Paul Farber, Artistic Director, Monument Lab
Report to the City: Prototyping Monuments in an Age of Reckoning and Remediation
Monument Lab is a national public art and history project based in Philadelphia that comprises a team of curators, artists, scholars and students. In 2017, Monument Lab teamed with ten municipal agencies including Mural Arts Philadelphia to produce a citywide exhibition organized around a central question: What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia? This line of inquiry was aimed at building civic dialogue about place and history as forces for a deeper questioning of what it means to be Philadelphian in a time of renewal and continuing struggle. Over 250,000 people engaged with the exhibition across the city, which featured prototype twenty prototype monuments installed at City Hall, iconic public squares, and neighborhood parks, as imagined by leading public artists focused on themes of social justice and solidarity. Additionally, Monument Lab opened adjacent learning labs at these sites which were operated by teams consisting of local educators, high school fellows, and college students enrolled in a Civic Studio course. Through their efforts, 4,500 speculative public monument proposals were gathered from participants. As an outcome to this exhibition, the research team produced a Report to the City presented to the Mayor and all the city commissioners, shared the proposals as open data set of all of the proposals on OpenDataPhilly, and extend learnings with continued collaborative installations and projects in cities aimed at unearthing the next generation of monuments. Artistic Director and Co-Founder Paul M. Farber shares insights, reflections, and next steps for Monument Lab.