"The earliest artworks originated in the service of rituals- first magical, then religious. And it is highly significant that the artwork's
auratic mode of existence is never entirely severed from its ritual function. In other words: the unique value of the "authentic" work of art
always has its basis in ritual. This ritualistic basis however mediated it may be, is still recognizable as secularized ritual..."
- Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" -1935
Cultural theorist Walter Benjamin explained that when authenticity is left mute by mass production, then "instead of being founded on ritual,
it (art) is based on a different practice: politics." Benjamin neither denies that religion is a political act, nor that politics is devoid of
ritual. It is merely the basis which has shifted.
According to art historian Rosalind Krauss, "The logic of sculpture, it would seem, is inseparable from the logic of the monument.
By virtue of this logic a sculpture is a commemorative representation. It sits in a particular place and speaks in a symbolical tongue
about the meaning or use of that place." We can keep Krauss in mind here in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where the largest number of Confederate
monuments in the country can be found. In Gettysburg a political visual intervention fuses into collective national memory. Monuments, as material
metaphors, are places of ritual. They are secular prayers, perhaps idols.
In our digital age, the notion and the very logic of public and private have shifted. We can be both out of this world and part of this world.
Yet, our environs are molded by states and corporations: the sites where we interact and the ways we interact. Like monuments, shrines that
represent political ideologies are now in every pocket; this technology provides a portal to an idealized image. Like idols, these modern amulets
offer the ritualistic desires of the market.
The question of the monument is a question of the formation of our narrative: What is the we? Our view of the past is our direction into the
future, with the present-as-pure-potential. Time both runs out and is all that we have "now and at the hour of our death."
I thank Shannon Egan of Schmucker Art Gallery and Kait Welch and Eric Covell for the frames