The past has a tendency to viewed in two ways. One; nostalgia, an imagining that the past was perfect, based in the reality it was probably ok. Two; with shame-the product of a complicated and rough time that doesn’t beg like it’s contrast to be exaggerated. Monuments capture one of these pasts for the onlooker. However, they refuse much of the time to reveal which way they wane, and it is in this case that the case is made-we should bend that dichotomy between nostalgia and shame to create what the past should be viewed with-reverence.
The example used in lecture was that of a monument to Italian facism that still stands in a plaza of a border town in Northern Italy. It is an impressive structure, and it’s belonging to a past, inspired by an even farther back past based on it’s neoclassical design, makes it a indicative case study in how a past can be shaped. The structure itself is a archetictural marvel, exhibiting a sort of grandiose neoclassicism that could only be the result of a someone powerful being willing to say that it need be that way to reflect their own grandiose and lust for the Greek and Roman. It is this very point that makes the monument so controversial, as the man who built it was of course Benito Mussolini. The conflict between hiding that history of shame but saving the monument itself is then a good way to view how we can shape the past.
For this monument the curator decided to give it second life as a museum. The goal of a museum being to achieve a state of reverence for the past, not celebrating it but acknowledging it and pointing to the future. To do this he kept the monument the same, a testament to it’s original unique form. However, the addition of a modern scrolling ring around the base of one of the legs is a step toward change, a nod that this past, of facism and hate is not worth preserving in it’s original state. It’s a reminder that we have tried to move past that. The museum beneath the monument however celebrates the form of the monument and pays testament to the victims of the ideas it originally meant to celebrate.
It’s most telling message is however how it looks to the future. In a chamber inscribed with the verses of a failed Italian fascist state, projections of hopeful messages for the future urge the reader to reach his/her’s conclusion about the past-because it’s time to move onto the future.
It is true that forgetting the past can lead to a terrible future. Striving for balance in this exercise is as crucial as the exercise itself. That is what the monument discussed in this lecture strives to do; give us the attendee a peace of mind about the past we know may have been horrible. That is after all, what art, even in our most public forums should do-make the pain of a time apparent to the whole world.