Sam Durant: Iconoclasm

An open art exhibition in locations around the Colchester campus.

For thousands of years monuments have been constructed by one culture, only to be removed by another as attitudes, beliefs and structures of power shift and change. The culture wars are nothing new.

All around the University of Essex from Thursday 16 February to Friday 24 March 2023 are sited Sam Durant’s large scale drawings from the series Iconoclasm, depicting acts of destruction enacted upon public statues and monuments. Based  on images found in various historic sources – such as newspaper and television reports – Sam Durant focuses on moments of disruption, and calls on current debates about how we relate to these potent symbols placed in public spaces.

Infiltrating the squares, paths and buildings of campus, the drawings document fleeting yet significant moments of historical change. Now reproduced and increased in scale, their appearance within the campus community draws attention to questions of representation: who gets to occupy these spaces – and who gets to be heard? While the University of Essex is yet to mount a statue in one of its squares, these central spaces are where our community has come together for over 50 years during protests and demonstrations; those highly charged moments when students want to create change and build alternative futures.

Iconoclasm is also brought together for a display in the Albert Sloman Library.

Download the site guide and tour the exhibition.

Sam Durant: Iconoclasm

Sam Durant (born 1961, USA,) is a multimedia artist whose works engage with social, political, and cultural issues.

His interest in monuments began with ‘Proposal for Monument’ at Altamont Raceway (1999), continued with ‘Proposal for White and Indian Dead Monument Transpositions’ (2005) that recontextualises memorials to victims of the conquest of North America, and more recently with Proposal for a Public Fountain (2015) a marble work depicting an anarchist statue being blasted by water canon.

Sam Durant’s work has been included in numerous international exhibitions including Documenta 13, the Yokohama Triennial,  and the Venice, Liverpool, Whitney Sydney, Panama and Havana Biennials. His work can be found in many public art collections including Tate Modern, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.


Image: Accra, 1966. By Sam Durant, 2018.

© Sam Durant, Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo

Photo: Makenzie Goodman