altered. The set up could have worked if the lighting had been sorted out, but it wasn’t. Then the installation was moved to its 2nd location, the smaller, more self- contained, kirk theater vestibule. Here the same arrangement of the work was configured, with a more even, semi dark lighting to provide a clear overall view of your work. It was only here that it was possible to realize your intention, so it is now possible to look at the work in more detail, because now we can see what it is, but the contrast between the two locations and what the setup provided in terms of information and reading the work was very interesting.  

The set up here gave the impression of a stage set, because of the drama of  lighting and video projection, and the way the plinth was organized as a surface to project the video and a surface to arrange the objects, organized the plinth into segments and parts, and because of its frontality, as a two dimensional sculpture, so each part was occupied and filling the plinth with different activities. The different additions to the central structure focused in on that structure, and in a sense compacted it. The question here is whether the parts added up to a whole, and what is the message that all the elements are shaping and contributing to? The third version of the piece was shown in the reception area of the University with other works in the Festival. This version didn’t have the video projection or sound piece. Instead the work functioned purely in terms of mass, as a sculpture, as a monument, and arrangement of objects on the plinth’s surface. Here the plinth functioned as an object to display the objects. So, as a viewer you came across the object in a public space, then you walked closer to look at the objects. Two actions. Here the work was more open, and allowed to exist as it is. 

What we have is a version of the work as a gallery piece and another version as a public art work, so at least we have a clue how the work functions in these two settings, what wasn’t shown was how the piece can function as a monument, as something that contests the existing materiality of architectural spaces and public statements. I now want to discuss my understanding of how the components worked. I know there is a clear reference to the 4th Plinth in Trafalgar square and that you said your intention was to actually realize an idea for a 5th Plinth. However, when you look at the works realized for the 4th Plinth so far there is a dialogue between the sculpture on top of the plinth and the volume of the plinth itself, the mass of each is roughly the same, creating a pillar effect to join the two together, and there is a meeting between the two elements at the surface of the plinth.

If you take the scale of the arrangement on top of your model, it seems to do something entirely different. These fall into two discrete parts: the camouflaged rucksack and the arrangement of plaster painted parrot and plastic cactus. The rucksack has a reference to the London suicide bomber or bombers, while the camouflaged rucksack points to something else, the most obvious being Andy Warhols silkscreen camouflaged paintings, and in the installation linking up to the bright monochrome textured patterns that structure your video, which we could only see in the first two versions. The parrot and the cactus have a hyper real quality, juxtaposed next to the rucksack designed for desert warfare, and in turn with the white surface of the model of the plinth. So, we have a discussion about artificiality, something that is hidden or wanting to disguise itself. But what comes to mind here is the work of the American sculptor Haim Steinbach, specifically his arrangements of objects on shelves, which is a code of objects, sculptures clashing against the code and language of painting and pure surface, in other words, these are the principle visual codes of the Modern Western industrial civilization and the language and codes that have preoccupied American art in the post war years. If you think about the work this way then the reading takes a different direction, focused on the meeting and clashing of languages, and the make-up of western industrial civilization that keeps out other cultures and languages.

Taken altogether the objects and the plinth and the video add up to something quite urgent and uncomfortable, a clash between the orthodoxy of the establishment and its enemies, between change and the ever-present existence, or non-change, non-development and stasis of the now of Contemporary life. And behind all of this, and what I sensed from the start of the project, is  what is the most ambitious statement and project that is possible to realize today, that escapes the confines of the institutions, which brings me back to the role of the monument. 

I think the nature of a monument is very different to what we normally find in contemporary art today. It is not about developing a private language, or developing and extending the canon of western art and culture, or promoting the ideology of western Liberal capitalism, with the sign of art as an example of freedom and autonomy. Instead a monument is about having a conversation with the public, with society, with the state and conditions of that society. More recent examples we can mention are Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer, who produced vast monuments that use the context of the landscape to comment on the commodification of art, the fragmentation and atomization of art, art reduced to commodity form, brand, as a vehicle for shaping and occupying the visible of Global Capitalism.

However, l think it is necessary to differentiate different forms of Monument. Those monuments which are new constructions that we find on the 4th Plinth, which are basically large scale sculptures, Thomas Hirshhorns Monuments to Deleuze and Spinoza for example, and those monuments that take existing cultural artifacts, as signs of this culture and civilization and present those artifacts up for scrutiny, such as Christoph Buchel’s Venice Boat project, “Monument to the stupidity and bankruptcy of Europe”, and in this category we can also include Banu Cennetoğlu work with posters  listing the deaths of migrants.

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