Monuments, Artist Interventions and the Struggle for Memory

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On August 12, white supremacist and Neo-Nazi groups converged on Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the city’s planned removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. In the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, citizens in Durham, North Carolina took matters into their own hands, felling a Confederate soldier monument. This course considers the contentious debates involved in erecting and removing such artworks. We will ask: What visual strategies have artists used to commemorate controversial histories in the 20th-century Americas? How have subsequent generations questioned, reimagined, and subverted these strategies? The course centers on debates over racial justice and monuments to the US Civil War and slavery, but will also consider memorials to other violent histories across the Americas. Students will gain an understanding of public sculpture since the late 19th century, while also exploring embodied and ephemeral practices such as parades, reenactments, performance, and graffiti

Credits: 2.00

Course Code: HTA 316

Instructor(s): Mya Dosch

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.