H.4 Monuments and Their Futures in North America

Fri Oct 28 / 15:30 – 17:00 / Music Room, rm 2006, Hart House

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  • Cody Barteet, Western University

Recently, monuments have received significant attention. Whether connected to their removal, conservation, and construction, individuals and organizations have used monuments to promote varying ideological concepts. In Canada, most of this conversation has been limited to the removal and vandalism of monuments associated with the long colonial legacy and its impact on Indigenous peoples. However, this conversation changed radically in late January 2022 when the so-called Freedom Convoy descended upon Ottawa to protest existing COVID-19 policies. During the occupation, several of Ottawa’s monuments were vandalized including those to Terry Fox and to fallen Canadian soldiers. Unlike previous vandalisms in Canada, the backlash against their defacement was immediate and universal.

Informed by this shifting context concerning monuments, this panels queries the future and purposes of monuments through diverse methodologies: nationalism, racism, environmentalism, etc. In so doing this panel analyzes the current “monument discourse” and queries the needs and purposes of monuments.

keywords: monuments, nationalism, preservation, environmentalism

H.4.1 Deconstructing the Colonial Landscape of Queen’s Park, Toronto Through the Lens of the ΛCDM Model of Cosmology

  • Ashar Mobeen, Western University

The colonial statues that inhabit the Queen's Park topography invalidate the very land they stand upon—territory on which Indigenous and First Nations heritage is enshrined, yet these statues and their inscriptions make no reference to it. Pre-colonial history is eclipsed, both literally and symbolically, by individuals who evoke imperial and/or colonial authority. British Imperialism functioned as a global enterprise; it comprised an intricate and extensive web that exists to this very day in the shape of the Commonwealth. Yet, a web is the sum of its individual parts—can pulling on one part of the web cause a ripple effect through the entire structure? Drawing on the concept of dark matter, we know that the cosmos is a vast, but intricately connected network; galaxies are located millions of light years from each other, but they are connected through filaments comprised of dark matter. Then, is it possible to think of Queen’s Park as a galaxy within the British Imperial Universe—essentially occupying its own cosmogenic agency—a micro-microcosm, within a microcosm, within a macrocosm? I set out to answer this question by navigating the symbiotic relationship between the temporal and socio-spatial dynamics of settler colonialism. Through an exploration of the doctrines of settler colonialism, I show that this leads to fictional realities and/or imagined communities. Then, by applying cosmological models to the theoretical frameworks of Foucault and Lefebvre relating to space, and spatiality, I contend that Queen’s Park can be transformed into a hybrid locus. Thinking in terms of works by Stuart Hall, Edward Soja, and Homi Bhabha, this space can serve as an intermediary forum for the emergence of a revisionary moment of sorts, a juncture where race, culture, gender, and/or sexuality are simultaneously negotiated! We can come together to displace the fictional and/or imagined histories that make up our city and establish new structures of power and politics.

keywords: monuments, settler colonialism, decolonization, structuralism, quantum mechanics

Ashar Mobeen is pursuing a PhD in Art and Visual Culture at the University of Western Ontario. His research investigates the manifestation of comprehensive astronomical understanding in the art and architecture of ancient and Indigenous North American civilizations. By reconstructing the cosmic perspectives of these societies through their art and conjoining his findings with modern scientific understanding, Ashar believes that he can potentially offer answers to questions that humanity continues to ponder: Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? Ultimately, Ashar hopes that his research can address the need for a post-humanist perspective, counter to the mandates of anthropocentric hubris and its imprisonment within binary power dynamics. In the face of catastrophes such as climate change, rising food insecurity, and collapse of biodiversity, he contends it is critical to re-evaluate not only our position in the cosmos, but with the very land we call home.

H.4.2 Poststructuralism and Postmodernism and its Articulations upon Toronto’s Colonial Landscapes and Monuments (with Krauss, Jameson, and Foster)

Calla Elia

The colonial monuments within Queen's Park, Toronto, precisely the Kind Edward VII Equestrian statue and Sir John A. MacDonald statue, are an example of monuments that encompasses traditional representation and periodization of a "massive homogeneity in time." (Jameson, 4) Despite their opposition to what postmodern thought and poststructuralist theory dictate, according to Rosalind Krauss, Fredric Jameson and Hal Foster, the postmodern/poststructuralist analysis of the deconstructive approach society has taken toward these two statutes are necessary to distinguish the future necessities of such colonial monuments. Is it possible to rebuild these monuments, or will they always bear the mark of their former and controversial glory? Would it be an act of erasure or rehabilitation? Is it hopeless feat of post-enlightenment subjectivity? These monuments have transcended their fundamental modes of narration, now to be a constant in the multiple representations of expansive time. The criticism of these monuments often takes the form of public art installations like "Life of a Craphead's" King Edward VII Equestrian Statue Floating Down the Don River (2017) and vandalism like the one targeted at John A. MacDonald's statue in late August of 2020. These monuments' appropriation, distribution and projections break down the perception of power it projects within the physical and geographical space it inhabits. In this way, these spaces and viewing experiences of these monuments are perceived more as shows and attractions, only to be capitalized on, criticized, reproduced, or deconstructed.

keywords: decolonization, poststructuralism, postmodernism, statues, monuments

Calla Elia is a second year Ph.D. student at Western University within the department of Art and Visual Culture. She holds two undergraduate degrees from Western University, one in Business and Management, specializing in Consumer Behavior, and one in Visual Arts and Art History. She also holds a Master's degree in Art History from the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on the ontology of the mental disabled as it relates to architecture, space, and the built environment. Furthermore, her research critiques the ethical and aesthetic relations between organization's and government's responsibility to provide such accommodations to the environment for disabled people.

H.4.3 Rubble, Ruins and Other Everyday Monuments

  • Evan Pavka, Wayne State University

Detroit is often romanticized as a city of ruins: abandoned residences, crumbling industrial infrastructure and vast, uninhabited swaths of land. As much as this myth of urban blight ignores the textures of everyday life that play out within and the rapid construction of contemporary buildings, the city is ultimately a place of rubble. Like many crumbling edifices, these disregarded fragments found everywhere from street corners to overgrown lots reflect a history of complex and intersecting social, political and economic forces. Patterns of disinvestment, structural racism, displacement by urban renewal initiatives and more are embedded in chips, cracks and broken public spaces.

This paper centres on the ongoing project of recording the rubble encountered on daily walks throughout Detroit, positioning these quotidian elements as everyday monuments and small acts of civic memory. The resulting images are complemented by annotations including geospatial location, materiality and origin point to produce an incomplete, ever-evolving archive that surfaces contested and often erased histories concealed beneath the infrastructural skins of concrete and asphalt. What role can rubble play in preserving collective memory in the city? How do these objects—largely produced by invisible predatory social and political systems—work to visualize, relay and record those exact forces? By reading the collection alongside Detroit’s history, the project ultimately aims to question not only the role of these innocuous objects as emergent forms of memory infrastructure but the critical position of fracturing and breaking in the work of monuments in our contemporary landscape.

keywords: civic memory, infrastructure, detroit, counter-monuments

Evan Pavka is a writer and educator whose work explores the intersections of power, memory, gender, sexuality and the built environment. His creative and scholarly work has been presented in North America, Sweden and South Korea. In addition, his writings have appeared in venues such as Article, Lunch, Pidgin, -SITE, Field and the book Digital Fabrication in Interior Design: Body, Object, Enclosure, among others. He received a Master of Architecture from McGill University and is currently an Assistant Professor at Wayne State University.

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