This picture is a 0.8 sec exposure. The paths are captured from reflected bubbles in the water. I think I like these more than most Samefacts readers.
You wouldn’t get a blog post about plinths anywhere else, would you?
Hear me out. Memorial statuary normally consists of (a) a statue and (b) a plinth. The plinth raises the statue above street level, making it more visible. It also triggers instinctive associations of height with power, dignity and respect. It works even better if you throw in a horse, as with Lee at Charlottesville and Peter the Great in St. Petersburg.
The problem with the Confederate memorials is that they make a racist statement that the Confederate rebellion should not just be remembered, but remembered with respect and admiration. The statement depends as much on the plinth as the statue itself.
So here is a suggestion for dealing with the statues of Confederate soldiers, mass-produced in Northern foundries, that dot hundreds of public spaces in the old Confederacy:
Bring them down to street level.
In the street, they become bronze fellow-citizens, and the gullibility and racism of the men they represent can become as much a part of the civic conversation as their bravery and sacrifice. If they are unpopular, they will be defaced. If they become objects of ridicule, they will sprout frat ties, silly hats and dildos. Them’s the breaks. Let’s see how it works out.
That leaves an empty plinth or two. Don’t spend a fortune taking them away. There’s an empty one in Trafalgar Square in London: it is used for temporary exhibition. Or you can hold a competition for a statue of something or somebody that everybody wants to honour. The Northern foundries will retool to supply as many versions of Martin Luther King as the South commissions.
Footnote for art wonks
There is one striking exception to the plinth norm. When Auguste Rodin cast the famous group of the Burghers of Calais, he lost a battle with the city fathers to install them at ground level. What Rodin wanted was to replace the usual historical distancing from a tragic and violent event with immediacy, shock and empathy. He was rightly confident that the quality of his work would still make the sculpture effective. There is little risk that the mediocre Confederate statuary will compensate in the same way for being brought down to earth. The Burghers have now been brought back down, and stand on a compromise mini-plinth.
h/t Josh Holland here. Josh’s podcast has fantastic music. It also features a fantastic Sean Spicer farewell montage to the tune “The way we were.”
The Wisconsin state capitol building is quite beautiful.
For the second time in a month, Robin Pogrebin points her keyboard at the ‘crisis’ afflicting the Metropolitan Museum, and misses the central fact her sources are desperate to hide from her (and from us). The broad outlines of the situation are that the Met is going broke, bleeding money from reckless initiatives and programming it can’t afford (and, presumably, fundraising that’s falling short of hopes).Â The sums involved seem quite large, a $40m deficit and a $600m new modern art wing it can’t afford to build.Â But you would never know from Pogrebin’s reporting, and certainly not from any official Met information, that the museum owns a collection worth at least $40b, of which it shows or can ever expect to show only a tiny fraction.Â Sell, say, 2% of that off the bottom and out of musty storage (much more than 2% of the objects by count, of course), and there’s the new wing with money to spare, or an endowment that will cover the deficit forever, and the best 98% of the collection still in hand.
Better yet, the sold works would almost certainly go to buyers who will show them, like smaller museums outside NY, or even private collectors. Why can a serious reporter like Pogrebin skate right by relevant facts like this? Because museum administrators have conspired (literally, in writing themselves a code of ethics that forbids selling anything except to acquire more work) to hide that wealth from view (museums simply omit their collections from their balance sheets), and pretend that redistributing it to where it could actually provide some art engagement is some sort of moral offense against art.
It’s a wonder of the world that trustees, many of whom are tough-minded business people, go completely soft in the head when they sit in museum board meetings. If accosted by a homeless beggar saying “please help me! I’m hungry, and completely penniless. Well, except for the million-dollar art collection Dad left me, but you wouldn’t want me to sell any of that, would you?”Â I do not think Mr. Gotrocks would pony up, but he and the missus are happy to watch their museum cut programs, go on collecting art it has no space to show and no money to conserve, and run deficits, on exactly the same absurd proposition.
The film Moonlight is one of the best films Iâ€™ve seen about a young man coming of age, the roots of youth violence, and what’s behind the hard mask of so many minority youth, including those who become enmeshed in the criminal justice system. A hunger for human connection, compassion, and empathy often hides behind the hardness these young men project, underneath the Raidersâ€™ jacket, the forbidding tattoos and intimidating muscles.
One incident in Moonlight was eerily reminiscent of an episode I witnessed at age 15 as a Boy Scout. There was more than a little bullying in Boy Scouts. That was often directed at vulnerable or perceived-to-be soft or effeminate boys. For reasons that were never clear to me, I was not victimized, even though I was a tiny kid and the troopâ€™s only Jew.
The lead bully, whom I will call Steve, regularly tormented another boy, whom I will call Tim. Steve was older and larger. There realistically wasnâ€™t much Tim could do. The adults never did much to help, either. I suspect they expected Tim to stick up for himself.
One day he did. On one cold camp-out, deep in woods, Steve made some cutting comment in Timâ€™s direction. Tim suddenly grabbed a small sled and smashing it over Steveâ€™s head. Steveâ€™s blood poured from a gaping head wound onto the snow, as adults ran from all directions to staunch the bleeding.
This being late-1970s white suburbia, no one was arrested or locked up. Thatâ€™s probably for the best. I don’t know what happened to either boy in later years. Throw an off-the-shelf handgun into the mix, and this would resemble any number of Chicago homicides. It might even be labelled gang-related.
That was my first brush with potentially lethal violence perpetrated by a cornered young man defending his honor and masculinity. Every day, in my morning newspaper, I see more.
A terrible thing has happened to us. It may have just begun. After reflection, I have decided last night was the worst night of my life so far. I am not facing a personal nightmare: I have a secure job and a family, a house, financial security, and (at least for the nonce) most of my wits. But I will probably not live long enough to see things turn around, nor is it certain that they will. My daughters and my studentsÂ are at real risk, as are millions of people I don’t know but who I know are out there. Billions, actually; all the passengers on our warming spaceship. All in all, I have definitely learned how the Trump voters who sense “their world having been taken away from them” feel. Not that they are going to get that world back now; the most ill-used and vulnerable of them are going to pay a terrible price for their day of rage as they learn the iron law of Trump’s deals: his promises mean nothing to anyone including himself, and that goes extra for his promises to them.
Others have had much worse nights, including others’ last night, and they have something to tell us, about both despair and hope. We must not wallow in despair, but we must look it in the eye and recognize it. Here is a gallery of borrowed insights, more enduring and tested than a blog post. Â First, theÂ picture I cannot get out of my head, Goya’sÂ Saturn devouring his children.Â Now you too will have it forever. Â Look at Saturn’s eyes: he is not angry, or vengeful, or cruel; he is terrified. The election of 2016 was all about fear.
Next, Yeats’ anticipation of World War I (“The Second Coming”). It’s a poem; read it out loud.
When life’s fierce orbit encompassed me,
Have you kindled my heart to warm love,
And charmed me into a better world!Oft has a sigh, issuing from your harp,
A sweet, blessed chord of yours,
Thrown open the heaven of better times;
O gracious Art, for that I thank you!