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How to make a monument
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posted on 09.02.2017by Pantazopoulos, Nikolaos
For this practice-led PhD I have produced three new works: A Spartan Monument, Ongoing Monument to Indecent Activities 399BC– and A Monument to Toilets: An Exhibition and Procession. In this exegesis, which supports those three artworks and their problems, I have devised a structure that places at the centre of my writing the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres (FGT). On the one hand, this reflects the enormous importance of his work to my own. More importantly, however, it is an attempt to deploy his work – and to ask questions of his work – as a means to ask, and answer, questions regarding my own work.
This PhD project responds to my own experience growing up as the son of Greek immigrants, and, specifically, to what this meant for the way that I ‘came out’ as a gay man, and how I encountered the city as a space. For me, there was no pedagogical model or any identifiable histories that paved the way for a homosexual’s rite of passage. It was in this context of the heteronormative city that I became the author of my own education. I explored the metropolis to find and realise my desires and turned to invisible spaces to piece together my own path. In these explorations I discovered a tradition of homosexuals continually resisting the patriarchal state, struggling to be recognised as different and sovereign.
This PhD project has evolved as an articulation of this experience. That experience is, above all, the experience of the city, framed by the complexities of being gay, the constant process of coming out this entails, and being the son of Greek immigrants for whom the city was something to be negotiated through their children.
This exegesis has sought to support, contextualise and unpack the three works I present in my examination exhibition. I have sought to answer: How might a monument articulate a gay experience of the city? I have relied heavily upon the process of researching and producing an archive of information on the history of homosexuality. This, along with a strong emphasis on participatory processes, has become the material that has yielded a set of works that might be understood as anti-monuments. I have identified that the position of homosexuality in the patriarchal city means that the process of coming out is ongoing, and I have attempted to understand what this means for art making. In the model of FGT’s work, and in my own work, this ongoing process finds its expression in the structure of the work itself, which then resists both the classical tropes of a monument, but also the closure these tropes imply. These anti-monuments become a means to avoid both assimilation and the stereotypical image of homosexuality. Above all, they are a way to honour a set of experiences and a tradition of resistance, and to build, through art making, the knowledge and resources for that resistance to be ongoing.