Shaping the Past

Shaping the Past is a partnership between Monument Lab, the Goethe-Institut, and the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (German Federal Agency for Civic Education/bpb) that addresses pressing issues around what, whom, and how to remember in public spaces. 

The project facilitates a transnational exchange program bringing artists and activists together in dialogue to highlight ongoing critical memory interventions in sites and spaces in North America and Germany. Shaping the Past supports civic practitioners, artists, and activists who critically reimagine monuments and emerges from the ongoing Monument Lab Fellows program. These collaborations and conversations offer innovative models for how we might memorialize the past, create dialogue, and strengthen democracy through public spaces across the globe. 

The collaborative initiative consists of three landmark elements: a major public conference that will take place during Monument Lab’s annual Town Hall (October 8-10, 2020); a multi-site exhibition curated by Monument Lab and presented by Goethe-Institut North America and bpb with local programming organized by Goethe-Instituts throughout North America (2021); and a multilingual book that documents the transnational conversations around public memory as envisioned by the artists, activists, and their collaborators, co-edited by Monument Lab’s Paul M. Farber and Patricia Eunji Kim.

The Shaping the Past exhibition is planned for cities across North America, in partnership with local Goethe-Instituts, throughout 2021. Participating cities include: Boston, MA, USA; Chicago, IL, USA; Houston, TX; USA, Kansas City, MO, USA; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Mexico City, Mexico; Montreal, Canada; New York, NY, USA; San Francisco, CA, USA; Seattle, WA, USA; Toronto, Canada; Washington DC, USA. Learn more about the exhibition here

The exhibition will feature the work of the following artist-activists from across the globe, all current or former members of the Monument Lab Fellows program:

  • Hadi Al Khatib (Berlin, Germany)
  • Ulf Aminde (Berlin and Cologne, Germany)
  • Kanyinsola Anifowoshe (Chicago, IL and New Haven, CT)
  • Tomie Arai (New York City, NY, USA)
  • Arielle Brown (Philadelphia, PA, USA)
  • Sergio Beltrán-García (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • Zyahna Bryant (Charlottesville, VA, USA)
  • Cheyenne Concepcion (San Francisco, CA, USA)
  • Free Egunfemi Bangura (Richmond, VA, USA)
  • Thalia Fernández Bustamente (San Francisco Xochicuautla, Mexico)
  • Joel Garcia (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
  • A Long Walk Home’s Girl/Friends (Anaya Patrice Frazier, Danielle Nolen, Aliyah Young) (Chicago, IL, USA)
  • MADAD (Mallory Nezam, Damon Davis, and De Nichols) (St. Louis, MO, USA)
  • Ada Pinkston (Baltimore, MD, USA)
  • Take Action Chapel Hill (Maya Little, Gina Balamucki, and Annie Simpson) (Chapel Hill, NC, USA)
  • Quentin VerCetty Lindsay (Montreal and Toronto, Canada)
  • Patricks Weems (Sumner, MS, USA)
  • Alisha B. Wormsley (Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

For a full list of bios and project descriptions see our Fellows page.


Partners: Goethe-Institut, Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (German Federal Agency for Civic Education), Slought, and the Institute for Contemporary Art – Philadelphia

Supporters: Surdna Foundation and the Center for Public Art & Space at the University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design.

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