Prototypes/Proposals

January 18—March 16, 2019
Clough-Hanson Gallery, Rhodes College
Memphis, TN

From Philadelphia to Memphis, and across the country, we are in the midst of a reckoning over the power and purpose of monuments. This involves both clashes at local sites around the country and a widespread re-envisioning of what it means to build and engage monuments. This reckoning is, in part, a byproduct of our current electoral moment, but its currents run far deeper. For example, the removal of confederate monuments in a handful of U.S. cities was underwritten by years of organizing, most often driven by activists of color for racial and gender justice. Intersectional feminist, queer, and environmental activists also have called out the connections between public symbols and representative structures of power.

Over the last five years, Monument Lab has organized several major public art interventions that asked: What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia? The prompt fueled a citywide exhibition in 2017 presented with Mural Arts Philadelphia, featuring the installation of twenty prototype monuments in public squares and neighborhood parks, as well as learning labs staffed by youth research teams. Following this exhibition, we released our Report to the City, a reflection on nearly 4,500 public monument proposals gathered at the labs with insights into how public participants imagined new monuments. The key priorities that emerged from this research: rethinking common knowledge, craving representation, seeking connection with others, and reflecting on process and power.

PROTOTYPES/PROPOSALS at Rhodes College’s Clough-Hanson Gallery presents prototype monuments from Monument Lab collaborators Kara Crombie, Michelle Angela Ortiz, Jamel Shabazz, and Marisa Williamson. The exhibition also includes living artifacts of the labs, samples of the public proposal process, and the culminating Report to the City.

As we experience this ongoing moment of intensity and uncertainty around public monuments—especially those that symbolize the enduring legacies of racial injustice and intersectional modes of social inequality—we are reminded that we must find new, critical ways to reflect on the monuments we have inherited and imagine future monuments we have yet to build.

Curated by: Paul M. Farber

Partners: Clough-Hanson Gallery and Urban Arts Commission

Supporters: Artwork and research in this exhibition is drawn from Monument Lab’s 2017 citywide exhibition produced with Mural Arts Philadelphia. Major support for Monument Lab projects staged in Philadelphia’s five squares was provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. An expanded artist roster and projects at additional neighborhood sites was made possible by the William Penn Foundation. Generous additional support was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. For a full list of participating artists, partners, and supporters, see Monument Lab: Philadelphia (2017).