In April 2016, a two-story bronze statue of Nelson Mandela is inaugurated at “Mandela Square” in Ramallah. A gift from the mayor of Johannesburg to the people of Palestine, the monument is received with a state’s ceremony, celebrating the history of solidarity between the two nations. At the event, a cameraman wonders to himself: if a statue of Yasser Arafat were erected in Johannesburg, what color would his suit be?
A year later, a cultural festival in Norway has announced a “monument competition.” In celebration of its 100-year anniversary, UKA is seeking proposals for a public sculpture. Shortly before the deadline, a group of art students submit an application by email, proposing a replica of Ramallah’s Mandela, to be installed outside the student union in Trondheim later that Fall.
A monument proposed presents the research that produced that application, outlining the beginnings of an odd triangle linking Palestine to South Africa, onto Norway and back again. The connection between the first two is better understood, and embedded in the gifted monument. Mandela’s towering presence in Ramallah recalls a shared history of anti-colonial struggle, handshaking leaders, and racist regimes. Viewed in Norway, the statue reveals other links, to neoliberal transition, human rights discourse, and international boycott.
Against indeterminacy, this exhibition traces the life of a proposal, for a monument that cannot be. But it is also a proposal itself – a series of suggestions pointing toward a plan, solidified in a space somewhere before realization.