TOTW: Are statues statist?

Are statues statist?

Can they be useful to anarchists?

The statue is an old device, likely as old as society. From folklore
artifacts to fallen heroes to deities, they'll always be carrying their
load of meaning that brings a narrative of sorts. And they are pervasive,
and prevailing through time and context, and across distinct social
arrangements.

Erected on the public place, they went beyond their archaic role in deity
worship, to commemorating long past events and deeds across generations,
in a mythological social pattern that asserts the ideas they represent
across and against "time", 24/7, without anyone's direct effort at
proselytism. Statues are preaching or storytelling by themselves. They can
"talk", and "act" in a given social theater play. Even as most people
aren't listening to their murmurs, even caring about it, they're still
standing around, behind, beneath, and above all, beyond their lives.

Especially with the advent of absolutism and then the modern times,
statues just kept multiplying in a colonialistic world where urban
development is little more than a facade for the native world it
destroyed, the statues and other landmarks act merely as a feedback loop
of self-justification of the settler's own presence. So it can be argued
that statues always been at the very least accessories for myth-building.
Even for the few instances they did not initially serve that purpose,
they're just a step away from a myth to take shape around them.

With the neo-Confederate movement erecting monuments to past racist
murdering scum, and with their taking down by antiracists, we could
contemplate their unavoidable social purpose as signifiers of our place in
history, and in the world, as a major marker in a battle for a dominant
narrative. In a way, while it may feel insane to be attacking lifeless
statues, it appears equally as necessary "cure" for the insanity of an
opposite faction enforcing their own views upon the rest of the people. As
these statues were also given an "eternal" life of domination. In so, such
defacing or taking down statues becomes an inherently anarchistic course
of action.

So, to anarchists, the statue might seem (perhaps rightfully) like an
absolute no-go. It is, after all, an ages-old practice of materializing
authoritarianism, cultism, sheepish behaviors we despise and would rather
reject. It's been a component in the "cult of carrion", the worship of
glorified images of dead people, of their myth, and as such they bring us
back to an archaic pattern of sock-putting with the dead, and give them a
central place in the world of today as it would have not evolved, in a
same-old magik ritual aimed at resurrecting the past, to lock us into it.

If the world of humans, their society, is only driven by narratives, then
shouldn't we, as anarchists, also be pushing for our own figures to become
immortalized in... well, not necessarily statues on the public place, but
some means to make anarchist fighters, thinkers. creators, artists, poets,
musicians, or just even randos, be immortalized for what they did or
experienced?

It is obvious that we've been already doing that, in a way, even if
unconsciously. Why else dedicating/claiming attacks in the name of some
fallen fighters the only conceivable way? Why else putting stuff on the
internet if not for the people abroad, and the generations to come to be
inspired by those same symbols? If we'll avoid statues, then what will be
the other ways?

How do you think anarchists, to you, should symbolize their ideas and
sentiment beyond time, and across generations, in such non-verbal and
passive means, as a serious antagonist to the State's persistence through
time?

Just @ signs everywhere? Really?

(Thanks to Fauvenoir for sharing via email, our address is: thecollective [at] anarchistnews [dot] org)

There are 39 Comments

Seriously lol? No they're not inherently statist. Whoever wrote this should read the kids book "Motel of the Mysteries" next time they decide to assign all these different values on statues and other tings from the past.

Ok... I could read this book, but could you provide me with instances of statues that aren't statist? Also this title has a question not an exclamation mark. Author assumes that statues are likely to be considered statist, yet on the other hand is there anything authoritarian with the timeless practice of leaving historical marks of our existences? I don't think so.

I'm thinking of what Mesopotamian cultures tendency in their architecture to "sign" their buildings on the buried foundation stones, so that even when the buildings have collapsed, people thousands of years later would still be able to read the background behind those buildings. This practice wasn't about enforcing a view to ulterior generations, but rather to keep records of "what happened here", while it can be authoritarian in the way that it may be only reflecting the POV of the ruling establishment. But empires weren't always that self-interested. Ancient Egyptians did love to depict the entirete of social life in their art, unlike some fascistic civilizations like Greco-Romans or Babylonians, showing randos in doing stuff their daily lives. That's also the society known for having likely created popular literature, with a growing literary tradition of folk tales and songs.

I do know some instances of statues (and other carvings) that aren't authoritarian. Etrusquean carvings depicting couples in love... Middle Eastern statues of mothers... or some archaic "porn"... These statues had a place in their time, and this is the aspect we should look into. Museums got them, now, but what was their purpose or location in their world?

this one time I was at a music festival and it was like, day 3 so half the portable toilets were a horror movie. anyway, some dude was so high, he started making little yoda statues out of the shit. shit yodas probably aren't statist statues.

