The Common Guild is pleased to present Sam Durant’s Iconoclasm—a series of drawings depicting acts of destruction enacted upon public statues and monuments. The works will be installed across multiple outdoor sites in the city of Glasgow, as part of this year’s Glasgow International Festival.
Based on images gleaned from various historical and contemporary sources, including newspapers and television reports, Durant’s graphite drawings render moments of intense disruption and call on current debates about how we relate to symbols in public space. Produced here as large-scale billboards and street posters, the 14 original graphite drawings use a fugitive, labor-intensive form to document fleeting yet significant moments of historical change, commemorating the action. Their appearance in various sites around the city draws attention to questions of representation on our streets: who gets to occupy them and why.
Scenes depicted include religiously motivated acts of destruction from sixteenth-century European Protestants to contemporary Islamic fundamentalism; politically and culturally motivated acts of image-breaking such as the 1871 toppling of the Column Vendome in Paris, in which the artist Gustav Courbet participated, and against communist statues in Europe and Africa; the cultural revolution in China; removals of colonial statues in the Caribbean, Central and South America; and nationalist uprisings of 1956 in Hungary and Egypt, among others.
First exhibited in Detroit at Library Street Collective in 2019, and then at Blum & Poe, Los Angeles in 2020, Durant’s drawings are a reminder of the notion of a living history, reflecting humanity’s need to celebrate and commemorate, as well as the compulsion to destroy symbols of a past that come to be in conflict with current attitudes, concerns and awareness. The works are all the more resonant today, in light of the recent and ongoing debates about public statuary, nowhere more so than here in the UK, where so many of our celebrated monuments commemorate battles fought on foreign soil and the repressive colonial actions of the British Empire. Given the current global rise in political polarization, religious extremism and nationalism, this work presents a critical opportunity to explore humanity’s relationship with the symbols of the past and how to address them as society changes, as well as ways of reflecting on present-day image-making.
The project and its associated events will be part of this year’s Glasgow International Festival, taking place June 11-27, 2021.