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
issue of children of war was timely (as usual), but the larger concern
of Grief Monument is the suffering of children at the hands of adults
and more specifically the sort of suffering that children undergo "for
their own good." Alice Miller, in her book "For Your Own Good,"
describes German child-rearing techniques and manuals of the recent
past which advocate "breaking" the child's nature in the interest of
"civilizing". We thought, too, of the corrective treatments that
children have undergone (and undergo) to correct or improve perceived physical deformities, many of which aim to break and/or reform patterns of growth, many of which are about beauty and propriety, many of which are crippling. The instruments in the trees are photocollages of various medical implements.

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
the most interesting "counter-memorials" of the last 25 years. In the
counter-memorial the factor of time is often a sign of the ephemeral
and fragile nature of memory. Here, though, it is a sign of persistence; the trees keep going, the instruments stay. Both change over time; theirs is a living, ongoing struggle.

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.



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