Statues were giant dildos erected in the image of the sons of the Gods it wished to please and therefore bring favorable stock exchange prices and bountiful expansion of capital to the worshippers.

Statue of some mustachoed douchebag from the 1800s keeps talking to me! Can you shut the voices in my head or are we dealing with the real reified "thing" here, as in "things in themselves"!? Gotta get a guuunn and shoot, shoot, shoot at these muthafuckas coz they keep disturbing my brain with spooky thoughts about a Nation under dog or something...

Just a reminder that there is an anarchist statue out there, it's the Haymarket Martyrs' Monument, at the Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Emma Goldman and Voltairine de Cleyre are buried in that same cemetery.

Very heroic!! I also got a little bit of a feminist hamlet vibe, where juliet is revived by her girl power!!

Capturing a Roman-esque/Stalinistic moment in a bygone era of binary warfare.

memorials are troublesome because they shut down conversation and solidify the sociopolitical framing. try holding a discussion about the expansive list of fucked up actions taken by the u.s. military at the grounds of the vietnam war memorial. you wouldnt get very far. memorials exist to close the door on the matter.

it would actually be way easier to talk about that at the Vietnam war memorial...that freakin' wall of names...than in front of some gung-ho patriot, who would just resort to the "every country" defense, "love it or leave it", etc...

of course to the patriot, the statues, national anthems, pledge of allegiances, are supposed to inspire "reverence"...which goes way beyond the state, there's so much nostalgia, sacredness, "respect" (which to some, oh, is fading and it's horrible!) ingrained in many of the worlds authoritarian cultures. It makes me SICK!

Statues can be useful to anarchists as a source of rocks to hurl.

Is Michael Angelo's David a sculpture or religious statue? If it had a hard-on, how would that make it non-religious and anarchic? Because it shows a truth beyond a moral ideal and aesthetic?

There are fertility statues and sculptures across many cultures...
Are all these vestiges of patriarchy and civilization?

It's a dumb mistake -or likely self-interested denial- to not be seeing fertility statues as the vestiges of patriarchy and civ. To be representing women solely or mostly as baby factories is totally within some archaic brutally-patriarchal mindset, and an important element of their civilization's narrative.

as to why people build statues/sculptures. I find it a little assuming to immediately link sculptures and statues to authority, yet i can certainly imagine that lady fertility statues would serve a role in maintaining a male-centered authoritarian structure in certain societies. Praise is often the flipside of subjugation, almost a justification for putting someone in a psychological box.

"Michael Angelo"? seriously? the sculptor's name was Michelangelo, pronounced mee-kell-AN-gelo. i fucking hate anglosupremacists. read a book, or even look it up on wikipedia

Next thing you're gonna tell me Don Atelo and Leonard O'Davinchi aren't real.

why is everyone talking about the ninja turtles? what do they have to do with statues?

"Are statues statist?"

Not necessarily. Conceivably anyone could make one. They're often associated with concentration of power.

"Can they be useful to anarchists?"

As potential targets,in a way they're lures and decoys, steering them away from critical targets, exposing them to risk for little payoff, except maybe a symbolic win, but anarchist do not respect these symbols, and will deface them for lols if the urge and the opportunity arises.

"Why else dedicating/claiming attacks in the name of some
fallen fighters the only conceivable way?"

Attacks are ephemeral, with no delusions of grandeur, nor permanence. They're claimed because sometimes the attack's whole purpose is to amplify or send a message, both the attack and the claim being inseparable components of a singular action. They do it because they want to, in some cases it's the last thing they do. Those who seek immortality, or permanence, may be humbled or humiliated.

"Why else putting stuff on the internet if not for the people abroad, and the generations to come to be inspired by those same symbols?"

Communication and company is not the same as a monument building. The internet is like a landfill, stuff that's put up is quickly buried under the steady influx of trash.

"If we'll avoid statues, then what will be the other ways?"

Iconoclasm and fading away. Everything fades away without the need for fervor to tear it down. Sometimes tearing down a statue, or a fire in a cathedral provokes renewed interest, remodeling, rebuilding. Disinterest let's ruins crumble unattended. You can feed the city birds and they'll poop on statues without any need for instructions.

"How do you think anarchists, to you, should symbolize their ideas and
sentiment beyond time, and across generations, in such non-verbal and
passive means, as a serious antagonist to the State's persistence through
time?"

If states persist through time, then to escape them, one must vanish from time. To be where the state is not, vanishing to the end of time.

"Just @ signs everywhere? Really?"

