When monuments fall: Practices around difficult heritage

16 March 2021, Online

Uses of the Past panel discussion on Zoom with Katrine Dirckinck-Holmfeld (PhD), visual artist and scholar, Professor Paul Mullins (Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis), Laura Erber (PhD), Guest Researcher at ENGEROM and at the Centre for Latin American Studies, University of Copenhagen, as well as a collaborating professor at the Graduate Program in Performance and Theater Studies at the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO, Brazil), and Professor Mikkel Bolt (University of Copenhagen)

Cultural heritage is often expressed through monuments. All countries have their share of monuments erected to commemorate events or persons. In most cases, authorities decide whom and what to commemorate at a given time. Sometimes, as for instance with war monuments, they are erected shortly after the historical event took place, but monuments can also be erected long time after the event. Many of the statues we encounter in our cities have been set up many years after the person commemorated lived. They thus carry two distinct histories: the history that they refer to and the history of the decision to commemorate them.

Statues often become part of the monumental landscape in cities. They are not questioned either because the majority of citizens accepts their heritage status, or because they simply fuse into the landscape and stay unnoticed. It also happens, however, that their status comes questionable because the history that they refer to is re-interpreted. In a sense, they become alive again. This is the case with the numerous statues commemorating European colonialism in Europe and in places formerly colonized by European countries. Statues of Cecil Rhodes, Leopold 2, Robert E. Lee, Columbus and others have recently been questioned.

We have invited scholars and artists to discuss heritage practices around difficult statues. Our starting point will be an artistic happening that took place in Denmark in November last year at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts around a replica bust of the 18th-century King Frederik V, see An Explosive Debate Has Roiled Denmark After a Department Head at Its Top Art Academy Was Fired for Drowning a Bust of a Former King (artnet.com). Visual artist and scholar, Katrine Dirckinck-Holmfeld, who took responsibility for the artistic happening, will talk about the colonial history of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, and the artistic and socio-political reasons behind the action. Professor Paul Mullins from Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis will take us to Richmond and discuss heritage practices around Robert E. Lee statues. Visual artist, writer and scholar, Laura Erber, Guest Researcher at ENGEROM and at the Centre for Latin American Studies, University of Copenhagen, as well as a collaborating professor at the Graduate Program in Performance and Theater Studies at the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO, Brazil) will enlighten us on statue debates in Brazil. Professor Mikkel Bolt from the University of Copenhagen will frame the debate on statues and colonial heritage within political aesthetics and decolonial practices.

The event will take place via Zoom. Please write to Jacco Visser (jvisser[at]cc.au.dk) for the Zoom link.