Symposium: Rethink and Reload – Monuments in 21st Century Democracies between Iconoclasm and Revival

ZAK – Alte Kaserne 2. OG

Friday 30.6.2023 10.00 a.m. - 6.00 p.m.

Around the world, the fall of monuments has become a controversial phenomenon. Alongside toppling statues, formerly marginalized groups are demanding visibility inpublic space also with the help of monuments, statues and memorials which for a long time were almost considered obsolete. The international symposium Rethink and Reload is dedicated to the multifaceted culture of monuments in contemporary democracies. It considers the overthrow and new settings and genres of monuments as two inseparable sides of one development: the effort to make our increasingly diverse democracies more democratic.
Scholars, preservationists, artists, and activists from various European countries and the United States will discuss the potential for democratic societies in the controversies currently being played out at monuments. Re-dedications, temporary interventions, guerrilla and counter-monuments, new commissions, and monument demolitions are more than symbolic acts. They shape reality and thus the possibility of social representation and participation. In the controversy around monuments, fundamental questions are negotiated about how to remember and live in a society that is striving for greater equality and equity. Which themes are addressed? How will this be formally arranged? Who will be involved in the process? What is at stake? What can be gained? What new possibilities are there for dealing with the monument genre, often conceived as static or outdated and even irrelevant? With lectures, discussions and film screenings, this symposium is aimed equally at both experts and the interested public.
The Zitadelle Berlin-Spandau is a suitable setting for this conference. With the exhibition Unveiled. Berlin and its Monuments, the museum has become a centre for scientific, artistic and cultural-political discussions of problematic monuments. Especially since 2020 –  the year of the worldwide monument overthrows of colonial masters and slaveholders – it has come into international focus. So far, it is unique in the world for its museological approach to so-called toxic commemoration culture. Instead of tabula rasa, museum display ensures continuity, but instead of continued discrimination in public space and further consolidation of long-outdated power relations, it makes appropriate contextualization and mediation possible.
But the Citadel wants more! It wants to develop into a place of frequent, interdisciplinary and international exchange. The cooperation with the German-Swedish scientist Dr Tanja Schult marks the beginning of this process. Together with Dr Urte Evert (Head of the historical museums of Zitadelle Spandau), Tanja Schult has organized the symposium Rethink and Reload. It is also the first output of the research project Rethink and Reload –Monuments in 21st Century Democracies between Iconoclasm and Revival, funded by the Swedish Research Council, which Tanja Schult is conducting together with Professor Tim Cole (Bristol).
Under the keywords Monuments’ Possibilities, Monuments in Practice and Monuments in Use, international scholars from various fields will discuss the potential of monuments in democracy in various panels – among them the Philosopher Marie-Luisa Frick (Universität Innsbruck), author of e.g. Zivilisiert streiten. Zur Ethik der politischen Gegnerschaft (2017), Paul Farber, director of Monument LAB in Philadelphia, and Erin Thompson, professor of art crime at the City University of New York and the author of Smashing Statues. The Rise and Fall of America’s Public Monuments (2022) as well as artists and practitioners. Film screenings and tours through the exhibition will expand the discussion and complement the conference program.


The event is held in English.

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Program [press here]

Fig.: Head of the Lenin Monument in the exhibition “Enthüllt. Berlin und seine Denkmäler” © Zitadelle Spandau



Kopf der Lenin Statue liegt auf der Seite.