Totalitarian Gothic & MLK

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has in the past expounded on the architectural/sculputral style he likes to call “Totalitarian Gothic.” He first introduced this term to you all in this post in Sept 2006. For those of you who have visited Washington DC, you will see quite a bit of “Totalitarian Gothic” sculpture and building. Afterall, the Federal City as we know it was built in large part in the 1930s, when Totalitarian Gothic was pretty chic.

Now, you may have gathered that your Maximum Leader is a fan of Totalitarian Gothic. Well… He is and he isn’t. In some circumstances it is fine. But in others it is not.

Which brings him to the object of this post…

The impending memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. on the Mall in Washington. Not exactly on the Mall but pretty close, near the Tidal Basin across from the Jefferson Memorial actually…

According to the Washington Post, the monument to MKL is ready for pickup in China.

If you have no idea what this monument looks like you can see a graphic by clicking here.

Now… Before anyone goes berserk over these comments… Your Maximum Leader is not a racist bastard who doesn’t think Martin Luther King Jr. should have a monument on the Mall in Washington. A monument or other memorial is just fine. Your Maximum Leader just really doesn’t like this one.

So… Where to begin… Let us start back in the 1980s when the Congress of the United States decided to put a statue of MLK up in the Capitol Building along with other great Americans . The bust that was put in the Capitol is here. Now let us look at some of MLK’s company in the Rotunda of the Capitol. Here are: Jackson (in bronze), Garfield (in marble), Reagan (in bronze), and Washington (a bronze replica of the much greater marble which resides in the Virginia State Capitol and which the Federal Government has tried to appropriate from time to time with no success). At the time your Maximum Leader thought that the MLK bust in the Capitol was ugly and not in keeping with the style of monumental statuary in the Capitol building. Now he finds himself harping on the exact same issue, only this time the problem is writ large.

Writ 30 feet large to be exact.

The MLK monument near the tidal basin has a lot of problems in your Maximum Leader’s opinion. The first one is scale. If you clicked onto that graphic you would see that the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial is 19 feet tall. The MLK monument is 30 feet tall. That is just too big for a statue on the mall. Way too big.

Now you may be saying, “Hold on there, the Lincoln Memorial building is much taller than 30 feet. Shouldn’t you compare apples to apples?” Fair point. If you want to consider the whole MLK monument as a you would a building, then you are faced with a classical temple versus a large rock with a man coming out of it.

The scale of the large rock with a man coming out of it is just too great. It will dwarf many of the trees (cherry trees in many cases) in the area. Also, in terms of human scale it is not approachable. One of the many things that works with the Lincoln (or Jefferson) Memorial is that you are faced with an impressive ediface, but then the statue is scaled down proportionally and you can “feel” closer to it. The MLK carving is just huge. It will be five times taller than a tall man. Five times taller! Not only that, MLK will just be staring off into the distance above the visitor. The strength of the Lincoln statue is that he looks down to the visitor. Your Maximum Leader just can’t think of a way in which the MLK monument works on the National Mall. Not a one. It is too big, too impersonal, and too out-of-place.

When your Maximum Leader first saw the MLK monument the first thought that popped into his head was, “Dear God. It looks like something Kim Jong-il would have built in honor of his father, Kim Il-sung.” It does. The impersonal face. The crossed arms. The imperious look. It does seem like a monument more akin to a communist dictatorship than a democratic republic. (Indeed, in the MWO expect to see many similarly scaled monuments to your Maximum Leader. They will be omnipresent.)

Our National Mall is a communal space for the Nation. The monuments that adorn it should reflect, in scale, in material, and in composition our democratic ideals. The Lincoln Memorial harkens back to classical Athens. The Jefferson Memorial harkens back to Republican Rome. The WWII Memorial is a bit of a stretch with its monumental arches, but it fits closely enough to be passable. The Washington Monument is a bit out of place, but it is the distinctive mark (along with the Capitol Dome) on the city skyline. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t see how an artificial mountain with a man coming out of it will work in this communal space.

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t like it. No he doesn’t. Not one bit.

Carry on.

1 Comment »
Fear and Loathing in Georgetown said:

I’m much more upset about the WWII memorial. It’s placement is offensive and it’s also out of scale.

However, I must say that 30 feet is just silly. The great thing about the other statues on the Mall, whether they are Lincoln, Jefferson, or even Roosevelt, is that they are small enough to still seem like people, as you mentioned, but big enough to imply their greatness.



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