Monumental cares

Sites of history and contemporary art

By Mechtild Widrich

Monumental cares
Hardcover +
  • Price: £25.00
  • ISBN: 9781526168085
  • Publish Date: Jan 2023
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Paperback +
  • Price: £25.00
  • ISBN: 9781526168115
  • Publish Date: Jan 2023
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    eBook -
  • Price: £25.00
  • ISBN: 9781526168092
  • Publish Date: Jan 2023
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information


    Monumental cares rethinks monument debates, site specificity and art activism in light of problems that strike us as monumental or overwhelming, such as war, migration and the climate crisis. The book shows how artists address these issues, from Chicago and Berlin to Oslo, Bucharest and Hong Kong, in media ranging from marble and glass to postcards, graffiti and re-enactment. A multidirectional theory of site does justice to specific places but also to how far-away audiences see them. What emerges is a new ethics of care in public art, combined with a passionate engagement with reality harking back to the realist aesthetics of the nineteenth century. Familiar questions can be answered anew: what to do with monuments, particularly when they are the products of terror and require removal, modification or recontextualisation? And can art address the monumental concerns of our present?


    'The book is a provocative volume that is academically rigorous, and it will enrich the public debate on commemoration with its sophisticated reflections on notions of temporality and authenticity of historical markers, siting, and public participation, at a moment when monuments have been at the forefront of political activism.'
    Tijana Vujosevic, Art Margins

    'Against the notion that monuments are things of the past, Widrich shows them to be generative of a contemporary art movement that is reclaiming historic places as laboratories for new artistic experiments centred around an ethic of care. She illuminates how artists are expanding what it means to care for monuments beyond the conservation of historic materials, to include looking after their capacity to conjure the collective imagination and direct it towards possible futures. At a time when collective action seems thwarted by the intractable forces of climate change and political injustice, Widrich reveals the capacity of art to jolt the collective nerve into more ambitious forms of care. A tour de force.'
    Jorge Otero-Pailos, Professor and Director of Historic Preservation, Columbia University

    'Monumental cares is a well-crafted intellectual accomplishment, inviting readers to think with care and nuance about monuments as instructions about what the public sphere is or could be. Mechtild Widrich turns to the ethics of care to open up the fundamental question of what monuments in shared public space are about. There are very few books that so compellingly make the argument that monuments are not of the past, but about how we collectively care for changing the present and the future.'
    Elke Krasny, Professor for Art and Education at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, co-editor of Critical Care: Architecture and Urbanism for a Broken Planet

    'Mechtild Widrich brings to the fore key questions of contemporary approaches to monumentality, and shakes these further. Moving with agility across a wide range of detailed case studies, this book makes a compelling case for a layered perspective that sees the monumental in its complex and interrelational potential: as history materialised through art in multidirectional interactions with time, space and their mediation. It is a book that refuses simplistic solutions, reminding us of the vital role of the public sphere in confronting and commemorating our shared histories and of the importance of an ethics of care in doing so.'
    Jacek Ludwig Scarso, Reader in Art and Performance, London Metropolitan University


    Who cares? An introduction
    1 The sites of history
    2 Cold War in stone - and plastic
    3 Materializing art geographies
    4 Reversing monumentality
    5 Reflections
    6 Drawing pain: political art in circulation
    Caring about monuments: a conclusion


    Mechtild Widrich is Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and author of Performative Monuments (2014)

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