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C A L E B   D U A R T E
The Monument as Living Memory


As COVID-19 forced us inside, arts institutions were tasked with the challenge of creating socially distant art experiences for communities to engage with outside of their shuttered galleries. Beyond the institutions, artists flocked to the new streetside canvases of boarded up businesses to paint images of essential workers, reclaim public spaces to call out for equity and liberation in the name of George Floyd and so many others, and to attempt to create some sense of community as bodies continued to be forced to distance.

The boards, meant to remove access and close up, have become spaces to open—open for dialogue, for creativity, and for public voice. This creative action is synonymous with the aesthetics of revolt, a colorful celebration of resistance, endurance, beauty, and community self-determination. Inspired by this movement, artist Caleb Duarte brings together artists and collectives from across the Bay Area to build a reflection of ourselves, of this moment, through an architectural intervention that is as ever-changing as the world we live in.


The Monument as Living Memory illustrates the closure, dismantling, and restructuring of institutions, the toppling of monuments, and the uprising of a palpable collective spirit across our country. Taking form as a larger-than-life board in the public space, this work echoes the simultaneous temporary closure of YBCA’s galleries and opening of a platform for public voice. Within the board lies a distinct cut out in the shape of a monument, asking audiences to question what is behind the shadows, what is haunting us, and how can art and art institutions work towards its dismantlement.For eight months, Duarte invited Bay Area artists and collectives to bring new revisions, additions, and cover ups every two weeks. Now in the work’s second chapter, invited artists will continue to transform this evolving artwork through 2021. The iterative nature of the work allows for artists to respond with the same urgency, responsiveness, and passion that we see within the communities marching in the streets, creating murals, and demanding for a better, more just world.The Monument as Living Memory is one of the many YBCA initiatives reimagining how we can safely bring our community together in-person once again. Experience the work 24/7. Always free. No appointment necessary.


Inside the Aesthetics of Revolt: Caleb Duarte's
The Monument as Living Memory

By Fionna Ball

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The Monument as Living Memory
A Collective Architectural Intervention led by Caleb Duarte


Unpacking the Aesthetics of Revolt with Caleb Duarte
By Martin Strickland

YBCA Mural Gives SF Something to Talk About
"Monument as Living Memory takes inspiration from Guerilla art of the city's boarded up store fronts.

"Day Labor" workers paint Black Lives Matter.
As I recently arrived from Tijuana Mexico where we were working on a performative Sculptural project in collaboration with families living at refugee tent camps at the US/Mexico border, I thought of the connection between this evidence of survival by Central American families to that of Black Lives Matter. I decided to drive to the Mission district in San Francisco to reach out to three "day labor" workers to help me paint BLACK LIVES MATTER over the existing Monument as a Living Memory. We used a subtle dark black and grey hidden color pallet to mark the words to reflect on a disappearing or erasing of the text. The fading color suggests a softening of the movement, a subtle erasure as to not fully confront the urgent paradigm shifts needed to address the harsh and violent histories of the United States the Americas. It also served as a reminder of how institutional structures use cultural movements/ re-package them to reduce its impact and soften the urgent need for change; whether it be through the commercialization of the aesthetics of revolt, co-opted aesthetics by artist and art institutions, and/or the marketing of its images for capital gain and attractive branding. The faded Black Lives Matter leaning wall painted by anonymous underground labor now becomes a rather performative sculptural act that addresses some root cause of the violence against black and brown indigenous bodies, its continuing use of an “invisible” and exploited labor, in underground economies through back door hidden entrances.

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Irene Shiori | October 23, 2020

Tattoo artist and activist Irene Shiori contributes a public message on the eve of the 2020 Presidential Elections. A short directive—Vote Now, Cry Later— reminds viewers that we all have an action to take in this moment of divisive political history. Irene uses spray paint to create a colorful, pointed statement in a style that references Chicanx-style tattoo art that has inspired her tattoo and mural work for years.

Vote Now, Cry Later comes from “smile now, cry later,” a Chicano saying on seeing life as both a tragedy and comedy, originally taken from Greek mythology and popularized by incarcerated tattoo artists. Too often, communities in struggle and resistance have to choose to “smile” in order to move forward through difficult times; to hide our suffering until we are out of the systems of incarceration and in the arms of our loved ones.

To smile now is to say we have no time for despair, we must show up, we must vote, and we must be part of the cultural and political shift in our society. We can cry later.

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