2021-07-08 Tomás Macsotay (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona)
Do Monuments Have a Capacity for Ghostly Return? (engl.)

Decolonizing Monuments
Critical Reflections on Aesthetics and Memory in a Post/colonial Context

Since #Rhodesmustfall – when in 2015 University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa students
demanded the removal of the Cecil Rhodes statue from the campus as a sign of protest against
the politician’s colonialist and oppressive politics – anti-racist and anti-colonial protests in form
of media-staged monument topplings have shaped the cityscapes, especially those in former
colonized regions. In Southern USA, the region’s 'conqueror' Juan de Oñate has fueled the
debate; in Santiago de Chile the independence fighter Bernardo O'Higgins is dragged off his
pedestal; and in Belgium the statue of Leopold II is marked with the George Floyd’s last words
when being murdered by police officers "I can't breathe".
Under the hashtag #statuesmustfall, an activist community is mobilized, which, by removing,
dragging and symbolically violating colonial monuments, is initiating a global debate on how
to deal with the visualized traumatic memory of colonial oppression and racial hatred. These
subversive reinterpretations and re-semantizations are accompanied by a demand for the
visualization of 'southern' memory cultures. The media staging of these monument topplings
also questions the status of the figurative monument as a pictorial representative, as a kind of
effigy. This form of post-colonial iconoclasm is juxtaposed with positions of conservative
preservation as well as those calling for a less radicalized, more complex debate – also
regarding the appropriation of iconoclastic practices from right-wing and fundamentalist
circles, such as the attack on numerous artworks in the National Museums in Berlin in October
2020. Simultaneously with the statues-must-fall movement, numerous dissenting voices
precisely demand the preservation of and active intellectual debate on colonial monuments, not
least to counteract a practice of forgetting.
Based on recent and current activist protests, the lecture series examines the relationship
between postcolonial iconoclasm and preservation and provides a critical discussion on the
forms of representations of colonial memory in urban and artistic spaces. Based on postcolonial
and decolonial theoretical approaches, the lectures will critically reflect the entanglements of
colonial memory, aesthetics, and the (de)colonization of (urban) space and will question them
from an art and visual theoretical perspective.


08. Juli 2021, 18:00-19:30


Online via ZOOM-Webmeeting


Prof. Dr. Alexandra Karentzos





Decolonizing Monuments