Extracted from a curatorial statement by Steven Lam for the show “Spectral Evidence” at 1A Space, Hong Kong:
In Horizon (2010), Srestha Rit Premnath has culled images from photo sharing websites of several Christopher Columbus monuments in the Americas. Upon first glance the photographs appear to be self-evident, but upon closer inspection one finds that the statues are missing. Sections of the images are painstakingly cloned, creating a seamless camouflage that obfuscates the figure of Columbus. Through the statue’s disappearance attention is redirected to the pedestal and the ornamentation, sculptural figures, and inscribed text that adorn it – details often overlooked in tourist pictures.
While public monuments are erected to commemorate a specific historical event, there is a politics in preserving a defined past that does not throw the present in chaos. By stabilizing the past and emplotting it in a linear causality, monuments naturalize history, marking and fixing chronological time. As the artist has written, “monuments can be seen as a cipher, simultaneously absent and present. After all, the word monument is derived from the word monere, ‘to remind,’ already containing within it the fear of forgetting.”
Through repetition and erasure Horizon further destabilizes the mythologizing tendency of the memorial by reproducing a sentence written in Christopher Columbus’ travel journal: “We went south west until we learned that what we had thought was land was only the sky.” These images document impossible memorials that function neither as commemoration nor marker, but strange enigmatic signs and declarations stripped from their original graven context.