January 1999  



Making Visible Monuments and Making Monuments Visible

Friday, 8 January – Saturday, 9 January 1999

at the Finnish Institute

The aim of the seminar is to address the shifting significance of public sculpture within the urban environment. A principal theme will concern the fact that, whilst architectural or sculptural monuments may appear both static and permanent, in reality their physical presence and commemorative meanings are instead subject to continual alteration. Taking examples from a number of nations (including Ireland, Britain and Finland) we hope to explore specific instances of this phenomenon.

A particularly illustrative example concerns the recent controversy surrounding the equestrian statue of Marshal Mannerheim in Helsinki: the decision to erect a new Museum of Modern Art (Kiasma) in its immediate vicinity clearly revealed the symbolical meaningfulness of this monument as a focal point for contested interpretations of Finnish identity. The commissioning and construction of Kiasma served as a lens through which to re-evaluate changing attitudes towards public sculpture and, more importantly, the altered heroic status of Mannerheim in the nation's collective psyche. Furthermore the presence of this completed museum has both physically changed the urban context whilst also hierarchically challenging the position of Mannerheim: rather than peering up at the elevated bronze figure we are now able to view it at the same level from a viewing window in one of the galleries.

In addition we are also able to appreciate this sculpture, along with all the others in Helsinki, on the pages of a website set up and maintained by Helsinki City Art Museum. This raises a further question concerning how the internet provides an additional 'space' in which to site public art.

A number of invited guests, including representatives of Helsinki City Art Museum, will attend the conference in order to discuss such issues. Taking a number of related examples from a variety of contexts we hope to provide a forum in which to compare and contrast instances when monuments become dramatically visible before becoming visually occluded as they slip imperceptibly into assumed familiarity.

RSVP Finnish Institute, tel. 0171-404 3309, fax 0171-4048893, e-mail postmaster@finnish-institute.org.uk

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