American Monument

American Monument is an artwork by lauren woods that prompts consideration of the cultural circumstances under which African-Americans lose their lives to police brutality. A participatory inter-media monument, it is conceived as nomadic and continually expanding, moving across the country year-to-year, “unveiled” at universities, museums, storefronts, community centers, and churches. The Beall Center installation will be the first full iteration of the project.  The artwork provides a vehicle for analyzing the complex relationship between constructed race, material violence, structural power, and monumentality itself.

In 2018, American Monument initiated an extensive Freedom of Information Act request process. Close readings of use-of-force reports, prosecutor reports, witness testimonies, 911 calls, and body and dash cam videos revealed a consistent and disturbing problem: police use of white dominant cultural constructions and stereotypes of “Blackness,” mined from pop culture, to justify fatal violence.  

The centerpiece of American Monument, Archive I, is an interactive sound sculpture.  Encountering a grid of silently spinning black and white turntables on pedestals, visitors may choose to play an acetate record of audio materials gleaned from record requests, setting the apparatus and sound in motion. Each turntable represents one police murder. The sound is heard inside the interior space where the grid is located and simultaneously displaced outside the physical architecture of the monument, into locations unknown to the viewer.

Supporting the main sculpture are reflection spaces to ponder law as a culture. The main reflection space, Archive II, displays documents associated with each case represented in Archive I. The Beall launch invites scholars, lawyers, community activists, civil rights leaders, students, artists, and the general public to process and discuss issues addressed by American Monument through think-tanks and public forums. Thought production from these activities will generate expanded forms of critical engagement, which feed back into the monument.  At the end of this collaborative production process in February 2020, the monument will be “unveiled” with a public symposium to signal the completion of this iteration.

The Beall Center has welcomed project co-leaders artist lauren woods and curator/cultural producer Kimberli Meyer as researchers in residence as part of its Black Box Project. The residency has connected them with leading thinkers across disciplines at UCI, including Law, African-American Studies, Social Ecology, Art, and Art History.  Additional collaborators include Carol Zou and Sara Daleiden.

American Monument has been made possible by the generous support of the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, a founding grantor to the artwork and University of California Humanities Research Institute and the Beall Familiy Foundation.

Special thanks to project partner Grand Central Art Center, Santa Ana.

lauren woods is a conceptual artist whose hybrid media projects—film, video and sound installations, public interventions and site-specific work—engage history as a lens by which to view the socio-politics of the present. She explores how traditional monument-making can be translated into new contemporary models of public memory, substituting the traditional marble and granite for new media. The first project in this line of exploration, Drinking Fountain #1, unveiled in 2013. Part of the larger public artwork, A Dallas Drinking Fountain Project, the new media monument to the American civil rights movement, past and present activists/organizers, and the spirit of resistance, is located underneath the remnants of a recently rediscovered Jim Crow “White Only” sign. Part sculpture, part intervention, it is located in the Dallas County Records Building in Dallas, Texas.

Born in Kansas City, Mo. and raised in Texas, woods holds a B.A. in radio, television and film and a B.A. in Spanish with a sociology minor from the University of North Texas. In 2006, she received her Master of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute. Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally, including Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Dallas and Miami, as well as Puerto Rico, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Mali and France. She has been the recipient of grants and awards from numerous institutions including the Creative Capital Foundation, The Tribeca Film Institute, College Art Association, Alliance of Artists Communities and The San Francisco Foundation.

Exhibition Dates: 
October 05, 2019 to February 09, 2020
Reception: 
October 5, 2019 - 2:00pm
Curated By: 
Kimberli Meyer Produced by Kimberli Meyer & David Familian
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