Tearing down and vandalizing statues is barbaric

Now that we are enlightened, we clearly see the errors of the past. Such is the case with every generation. Regrettably, that enlightenment doesn’t seem to distinguish systemic racism from the value of art from the past.

image by comradejaggi (Instagram) August 29

Statues are works of art. As an artist, and as someone who has studied sculpture at the University of Alberta, I am keenly aware of the hundreds of hours that go into producing a sculpture. Sculptures are particularly difficult to produce because they are made of materials durable enough for future generations to appreciate.

Also, I sit on a committee mandated by the city of Kamloops. We review applications for funding and creating public art. The job involves evaluating the application and allocating meagre funds for artists to make public works.

I’m a strong believer in public art. Art is more than decorative; it inspires and makes a statement about a place. Public art gives testimony to the vitality of a city.

Have you seen Kamloops’ largest piece of public art? It’s truly awesome. Artist Bill Frymire assembled a shimmering mosaic of 80,000 aluminum tiles on a parkade, transforming it from a grey concrete tomb into a mirage that ripples in the sun at the slightest breeze.

I imagine being on a Regina city arts committee in 1966. We’ve received an application for a statue of John A. Macdonald to be built at a park entrance. The plaque is to be placed underneath the sculpture is to read “John A. Macdonald, Father of Confederation.”

I suspect that support for the Macdonald statue would have been unanimous. Because we were not yet woke it’s unlikely we would consider how inappropriate it to be, considering Macdonald’s role in the assimilation of Indigenous people and his racist views of Asian immigrants.

The Macdonald sculpture was built in Regina, in 1967, and cast in bronze using a centuries-old lost wax technique. It has vandalized at least three times since 2012 and is now the only one of Macdonald still standing in a major Western city in Canada.

On July 19, 2020, a group of about 30 people gathered at Ryerson University in Toronto, organized by Black Lives Matter-Toronto, and defaced another Macdonald sculpture with paint. One protester said:

“Defacing the monuments and having the art display done is actually I think a really good way of showing Canada’s long-standing history of violence of both Black and Indigenous communities on these lands.”

I find the equation of violence against people equal to violence against art puzzling. And as an artist, I find the notion of defacing a sculpture in the name of art galling.

In one hundred years, enlightened citizens will reflect on our backward ways. What we now regard as enlightened will then be seen as retrograde.

Perhaps one of our stupid ways, as seen through the lens of future woke generations, will be the way we treat animals raised for slaughter. Will they then vandalize the handsome bronze sculpture of a bull by Joe Fafard that sits at the entrance of Riverside Park in Kamloops?

Our perceived virtues are ephemeral, ever drifting into sin as seen by future generations. Art meant to last millennia should not be a victim latest expression of self-righteous barbarism.

What is my Art Worth?

What are my paintings worth? That’s the question I tried to resolve during my first art show in 2012 at Red Beard Roasters on Tranquille.

One way would be to let the market decide. After all, isn’t that the way of the world? If you want to know what anything is worth, offer it for sale and see what people will pay.

artprice

While the marketplace is effective in pricing widgets it excludes a lot of what it means to be human says Phillip Roscoe, professor of management and author of I Spend Therefore I am. Small economic calculations have a profound effect on society, Roscoe told CBC Radio’s The Current. Economics have become such a invasive force that we’ve become “homo economicus.”

In his criticism of the dismal science of economics, Roscoe worries that we are heartless reflections of cold calculations. It “brings into being the agent about whom it theorises: self-interested, calculative and even dishonest”.

Other values such as friendship, family, community, compassion, wisdom, beauty, and peace of mind have no worth in this calculation. Houses are not homes. They are things to be fixed up and flipped over as fast as possible for a profit.

Economics has recast each of us as an “entrepreneur of the self.” In this model, Society works best if everyone looks after themselves. But self-interest and greed don’t generate art, self identity, fulfillment, character, integrity, and community.

It’s no accident that we became this way. Homo economicus is a particular sub-species that has risen to power. They are those who equate money with all things worth living for. They imagine that they are rich because they worked hard, or had a clever idea, and pulled themselves up by the bootstraps to become the envy of undeserving masses. Never mind that their success depends on the foundations of collective society: public infrastructure, the willingness of workers exchange labour for money, good and corrupt-free government, people’s faith in a society of equal opportunity.

Those who equate money to anything of value want to proselytize and spread their dark redemption by funding schools of economics at universities.  Their apostle is Adam Smith.

 “Every individual… neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it… he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.”

 Schools of economics churn out clever disciples who come up with obtuse ideas like derivatives that ordinary laymen can’t comprehend. In their mysterious alchemy, profit is to be made by selling houses to people with so low a credit rating that they will eventually default.

I have come to the conclusion that my paintings have no monetary value. The term “monetary value,” while not quite an oxymoron, is a corruption of thought because it suggests that if there is no market price on my art, there is no value.