#unmonumental is an ongoing social media performance that uses instantly shared photographs to locate the poetics of the ephemeral in the New York City streets. It draws upon a “social turn” in contemporary art and performance that has been operative for some time, but which, in recent years, has been transformed through the widespread use of social media and photo-sharing platforms popular among artists and non-artists alike.
I began the #unmonumental project soon after visiting the 2008 Unmonumental exhibition at New York's New Museum, which explored "fragmented forms, torn pictures... crumbling symbols and broken icons." Spotting a junk-filled shopping cart in the Meat Packing District, I shot a photograph of it as a parody. But I soon found myself shooting chance objects in the streets on a daily basis, and posting the images online. I started thinking about kindred projects and precursors such as Robert Smithson's "Monuments of Passaic"(1) and George Brassaï's "Involuntary Sculptures"(2). My one-time snarky commentary turned into a serious and personal exploration of photography-as-socially-networked-sculpture.
Five years and over 700 photographs later, #unmonumental has grown, ironically, into a project of monumental proportions. I’ve posted and distributed this series over many different platforms (Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, Typepad) that simultaneously 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.
-Joy Garnett, Brooklyn, NY. Spring 2013
1. Smithson, R. "Monuments of Passaic," Artforum, December 1967.
2. Brassaï, G. "Sculptures involontaires," Minotaure, n° 3-4, déc 1933.
Joy Garnett is an artist who lives in Brooklyn, NY.