Mechtild Widrich
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Who cares? An introduction
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Beginning with the current monument debate, focussed in the United States on Confederate statuary but coming to envelop cities in Europe and elsewhere, I consider how a variety of on-site and more remote audiences to commemoration can help us think not only about activism around older monuments, but what kind of history art can represent in public space. From the use of ‘pussy hats’ in the Women’s Marches to Cai Guo-Qiang’s simultaneously celebratory and premonitory use of fireworks to simulate nuclear explosions, ambitious public art works both with specific sites and on social media and in the press, materially and performatively. Reviewing dominant theories of materiality, mediation, and commemoration, I plead for a concept not of static materiality but of materializing history open to a plurality of interests—what Michael Rothberg calls multidirectional memory. This, the introduction argues and the later chapters will show, is at work in many artists’ efforts to commemorate or raise awareness of overwhelming subjects that connect the local to the global—from patterns of labor and domination to environmental degradation and the global COVID-19 pandemic.

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Monumental cares

Sites of history and contemporary art


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