Mobile Monuments

Chicago, IL, 7/19-22/07

Action: 3 separate tango interventions at the sites of 3 historical markers in downtown Chicago: Haymarket Memorial at DesPlaines and Randolph, Balbo Memorial near the terminus of Balbo Street in Grant Park, Sullivan Stock Exchange Arch on construction site of Art Institute new Modern Wing at the corner of Columbus and Monroe.

Dancers: Anda Iamnitchi, Nicolas Kourtellis, Robert Lawrence, Dessi Nacheva

Documentation: Robert Lawrence, Tiberiu Stef-Praun

Thanks to: Mary Brogger for making a fine Haymarket Memorial Sculpture, and to Julie Bachrach of the Chicago Park District for generous research assistance with this series.

Notes: This series of Tango Interventions in Chicago are all conceived in relation to public sculpture. I have in the past resolutely resisted the overt making of 'art about art', but this time I simply could not resist. What I am interested in with this series is putting the social valances of tango against the valances of public memorials to look in new ways at ideas of permanence and transience, time and power. All the sculptures addressed in this series have a 'patchy past'. They have all been literally "shuffled about" in response to political and/or economic forces - in a delightful contradiction of the accepted notion that a public memorial is meant to be ever-enduring. Dance by contrast only exists in the moment. A social dance that is improvisational like tango is even more fleeting than ballet or other art dance that can be preserved with choreographic notes or labanotation. I felt a keen pleasure in performing these act of transience before these temporally tottering pieces of stone masquerading as permanence.

Doing the research for this series I remembered when I was working long ago as a temp on the art crew at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington DC, installing an exhibition about Louis the 14th. The museum director decided to supervise the moving of a 3 foot long bronze foot of Louis—the only remaining piece of an equestrian sculpture that had been torn down during the French revolution. The director may have known how to direct a gallery, but he did not know anything about directing the safe movement of very heavy pieces of metal. Several of the crew were almost seriously injured in the process. When it was over I was looking at that blasted bronze foot and thinking, 'yeah, well Lou, you were great but now you're dead.' Then I thought, 'uh huh, Louis is dead...and we are still working for him'. The power structures inherent in each of these 3 public sculptures are all very interesting to consider relative to the passage of time.

For more information on specific sites and documentation of each of these Tango Interventions please click the links below. For additional historical context please follow the external links at the bottom of the page.

Haymarket Memorial

Sullivan Stock Exchange Arch

Balbo Memorial

Haymarket Tragedy