Entanglements: Irene Cheng + Richard Sommer: Monuments Rise/Monuments Fall

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Entanglements: Irene Cheng + Richard Sommer: Monuments Rise/Monuments Fall

October 27, 2020 @ 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm EDT

This event will be conducted through Zoom. Please register in advance here. Zoom account registration is required.

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.

Richard Sommer is a Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at the Daniels Faculty, University of Toronto. He recently completed two terms leading the Daniels Faculty as its Dean, quadrupling the school’s programs, and transforming a civic landmark in Toronto – One Spadina Crescent – to serve as its new home.

This event is free and accessible to the public.


October 27, 2020
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm EDT
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The Cooper Union
(212) 353-4100
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