'Monumental Violence' discussion to be held Wednesday, Sept. 20

Counter protesters hold signs in front of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va., Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (Steve Helber/AP)

On Wednesday night, University of Connecticut art history faculty will host a discussion on monuments and the violence they believe they cause, mask, inspire and mark.

The event will take place from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the Konover Auditorium in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center and will feature art history department faculty members Alexis Boylan, Kelly Dennis, Yan Geng, Jean Givens, Robin Greeley and Michael Orwicz. UConn president Susan Herbst will deliver the opening remarks.

The art historians will display images of monuments around the U.S. and the world and discuss the issues surrounding those monuments, with a focus on the history of the controversy over the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia and how images of Mao Zedong are used to control dialogue in China.

The panel will also be discussing the ways in which memorials commemorating a nation’s past conflicts can help build a more peaceful future when created to serve as symbolic reparations for victims of human rights violations.

Boylan, an associate professor with a joint appointment in the Art History Department and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Department said that after the events in Charlottesville, the departments felt they needed to have a large and public dialogue early in the school year.

“It’s important to contextualize that we are not the only location that is struggling with representation,” Boylan said. “These are important dialogues about all of our own individual responsibilities.”

Boylan said visual-culture monuments, murals, photographs, movies, television, paintings, and video games construct the world and dictate what and who matters.

“We can only shape this culture if we understand it and take control of our environment and the images we surround ourselves with,” Boylan said. “That’s why this dialogue is so crucial, now more than ever.”

Boylan said she hopes the event will give people a sense of the larger historical dialogue about monuments, provide a place to have a conversation about the issues surrounding them and potentially set a course for the changes they want to be made locally, nationally and globally.

“I also hope it will help people see what a radical, politically engaged, fascinating and crucial field art history is,” Boylan said. “We are not at the edges of conversations and debates about race, gender, politics, democracy and capitalism. We are at the center of them.”


Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at gabriella.debenedictis@uconn.edu.