Discomfort » Reading Response 3

1 minute read

There’s an interesting juxtaposition between the fallout of Sam Durant’s “Scaffold” in Minnesota and one of the premises behind the design of the The National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

The decision to turn over to the Dakota people all materials and intellectual property rights pertaining to Durant’s sculpture was an acknowledgement that historically contested narratives should not be told on others’ behalf. Apologies were proffered, the piece was dismantled, and the materials surrendered. But for some, the outcome seemed lacking in accountability:

Cournoyer also expressed frustration with Sam Durant receiving credit for his apology and subsequent actions, including transferring his intellectual property rights for the piece to the Dakota. “Meanwhile he walks off — you know he’s been paid in full,” Cournoyer said. “He’s got this street cred now. In his head, he’s super benevolent. It’s a win-win-win for everybody.”

Contrast this with The National Memorial for Peace and Justice:

The memorial is more than a static monument. In the six-acre park surrounding the memorial is a field of identical monuments, waiting to be claimed and installed in the counties they represent. Over time, the national memorial will serve as a report on which parts of the country have confronted the truth of this terror and which have not.

Here too, a physical structure imbued with unimaginable pain and trauma. Here too, possession of a construct is fated to pass from one party to another. The difference being in Minnesota the construct was relinquished for purposes of its disposal, whereas the National Memorial for Peace and Justice has designed a transfer of ownership through which the receiving party claims accountability.

When it comes to acknowledging historical atrocities, which is the more transformative act: ceding ownership or taking ownership?