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Panel Discussion 3: Nirbhaya and the Symbolism of the Arch
Monument | Anti-Monument
Creative Exchange Lab | Center for Architecture & Design STL (CEL), proudly announces a program of six virtual, international panel discussions collectively titled Monument | Anti-Monument. Moderated by Rick Bell, the program takes place in conjunction with two concurrent solo exhibitions: Monika Weiss – Monument | Anti-Monument (March 31st – April 22nd, 2021) at CEL, and Monika Weiss: Nirbhaya (March 27th – May 22nd, 2021) at the Centre for Polish Sculpture in Orońsko, a National Heritage Institution of Poland. Inspired by the work of the internationally celebrated Polish-American artist Monika Weiss and her paradigm-shifting monument/anti-monument project Nirbhaya the panels bring together artists, architects, activists, and historians to debate the role of monuments and commemorative design in shaping cultural identity.
The work of Monika Weiss is predicated on the act of unforgetting past traumas. It has particular resonance at this time when we rethink our histories and ways of remembering. In Nirbhaya, a memorial dedicated to victims of everyday violence that occurs globally, and named after Jyoti Singh, who was tortured, raped and killed at the age of 23 (posthumously named Nirbhaya, “Fearless” in Hindi) the artist transforms the traditional vertical form of a triumphal arch into a horizontal sarcophagus filled with water and moving image. This forthcoming permanent outdoor memorial by Monika Weiss will be built as two sister monuments, in Poland and in the US. Polish location is in the public park of the Centre for Polish Sculpture in Orońsko. US location is co-organized in collaboration with Streaming Museum. The six panel discussions are scheduled bi-weekly on Fridays: March 12, March 26, April 9, April 23, May 7 and May 21. All panels take place at 12 Noon (CST), 1PM (EST), 20:00 (GMT), 21:00 (GMT+1).
Nirbhaya and the Symbolism of the Arch
Inspired by the Nirbhaya monument/anti-monument project by artist Monika Weiss, with its critique of triumphal arches, Panel 3 addresses the complex relationships between architecture, history, cultural mythology, and political symbolism. The panel discussion focuses on the signification of commemorative arches and war-cemetery memorials. The question of who is remembered and who is not remains integral to the discussion, as are issues of collective memory, particularly when the collectivity is divided by race, gender, or ideology. This third panel of the six-part series looks closely at St. Louis, and the diverse interpretations of the Gateway to the West. It addresses public space and architectonic objects more generally as vehicles of collective identity. These often carry symbolic traces of colonialism and representations of imperialism. Using India Gate in Delhi and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis as starting points, Panel 3 analyzes culture-specific history, particularly within the context of recent activism. Artists as activists can rethink and reshape the relation of monumentality to anti-monumentality – remembering the victims of violence rather than the victors of conflict. With the Nirbhaya project seen as a call to unforget, Panel 3will address what defines collective memory and how can historical amnesia or denial be reversed.
Panel 3 is moderated by Rick Bell and includes the artist as well as speakers: Chip Crawford, Percy Green, Lynne Jackson, Walter Johnson, Eric Mumford, and Jeffry Smith
Jasmin Aber is the Director of the Creative Exchange Lab, and a licensed architect, trained in the United Kingdom. She is an urbanist with over twenty-five years of experience as a design practitioner. Jasmin is an academic, educator, mentor, and curator, as well as the co-founder and executive director of the CEL Center for Architecture and Design (CEL) in St. Louis. Her research work and design practice involve culture-led planning, utilizing music, art, and cultural heritage for placemaking and equitable and sustainable community and economic development. She is the co-curator of the 2019 exhibition Public Art, Public Memory: Who is Missing which engaged with contemporary discussion around expanding representation in our public monuments.
