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Remembering Monument Lab on Memorial Day


On Memorial Day, when we honor Americans who died while in service to their country let’s give a shout out to Monument Lab,, a public research project that began May 15 and lasts to June 7, that speculates on new Philadelphia monuments to a person, place or thing that should not forgotten.

Launched by three curators, Ken Lum, Paul M. Farber and A. Will Brown, the 3-week project is headquartered in City Hall Courtyard.  It’s anchored by a container “lab,” where you can suggest your idea for a monument; and by a monumental sculpture imagined by the late Terry Adkins, which reflects the design of a 19th Century Lancaster County school room (a precursor of our classrooms today) — benches facing forward and “blackboards” facing the students. In Adkins’ re-imagining (executed by RAIR), the blackboards are empty frames, containing nothing but air and a view of City Hall in the space where the pedagogical matter would normally be. This “ambivalent” monument looks back with something like nostalgia and forward with a lot of what looks like skepticism.

Monument Lab has daily activities at noon that seek to stop people in their tracks for discussion about things related to public art, culture, history and what matters.  See the full calendar here:

Tomorrow, Tuesday, 5/26, Dan Biddle and Murray Dubin (Libby’s husband) will talk about the under-sung civil rights warrior of the Civil War era, Octavius Catto.

Friday, 5/29, Billy Dufala and Lucia Thome of RAIR speak of the wonder and innate monumentality of excess goods thrown into the trash stream (Actually, I’m not sure what they’re going to talk about but it should be Good).

On Wednesday, 5/27, a nighttime lecture at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts features artists Zoe Strauss and Kara Crombie explaining their visions for Philadelphia monuments they’d like to see.  The presentations are free but require registration —

If you’ve ever wandered the city and passed a statue or sculpture and said to yourself ” Why all these men on horses?” or “Where are all the women?” you have opinions and your voice is needed in this research/art/urban planning project.  It’s not often that the public at large is invited to insert themselves into a research study.  Monument Lab may not result in physical statues being built, and that’s not really the point.  To my mind, Monument Lab is already  art, breaking new ground in the civic mental space we live in.  Go, vote for the future of our civic space; participate in the conversation about what should be and who should be included.