Photographs are the monuments of our online visual culture

Monuments, as we tend to think of them—statues in public places, or buildings with namesakes emblasoned across their façades—are, formally speaking, a thing of the past. They hearken, of course, to olden days—the Civil War, the American Revolution, and, further back, to the prototypes of imperial Europe and ancient Rome. Monuments tend to celebrate the order that mankind has imposed on the world, and I think most of us will agree, there are achievements well worth honouring: the values of democracy, the end of slavery, universal suffrage, scientific and medical advancements, or greatness in philosophy and letters. But as we continue to question the success of these ideals, as any free society should, we find ourseles asking: what order has been achieved, and at what cost to whom? Under such conditions, the old monuments start to look not only tired but offensive. Standing there in all their bronzed confidence, they shift in meaning to memorialising not the ideals they were built to represent, but the failure of those ideals instead. …

Clearly, there is a new spatial order in relation to monuments. In the pre-modern world, before elaborate communication systems were in place, monuments sat physically in town squares or other high-traffic areas, where they were seen by anyone passing by. Today, the internet is our town square, with its websites—Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, and various news outlets—visited by billions across the planet. 

By Kevin Moore, The Art Newspaper

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