A historic first, CIRCA and Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters present A Monument A Ruin by Cassandra Press, a publishing platform founded in 2016 by critically acclaimed artist Kandis Williams. The new work – a short video-lecture in which ancient street inscriptions collide with contemporary protest graffiti to question the nature of monuments – will appear every evening throughout February at 20:22 on London’s iconic Piccadilly Lights and broadcast across a network of screens in Melbourne, Seoul and Tokyo.
In the wake of Black Lives Matter’s global uprisings in 2020, the use and symbology of graffiti in public spaces have taken on new and powerful significance prompting an urgent reflection on the meaning and manifestation of “collective history” in the public domain, particularly in the context of modern monuments, memorials and statues tied to slavery and colonialism.
A Monument A Ruin draws on the recovery by archaeologists of an exceptional amount of tituli picti – an ancient form of urban graffiti, including slogans and electoral propaganda (programmata) – painted across the streets of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, buried under volcanic ashes in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. These inscriptions provide a dense narrative of the daily concerns of Pompeian society, including the political agency of groups such as women and slaves who were not permitted to vote.
In Cassandra Press’ new commission for CIRCA, the ancient street markings are overlaid with contemporary issues of political agency and visibility of socially oppressed groups in today’s Western societies. Evolving from Williams’ participation in Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters – the first research and contemporary art program commissioned by the Archaeological Park of Pompeii -, A Monument A Ruin constructs a complex composite of layered photographs, footage, texts and audio that unravel with movement and dialogue to bridge the past and present into simultaneous focus. Photographer Brandon English collaborated with Cassandra Press on a new series of photographs shot in situ at Pompeii over two nights in Summer 2021, projecting his visual accounts of the protests and assemblies in 2020 by New York abolitionist groups onto different buildings and frescoes in Pompeii, and now appearing on buildings around the world this February.
In keeping with the CIRCA 2022 manifesto “AND NOW WE BUILD WORLDS“, this timely new work questions what new possibilities can emerge out of the ruins of monuments passed.
“Cassandra Press’ new work builds a bridge spanning almost 2,000 years between ancient Pompeian programmata and contemporary protest graffiti to help us in understanding ruptures as generative opportunities for change. What began as a research project in Pompeii has developed into a global public art commission. A Monument A Ruin examines political agency in public space, past and present, and we are incredibly proud to be able to present this timely commission on the CIRCA platform, broadcasting around the world this February. We are grateful to Kandis Williams for her vision, Brandon English for his photos and Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters for this historic collaboration.”
– Josef O’Connor, Artistic Director of CIRCA
“The new work A Monument A Ruin by Cassandra Press is a testament to Pompeii’s contemporaneity as a living and transformative heritage site, revealing traces of human concerns that cross through millennia and echo in our present time. Innovative investigations by international artists, such as Kandis Williams, are truly fundamental to nurturing the contemporary value of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii as an active research centre generating and sharing new knowledge that gives a voice to audiences worldwide and to contemporary life. We are pleased to collaborate with CIRCA, whose global platform reflects the values of inclusivity and communitarian participation pursued in all our activities and programs.”
– Gabriel Zuchtriegel, Director General of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii
“We are thrilled to see Cassandra Press’ new work come to life as the culmination of a year-long collaborative journey that started with the launch of the new contemporary art program at the Archaeological Park of Pompeii. We are grateful to Kandis Williams for her bold ideas, which place the unique Pompeian heritage in dialogue with the urgent global conversations of our time. Introducing Brandon English’s photographs into the nocturnal landscape of the archaeological site produced a new visual symbology, one that empowers Pompeii with the trans-temporal, phenomenological possibility to be a testimony and a rupture at once. Presenting these visual compositions on CIRCA’s public screens worldwide, at the heart of modern cities, provides an opportunity to further reflect on the links between the Pompeian programmata and contemporary graffiti, as highlighted by Cassandra Press’ innovative research.”
– Stella Bottai, Co-Curator of Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters