Jeffrey Schnapp’s lecture addressed the purpose of monuments, and how they have lasting effects on society, especially when they commemorate events or time periods that people would rather forget. The scale and magnificence of classical monuments work to honor memories of greatness. The Arc de Triomphe for example, exists on a larger scale than the surrounding buildings in Paris. It commemorates the independence established following the french revolution. Modern monuments tend to be less exuberant, many of which do not work to celebrate past success, but rather to remember important events that shaped in society in either positive or negative ways. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial exemplifies this conflict. The war is not considered a great American success, and by some it is even regarded as a wasteful war that resulted in unnecessary death and destruction. Mia Lin’s monument is somber, dark, and buried–reflecting feelings of the war. Her architecture is considered controversial since it differs vastly from those of classical and grandiose monuments. The change from large classical monuments to a more subtle style can be traced back to the beginning of the industrial revolution. After this era people believed that monuments worshipped the past and that energy should be thrust into the fast-approaching future. Monuments honored the dead, and some regarded this as a waste since they arguably serve no function for the living. While a monument may not directly benefit a society, the memory of events, positive or negative can serve to remind people of triumphs or mistakes. These memories of the past can be used as motivation or prevention in modern societies.
Schnapp discussed the Monumento alla Vittoria of Bolzano, which perfectly demonstrates how monuments can serve to help societies remember past mistakes to avoid recurrence. This monument was designed by Marcello Piacentini under the orders of Benito Mussolini himself. It originally was meant to glorify the transition of the Germanic city Boltzen, to the Italian city Bolzano after WWI. Monumento alla Vittoria was constructed with a Fascist style, and served as a meeting place for Nazi’s. Today, this monument serves as a reminder of the dangers of fascism and the effects that it has had on the world. Some people of Bolzano would rather forget about this statue’s original purpose as it is shameful to the history of their nation. Over the years, this statue has been vandalized, and even blockaded for protection. It can be very difficult to cope with a painful past, if there are nothing to take anger out on. This specific monument, and others like it, serve as material entities that people have decided to vandalize to expiate their anger–sometimes it feels good to break something even if the enemy and his or her ideology is long-dead.
The restoration of Monumento alla Vittoria ironically wed the city to its past. Refurbishing the statue forced the city to acknowledge its past mistakes since it now had a giant and new-looking reminder. The architects responsible for the restoration also put a ring on the statue–figuratively wedding the city to the monument. The symbolization of the ring upset many people. Some argued that the monument should not have been restored if only to be vandalized by the addition of the ring. Even though controversial, engaging a city to its tumultuous past forces people to acknowledge past mistakes instead of erase them. Through acknowledgement and commemoration of the past, people are able to learn from mistakes and build a better future.