Rick Bell teaches at Columbia University where he is helps direct the Center for Buildings, Infrastructure and Public Space. A registered architect in New York, Rick previously served as Executive Director of Design and Construction Excellence at the NYC Department of Design and Construction. While Executive Director of AIA New York, he was instrumental in establishing and animating the Center for Architecture. He was also a member of the LMDC Committee that wrote the program for the National 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center. After architectural studies at Yale and Columbia, he worked in offices in New York, France, and Switzerland. He was on the advisory board of the inaugural NYC Architecture Biennial in 2020 and currently serves on the Board of the Creative Exchange Lab.
Over the past twenty-five years, the internationally celebrated Polish-American artist Monika Weiss has developed an aesthetic vocabulary of profound emotional impact that surpasses the limits of conventions around medium. Trained as a visual artist and classical pianist, Weiss creates synesthetic works, placing the visual on a par with the sonic and the haptic. A defining feature of Weiss’ practice is a commitment to exploring states of suspension or near stillness that disrupt the flow of time and hold a transformative potential. For Weiss, the poetic forms a language through which to explore the body, history, and violence. Her aesthetic vocabulary consists of recurring motives that include immersions in water, embryonic forms, the prostate body, lament, black cloth and digital doubling, forming a visual politics of affect. Weiss frequently employs her own body or choreographs other subjects, particularly women, to navigate histories of violence and sites of trauma. These works attend to the memorial landscapes of global conflicts like the Second World War, as well as to the recurring manifestations of gender-based violence. Public projects that take the form of ephemeral and site-specific environments constitute an important strand in Weiss’ practice. The artist’s exploration of public memory and cultural amnesia is underscored by a focus on the vulnerability of the female body in the context of the city. Weiss’ first permanent outdoor project Nirbhaya, a monument to victims of gendered violence, is planned concurrently in her native Poland (2021) and in the United States (2023).
Her solo museum exhibitions include the 2005 retrospective at the Lehman College Art Gallery (CUNY) Five Rivers, reviewed in The New York Times, as well as Sustenazo, commissioned by the CCA ZamekUjazdowski in Warsaw, Poland (2010), later travelling to the Museum of Memory & Human Rights, Santiago, Chile (2012-2013) and the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, Miami (2014). In 2004 Remy Toledo Gallery, New York, in cooperation with Galerie Samuel Lallouz, Montréal, organized a two-person exhibition of Carolee Schneemann and Monika Weiss. Weiss has exhibited alongside artists including Louise Bourgeois, Ana Mendieta, Mona Hatoumand Shirin Neshat. Group exhibitions include an international video art survey at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Athens, Greece (2016); Forms of Classification: Alternative Knowledge and Contemporary Art and The Prisoner’s Dilemma at the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation/CIFO, Miami (2006 and 2008); Drawing Now: Between The Lines of Contemporary Art at Loughborough University, UK (2009), Alan Sondheim & Monika Weiss – Enunciation at Eyebeam, New York (2012) and the inaugural exhibition at Prague’s Muzeum Montanelli (MuMo) (2010). Her works are included in public and private collections worldwide, including Albertina Museum, Vienna, AU; Cisneros FontanalsArt Foundation/CIFO, Miami, FL; Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, Peekskill, NY; Frauenmuseum, Bonn, DE; CCA Zamek Ujazdowski, Warsaw, PL; and Dimas de Melo Pimenta’s collection, Locarno, SW. The artist was born in Warsaw, Poland and has lived in New York City since 2000. The artist currently divides her time between New York and St. Louis, where she is on the faculty of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Washington University.
The Nirbhaya monument by Monika Weiss is featured in the upcoming issue of Centerpoint Now, the publication of the World Council of Peoples for the United Nations (WCPUN), produced in collaboration with Streaming Museum, that highlights issues on the agenda of the international community and marks 75th Anniversary of the United Nations.
As part of The Metropolitan Museum of Art series Artists on Art, a 30-minute film with Monika Weiss will premiere on March 30th, in which the artist will talk about her response to Goya’s graphic works and discuss her own practice.
