Entanglements | Irene Cheng + Richard Sommer: Monuments Rise / Monuments Fall
Where: The Cooper Union
7 E. 7th St. | 41 Cooper Sq.
212-353-4100 Price: Free
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Monuments have recently re-emerged as charged sites of political debate and struggle. Propelled by a wave of protests against police killings of unarmed African Americans, monuments representing histories of oppression have been toppled, and new monuments commemorating Black lives erected. Simultaneously, many of the simmering conflicts and equations between indigenous understandings of land and sovereignty, colonialism and white supremacy, have brought needed attention to the troubled creation and legacy of a wide array of monuments in the United States. These include not only statues devoted to the ‘heritage’ of the Southern Confederacy, but the many American monuments celebrating America’s ‘founding fathers’ ‘manifest destiny,’ ‘exceptionalism,’ and ‘pioneering’ of the ‘frontier.’ What politics are at play in the historical cycles of constructing and removing such monuments? Are contemporary debates over monuments merely the symptom of a liberal politics of representation or can monuments intigate change by catalyzing thought and action towards greater understanding and justice? By upending certain binds of form and content in the monument, the speakers at this event will examine the relationship between the architecture and aesthetics of monument-making, and its political effects.
The lecture will be followed by a live debate and conversation moderated by Steven Hyllier.
Irene Cheng is an architectural historian and an associate professor at the California College of the Arts. Her research explores the entanglements of architecture, culture, politics, and the environment in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her most recent publication is Race and Modern Architecture: A Critical History from the Enlightenment to the Present, co-edited with Mabel O. Wilson and Charles L. Davis II and published by University of Pittsburgh Press in 2020. The book is the product of a multi-year interdisciplinary research initiative directed by the editors called the Race and Modern Architecture Project.
Additionally, Cheng is co-editor with Bernard Tschumi of The State of Architecture at the Beginning of the 21st Century (The Monacelli Press, 2004). Her current book project, entitled “The Shape of Utopia: The Architecture of Radical Reform in Nineteenth-Century America” (forthcoming, University of Minnesota Press) explores the geometry of architectural projects affiliated with anarchist, socialist, abolitionist, free love, spiritualist, and other radical mid-nineteenth-century movements. The project has received generous fellowship support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Whiting Foundation, the Graham Foundation, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, and the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Cheng is also founding principal of Cheng+Snyder, a multidisciplinary design practice that seeks to instigate critical debates about politics, architecture, and the city. Cheng + Snyder’s project “Museum of the Phantom City” was included in the United States pavilion at the 2012 Venice Biennale. The firm’s work has been published in Metropolis, Architectural Record, The Architect’s Newspaper, The New York Times, and in numerous books and blogs. Their work has been supported by fellowships and grants from the Van Alen Institute, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Ulm School of Design.Buy tickets/get more info now