In response to the question of how the United States should treat the monuments to Civil War Confederate figures which are dotted throughout the country, The New York Times commissioned six artists to re-imagine what could replace the controversial statues.
The issue of Confederate statues, which many regard as a glorification of those who fought to preserve slavery, has been brought into sharp public focus as of late due to the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 which resulted in the killing of counter-protester Heather Heyer.
The New York Times asked each of the six artists to “contemplate these markers of our country’s racist and violent history – the space they take up, physically and psychically – and imagine what should happen when they are gone."
We have listed the six visions below, complete with a paraphrased artist’s description of each proposal. A more detailed description of each can be found on the original New York Times article here.
From the artist: "Rather than sticking a monument to an African-American hero atop the structure that was once a pedestal for a racist, I would lay the upended column across the road — which is still called Lee Circle — making it impassable […] The placement would demand that visitors confront how slavery and the ideals that maintained and rationalized it continue to stand in our way."
From the artist: "The six-story stone pedestal is stained red to represent the 339 years of American slavery, yellow for the 89 years of American segregation and green for 60 plus more years of American inequality […] Walking up, they are reminded of how difficult it has been to get to where we are. Walking down, they’re encouraged to think of how easy it is for us to forget."
From the artist: "Near my home in Brooklyn is the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch that stands at Grand Army Plaza at the main entrance to Prospect Park as a tribute to defenders of the Union. It includes the figure of a crouching African-American man who seems to be surveying and assessing the battle situation […] For me he is truly an alchemist, a person who transforms or creates through a seemingly magical process, who has the power to transform things for the better."
From the artist: "When I imagine a replacement monument that reflects the diversity and creolization of New Orleans, I imagine an abstract Live Oak tree interpreted four ways, with each version covered in a soil type that is found in Louisiana […] Each side has a unique look, but they all come together, forming a kind of family tree."
From the artist: "Presented as part of the final piece, molds suggest the latent potential of those immutable values from which American ideals are cast. Molten glass is blown into empty wooden molds, charring the surface. What emerges are distortions of the original sculptural reference. These “distorted replicas” are emblematic of our struggle as a society to conform our realities to the ideal."
From the artist: "Keep the statues. Keep the men on their horse[…] we need a visual reminder of our stubborn tendency to elevate mediocrity. Think of it as an educational defense against the kind of racism-obscuring erasure we continue to see […] Around each monument, I propose a sanctuary for African gray parrots. A wrought-iron flight cage with elevated walkways, providing a perched perspective and featuring a cacophony of feathered talkers with unusual catchphrases."
News via: The New York Times