Smashing statues: the performative and archaeological dimensions of collective vandalism.
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Violence against statues and monuments as a form of radical activism is not new. However, in 2020, During Black Lives Matter protests, the media covered a series of collective iconoclastic attacks, commonly known as vandalism, where more than five hundred statues and memorials around the world were defaced, modified, or destroyed by artists and activist citizens. The topple down of Colston statue in Bristol culminated in the exhibition of its remains at the local history archive, Mshed Museum, where the formation of archaeology through performative violence is observed. To investigate this formation, it is questioned how vandalism, as a situated, subversive social performance, can provide potential insights into our experience with the past when visiting museums. Performance theory and notions of archaeology seek to elucidate heritage formation through subversive social performances. Dramaturgical analysis, usually applied to art performances, allows the mapping and interpretation of all the possible theatrical means employed in the configuration of the topple down of a statue as a social performance, extending its lenses to the display and archival of survival remains in an institutional context. In the last decades, community and identity crises have faced museums, putting into question their definition and societal relevance. Here, curatorial practices come to the fore in the reassemble and recontextualization of the performance of the past. Thus it holds museums accountable for how these curatorial statements are displayed. The interdisciplinarity found in the case study at stake is seen as significant to foment the insights this research aims to reach. As argued, both performative and archaeological dimensions of vandalism are, ultimately, social and cultural constructions of reality. Its study is considered essential for enriching our experience with past-present narratives and the formation of contemporary society.