New Monuments for New Cities
art Toronto

The Bentway announces ‘New Monuments for New Cities’ art exhibit

The Bentway will launch their Spring / Summer 2019 season of programming informed by the theme Communitas: The Spirit of Community, with ‘New Monuments for New Cities’. Through the lens of culture and recreation, The Bentway explores Toronto’s changing landscape as well as opportunities to unite diverse communities through shared experiences.Communitas brings together artists, urbanists, innovators, and community activators within the connective space of The Bentway to engage in radical experiments in collaboration, co-creation, and cohabitation: all of which are key to the future of Toronto.

‘New Monuments for New Cities,’ a joint art exhibition of the High Line Network — a group of 19 North American infrastructure reuse projects — and an ambitious touring public art exhibition, May 11 – August 30, 2019. ‘New Monuments for New Cities’ is a collaboration between five members of the High Line Network, who each invited five local artists to create proposals for new monuments for a 21st-century city.

The Bentway, the only Canadian project in the Network, will launch their Spring / Summer 2019 Season with ‘New Monuments for New Cities,’ and a Monuments Summit, on Saturday, May 11, 2019. Monuments to the deeply imbalanced history of the Western world are being toppled and issues of legacy and hierarchy are being challenged. ‘New Monuments for New Cities’ offers 25 diverse and provocative responses to “What should a contemporary monument look like? Who are they for and what should they represent?”

The artworks, which employ a variety of techniques including illustration, painting, digital rendering, and photography, take the form of large-scale posters displayed along The Bentway Skate Trail and in front of the Fort York Visitor Centre.“In many ways, the poster format is a direct counter to the bronze statues we typically think of when we think of monuments,” says Director of Programming, Ilana Altman (recently appointed with David Carey as Co-Executive Director of The Bentway). “We are asking artists to work with a more ephemeral form, recognizing that civic histories are not singular nor static. The series of 25 posters will be presented differently from site to site; at The Bentway we will be displaying them across our Bents, the Expressway’s iconic concrete columns.”

Toronto artists include: Susan Blight, an interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker from Couchiching First Nation, Anishinaabe, Turtle Clan; Coco Guzman, a visual artist whose work addresses the dynamics of exclusion and normalization; Life of a Craphead, the collaboration of Amy Lam and Jon McCurley, whose work spans performance art, film, and curation; An Te Liu, currently engaged in sculpture and installation work which explores issues of function, occupation and cultural coding; and Quentin VerCetty, whose work addresses issues of representation, immigration, and decolonization through the lens of afrofuturism; Their work will join posters by the Guerrilla Girls, Hans Haacke, Xaviera Simmons, and more.

‘New Monuments for New Cities’ reflects the social and political status of the times by confronting controversial public monuments; broadening the definition of what contemporary civic structures can be; and proposing alternative people and histories to memorialize.

Susan Blight honours the Anishinaabeg peoples of Canada and the United States with her poster, Untitled (Land and Life). Blight depicts Nanaboozhoo, the half-human, half-spirit teacher, in the traditional Anishinaabeg pictograph technique. She articulates an interconnected landscape that includes land, sky, spirit, humans, and consciousness, referencing the inextricable link between land and life.

Coco Guzman’s poster Missing Democracy engages with the missing pet poster format as a recognition of everyday actions of reclaiming public space and sharing stories, and of asking strangers for help to find what is lost. The poster also works as an ephemeral monument to private relationships made public. 

The Treaty of Huế (1884), signed after the French colonialists seized the Imperial City in Huế, Vietnam, marked the beginning of French colonial oppression in Vietnam for the next 70 years. Life of a Craphead member Jon McCurley’s ancestor, Phạm Thận Duật, was a governor and high ranking public official who was forced to sign the treaty on behalf of the court. This poster, Angry Edit of a Wikipedia Page, is a screen capture of their disruption to this treaty’s Wikipedia page, which suppresses information about the Vietnamese and is riddled with French biases. For a single day, their fact-checking shed light on the truth of the conflict. Memoria is a collage based on a painting by Hubert Robert (1733 – 1808), known for his fictional renderings of architectural ruins and landscapes. By inserting the fragment of an elevated highway into Robert’s landscape, An Te Liu imagines a future where key elements of urban infrastructure are preserved and memorialized. Memoria questions narratives of technological progress—from the vantage point of an uncertain future, the structures and landscapes we find in the city today will inevitably pass into obsolescence, either as monument or as ruin

Quentin VerCetty’s monument reimagines the statue Alma Mater at Columbia University’s Low Library as a Ugandan woman, displacing the existing statue into an alternate universe—an Afrotopian world where people of color are safe, empowered, and appreciated. The pictured monument bears the inscriptions “new school” (ādīsi 21st-century bēti) and “unlearning” (timihiriti yelemi) written in Ethiopian Amharic G’eez. The words replace the Latin phrase “alma mater” from the original monument as a commentary on the unlearning of ancient languages and knowledge. The work also contains elements of carnival and West African adinkra symbols.

The installation of New Monuments for New Cities will be an artistic undertaking in and of itself. To accomplish this, The has recruited celebrated Toronto-based public artist Dan Bergeron, as caretaker of the exhibition.

On Saturday, May 11, 2019, Toronto’s first-ever Monuments Summit will officially open ‘New Monuments for New Cities’. The day-long event, the will be structured around a series of conversations and participatory activities, with the involvement of all five Toronto artists, as well as Dan Bergeron, and American artists Eric J. García (Chicago), Teruko Nimura (Austin), Chris Pappan (Chicago), and Paul RamírezJonas (New York), plus Philadelphia-based Monument Lab. Additional panelists and presenters to come.

‘New Monuments for New Cities’ will be accompanied by a series of public tours led by some of the artists involved, as well as other artists and thinkers in Toronto. Tours occur on Tuesdays, May 14-August 20 (except June 4). Tour leaders include: Rebecca Carbin, Art + Public UnLtd; Coco Guzman, New Monuments for New Cities artist; Quentin VerCetty, New Monuments for New Cities artist; and Kaitlin Wainwright, Heritage Toronto. More programming presented with Fort York National Historic Site and Myseum of Toronto will also be added.

‘New Monuments for New Cities’ artists and tour dates

Regina Agu, Nicole Awai, Judith Bernstein, Susan Blight, Daniela Cavazos Madrigal, Jamal Cyrus, Eric J. García, Guerrilla Girls, Coco Guzman, Hans Haacke, Tonika Johnson, Life of a Craphead (Amy Lam and Jon McCurley), An Te Liu, Teruko Nimura and Rachel Alex Crist, Chris Pappan, Denise Prince, Phillip Pyle, II, Paul Ramírez Jonas, Richard Santiago (TIAGO), Xaviera Simmons, Sin Huellas artists: Delilah Montoya and Jimmy Castillo, Zissou Tasse -Elenko, Vincent Valdez, Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin, and Quentin VerCetty.

  • Buffalo Bayou, Houston, Texas; February – April, 2019
  • Waller Creek, Austin, Texas; March – May, 2019
  • The 606, Chicago, Illinois; May – July, 2019
  • The Bentway, Toronto, Ontario; May – August, 2019
  • The High Line, New York, New York; September – October, 2019

For more information, visit TheBentway.ca/new-monuments