The solemn act of respect for the dead gives us the space to confront what must come next.
Death Is Not The End: A proposal for confronting White Supremacy within the Built Environment. In collaboration Pure Pollen Flowers: Christy O'Connell and Amanda Thompson. Artificial and Locally sourced flowers.
Death Is Not The End focuses on the moment of removal and reimagines the monument as a communal social space for its procession and funeral.
The Process of Removal as Public Action
Before the removal of the monument, The Wake:
Three weeks prior to the removal, the statue will have a system of scaffolding to be viewed at eye level - reframing the context of the monument to the scale of 1:1. This will be open to the public, giving individuals the chance to engage with the monuments on a personal level before their removal.
The sculpture is transformed into a casket spray with locally sourced native plants and flowers. This gesture of adornment gives passage to the idea of regeneration and death.
Individuals, community members, and the general public remain silent during the removal process of the monument. The moment of silence is a transcultural and transnational ritual that offers reflection after a tragedy. The act provides us a chance to reflect on the atrocities of what these monuments stand for, culturally and historically, while also giving space to those who have yet to confront the reality and legacy of white supremacy. While the project does not want to yield to white fragility, it is a reality, and performative programmatic practice can offer a dual approach.
The removal process will take time, and may take multiple days depending on the time to remove the monument properly.
Once the monument is removed from its plinth, it's loaded into a hearse. The plinth remains in place as a call to action and a temporary memorial to the trauma of cultural singularity within public space.
The pallbearers and casket bearers are made up of individuals from a variety of organizations and the community. The pallbearers will include groups that initially commissioned the sculpture (for example Daughters of the Confederacy). These organizations at the front of the statue ta will metaphorically carry it away.
At the back of the monument are the casket bearers who will assist in moving the sculpture from its plinth to the hearse. The casket bearers will be made up of individuals and representatives from various organizations that represent social justice and the dismantling of white supremacy (e.g., Equal Justice Initiative, Southern Poverty Law Center, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and members of the general public.
The vacated plinth is to foster dialogue and discussion around forgotten or omitted history, overlooked individuals, and underrepresented communities. It acts as an opportunity for individuals to look at the history of the space while also noting that we can move forward as a society and create a new, and hopefully better, society for our communities. This physical form of voidness also allows individuals to fill it with their hope for the future.
These spaces are designed to uphold white supremacy within the built environment. This artist believes that merely replacing a sculpture with another sculpture is not appropriate. Instead, this space needs to be reimagined by the community that lives around and is continually impacted by the public space.
It is important to remember that design strategy is not the only way to reimagine public space and that there must be community buy-in, citizen participation, and engagement. Artists should not be colonizers, especially in a work that is aiming to dismantle colonization. As a culture, we need to acknowledge that the architectural landscapes communities have inherited are neither sacred nor unchanging.
Gravestone for The Lost Cause 2019. 18 "x 12" x 2.5", Graphite on Plaster, Local Flowers by Pure Pollen Flowers: Christy O'Connell and Amanda Thompson.
The image is by Illustrator Thomas Nast who is considered the father of the American political cartoons and published regularly for Harper's Weekly. This particular political cartoon was released October 26, 1874, and states, "The Union as it was...This is a White Mans Government...The Lost cause...Worse than Slavery." This is the first time the concept of The Lost Cause was portrayed.
Drawings from L to R:
Study for Altered Monument #1907 Charcoal on paper, 34" x 34."
Study for Altered Monument #1913 Charcoal on paper, 36" x 44."
Study for Altered Monument #1890 Charcoal on paper, 36" x 35."
This particular installation was commissioned for the KMAC Triennial "Crown of Rays" Exhibition at the KMAC Museum in Louisville, KY. The exhibition runs August 24 - December 1, 2019. Copy editing for Removal as Public Action text by Rachel Glago. Documentation by Claire Krueger.