Sunday, August 28, 2011

More on the MLK Memorial

Previous posting at. From an "anonymous" comment on Princess Sparkle Pony's Photo Blog:

"The most 'Stalinist' element in the MLK statue on the Mall in Washington DC is that it depicts Martin as someone who wants to indoctrinate (as if by hypnosis) rather than communicate. This is not the man who gave us the 'I have a Dream' speech which I, for one, cannot listen to (as I have innumerable times) without deep emotion, if not, quite frankly, tears. This crude depiction of an inspiring leader with profound religious roots creates an enormous psychological distance between the viewer and what she/he's looking at.

You feel you have to genuflect before the King altar (in my case, I would with great trepidation, given how awful it looks; I'd rather kneel before the Pietà,

a real work of art).

Now, the fact that the sculptor is Chinese [wasn't it a Frenchman who designed the statue of liberty? -- JB note] is quite irrelevant (I suspect one of the reasons he was chosen was that he was neither white or black, a politically "safe" choice). But what is pertinent is that the artist (he really doesn't deserve the honor of that name) clearly doesn't evoke in his work the subtlety and fragility of being human -- or the American historical context. MLK looks like a stern, ideologically-committed leader in the Chinese/Russian revolution, as depicted by state-supported art workers following the Party's dictates. There is little, in my view, that is 'American' in this statue (e.g., our constant experimentation with who we are and could/should be, our lack of a firm identity which provides such hope for the future) -- or that evokes the tumultuous epoch which Dr. King did so much to shape positively (yes, positively; here I take a political stance) in a humane and non-violent way.

This tasteless horror in granite is an appalling, cheap (despite its price tag) propaganda piece of stone -- it should never be called a work of art -- to have on the Mall, which, as I understand it, is dedicated to the aspirations of American democracy. Rather than opening the past to the present, it encloses it in a lapidary, dare I say totalitarian silence. As I look at it, I think of (with considerable regret) Shelley's poem Ozymandias,

a sad reminder that America, if left to those who wish to glorify, Stalinist-style, its leaders, rather than understand and remember them for who they (and we) are as imperfect human beings, may go the way of ancient Egypt."

Top image from; middle image from; below image from, with caption: The 'Younger Memnon' statue of Ramesses II in the British Museum thought to have inspired the [Ozymandias] poem

1 comment:

Madeline Riley said...

I agree with the author of this piece.