CAIRO: According to the American Heritage Dictionary, monuments are “a building or sculpture, erected as a memorial. Another definition is “any building, megalith, etc., surviving from a past age, and regarded as of historical or archaeological importance.
Monument X, however, is not meant to be or do any of the above.
Instead, the installation by Tarek Zaki is a philosophical examination of the concept of a monument.
Sections of unpainted columns are placed horizontally next to rectangular slabs, plinths, and arches, all around the base of a monument-to-be.
Or is it? The “monument is purportedly meant to prompt questions of whether the monument is yet to be created or if it is being dismantled.
The placard explains that the installation is meant to “deal with the idea of monument as a symbol, an iconic emblem of political and historical information.
While the idea is an interesting one, the placard delivers more intrigue than the installation itself manages to. The questions meant to be invoked are only done so by the artist himself.
On the question of what the monument is supposed to represent when put together, the pieces are not quite the puzzle that is intended. They cannot be much of anything other than some Greco-Roman type structure. The only animate pieces (in the sense that they represent something living), and the most interesting, are two horse’s legs, and an amputated arm, which are easy to miss, but are vital inclusions to the installation. Otherwise, all pieces are symmetric, straight, and rather bland. The inclusion of more interesting or unique bits, even a tool or two used to sculpt the columns, would have served the installation well. While the artist seems not to have wanted to limit the possibilities of the viewer’s imagination, he did not include enough to ignite it in the first place.
Even the Great Pyramids would have been terribly boring deconstructed into their individual parts, a series of rectangular slabs.
Regarding the other question as to whether the monument is yet to be built or has been dismantled, experience tells us the monument is waiting to be built. Or at least is waiting to be sold to other monuments to be built. When monuments are done away with, they tend to be destroyed on intention or by natural causes. It is doubtful, for example, that there are pieces of Saddam Hussein’s cap intact and arms being preserved neatly lined up next to each other.
“We gradually forget about those heroes and event but, in spite of our state of oblivion, the monuments remain as guardians of our social and historical memory, reads the placard.
The artist has very eloquent and engaging ideas on monuments. Unfortunately though, his ability to engage the viewer is less acute.
Monument X will be showing at the Townhouse Gallery until April 29.