Access the walking tour description, instructions, and stylized map in this AR activation.
The Verdi monument is both a portal to Italian nationalist history and some of America’s most despicable actions at home during WWII.
The monument was erected by L’Italia, an Italian language newspaper in San Francisco that ran from 1887-1943. The paper fundraised for the statue commemorating Guiseppe Verdi, which was completed in 1914 and unveiled with a grand concert attracting thousands of people.
Verdi’s operas gained a life of their own as political anthems. “Va, Pensiero” an aria from Verdi’s opera Nabucco became the anthem of the Italian Risorgimento (nationalist unification). The monument shown in AR here is a deconstruction of the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument (Altare Della Patria) commissioned during the Italian Nationalist period and the sound is a granulated version of “Va, Pensiero.”
Ettore Patrizi, the opera-loving editor and publisher of L’Italia, was a victim of American nationalism. In 1942, he was dubbed a fascist sympathizer and “excluded” from San Francisco as part of the Individual Exclusion Program. Exclusion and internment were two of the ways in which Italian immigrants (regardless of citizenship status) were forcibly relocated by the American government during WWII. Roughly 10,000 Italians were removed from areas surrounding military operations, including San Francisco. Another 600,000 throughout the country were monitored by the FBI.
This project is a direct response to the Bronze Sundial located in front of the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. It is interesting how something that is simply meant to tell the time also commemorates the three navigators who were credited with the discovery of California. In my project, I showcase the true founders of what we call California. The ones I highlight in my piece are indigenous to the Bay Area and are just a few of the thousands of beings that are native to this land. Here I present my own clock, one that breathes with life and can educate us on how this land that we call home came to be. In this scene, we can reimagine the imposed concept of a founder and form our own ideas around who deserves to be honored.
In 1891, the first bison were brought to Golden Gate Park. They lived in a pen where the Music Concourse is today. An attempt to conserve an animal that once numbered in the millions, they served as a symbol of the Wild West that no longer exists. A living monument to the violence of progress.
At a time when California is dealing with multiple crises around land access, management, and stewardship, this work creates an immersive space in which to imagine a rewilded Golden Gate Park, where the nearby bison have broken free of their enclosure and reclaimed the land.
The idealist vision of history functions by promoting the myth of the genius, obscuring class antagonisms with white supremacist figures plucked from the annals of time and deposited in our public spaces as monuments. This reification of national identitarianism is a double bind: it must simultaneously promote and exalt these figures while oppressing, often with state sponsored violence, those who seek to overturn the hegemony of this bourgeois mythos. While direct action over the last year removed many of these figures from our public spaces, the question of what is to be done with the neoclassical architecture left behind remains unanswered. This project imagines simultaneously occurring states of deterritorialization in which the monument is torn apart, sorted, and temporarily suspended as a specter of itself, an inverted cenotaph in which the death of the historical narrative is displayed as a perverse and post-historical fabulation. This project longs for a return of historical materialism in our public discourse: a proto-revolutionary mockup of a world where the desecrated detritus of the American state is primed and ready to be deployed in the building of a new and egalitarian society.
Using the movement to remove Junipero Serra’s statues as inspiration, “Monument to the Movement'' asks the viewer to consider whose history is valued and whose is erased when we create monuments to colonizers. Monuments both share history and withhold it. They are part of our collective memory, and who we remember says a lot about us, our understanding of ourselves, and our history. This piece uses found photographs of various movements to remove Serra’s statues which act as windows into a specific moment in time. They offer alternatives to the history we are presented by interrogating what it means to unlearn, and then rewrite, the history that has been imposed on us.
“Speculative History” imagines a future utopia that has collectively reoriented its understanding of history toward an expanded, holistic view of our past and away from singular monopolies over “Truth.” Presented as a historical anatomy of the monument to General Pershing, this piece critiques the ways in which American practices of memorialization collapse complex, violent realities into glorified figures. Viewers are invited to explore the network of events, materials, processes, and myths that form both the statue and the person it represents while an audio guide provides further context.
John McLaren, known as the beloved grandfather of Golden Gate Park, was park superintendent from 1890-1947. He understood how both the complexity and beauty of nature affected our being. McLaren dedicated his life to creating an ode to nature that continues to grow far beyond his lifetime.
This scene provides a window into McLaren’s memory; both a glimpse of the past and a view of the future. The deconstructed style highlights the irony of McLaren’s monument, as he expressed a strong distaste for all monuments by planting bushes throughout the Park that would eventually grow to cover them. My hope is that we can learn to coexist with the natural world by emphasizing it through the digital. I now invite you to enjoy the scene, the day, and take some seeds to plant yourself.