Making Sense: Introduction

Making Sense presents more recent work by artists contemplating the presence of monuments in the American landscape. While An-My Lê, Michael Mergen and Matthew Shain have photographed across the United States and abroad, they repeatedly return to the South and the fraught history of the American Civil War. All three are outsiders to this context, hailing from Northern and West Coast cities. Their meditative images do not judge or draw conclusions, but present us with unedited views of the monuments – or what’s left of them – at a moment in time.

The subtitle for this section, Making Sense, is inspired by Lê’s own interpretation of her work, as quoted in The British Journal of Photography. “There is no conclusion, and, if there was a conclusion, it would be that there is no conclusion,” she says. “Instead, it is about engaging people and making them reconsider something, or opening up new avenues of thought, which they can continue down alone.”

Lê’s words remind us that the journey is just as important as the destination. Things do not always make sense – and sometimes cannot. But where does that leave us? How do we make sense of monuments today, in 2020? The onus is on us to unpack and think critically about the decades and even centuries of complicated histories embodied in these figures of stone and steel.