Remembrance vs Reverence

Per Marquard Otzen, The Stymphalian Birds, September 5, 2011.
The man-eating birds with beaks of bronze, the creation of Ares, the god of war
 in Greek Mythology, along with the Danish Queen Margrethe II,
all of them ready to receive our fear and reverence.

"These monuments celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for". 

Earlier this year the Mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu had four monuments removed from public space, each of the four celebrating the Confederacy, the cause of which was lost in the Civil War. 

A movement known as The Lost Cause of the Confederacy, consisting of white supremacists had the monuments erected in the century following the Civil War, in the words of Mitch Landrieu:

Per Marquard Otzen, The Stymphalian Birds, September 5, 2011.
Their defeat was one of the hero Heracles' Twelve Labours.
"And after the Civil War these monuments were part of that terrorism as much as burning a cross on someone's lawn. They were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in the shadows about who was still in charge in this city".

His words form part of a strong speech Mitch Landrieu gave on May 19, 2017. Seeing the White House is unable to confront itself on its own rhetoric, let alone its key voters, let us listen to the Mayor after the violent white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville. His speech is of particular interest to this blog defining how and especially why art matter:

Monuments form part of our public space and as such they define how we are supposed to see each other. They are efficient at hiding what took place by creating another presence before us. 

Monuments are not relics. They are not sacred items to be revered at all costs. Someone put them there for a reason. That reason may have a great ideal as its starting-point. Then again, it may just be a self-serving one. 

History cannot be removed, but monuments are not history. They are interpretations of it and must as such be up for questioning. Why place the Confederacy on a pedestal, when it "lost and we are better for it?" as Mitch Landrieu puts it. 

To uproot them are not an act of Nihilism nor problem-solving per se, but it is an insistence of seeing things from anew. Creating inclusion rather than continue the exclusion as is the case in New Orleans.

The removed monuments may be preserved at a cemetery for former monuments on which this blog quoted the idea by the sculptor Steffen Harder a few years back (sadly, so far in Danish only) A place with public admittance, but they are not taking up public space. They are at a place for thought and critical scrutiny. 

In their stead, there are other, far more relevant topics of art and life to have before us. Such as the anatomy of peace. Can we do this better?

Per Marquard Otzen, The Peace Dove,
December 6, 2007.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Per Marquard Otzen and must not be reproduced without his permission.

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