A Proposed Solution to Confederate and Colonialist Memorial Sculptures
Allison Baker, Isabel Balee, Kameko Branchaud, Drew Ludwig
Concepts of the Memorial:
The memorial HORSEPOWER will implicate controversial statues of men on horses. The process is to remove the horse from the man, and deliver the horse far away from its original location.
We use the term “controversial” in light of these monuments because they celebrate a historical achievement that is not inclusive of all, or even most, members of the community. They are “controversial” because they open up dialogue.
The equestrian statues in question commemorate the performance and triumph of conquest. They venerate oppressors who silenced the culture that they conquered. Some of the men on these horses called for pillaging and murdering of a people in order to attain rights to their land, to appropriate their place, their memory of place, into an ideology that wasn’t relevant to the people that called that place “home”--they instituted Western ideals, implanted hierarchies and systems of silencing--took what wasn’t theirs and claimed ownership.
These statues not only symbolize these memories, but they conserve these memories. Their reverence is omnipresent.
Today, because we are so far removed from these moments of history, we recontextualize the relevance of the image: man on horse. Perhaps the equestrian statue perpetuates the symbol of oppression;; perhaps in some ways, it preserves the hierarchical structure of our society today. The equestrian statues point toward the dominance of political figures who infuse the national voice, who have the means to be much louder than those they oppress. The statues glorify them.
It is essential that the original equestrian memorials still take place somehow. Therefore, the memory will not be removed entirely. That is, parts of these monuments will remain: the men, rather than the horses. The distance between the man and the ground will remain the same, in order to emphasize how far removed from the people they are, how their altitude lifts them, presents their nobility as if on a pedestal.
If we were to remove the monuments entirely, then we would be removing the memory. We cannot erase the past, we cannot bury it, even though sometimes our inclination is to deny, to desensitize. We want to pronounce history that is still alive today, specifically, history that was built on the trauma of others. These moments of history are commemorated, rephrased into grandiose images, into massive, opulent memorials that use the language of worship, that bury the strife of the past and dramatize the victory of conquest.
What will be “lost” in this process is the horse. The horse will take on the illusion of disappearance. The choice to transport the horses and deliver them far away from their location articulates that an intrusion has taken place, and that in the process, something seems to have been forgotten. The removal and disappearance of the horse reproduces the reality of conquest--that in the performance and act of conquest and oppression, people are forgotten--the loss of the horse amplifies memories that obscure over time, material memories that are symbols of a history that seems intangible, but still remains present.
The memory of conquest still permeates our culture in which the race to get to the “top” means sacrificing others along the way. In our capitalist, Western environment, those who are in charge are fixed and inaccessible, while the majority of people are taken hostage by their oppression. This Western model of conquest was present during Colonialism and continues, still, today.
HORSEPOWER’s aim is to open up a dialogue in light of these memorials. It is a memorial that recollects a continuous, pervasive memory. The memory takes place not only in the past, but in the present and future.
After an equestrian monument is chosen the horse will be removed from beneath the rider. The method of extraction and scaffolding system is material dependent. Bronze and other metal based monuments will be crudely torch cut apart, this method of extraction will expose the hollow interior space of the monument and result in a rough edge. Stone or other cast aggregate material will be cut and chiseled from beneath the rider. This process may result in a fracturing and degradation of material effecting both the rider and the horse. Depending on the weight distribution and structural integrity after the removal/intervention, different scaffolding methods will be employed. Wood or metal scaffolding reminiscent of a building remodel will be necessary for monuments that lose a great deal of structural integrity after the intervention. Monuments that retain their fundamental strength will be propped up tenuously on cement blocks.
After the extraction, the horses will be moved to a field, without any repairs made to the damages incurred during their removal. The transition of this field into a pasture for bronze horses will effectively create an auxiliary memorial site.
The entirety of the process, from intervention to transportation and re-installation, will be conducted simultaneously across the continental United States at night. This results in a collective experience for the public at large the following morning. The horses will seem to vanish overnight, leaving their riders and masters behind.
Throughout the intervention and removal of the horse from original work, the monument itself undergoes a psychic transformation from monument to memorial. The rider and scaffolding left behind is the evidence of the event.