In modern society theinterpretation of the term monumental are objects that are great in size andvery emphasised, nonetheless in the language of art the content of monumental isa piece of art which is not only great in size, acquiring the qualities ofbeing larger than life but having great significance to historically meaning.
The culture of art has always been to portray history anduncover the clandestine historical meaning to society but also bearing thecharacteristics and interests of the artist so they can be socially identifiedby viewers. Likewise, many contemporary artists establish their art work onfactors such as; culture, slavery, race, racism, gender etc. The two art practitionersthat best illustrate the theme of monumental and will be looked at in thisessay are Kara Walker and Lubaina Himid. Both practitioners are very different,but within their style and genre of art, both based their artisticallyproduction on the history of coloured people. (Ref from quote- http://www.azquotes.com/quote/803267)Walkerquoted ‘I think really the whole problem with racismand its continuing legacy in this country is that we simply love it.
Who wouldwe be without the struggle?’ Through scrutinizing this quote, it could beconcluded that Walkers concept on slavery and racism built people of colour; itmanufactured who they are today. Walkerthen put her beliefs and historical knowledge into the language of art, creatinga sculpture called the “Sugar Subtlety” along with fifteen sculptures of little boys called the”Banana Boys.” The factualidea of the Sugar Subtlety is not just to educate viewers on the obscure meaningof slavery but to encourage the public to review elements that are so visiblein society which many people wish were almost forbidden to speak about. These bodieshave influenced the public to make these factors invisible such as; immigration,migration, and the mythologizing of black women’s bodies.
The Sugar Subtlety isnot just ambitious in its term of content; the use of public art creates aspace to engage in theses difficult conversations. There are a variety of different historicalfactors that make up the Subtlety, however all these factors primarily link toslavery and ancient Egyptian history although there are a few components linkedto problems in society. Sugar Subtlety is an elaborate sort of marzipan or sugarsculpture made of sugar paste which is a type of fondant. Furthermore, in thehistory of the mid evil times at the court of King Henry when kings and queenswould throw large banquets, they would have a main course and the guests would theneat the sugar sculpture.
Digesting this sweet desirable substance could havebeen seen as symbolic to these people as they were almost ingesting the powerof the king. The reasoning as to why sugar was so momentous in sight of Walkerwas because it all correlated to slavery as slaves were sold for sugar andsugar for slaves. Many African slaveswere moved from Africa to the West Indies to labour on sugar plantations duringthe 17th and 18th centuries. Having this industry and theslave trade made many British ports and merchants that were in involvedremarkably wealthy. British sugar consumption was 4 pounds per person, due tothe popularity of sugar to sweeten luxury drinks such as tea and coffee. Thisgrew dramatically to 18 pounds per person. The logic to why sugar was such adesirable substance in Britain was because before the slave plantains sugar wasonly for the rich.
In 1750 sugar was the most valuable commodity in Europeantrade, it made up a fifth of all European imports. The slave traders believedthat the most adequate method of growing sugar was on large plantations withmany workers, this became the main plantation system in the Caribbean.Conditions on the plantations were extremely harsh therefore the life expectancy of slaveswas only three years.
Due to a lack of labour in the Caribbean, a vast amountof Africans were then imported into the Caribbean including children, women andthe elderly. Going back to Walkers quote the word ‘struggle’ and ‘wouldn’t be who we are’ correspond to both the sugar plantations aswell as monumental and the idea of use of sugar for her subtlety. Walker hasgone beyond these words, Walker symbolizes that only the strongest of slavessurvived through the struggle they endured. This links to the term monumentalin the language of art as she goes in depth with history. This evidence isproven in her work of art the sugar subtlety as not only does she use history to get her views to understand the logic behind her work, however she also useshistory in her speeches so views can get a better intellectual understanding ofthe theory behind her art work through listen and visualising her sculptures.
The domino sugar factory took on an extremely ambitioustask, principally taking on a large part of the work. These unpaid and overworked artisans took our sweet taste of sugar and materialist it for the use ofWalkers project, in addition to this the domino factory used 330 foam blockswhich was carved to perfection by Digital Atelier and a group of sculptors. Oncethe body of the subtlety was in place it was then camouflaged with 35 tons ofwhite sugar, as a result the circumference of subtlety was 35 foot tall, 75foot long and 40 feet wide the exhibit consists; a women wearing a kerchief ofa Mothers character, a coloured southern African American women whose dutieswere to look after white children the monumental naked women had black Africanfeatures; nose that were quite wide and lips that were full she was perched andhad a large body. The life size sculpture was very mythical bearing African andEgyptian features. The reasoning to why I state Egyptian is because thesubtlety is like the carvings leading up to an Egyptian hallway. ‘Egyptian’ and’Slaves’ if we dig deeper and go in depth within history we’ll come to aconclusion that the Egyptians were the ones who invented slavery as they wouldforce labour for royalty resources this forms a relationship with the slavetrade and African American history . It took 9weeks to create this monumental project, 210volunteers and 32 crew members,at the Domino Sugar Factory,one of New York City’s architectural icons, dominates the waterfront of Williamsburg, Brooklyn(1-33 S 1st St, Brooklyn NY 11249).
Theenvironment walker chose is very symbolic as it blends in with the subjectmatter because the spaces that hosts Walkers sculpture were covered in historythe walls were the Domino factory was one of the largest sugar refinery in theworld since the year 1882, it was even used to store raw sugar cane as itarrived from the Caribbean plantations for refinement and packaging.