In 1989, a group of veteran activists organized the Berkeley Art Project to create a monument marking the 25th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement. Mark Brest van Kempen’s conceptual proposal won the elaborate national competition and dialogue. It is a 6-inch diameter circle of earth surrounded by a granite circle that reads, “This soil and the air space extending above it shall not be a part of any nation and shall not be subject to any entity’s jurisdiction.”
Remarkably, the Berkeley University administration only accepted the monument on the condition that any reference at all to the Free Speech Movement be stricken from the work and any surrounding publicity.
A podcast I’d never heard of but really like now, 99% Invisible, has the story of the Free Speech Monument, and an interview with the artist.
For added perspective, check out the 1992 statement by FSM leader Michael Rossman, who opposed the selection of a conceptualist monument–until Berkeley’s president added to its conceptual power by censoring it:
If this story be remembered as part of the work, it will stand for the ages, or until a censorious jackhammer erases it from the Plaza. A century hence, our descendants may read the truth written in stone: What happened here in 1964 was so significant and so deeply contested that nearly thirty years later the university administration still would not permit faculty and students to honor its name, but instead insisted on censoring their political expression. In this perversely perfect monument to the FSM, they may read a larger truth applying far beyond the campus: that the issues opened in that conflict and era, of civil liberties and rights, had still not been resolved, but continued deeply contested.
The Invisible Monument To Free Speech [99percentinvisible.org via someone awesome I can’t remember who, but probably Geoff Manaugh, since he’s the subject of the previous episode]
The Berkeley Art Project, by Michael Rossman [mrossman.org]