A screening of videos by Manuel Correa and Dima Srouji, followed by a conversation on the practice of unearthing monuments and its contribution to the construction of history. This is the first edition of Monument, a collaboration with e-flux Architecture, to discuss how monuments have—once again—come to play a pivotal role in mobilizing and rearticulating struggles for recognition.
Four Hundred Unquiet Graves by Manuel Correa
El Valle de los Caídos, sixty kilometers outside of Madrid, houses a colossal basilica and an eighty-meter-high cross that towers over the highway. The complex was commissioned by Francisco Franco’s fascist government to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of his victory over democracy. It is potentially the largest mass grave in the world, containing 33,800 bodies from 491 graves from all over the Spanish geography. Buried together with the dead fighters of Franco’s army, there are an unknown number of victims of enforced disappearance. Forty-five years have passed since the death of dictator Francisco Franco, yet no studies of the building’s ossuaries have been carried out. While it is known that there are 12,669 unidentified bodies interred on the site, it is impossible to confidently state the number of Franco’s victims inhumated there. The fact that we do not know the number of missing persons buried in El Valle de los Caídos is in itself a testament to the nature of the crime of enforced disappearance.
A little over a decade ago, a group of bereaved relatives discovered to their surprise that their missing dead were potentially buried next to Francisco Franco in El Valle de los Caídos. In their quest to exhume their loved ones, the bereaved relatives have encountered every form of systemic violence imaginable: from national to European courts, from newspapers to media rooms, challenging state institutions and the abbey of Benedictine monks that oversee the anti-monument.
Manuel Correa holds an MA Research Architecture from Goldsmiths University of London where he worked as part of the Forensic Architecture project. His work deals with issues of memory and post-conflict reconstruction in contemporary societies. His videos have been presented in venues such as the Rotterdam International Film Festival, The Tamayo Museum in Mexico, Presentation House Gallery in Canada, The University of Copenhagen, The Medellín Museum of Modern Art, The 8th Norwegian Sculpture Biennial, Kunsternes Hus in Oslo, Palazzo Grassi in Venice, DOK Leipzig international documentary film festival, amongst other spaces.
Sebastia by Dima Srouji
Sebastia, a small archaeological town, sits on top of a hill Northwest of Nablus, Palestine surrounded by Shavei Shomron, an illegal Israeli settlement and confiscated agricultural fields of olive groves and apricot trees. This ancient site was excavated multiple times over the last century by colonial archaeologists funded by Zionist individuals and institutions. The first excavation of 1908 led by Harvard University took advantage of Sebastia locals including women, men, and children as cheap labor digging their own land for the sake of biblical archaeology. Each excavation extracted soil and artifacts from the ground, taking what they considered valuable to their home institutions and leaving pottery shards and rubble on the surface. Today, what’s left of the archaeological monuments is contested by the nearby settlement as well as the Israeli military. The Roman Forum is a battlefield, but the locals are incredibly resilient.
Dima Srouji is a Palestinian architect, designer, artist, and educator working in the expanded context of interdisciplinary research-based projects using multiple mediums. Her work explores the power of the ground, its strata, and its artifacts in revealing forgotten, silenced, or hidden narratives, specifically concerning Palestine. Srouji is a graduate of the Yale School of Architecture and more recently held a position as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the American University of Sharjah. She presently serves as a board member on the Yale Arab Alumni Association and teaches design studios at Birzeit University in Palestine.
Monument is a collaboration between e-flux Architecture and Het Nieuwe Instituut, featuring essays by Arna Mačkić, Wayne Modest, Philipp Oswalt, Jorge Otero-Pailos, Robert Jan van Pelt, Valentina Rozas-Krause, and Mabel O. Wilson, and videos by Vasyl Cherepanyn, Manuel Correa, Quinsy Gario, Dima Srouji, The Black Archives, Milica Tomić, and Sumayya Vally. From the toppling and removal of statues to ongoing debates on contested objects, buildings, and landscapes, the series reconsiders the design and construction of monuments in relation to wider processes and structures of memorialization that reify social configurations.
e-flux Architecture is a sister publishing platform of e-flux, archive, and editorial project founded in 2016. Edited by Nikolaus Hirsch, Anton Vidokle, and deputy editor Nick Axel, the news, events, exhibitions, programs, journals, books, and architecture projects disseminated by e-flux Architecture describe strains of critical discourse surrounding contemporary architecture, culture, and theory internationally. Since its inception, e-flux Architecture has maintained a dynamic international program of projects and events in collaboration with leading institutions and practitioners.