Performing Monument: Future Warnings

  • Shalon T Webber-Heffernan York University


This article explores two disparate, yet equally "monumental" case studies that attempt to illustrate how monuments perform themselves over time by telling and retelling particular stories. It traces how these monument performances intervene into public memory through complicating historiographical national narratives by engaging with ideas of hemispheric deep time and how they may potentially disrupt and reimagine future historical narratives. First, I examine a contemporary land art installation at the US/México border entitled Repellent Fence (2015), which drew critical attention to the Indigeneity upon which borders and trade policies have been built in the first place on a monumental scale. I examine the performativity of this large-scale, short-term, two-mile-long socially collaborative monument erected by the interdisciplinary art collective "Postcommodity," based in the  United States Southwest. Second, I highlight an even more recent "monument performance" by Toronto-based comedy-art duo Life of a Craphead and their recent performance action entitled King Edward VII Equestrian Statue Floating Down the Don River (2017), which simulated a colonial monument tear-down and subsequently floated the imitation down the Don River. I examine the ways in which public and interventionist monuments perform hemispherically, and how they might be used to create counter-narratives to dominant colonial histories as well as to public, political knowledge, creating space for decolonial imagining.

Author Biography

Shalon T Webber-Heffernan, York University
Ph.D. Student in Theatre and Performance Studies at York University