Reconstructing symbols, reinventing monuments

Nele Azevedo / Sociedad Civil Collective


In the Sur Journal‘s gallery of artistic pieces, images from the “Minimum Monument” series of interventions by Brazilian artist Néle Azevedo, and the “Lava la bandera” (Wash the flag, in English translation) performance action by the Sociedad Civil Collective, dispute in very concrete ways the very idea of historical monument and national symbol, respectively. In both cases, the hegemonic and colonial sense that these elements carry is disputed, when new meanings are forged, tested, and imagined through a political-artistic interruption.

The ice sculptures of “Minimum Monument” subvert the foundational notions of monuments by proposing a record of memory, a small, temporary, itinerant document of anonymous bodies – as opposed to the grandiose solidity of stone and the heroes of history found in large public monuments. Meanwhile, the performative action of “Lava la bandera” proposes a collective and collaborative ritual of symbolic and affective cleaning of the national flag. The repetition of the ritual of cleaning the national flags with water, soap, and red basins produced an image of rescuing the national identity kidnapped by the Fujimori dictatorship in Peru. In dialogue, other notions, both quotidian and collective, subvert the cultural documents-monuments in a reconstruction of the symbols that structure cities, politics, and memory.