A monument, when first observed and understood, is a object frozen in history. It is a physical object that is there to teach of past events and evoke emotions about their impact on the individual’s life. Professor Jeffery Schnapp spoke about an interesting paradox that has arisen with modernity. He explains that modern monuments cannot exist because one half of the term undermines the other. A monument cannot be modern because modernity itself is defined by movement, dynamism, and change, whereas monuments are stuck in the past.
This paradox is not entirely true, however. There is another type of monument, one that resembles a regime, campaign, or event that is no longer accepted by society as a positive thing to be celebrated. These are what Professor Schnapp refers to as “uncomfortable monuments”. This is an interesting case where a monument can actually outlive its original significance, and then has the potential to take on a new symbolic role for the society it exists in.
Monumento alla Vittoria is Professor Schnapp’s primary example of the success from “reimaging” a monument that was originally built for a cause no longer accepted by its society. By far the most intriguing factor of this monument to me was the large LED “ring” placed around one of the columns of this large, square, and symmetric monument. While physically a relatively small object compared to the monument’s size, this modern component placed on a now historical structure creates an uncomfortable disagreement to the eye. In fact, this LED ring was the cause of much dispute between Italian citizens, believing it to be a disgrace to the nation’s history. In the end however, this LED ring, along with a museum beneath the monument, have proven to be a monumental success.
Monuments are an excellent revolutions topic. They mark a major event, solidifying its place in history and often granting some historical event the status of being revolutionary. It is also a fitting topic because of this reinvention of the meaning of a monument I discussed earlier. Like the planetary revolutions around the sun, with the passing of time, the objects and their significance change since they are one small part of an interwoven history.
I think an interesting question to be asked after this presentation is the role of Confederate artifacts in the southern United States. The objects are symbols of slavery and racism, but many southerners still protect their place in society, arguing they hold value to the culture and heritage of the south. While I believe that the last thing we should do as Americans is celebrate these objects, I do believe there are better solutions for the proper use of them other then destruction. They should be able to serve as reminders of a past that we are not proud of, and a display of the roots of civil rights, an effort that still should be placed at the front of political and social action.