Krzysztof Wodiczko’s Monument
Monument is a work of public art by Krzysztof Wodiczko (American, b. Poland 1943). The artist collaborated with twelve refugees who have been resettled in the United States; their filmed likenesses and spoken narratives are superimposed on the historic 1881 monument to Admiral David Glasgow Farragut, lauded in his day as a Union naval hero during the Civil War. Pertinent to this project is current scholarship documenting how the American Civil War drove millions – soldiers, civilians, stragglers, enslaved Africans, free people, Northerners and Southerners – from their homes to generate a nineteenth-century refugee crisis. Similarly, each filmed participant’s home country has suffered the devastation of civil war which prompted Wodiczko to choose the Farragut location for this project to compare how select individuals are lionized in wartime and others are overlooked. With footage of people from Africa, Central America, South Asia, and the Middle East, the bronze monument emerges as a surrogate for refugees whose diverse plights, harrowing journeys, grueling fortitude, and quest for democracy have recently brought them to this country. Refugees are adults and children who flee their home countries because of war, persecution, and violence and who cross borders into the promised safety of another country. Most of the speakers in this project have spent years in refugee camps.
The twenty-five minute video projection encourages viewers to consider how history is memorialized. In view of current controversies surrounding historic monuments, Wodiczko claims Farragut as a new monument by recontextualizing the statue whose almost one hundred and fifty years in Madison Square Park can make passersby overlook his presence.
Building on a practice that for more than fifty years has created platforms for and collaborated with marginalized voices, Wodiczko renders in high relief attention to global migration and the international refugee crisis in Monument. Farragut’s personage, a bygone symbol of American naval prowess, is updated and transferred to living individuals whose experiences are not regularly honored in public monuments. The project invites the public to acknowledge this country’s conflicted history of accepting and rejecting refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants.
On view January 16 through May 10, 2020, and running from dusk to 9 PM Monday to Saturday, the installation will be complemented by a series of public programs, lectures, and events that expand upon the concepts explored within the work.
The artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy have partnered with Refugee Council USA, a coalition of humanitarian organizations including the International Rescue Committee, and Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services. These organizations invited individuals to share their stories to form the foundation of Wodiczko’s footage. The participants’ refugee status is not compromised by their filmed presence. The artist is conscious that the reach of his work has long depended on the circumstances of others: Wodiczko has realized outdoor projects in cities and municipalities with war veterans, homeless people, families of victims of gun violence, women and children who have experienced domestic abuse, stateless individuals, and immigrants. His practice brings visibility to the invisible through immersive research, interviews, and placement in a public forum.
More information can be found online from the humanitarian organizations that collaborated on Monument: the International Rescue Committee, Refugee Council USA, and Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services. rescue.org | rcusa.org | irisct.org
Listen to a 3-minute audio tour of Monument with Chief Curator Brooke Kamin Rapaport.
About the Artist
Krzysztof Wodiczko (American, b. Warsaw 1943) works in photography and video. He is currently Professor in Residence of Art, Design, and the Public Domain at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. Wodiczko was born in Warsaw in 1943 at the time of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a campaign of resistance against Nazi occupation during World War II. Wodiczko immigrated to Canada in 1977 and established residency in New York in 1983. He lives and works in New York; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Warsaw.
The artist has exhibited at major international venues, including the Bienal de São Paulo (1965, 1967, 1985), the Venice Biennale (1986, 1999), the Whitney Biennial (2000), the Yokohama Triennale (2001), and the International Center for Photography Triennial (2003). His previous installations have projected the stories of Hiroshima bombing survivors on the Atomic Bomb Dome at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and of Vietnam and Iraq war veterans on a statue of Abraham Lincoln in New York’s Union Square.
His work is in major public collections, including the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; The Jewish Museum, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Kraków; the Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź; the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; the Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
Wodiczko earned an MFA from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw in 1968. He received the Hiroshima Art Prize in 1998 for his contribution as an artist to world peace, and the 2004 College Art Association Award for Distinguished Body of Work.
About Madison Square Park Conservancy
Madison Square Park Conservancy cultivates and enlivens Madison Square Park, a dynamic seven-acre public park in New York City’s Flatiron District and one of the city’s most treasured greenspaces. Through its public art commissions, horticultural stewardship, and engaging programming, the nonprofit creates an urban oasis that welcomes a diverse community of at least 60,000 visitors each day. Since 2004, the Conservancy has become a leader in commissioning new works of public art, and has curated and presented almost forty major outdoor projects.
Major support for Mad. Sq. Art is provided by Sasha C. Bass, Galerie Lelong & Co., Toby Devan Lewis, Ronald A. Pizzuti, Thornton Tomasetti, Tiffany & Co., Anonymous, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council. Substantial support is provided by George W. Ahl III, The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston, Charina Endowment Fund, Eataly, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, The Jacques & Natasha Gelman Foundation, The Sol LeWitt Fund for Artist Work, Mad. Sq. Art Council, Audrey & Danny Meyer, The New York EDITION, the Rudin Family, and Sorgente Group of America. Additional support is provided by 400 Park Avenue South, Irving Harris Foundation, Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, and Fern and Lenard Tessler. Madison Square Park Conservancy is a public/private partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.
Read the press release here.
View the exhibition text in Spanish here.