Professor Schnapp discussed an interesting project “Bz ’18-’45,” which they modified old monuments and added modern elements. He began his lecture with an introduction of modern monument. He argued that the statute that stimulated our thoughts is the modern monument. Many factors could influence its meaning, including scale, hardness, or duration.
Here comes the debate after the modification of “Bz ’18-’45” project: whether we should preserve old sites or we should generate new ones. This issue is as controversial as the conservation effort as well.
For years, human believe that wilderness means the distant nature that is untrammeled by humans. Therefore, policies had been made to set up national parks to preserve the ideal wilderness. However, is this assumption real true? Nature is always processes. It has a high contingency that relies on the occasional events. In fact, every living being has impacts on earth. So the idea of wilderness is problematic. Plus, since humans’ impacts are already global – every corner of the world has some anthropogenic impacts. Needless to say, the preservation effort might be considered as pointless.
If we consider the monument case in the beginning, it won’t be too hard to realize that these two ideas are basically the same. Monuments, like arts, have a great value of presence, that is, at a certain historical context, they can be understood and studied. In different period of time, it is different than original meaning because social mindsets are completely different, if we take different socio-economic conditions into account. If my assumption is true, then what is the value of preservation? The meaning is consistently changing, why don’t we add more that might better reflect the current situation?
On the one hand, historical values are also important. The study of history reminds us what has happened and our wrongdoings should not happen again. Some monuments are made for people to remember, such as Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Monument. These values need to be preserved. On the other hand, modern needs should be considered. As I have argued earlier, historical monuments might be more meaningful if we contextualize it with the consideration of modern values.
In conclusion, it is always a debate if we should modify historical monuments. Maybe we humans tend to romanticize the past but not satisfied with the present, so we are always criticizing and compare the past to the present. Moreover, the historical values of monuments have to be acknowledged. It is a primary study material for us to understand what happened in the past. Furthermore, the addition of modern elements might also need because in some cases, it might be easier for the public to understand that information. Therefore, I would argue that instead of a general rule that applies to every case, we have to have a case by case approach to evaluate different cases critically.