Should we have statues at all?

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bagpuss
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Should we have statues at all?

Post by bagpuss » Wed Jun 10, 2020 8:51 am

Colston's statue is a pretty easy example of a statue that had fairly little justification for being put up in the first place and none whatsoever for its still being there in 2020.

A statue to Churchill is somewhat less clear cut - he was certainly racist and expressed a host of vile opinions over the years but for some, it seems, his wartime leadership trumps all that.

But what about those who had fewer or less obvious negative attributes? No-one is perfect, no-one can claim to have only ever done good things or only held and expressed completely fair and just views. Can we really justify erecting or keeping statues of any individual?

Should we just get rid of all of these graven images of earthly "gods" and instead plant a few nice trees?

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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by Grumble » Wed Jun 10, 2020 9:20 am

Memorials and statues can become interesting history in their own right. The crosses Edward I erected for queen Eleanor after her death come to mind. Neolithic barrows also. Obviously we haven’t the faintest idea who the barrows were erected for or what they did. I think statues became popular in imitation of Ancient Greece and Rome, maybe we should look to our own past and erect cairns in picturesque places instead.
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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by Lew Dolby » Wed Jun 10, 2020 9:48 am

Cairns !! - only if they're designed and built by Andy Goldsworthy. Otherwise they've become a blight in popular upland areas. They're everywhere. So much so, they can no longer be relied upon to show a safe path in misty conditions.

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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by tom p » Wed Jun 10, 2020 10:00 am

bagpuss wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 8:51 am
Colston's statue is a pretty easy example of a statue that had fairly little justification for being put up in the first place and none whatsoever for its still being there in 2020.

A statue to Churchill is somewhat less clear cut - he was certainly racist and expressed a host of vile opinions over the years but for some, it seems, his wartime leadership trumps all that.

But what about those who had fewer or less obvious negative attributes? No-one is perfect, no-one can claim to have only ever done good things or only held and expressed completely fair and just views. Can we really justify erecting or keeping statues of any individual?

Should we just get rid of all of these graven images of earthly "gods" and instead plant a few nice trees?
Instead of statues, we should have scarecrows. Loads of wonderful worzel gummidges in town centres.

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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by secret squirrel » Wed Jun 10, 2020 10:09 am

bagpuss wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 8:51 am
Colston's statue is a pretty easy example of a statue that had fairly little justification for being put up in the first place and none whatsoever for its still being there in 2020.

A statue to Churchill is somewhat less clear cut - he was certainly racist and expressed a host of vile opinions over the years but for some, it seems, his wartime leadership trumps all that.

But what about those who had fewer or less obvious negative attributes? No-one is perfect, no-one can claim to have only ever done good things or only held and expressed completely fair and just views. Can we really justify erecting or keeping statues of any individual?

Should we just get rid of all of these graven images of earthly "gods" and instead plant a few nice trees?
Churchill did much worse things than hold and voice vile opinions. His only redeeming feature is that he was ahead of the curve in noticing the threat posed by Hitler. As far as I'm aware there was nothing inspired about his war leadership. He should be more clear cut that Colston.

But anyway, yes. In general statues of people, even people who are on balance good, are bad. We should celebrate ideas, and the people associated with them should be an afterthought. History construed as a sequence of great people doing stuff has a profoundly negative influence on our societies.

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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by Fishnut » Wed Jun 10, 2020 11:18 am

secret squirrel wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 10:09 am
We should celebrate ideas, and the people associated with them should be an afterthought
This.

I remember reading something around the time they were talking about putting up a statue to one of the Pankhursts for their role in the women's suffrage movement and there was a discussion as to whether we should be encouraging the elevation of one person from an entire movement or looking at celebrating the movement itself. Yes, the Pankhursts were hugely important but so were a lot of other women, women largely forgotten and largely, coincidentally, working class.

I get that figureheads are important, and easier to represent in stone or metal than ideas, but they are far more prone to re-evaluation and I worry that this then has the potential to undermine the legacy of the movement they represent. For example, the statue of Millicent Fawcett is being suggested as one that should go, because of her support for the empire and Boer War concentration camps. The statue is only a couple of years old, was unveiled to great excitement, and had the support of lots of progressives and those on the Left. The piece is clearly trying to sh.t-stir but it does have a point, and a point that could have been avoided if the statue had been to the movement rather than one of the leaders. I know that the aim of the statue was to try and begin to counter the male dominance in statue form by the Houses of Parliament, but I think it shows just how little thought is put into the broader context of the people chosen to be immortalised.

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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by Tessa K » Wed Jun 10, 2020 4:03 pm

Statutes say much more about the people putting them up than the people represented who, in most cases, are completely forgotten by following generations. Even if the subjects of the statues are remembered, very few people look at statues more than once or twice. After that they just become street furniture.

But if we have to have them then yes, let's make them more diverse. More women and more POC.

