Karyn Olivier: The Battle is Joined: Vernon Park, Philadelphia
“I think a monument is a living, breathing entity that commemorates, acknowledges, reconsiders, reimagines, and investigates the past, and its implications for the future and the now,” says artist Karyn Olivier. For Monument Lab, she created The Battle Is Joined, a monument that revealed through the act of concealing, using mirrored surfaces that asked visitors to interact with multiplicity, simultaneity, and a lack of resolution.
Vernon Park is the site of two monuments, the Battle of Germantown Memorial and Pastorius Monument, commemorating, respectively, the liberation of the American colonies from British rule and the attempted liberation of slaves led by Germantown founder Francis Daniel Pastorius. The Pastorius Monument has been boxed in several times because of concern over whether the imagery was truly American, and Olivier referenced this history with The Battle Is Joined, boxing in the Battle of Germantown Memorial with a mirrored structure that echoed the sculpture underneath. Instead of fading into the background, as the sites we pass every day often do, this temporary monument reflected the ever-shifting neighborhood—allowing people to see themselves and their humanity in its surface, making the marble beneath more alive and physical than ever, a constant reconsideration, an answer to the question of what a “true” America looks like.