The Future of COUNTERmonuments

For each monthly edition, SuperGlue Collective invites a guest writer to share a short piece in relation to the current theme. For Ruptures, Transitions, and New Beginnings, we are excited to welcome Victoria McCraven, founder of Blackartherstory, an instagram page celebrating the work of black women artists. Through the analysis of Reaching Out by British sculptor Thomas J. Price, Victoria unveils the renewal potential offered by countermonuments post Black Lives Matter protests and the pandemic… 

Thomas J. Price, Reaching Out, 2020. The Line, London, 2020. Photo by Jeff Moore. © Thomas J. Price.

Where do we go from here? During a global pandemic and reckoning on race, we are all currently wondering how we can make lasting change. Artist Thomas Price may have an answer on where to begin, countermonuments. Best known for his sculptural work, London-based artist Thomas J. Price is one of the most promising creatives working in this field. His 2020 work Reaching Out, made international news as one of the only sculptural representations of a Black woman in the United Kingdom. Erected in Stratford at The Line, London’s first dedicated public art walk, this work of fine art is free and always available to the public. Countermonuments such as Reaching Out offer a ray of hope for the ongoing conversations around monuments.

Countermonuments such as Reaching Out offer a ray of hope for the ongoing conversations around monuments.

The dialogue around monuments dramatically ignited in the UK on June 7, 2020, when protestors removed a monument of 17th Century enslaver Edward Colston, thrusting the bronze sculpture into the Bristol Harbor. This act of protest, along with many other calls for racial justice, have caused many institutions to publicly acknowledge their complicity and frankly their role in colonization and systematic racism. However, the question of what to do after numerous monuments have been removed still lingers. I suggest we further examine countermonuments as interesting launching points for further discussions of institutional and community-based change. Though the notion of the countermonument as a method of historical reclaiming is not entirely novel, as examples can be found in response to Nazism and the former Soviet Union, the countermonument to the Western institution of chattel slavery remains a largely new and unstudied area of scholarship.

Thomas J. Price, Reaching Out, 2020. The Line, London, 2020. Photo by Jeff Moore. © Thomas J. Price.

Countermonuments, though not the singular solution, could serve as valuable tools for expanding an often Eurocentric historical narrative. The countermonument can take many forms, but in principal is a sculpted object purposely constructed to confront an expression of power which persists in the public psyche. Price, as a Black man working in the arts, through his sculptures is able to add Black voices to an often Eurocentric narrative. Though countermonuments may appear to be straightforward or even easy solutions, they challenge our societal reality and disrupt our constructed national identity.

In Reaching Out, Price shows a Black woman in Nike sneakers, joggers, and a T-shirt. She looks down, checking her phone with her hair in a neat bun. In this larger than life rendering, Price shows a protagonist we do not see in the media or in much of the artistic canon, the everyday Black woman. Price’s countermonuments offer hope for new beginning and more inclusive representations of our collective history. Price’s work is growing in popularity internationally, with his sculptural installations now being found in Canada and the United States. Though the discussion about monuments and their place in contemporary society is still ongoing, perhaps we can consider countermonuments and Black artists such as Price in these dialogues. 

For an overview of Thomas J. Price’s work visit his website and to keep up with Victoria McCraven’s exciting output follow blackartherstory on instagram and tiktok.