We entrust our memories to monuments so that they might preserve them for us. Hence we can afford to forget them. This is the paradox of the memorial: built as an aid to remembrance, it becomes the opposite, a machine of forgetting. Contemporary monumental art has racked its brains to find a remedy for this pathology. The 1960s saw the formation of a heterogeneous, often radical and contradictory movement of artists involved in the design of “counter-monuments” or “anti-monuments”. Devices that use negative means to make us profoundly question our paradoxical relationship with memory and forgetting. Andrea Pinotti borrows Gordon Matta-Clark’s term “non-uments”, which he translates as nonumenti, of which he offers both a grammar and typology.
But does the “non-ument” really do any better than the monument? Does a parallelepiped or a fountain that disappears into the ground really help our forgetfulness more than a proudly erect, stubbornly vertical obelisk or column? Does a performance or reenactment lasting a few minutes or hours do a better job than a mausoleum firmly planted where it has stood for centuries? Do air, light, colours and bits truly save us from amnesia more than stone, bronze or iron?
Today these questions have become more pressing than ever: the memorial is a red hot issue again, just when efforts are being made in several quarters to demolish as many as possible. At a time when statues are being dumped in landfills as a consequence of the wave of iconoclastic violence inspired by cancel or woke culture, this book proposes an aesthetic and political reflection on contemporary monumental art and the contradiction that besets it: denying the monument, in order to reaffirm it, and making the “non-ument”.