American Monument

American Monument is an artwork by lauren woods that examines the cultural conditions under which African Americans lose their lives to police brutality.  

A participatory inter-media monument, the work 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 is hosting its first full iteration.  The artwork provides a vehicle for analyzing the complex relationship between the construction of 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 bystander and body/dash cam videos have revealed a consistent and disturbing problem: police use of white dominant cultural constructions and stereotypes of “Blackness,” mined from pop culture, are employed 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. 

Supporting the main sculpture is Archive II, displaying documents associated with each case. Together, the archives offer space to ponder law as a culture.

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, resulting in collaborations with UCI School of Law and The Center on Law, Equality and Race (CLEAR); and the departments of African American Studies, Social Ecology, Art History, and Art.

American Monument 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. At the end of this collaborative production process, the monument will be “unveiled” with a public symposium March 6 - 7, 2020, to signal the completion of this iteration. To receive project-specific updates and invitations, please click this link.

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

Research and think-tanking is supported by the UCI School of Law and The Center on Law, Equality and Race (CLEAR); and the departments of African American Studies, Social Ecology, Art History, and Art. Public engagement is organized by Carol Zou.  American Monument’s major community partner is Grand Central Art Center, Santa Ana.

About the artist:

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. Challenging the tradition of documentary/ethnography as objective, she creates ethno-fictive documents that investigate invisible dynamics in society, remixing memory and imagining other possibilities. She also explores how traditional monument-making can be translated into new contemporary models of commemoration with new media.

About the project co-leader:

Kimberli Meyer is a curator, writer, architectural designer, and cultural producer. She has organized many exhibitions, publications, and programs; and has been director of the University Art Museum at Cal State Long Beach, and the MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Los Angeles. She has been working with woods on American Monument since its conception.

October 05, 2019 to March 16, 2020
Curated By: 
Kimberli Meyer
Press Release: 
lauren woods