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     Glorious Oblivion

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”

If Pericles’s words are to be believed, women’s near absence from public spaces and historic records should not be of great concern. But perhaps there are consequences to telling only half a story. Great thoughts, ideas and works may sink into oblivion and be lost.

Statues of individuals in Europe are predominantly of men. Unreliable estimates put the number of women depicted at between 0.5 and 2% of total statues. Monuments, particularly to individuals, are at this time somewhat anachronistic, so despite the prominent role women are beginning to play in public life, this underrepresentation in the realm of public memorials is unlikely to change any time soon.

The upside is that with such a relatively small number, it ought to be possible to locate most of them.

This is what I will set out to do over the next two years: A pilgrimage to find the women who have been
remembered in public spaces across Europe. The rulers and spouses, artists and scientists, nurses and nuns.

Staging interventions and interactions for large scale photographs, the project is one of interpretation and activism, bringing forgotten objects and lives into fresh focus and showing the ideas and ideals of women from the ludicrous to the divine.

I will also include some notable symbolic women, which make up the vast majority of female statues, such as Liberty, Justice and Peace, where they show important symbolism of the role and image of femininity and public space.

Images will be staged, reworked and printed on a variety of susbstrates to re-interpret their stories and expand their spheres of influence.

As Robert Musil memorably said, public monuments have the ability to become invisible, despite their often extravagant efforts to be unmissable. Figurative statues can, however, also have a special place in the imagination. These objects are almost alive. They give us a sense of presence, and induce superstitious beliefs and rituals.

Julia of Verona— a bronze sited in Verona and in Munich— has a shiny right breast from all the people who touch it, wishing to meet the love of their life, which she is said to be able to facilitate. Figurative statues are imbued with special significance in culture and society.

Where the statues are displayed is also very significant, giving us a public reminder of shifting societal mores, cultural values, and shared ideologies— as well as a record of the perpetually changing alignments, alliances and conflicts that result in the creation of monuments, with their lifecycles of proud unveiling to eventual neglect to deterioration and replacement. There are too few women present in this cycle. It is important to preserve a record of these rare female statues while they occupy the public era of their lifespans.

Frank Wedekind wrote that memorials are not there to benefit the dead, but the living. Whom we choose to cast in stone speaks about what we value and want to be remembered for.

The work will include around one hundred statues and works of art and will take two years to complete, resulting in a new body of work and a collection of artist books.

The images will feature interventions in situ, overpainting of prints and printing to unusual substrates that are relevant to the history or context of the statue, as can be seen in the accompanying editions. Volume I will be available in 2018.

Please consider getting involved to ensure that the memorialisation of these extraordinary women will be extended in the more protectable media of photography, and that their public legacies will be safeguarded in the private realm of art collections and personal libraries.