As the UK navigates seismic shifts triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, environmental crises and Brexit, the role of monuments has been brought into sharp focus, becoming the centre of public debate. Testament was a large-scale group exhibition across the entirety of the CCA building, staged in response to this tumultuous period.
Artists were invited to make proposals that consider what is at stake in tearing down and erecting monuments, and what it might mean to rethink the idea of the monument. Are they defunct, illusory statements of permanence, continuity, and manifestations of power? Whose narratives do they preserve, and whose do they suppress? Can they still play a vital role in mediating communal grief and providing a locus for memory? Is there space for them to be re-envisioned?
The exhibition featured 'proposal' artworks by 47 artists, including those who are either resident in the UK, and those who are abroad but hold an understanding of the UK's complex relationship with the past and present. Their contributions unambiguously or indirectly addressed the idea of a monument, or alluded to the treatment of monuments in the UK in 2022, and sought to magnify a multitude of conversations, from discussions about decolonising institutions, fallism, dislocation, memorialising, remembering and forgetting, to our current relationship with history, along with some intimate and personal responses. Submissions incorporated notes and sketches, drawings, poems, instructions, installations, sculptures, paintings, films, performances, and text, and included critical and celebratory positions and conversations about coping and surviving, ranging from the individual to the universal, and the local to the national.