Chip Crawford PLA, FASLA, LEED GA is the managing director and senior principal at Lamar Johnson Collaborative. He is a practice builder, creative thinker, and problem solver. An award-winning landscape architect, Chip has over 38 years leading complex planning, landscape architecture, and urban design projects, in over 18 countries. A true collaborator, he connects with clients and has a unique ability to stimulate creative thinking and problem solving, bringing proven expertise and the freshest thinking to the table. Chip has dedicated his career to being a steward for the public realm and creating inspiring places that recognizes the value of all living things.
Percy Green II
Percy Green II is a long time civil rights activist in St. Louis. He has been instrumental in advocating for minority employment throughout the region. In 1964 he famously climbed the under-construction Gateway Arch to bring attention to a lack of diversity in the federally-funded construction project. In 1973 he was a plaintiff in the Green vs. McDonnell-Douglas Fair-Employment landmark U.S. Supreme Court case which established the basis for determining whether racial discrimination occurred under a pretext by an employer as charged. Legal scholars and experts widely state that this case is the most cited law in the United States. During the 1990s Green worked with the St. Louis mayor’s office certifying minority and women-owned businesses, as well as with a host of other regional organizations, companies, utilities, and institutions to advocate for fair employment and general civil and human rights. He holds a Master of Social Work degree from Washington University in St. Louis.
Lynne M. Jackson
Lynne M. Jackson is the great-great granddaughter of Dred Scott, and founder and president of the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to promote the commemoration, education, and reconciliation of our histories.
Since the inception of the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation in 2006, Lynne has dedicated herself to casting a new light on the history of her ancestor and the landmark Dred Scott Decision by commemorating, educating and actively working toward reconciliation. She has traveled across the United States sharing the story of her ancestors, their case, and what it means to the future of this nation and its healing.
In 2012, she and the Foundation raised the funds to erect and unveiled the first and only statue of Dred Scott and his wife Harriet which stands in front of the Old Courthouse in St. Louis.
She travels around the country sharing the case and the lessor known details of it and the family history. Her work for the last 15 years has been recognized by numerous institutions, corporations, cities, courts and organizations including, The National Archives, Boeing, Daughters of the American Revolution, the 8th District Court of Appeals and the Southern Baptist Convention to name a few.
Walter Johnson, PhD, grew up in Columbia, Missouri, and is a member of the Rock Bridge High School Hall of Fame (2006). His prize-winning books, Soul by Soul: Life Inside in the Antebellum Slave Market (1999) and River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Mississippi Valley’s Cotton Kingdom (2013), were published by Harvard University Press. His most recent book The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States (2020) was published by Basic Books. His autobiographical essay, “Guns in the Family,” was included the 2019 edition of Best American Essays; it was originally published in the Boston Review, of which Johnson is a contributing editor. Johnson is a founding member of the Commonwealth Project, which brings together academics, artists, and activists in an effort to imagine, foster, and support revolutionary social change, beginning in St. Louis.
Eric Paul Mumford
Eric Mumford, PhD, an architect and historian, is the Rebecca and John Voyles Professor of Architecture at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. He has given many invited lectures nationally and internationally, and publishes academic books and peer-reviewed scholarly articles. He is the author of The CIAM Discourse on Urbanism, 1928-1960 (MIT Press, 2000), the only book-length history of the International Congress of Modern Architecture; Modern Architecture in St. Louis: Washington University and Postwar American Architecture, 1948-1973 (2004); and Designing the Modern City: urbanism since 1850 (2018), a textbook on the history of how architects’ have tried to shape modern cities through design.
Jeffrey Smith , PhD, is Senior Professor of History at Lindenwood University in the St. Louis area. Smith is author of The Rural Cemetery Movement: Places of Paradox in Nineteenth-Century America. Most recently, he was a contributor to Till Death Do Us Part: American Ethnic Cemeteries as Borders Uncrossed (“Till Death Keeps Us Apart: Segregated Cemeteries and Social Values in St. Louis, Missouri”) and in the forthcoming Monuments, Memory, and Commemoration (“Cemeteries and the Lost Cause”) and Southern Cemeteries and Southern Culture (“Confederates in the Graveyard: Southern Identity and the Rural Cemetery Movement”).