What do people here think about blue plaques? The basic idea is the same as statues but they are beginning to be more diverse in their subjects and at least they give you proper information about what someone achieved.

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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by Herainestold » Wed Jun 10, 2020 4:36 pm

Total ban on statues going forward? Moratorium on white males and emphasis on females and POC? Move all monuments to a graveyard like they did in Budapest?

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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by Boustrophedon » Wed Jun 10, 2020 4:40 pm

I am very much against the enslavery of animals and anthropomorphism of animals. There is no worse example of this than Paddington Bear as displayed as a statue in Paddington Station. I demand it's removal at once. #PullPaddingtondown.

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...zoologically improbable and/or terrifying to small children.

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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by Boustrophedon » Wed Jun 10, 2020 4:44 pm

..and Florence Nightingale for inventing the bl..dy pie chart.
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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by Herainestold » Wed Jun 10, 2020 4:46 pm

This is the problem, isn't it? How do you make a judgement on each individual case, considering all of the factors, and listening respectfully to all points of view? Maybe just ban them entirely and worry about more substantial issues.

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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by lpm » Wed Jun 10, 2020 5:00 pm

Boustrophedon wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 4:40 pm
I am very much against the enslavery of animals and anthropomorphism of animals. There is no worse example of this than Paddington Bear as displayed as a statue in Paddington Station. I demand it's removal at once. #PullPaddingtondown.

Image
This does raise the problem of changing views - they can change for ill as well as good.

What happens during the Boris Fascist Regime, 2019-2037, when anti-immigrant sentiment rises? Everyone is morally certain that immigration is a bad thing damaging society. And protesters gather at Paddington Station and tear down this statue of an illegal immigrant?
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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by dyqik » Wed Jun 10, 2020 5:40 pm

lpm wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 5:00 pm
Boustrophedon wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 4:40 pm
I am very much against the enslavery of animals and anthropomorphism of animals. There is no worse example of this than Paddington Bear as displayed as a statue in Paddington Station. I demand it's removal at once. #PullPaddingtondown.

Image
This does raise the problem of changing views - they can change for ill as well as good.

What happens during the Boris Fascist Regime, 2019-2037, when anti-immigrant sentiment rises? Everyone is morally certain that immigration is a bad thing damaging society. And protesters gather at Paddington Station and tear down this statue of an illegal immigrant?
I've heard the opposite position argued - that Paddington is a reaction to immigration from developing countries, and thus the statue represents troubling views of immigration and race.

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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by Sciolus » Wed Jun 10, 2020 9:46 pm

I make no apology for dobbing in a few quid for this.

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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by tom p » Wed Jun 10, 2020 10:02 pm

Boustrophedon wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 4:44 pm
..and Florence Nightingale for inventing the bl..dy pie chart.
Wasn't hers known as a rose diagram or summat?
Also, it was an excellent way of linking the two years. Yes, two dimensions are harder to notice than 1, but when the figures are that stark an arresting visual is perfect.

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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by tom p » Wed Jun 10, 2020 10:03 pm

Herainestold wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 4:46 pm
This is the problem, isn't it? How do you make a judgement on each individual case, considering all of the factors, and listening respectfully to all points of view? Maybe just ban them entirely and worry about more substantial issues.
Having read your endlessly expressed point of view, banning an individual entirely seems very tempting

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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by Herainestold » Wed Jun 10, 2020 11:42 pm

tom p wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 10:03 pm
Herainestold wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 4:46 pm
This is the problem, isn't it? How do you make a judgement on each individual case, considering all of the factors, and listening respectfully to all points of view? Maybe just ban them entirely and worry about more substantial issues.
Having read your endlessly expressed point of view, banning an individual entirely seems very tempting
I was speaking of statues not the views of individual persons.

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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by Millennie Al » Thu Jun 11, 2020 3:07 am

Fishnut wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 11:18 am
I remember reading something around the time they were talking about putting up a statue to one of the Pankhursts for their role in the women's suffrage movement and there was a discussion as to whether we should be encouraging the elevation of one person from an entire movement or looking at celebrating the movement itself. Yes, the Pankhursts were hugely important but so were a lot of other women, women largely forgotten and largely, coincidentally, working class.
Refraining from putting up a statue isn't going to prevent the largely forgotten women from remaining largely forgotten.
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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by Gerberd » Thu Jun 11, 2020 4:43 am

Millennie Al wrote:
Thu Jun 11, 2020 3:07 am
Fishnut wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 11:18 am
I remember reading something around the time they were talking about putting up a statue to one of the Pankhursts for their role in the women's suffrage movement and there was a discussion as to whether we should be encouraging the elevation of one person from an entire movement or looking at celebrating the movement itself. Yes, the Pankhursts were hugely important but so were a lot of other women, women largely forgotten and largely, coincidentally, working class.
Refraining from putting up a statue isn't going to prevent the largely forgotten women from remaining largely forgotten.
We need to do something else to remember important figures. Statues are so 19th century.

