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September 15, 2005

They'll "Modify" Crescent of Embrace "Memorial"

We'll see.

It should be noted that the families -- yes, the families -- previously expressed concern about the crescent design, specifically about calling it "the Crescent of Embrace." The idiots in charge, and the architecht, refused even a name change to "Arc of Embrace" and the like. They wanted that crescent in the title.

So I'm having trouble believing he'll be very willing to change the crescent shape itself.

I've been fuming about the bigger issue for a while-- why must our public monuments be these dreary abstract bits of ugly avant-gardism which appeal only to a tiny clique of elites? Why cannot public art please the, you know, public?

Everything's either these outsized geometric spectacles that provoke only the question, "Jeepers, I wonder who got the idea to put up 6000 pounds of steel into the shape of a featureless cube?" Or else-- nihilistic po-mo whimsy.

Like those goddamned cows we had all over New York six or eight years ago. Don't ask. Oh wait, you didn't, but I'll tell you anyway. See, they were cows. They were painted all sorts of crazy ways by idiot artists. They were supposed to be whimsical and charming, like Alice in Wonderland. They were instead ugly and stupid like The Turner Diaries.

Again, the only question "provoked" was along the lines of "What kind of Einstein-level con artist got the grant for these noxious pieces of shit, and can I possibly hire him to do my taxes?"

And, quite frankly, I bet 75% of the tastemaking cultural elites don't like this crap either; they're just not confident enough in their own true sense of aesthetics to argue against group opinion).

The elites don't like statuary of people. It's passe, they say; we have enough statues of men on horseback. Do we? I rather like equestrian statues. Call me a philistine, but yes, I do admire looking at a piece of art and thinking that it looks like something else to be found in the natural world or the world of man.

The elites have a stronger religious stricture against public display of graven human images than the most wild-eyed Wahhabists do. It's a set of mistaken beliefs of "good taste" that has hardened into something approaching religious dogma.

I am tired of always being "provoked" and "challenged" by art. I'm not saying that such art is valueless; there's a lot of good such art. Not everything can be Velvet Elvis, after all. But I am speaking about art in public venues. For the love of everything holy, in public, as I walk to the store or to work, need I be intellectually challenged by a giant pyramid copulating with a pink torus? As big a fan of H.P. Lovecraft as I might be, does every "public" work of art need to feature strange geometries undream'd of even on planet Yuggoth?

Need I always be provoked in public? Can I never be simply reassured in my daily public travels, and have something pleasant to look at?

Apparently not.

James Lileks says all this better than I ever could. I'll quote here and there, but there's not a single word of it not worth reading.

The [Crescent of Embrace] monument goes along with other sins of commission -- the tortured, everybody's-a-sinner museum proposed for the Ground Zero site, the tentative, Euro-styled Trade Center replacement that avoids any notes of bravado or American style, the palpable relief at the major networks that four years had passed and they didn't have to waste valuable advertising time on Sunday night with some bummer recollections of, you know, that.

It's not a red state-blue state issue. There are plenty of liberals who have no time for weepy self-criticism sessions and heal-the-planet memorials.

It is, to use a tiresome sobriquet, a matter of elites vs. the rest of the country -- specifically, the artistic sentiment of the elites, which has become so disconnected from the rest of the populace they cannot imagine what else to do but slather the land with abstractions and wind chimes. A statue? Of the people who died? Why, you might as well put a NASCAR track on the site.

Not a bad idea. The endless track represents futility and inability to think of new global conflict-avoidance paradigms. The air will be thick with the exhaust -- of shame.

You want a grant for that? Apply to the Heinz Foundation. They helped fund the Crescent, after all.

As Lilkes notes, no, we don't need a big statute of the Flight 93 passengers ramming a dinner-cart through a door. We don't need to be quite that literal.

But can the heroism of a group of strangers -- of Americans -- coming together to save the lives of their fellow human beings dare be expressed in something less symbolic, and perhaps more vigorous, than red trees and lilting windchimes?

And on that-- why is always our assumptions which need to be provoked?

Can we have a monument to the brave dead of Flight 93 which shows them in cool reflection as they decide to make their attack? Huddled together as they collectively decide to give their lives to spare others? And just before they mount the first battle in the war on terrorism?

And yes, engraved at the base of the statue, the rallying cry: "Let's roll."

Ahhhh... but such a tribute would "provoke" and "challenge" the wrong people-- the tastemaking elites who presume to rule us. Their beliefs and assumptions are never to be provoked or challenged, always to be reassured and reinforced by their preferred sorts of meaningless symbolic nothingnesses. It is we who need to be shaped and scolded like schoolchildren; it is they who wield the rulers.

If provoking and challenging are so very important to human growth-- hey, Paul Murdoch, maybe you should let us provide the same service to you for once.

Parting Shot: Art turned bad when the emphasis turned from craft to "concept."


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posted by Ace at 01:41 AM

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