happy new year #unmonumental (Ingraham)
Walking the city streets, I find things, mostly garbage, recently
thrown away. I feel compelled to photograph these things before they
disappear, which can happen at any moment. A man with work
gloves hauls my discovery away in a truck; the wind blows it down
the street; a tourist comes and stands on it. Objects, buildings and
people crumble constantly, to be replaced by something else. We
don’t see it coming and are shocked by change. A rusted fence is
painted red, a fountain is demolished and rebuilt to line up with an
arch, the guy standing in front of the bodega, his pockets full of
loosies—we wake up and he’s gone, and so is the bodega. When did
I first revel at a crushed can, ground-up glass underfoot, empty lots
with clothing left soaking on the curb, the smear of a wrong color?
Photographing these things is an artful enterprise, pulled along by
the same impulse that drives what happens in the studio. The
objects themselves exude a melancholy, but only at first. Having
stepped outside the fray, beyond the grinding pressure of utility, they
are all mute presence, free to become something else or nothing at
—JG, Brooklyn, NY 2016
unmonumental is an ongoing social media performance that generates and instantly shares photographs of ephemeral artifacts in the New York City streets. It draws upon a 'social turn' in contemporary art that has been transformed through the widespread use of social media and photo-sharing platforms popular among artists and non-artists alike.
unmonumental was born in the Spring of 2008, the day I visited the Unmonumental exhibition at New York's New Museum, which explored fragmented forms, torn pictures... crumbling symbols and broken icons. Later that day, I shot a photograph of a junk-filled shopping cart in the Meat Packing District as a parody and posted it on twitter with the hashtag #unmonumental. Soon I was shooting and posting photographs of such objects and detritus on a daily basis. I began to think about Robert Smithson's "Monuments of Passaic"1 and George Brassaï's "Involuntary Sculptures".2 Before long, my one-off snarky commentary became a personal exploration of photography-as-sociallly-networked-sculpture.
Many years and hundreds of photographs later, unmonumental has grown into a project of monumental proportions, distributed over online platforms that serve as vehicles for real-time communiqués as well as archival receptacles. Inadvertently referencing Modernist, Minimalist and Postmodernist tropes across several mediums, the found objects of unmonumental reflect the ever-shifting formal concerns of art and the rich feedback loop between artist and City.
1) Smithson, R. Monuments of Passaic, Artforum, December 1967.
2) Brassaï, G. Sculptures involontaires, Minotaure, n° 3-4, déc 1933.
The Highlights, Lance Wakeling (October 2009): Voluntary Sculptures: Photographing the Unmonumental