Thursday, August 10, 2017

Erasing the Past : Yale sculpture

Via the Yale Alumni Magazine :
If you were especially observant during your years on campus, you may have noticed a stone carving by the York Street entrance to Sterling Memorial Library that depict a hostile encounter: a Puritan pointing a musket at a Native American (top). When the library decided to reopen the long-disused entrance as the front door of the new Center for Teaching and Learning, says head librarian Susan Gibbons, she and the university’s Committee on Art in Public Spaces decided the carving’s “presence at a major entrance to Sterling was not appropriate.” The Puritan’s musket was covered over with a layer of stone (bottom) that Gibbons says can be removed in the future without damaging the original carving. 

 The obvious point seems to be that "Puritan pointing a musket at a Native American" seems inaccurate. They are both looking in the same direction and one would expect the puritan to be looking towards the indian if the intent was to aim at the indian.

They do get one point of credit for making the censorship of the past both largely unobtrusive and reversible.

The only quote of the head librarian Susan Gibbons is "presence at a major entrance to Sterling was not appropriate" Unfortunately there isn't any explanation of why it is inappropriate although one might assume that the "Puritan pointing a musket at a Native American" canard might be why.

I'll note that the Committee on Art in Public Spaces self description is "The committee will hear from members of the community about art and other symbolic representations related to diversity and consider ways Yale might better reflect our campus and our history."

movie notes : Crumb (1994)

from the commentary track of the documentary movie Crumb (1994) (around the 24 minute mark)

Terry Zwigoff, director :  This guy Skutch he's talking about [a high school bully from the Crumb childhood] is another guy I tried to track down and interview in the film and I actually found him. He was living outside Milford, Delaware; close to where he'd gone to high school. I got him on the phone and I said to him I'd doing a documentary about this guy Robert Crumb and his brother Charles and Max and do you remember him from high school. He said "yeah vaguely" I said what do you do for a living? I may come out there and interview you if; we're trying to raise more money at the time... He said he ran some sort of salvage operation; I couldn't tell from that whether it was some sort of like a  progressive recycling situation or just a city dump. I couldn't tell. We were so short on money I just sort of let that go. It could have been good, I don't know.

it is an interesting distinction to draw into importance. Now, I may be being uncharitable but it seems like he sees a "progressive recycling situation" as something wonderful while a city dump/scrap yard/salvage operation is simply and distinctly déclassé. But is there a difference?

There is to some. Not a practical difference; both are recycling. Both are about reuse. Both are about not being wasteful. The difference is an arbitrary one of social standing.

This is much like those who are fascinated by "tiny houses," even those with wheels so they are mobile but somehow the phrases "mobile home" or "trailer home" are studiously omitted.  The difference between a tiny house and a mobile home is often defined as being able to afford minimalism vs not being able to afford something other than a mobile home.

Again,  I may be being uncharitable (and a little unfair as I am not a mind reader) but he did feel it necessary to interrupt his fellow commentarian to put this little bit of information out there (and the above transcript is the full statement he made about the man).  I sense he was thinking of the meme of the bully in high school who peaks in those years and then declines into obscurity while the victims of the bully have a documentary film made about them.