The Magic of Monument Lab
By: Alliyah Allen ’18
The magic of Monument Lab is that it engages in the intersection of art and social change. It engages the people of Philadelphia and asks, What is the appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia? Rarely do you find a project that calls for a creative participation that extends to all community members. With Monument Lab age, race, class, gender, sexuality, or title does not restrict or limit you. Rather, it fuels the productivity of the project, as everyone has a voice. And with our simple data collection process of a sharpie and proposal form on a clipboard, everyone has the opportunity to use that voice to share a story, to share their stories. We spent the majority of the discovery phase really pushing this message across and got a range of responses. From people wanting to memorialize the MOVE Bombing in West Philadelphia to wanting to highlight the trauma that violence and guns brings to the city, it was clear that the people of Philadelphia had something to say. Click here for more examples of the research!
I actually worked on the discovery phase of the project in the City Hall Courtyard, the summer after my freshman year of college. Now, the project is expanding to be a city wide exhibition featuring 22 artists that are responding the central question. From photographer Jamel Shabazz, to Karyn Olivier, the artists coming to Philly are major and are proposing pieces that deal with real and current issues. My role this summer in this project extends from supporting these artists in the research and development of their projects to creating a training manual for all future student workers to have as a resource. I also will be doing some photography and writing for the project!
What’s different about this time working with Monument Lab for me, is the presentation of the message. After doing so much research and finding what it is exactly that the community is thinking and feeling, the lead curators and directors of the project had been left with the task of elevating and spreading the message. Now we are working to amplify the voices and stories of Philadelphia. The scope of the next phase of Monument Lab, will extend pass just city hall. The artist roster will work their magic all over the squares and parks of Philly. While they will contribute to a strong visual representation of Monument Lab, I’m excited to see the impact that Monument Lab will leave beyond Philly.
One interesting example of this would be the possibility for collaboration with the organization Take Em Down Nola. This coalition, based in New Orleans, is dedicated to taking down all public signs of white supremacy, which includes monuments and statues of confederate generals and more. Their work has gained national attention as it aligns with the efforts of #BLACKLIVESMATTER. You can read more and follow their work here! This past week, the Monument Lab team had contacted the Take Em Down NOLA Coalition. I feel as if this is an important opportunity because while the two projects differ in method, the cause remains the same and the points for collaboration would be incredible. Where the activists of Take Em Down NOLA are mobilizing and working to take action, the curators, researchers, and artists of Monument Lab are thinking and creating ways of replacing those symbols of white supremacy in order to share the stories, histories, and lives of all.