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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Jun 11, 2020 6:02 am

Gerberd wrote:
Thu Jun 11, 2020 4:43 am
Millennie Al wrote:
Thu Jun 11, 2020 3:07 am
Fishnut wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 11:18 am
I remember reading something around the time they were talking about putting up a statue to one of the Pankhursts for their role in the women's suffrage movement and there was a discussion as to whether we should be encouraging the elevation of one person from an entire movement or looking at celebrating the movement itself. Yes, the Pankhursts were hugely important but so were a lot of other women, women largely forgotten and largely, coincidentally, working class.
Refraining from putting up a statue isn't going to prevent the largely forgotten women from remaining largely forgotten.
We need to do something else to remember important figures. Statues are so 19th century.
Yeah, statuary is a vestige of times when most people were functionally illiterate. We don't even need to put up 3D replicas of people to indicate how they've changed society.

I do quite like them, though. As a kind of societal skeuomorph. An elegant weapon from a more civilized age.
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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by Tessa K » Thu Jun 11, 2020 11:32 am

Millennie Al wrote:
Thu Jun 11, 2020 3:07 am
Fishnut wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 11:18 am
I remember reading something around the time they were talking about putting up a statue to one of the Pankhursts for their role in the women's suffrage movement and there was a discussion as to whether we should be encouraging the elevation of one person from an entire movement or looking at celebrating the movement itself. Yes, the Pankhursts were hugely important but so were a lot of other women, women largely forgotten and largely, coincidentally, working class.
Refraining from putting up a statue isn't going to prevent the largely forgotten women from remaining largely forgotten.
It won't help much either. The unveiling may make the news, local or national depending on who the woman was, but after that, what then? Campaigning for a more diverse history syllabus in schools would be more productive.

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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by bmforre » Thu Jun 11, 2020 3:32 pm

Do you accept Oscar Wilde recling?

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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by snoozeofreason » Sat Jun 13, 2020 12:03 pm

Interesting article here about a statue to the Duke of Cumberland (infamous for his role in the battle of Culloden), which was quietly disappeared some time ago, after attitudes to him had changed..
The Cumberland statue was neither beautiful nor universally popular, and by 1868 it was looking distinctly shabby. The Duke of Portland, whose estate covered the Square, had it taken down to be recast, but it never reappeared and nobody is sure what happened to it – the metal was probably melted down and reused.
And I am drawn to this approach to statuary
Cumberland made a temporary return to the plinth in 2012, thanks to Korean artist Meekyoung Shin who created a replica of the statue in soap. Shin’s interest is in the impermanence and shifting meaning of statues and artistic statements. Her statue deteriorated a bit more slowly than expected, itself an accidental commentary on how these things last longer than intended. The remnants were removed in 2016 and the plinth is alone once more.
Maybe, in the future all statues should be made of soap. Many of the people we now revere will be reviled in the future, but the transition from reverence to revulsion usually takes a few years - probably long enough to reduce a statue to soap suds. If the subject's reputation does prove more durable, then she or he might provide employment for a new profession of soap statue retouchers.
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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by bjn » Sat Jun 13, 2020 1:44 pm

bmforre wrote:
Thu Jun 11, 2020 3:32 pm
Do you accept Oscar Wilde recling?
I used to walk by it twice every working day. It's a horrible statue, an insult to Wilde and a waste of bronze.

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Re: Should we have statues at all?

Post by Tessa K » Sat Jun 13, 2020 3:52 pm

snoozeofreason wrote:
Sat Jun 13, 2020 12:03 pm
Interesting article here about a statue to the Duke of Cumberland (infamous for his role in the battle of Culloden), which was quietly disappeared some time ago, after attitudes to him had changed..
The Cumberland statue was neither beautiful nor universally popular, and by 1868 it was looking distinctly shabby. The Duke of Portland, whose estate covered the Square, had it taken down to be recast, but it never reappeared and nobody is sure what happened to it – the metal was probably melted down and reused.
And I am drawn to this approach to statuary
Cumberland made a temporary return to the plinth in 2012, thanks to Korean artist Meekyoung Shin who created a replica of the statue in soap. Shin’s interest is in the impermanence and shifting meaning of statues and artistic statements. Her statue deteriorated a bit more slowly than expected, itself an accidental commentary on how these things last longer than intended. The remnants were removed in 2016 and the plinth is alone once more.
Maybe, in the future all statues should be made of soap. Many of the people we now revere will be reviled in the future, but the transition from reverence to revulsion usually takes a few years - probably long enough to reduce a statue to soap suds. If the subject's reputation does prove more durable, then she or he might provide employment for a new profession of soap statue retouchers.
Or like the sand sculptures on the beach. Yes, this is meant to be Churchill

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