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n Image & Text : a Journal for Design - A new monumentalism? From public art to Freedom Park

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Abstract

The paper uses the Gautrain as a device to link several works of public art and the new memorial at Freedom Park, interrogating their authorship, kinship, functions and aesthetic impact. The gigantic size of these works, their attempts to make portentous statements and to hail a defined public, suggest that they might belong to a new 'monumentalism'. The paper advances an argument for why there may be a return to monumentalism, noting the several Herculean labours works of public art are required to perform in the context of urban regeneration and the summoning of a history that is free of conflict and troubling suggestions of heterogeneity. The principal artist whose works are examined in the paper, Marco Cianfanelli, is part of a network that has explicitly committed itself to emancipating 'public' places from their exclusive and coercive apartheid past. Cianfanelli himself has expressed the hope that his works in the public sphere will encourage spectators to think critically about their environments. But, since some of his works appear bogged down in a blatantly mercenary project for so-called urban regeneration and his Freedom Park work contributes to what is described in this paper as a highly romanticised version of African history, his optimism may be unwarranted.

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/content/imtext/2012/19/EJC128195
2012-01-01
2016-12-02
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