GRIEF MONUMENT Karen Bermann and Jeanine Centuori
This project was originally done at the invitation of The Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City, which sponsored the “Empty Pedestals” Project calling for proposals for the re-use of statue bases throughout the five boroughs of New York City. We chose a specific site and pedestal, one that formerly held a bust of Edvard Grieg, the Norwegian composer, in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Our proposal consists of the assemblage of the re-inscribed pedestal and the newly planted grove of young trees behind it, each of which is outfitted with instruments that direct its growth over time. The inscription on the pedestal has been altered from GRIEG to GRIEF. The inscription reads: I STAND BEFORE THIS GROVE AND BEAR WITNESS TO ITS THWARTED GROWTH/SEE HERE THE IMAGE OF EACH GENERATION/WHEN WHAT BLOOMS IS BOUND FOR ITS OWN GOOD.
At the time we did this work, in the winter and spring of 1991, the
The project is not a memorial but a monument. It does not commemorate any past event. It reminds but does not remember. The pedestal is the marker for the grove; it is its frontispiece or portal and it establishes the analogy between tree and child. The grove -- each tree and the space of trees and pedestal -- is always changing, becoming more or less beautiful or more or less troubling. The instruments will not only direct the growth of the tree but will also bite into its flesh, wound it, provoke scarification,resistance, and self-protective response. At points and at times the wood will grow around the metal, both concealing and incorporating it, taking it in, making it a part of the self.
Time is a critical element in this project, as it has been in some of
We were acutely aware of the fact that many would find this proposal troubling: the perversity of redirecting tree growth and injuring the trees! Yet in fact trees and plants are disciplined all the time, sometimes for their own good (pruning) and sometimes for our pleasure (bonsai cutting). It is merely that some such strategies are socially acceptable and some are not, just as some disciplinary and childraising techniques are socially acceptable and some are not. In addition, our strategy involves empathy, which is crucial to change. Who would suffer from identification with the pain of a tree might be provoked or inspired by analogy to identify with the pain of children, those distant and voiceless beings ...
The project was always speculative and without the possibility of being built. It is obviously highly improbable as well, given the responses it would provoke. Would we build it if we had the chance? Yes. Do we love trees? We did it out of love.