Graffiti, writing on the walls. Texts, the city, civilization. All will vanish, as they do. "This will kill that" said Victor Hugo about the book killing the cathedral. There's been plenty of books and church burnings since.
Pyramids are still around, and so? Imposing monuments to the impotence of the dead to project control across centuries. Buried by sand or vegetation, unearthed by empires seeing in them their own reflection.
Statues are a gesture, tearing them down is a gesture. Some people like to live in big gestures, others live quiet lives.
Just my first thoughts and approach at topic.

They, just like what remains of Ancient Egyptian architecture, at least stand as a statement up against the eurocentric Greco-Roman obsession of Euro imperialists, that "non-White" people could achieve the engineering complexity that baffled 20th century anthropologists. I was once told at college that Greek architecture was the tipping point of science in the ancient world, but the Egyptians, Hittites and Sumerians shown that's just some self-serving racist bullshit.

Why is it, you think, that ISIS has been destroying Mesopotamian archaeologic sites, if not to impose their shitty historical revisionism?

Remember, member... Durruti's not the least afraid of ruins! And they fascinate me, for how even a pile of stone bricks can bring at least a critical angle on some prevailing narratives... that history's always more complex than we're made to believe.

"also, not anarchist but not everything worth reading is strictly anarchist."

don't burst my bubble, Nettle!

i'm sure it's news to everyone ;-P

Reading that newyorkee piece linked above and thinking about statues as storytelling devices, I come to the question why continue the tradition of statues as recognized individuals? We live in a culture that demands the same stories told through the eyes of an individual and how an individual (probably a white man but this continues with Disney making brown girls as cops or how we tell stories of great individuals) as able to meet a call for adventure overcome trials and tribulations that finally end with the character becoming a hero immortalized as a statue.

Like I really loved star wars as a kid but why do we allow stories to be told to us and by us in the same way? How can we tell stories with many more perspectives? How do we tell a story that does not make individuals heroes, gods or kings? Yes we can add all kinds of flaws to the characters story but in the end we are putting someone up outside yourself as better, as king as master unless your telling your own story.

How can we tell more interesting stories? I want a story that puts more value on how many people come together to create something and how much it sucked working with some of them without glorifying an individual.

Even worse then star wars these days we tell stories through the free (with targeted advertising) market of facebook ideas.

A suggestion I say is make statues abstract art that does not represent persons but people or events or monsters and creatures.

More dragon statues please!
-a person looking for a more interesting story than a person with a metal face

Sure there are alot of heroic statues and stories and movies valorizing nationalism, some even are remarkable, but it must be noted that the unknown hero and story also existed a million times over the concrete and brass one immortalized by ideology or pòlitics. The humble folk stories of simple people and the sacrifices they made for their loved ones by far outnumber the metal masks of megalomaniacal conquerers, or the stories by poets and unknown bards are everywhere in libraries if you look hard.
There are George and the dragon statues and the mermaid one in Copenhagen which I can recall off the top of my head. Also, the stories I like are the ones with flawed people who change and become unflawed. No one is above me, I am my own statue, standing aloof, flesh mightier than iron, blood like molten energy, gazing powerfully over the shattered statues of mythologies, BECAUSE I AM FLESH AND BLOOD, not dead metal rusting in the past,,,,

...who change."

you contradict yourself in this most recent post of yours:

"True anarchs such as myself have never voted our entire lives, ohh the horror, to lower oneself to the act of ,,,casting a vote for a powerlusting megalomaniacal parasitic peasant magnet, Uurghhhh!"

people who believe in true anarchist identities don't believe that people can change.

"people who believe in true anarchist identities don't believe that people can change."

1) "true anarchist identities" is so far beyond oxymoronic that i cannot even see it with my high powered binoculars.

2) "don't believe that people can change". many folks i know that choose to think and relate anarchically, did not always have that way. many came from the left, some from the right, some from unknown. many of those people - myself included - actually changed their perspective upon being exposed to ever more information, ideas, discussions, activities.

3) "people who believe in..." anything are just "true believers". faith-based ideologues.

stop generalizing, stop speaking for others, and stop thinking you own the monopoly on what constitutes "anarchist" thought or behavior. please?

He said "true anarchs", not " true anarchists". Two totally different mentalities. Anarchs are distinguished by their honest expressions and non-ideological purity, and therefore can be " true " to their own self-image.

Sorry, I see what you mean, just like Jesus himself was the only true Christian to himself, Wayoutthere is a true anarch to his own unique self.

This is a beautiful statue,
https://www.centralpark.com/things-to-do/attractions/balto/
I saw the animated movie with my nephews and nieces and apparently this dog movie also stands up against the hierarchy imposed by sled masters who always placed white alpha male dogs as team leaders and put more experienced native dogs last in the pack. Good teachings for children to fight against hierarchy in all its forms.

Add new comment