What is the universal crisis of man? What is the great struggle? Have we overcome slavery, that shameful history?
I propose that the universal crisis facing mankind today and throughout history is slavery. In every great civilization throughout history man has believed himself to be on a new pinnacle of greatness, and it is this pride that causes the self-deception which leads to his fall. As culture continues to coalesce, laws proliferate, and unique experience become rarer and rarer, America face the growing threat of slavery of a more subversive kind. Religious institutions have been replaced by corporate and political institutions under the guise of democracy and humanism, but their power over the mind of man is stronger than ever. Instead of blindly following the priests and pharaohs under the threat of eternal damnation, secular man blindly follows his pleasures, forfeiting his mind and autonomy in the process, as if there were no higher way to live. As a result man has been drawn out of himself to the point of possessing no inner life, losing his individuality in the process as he appeals to external cues for some meagre satisfaction in the temporal world. Liberalism has made mankind into cattle.
A proposed memorial should symbolize the universal human struggle between body and mind, idols and ideas, things and thoughts. In this time more than ever it is important to reiterate the empty values of materialism and the emphasize the merit of critical thought and individual inquiry, especially if we should call ourselves a democracy.
The memorial will be a large stain glass structure, reminiscent of past religious dogma, which depicts a naked youth stabbing a overly dressed old man which symbolizes the struggle between individualism and collectivism, experience and theory, free thinking and dogma. Behind each of these figures will stand a group of individuals representing the typical ideals each represents within the broader currents of society. In the foreground of the naked youth stands a diverse group of fit, relaxed, naked people of mixed ethnicities and different stature. In the foreground of the old man stands a homogenous, yet segregated, group of people that reflect the physical manifestations of our materialist culture.
The naked youth symbolises freedom, innocence, wonder, ideas, experience, and promise. His naked physique is a testament to the unshackled mind he possesses, unhampered by the weight of dogmatic conventions, rituals, and customs. The sword in the youth’s hand represents the courage of reason to fight for what it believes and never back down or settle for empty bribes and rhetoric. The crowd behind him symbolizes a democratic culture embodied by a diversity of thriving individuals who are relaxed, poised, fluid, friendly, and also naked: e pluribus unum.
The overly dressed old man in the suit symbolizes slavery, ignorance, jadedness, materialism, theory, and doom. His stuffy attire represents to weight of unnecessary convention and custom that weighs him down. The paper fiat-currency clenched in his hands symbolizes the futility of materialism as he tries to buy his freedom from the wild youth. The crowd behind him symbolizes a slave culture embodied by homogeneous stereotypes which creates segregating distinctions. They too embody the weight of cultures oppressive dogma as they strive to exemplify external non-existent ideals for fulfillment. They are overweight, bloated, with body dysmorphia, weighed down by commodities and chained to unnecessary goods and obsessions. They have blank faces and stand rigid, like the lifeless lies they seek to embody.
Is there no greater struggle than this? Than the freedom of mind from the tyranny of others, from the deception of himself? In this way I have proposed a memorial to serve as an eternal reminder for all.
This is to propose the construction of a large stained glass depiction of a scene intended to raise awareness for the crisis–to state it simply– of destructive cultural indoctrination.
I intend to point out the disease with which negative culture–especially in the form of media and other institutions that advance misogyny, greed and materialism –has infected society. I intend the memorial to be a general critique and offensive elucidation of the even more offensive malaise that damaging cultural outlets has spread throughout society. Looking through any popular pop-culture publication or catalogue, one will find instances of the infection. Many popular teen magazines convince young girls that to be beautiful, they must be thin, and publications like Fortune, Vogue, and GQ advance materialism by portraying the false glamour in accruing possessions and climbing the corporate ladder with the sole purpose of accruing wealth and objects to the demise of more important ideals such as positive human relationships and wholesome experiences.
In an effort to expose these horrible effects, I intend to construct a stained glass memorial on the side of a visible NYC skyscraper. The content will be a depiction of a nude child stabbing a man in a suit carrying a briefcase with money falling out of his pockets. There will be a sickly thin woman with large breasts behind him covering her mouth with her hands.
Man in a suit with money falling out of his pockets: to represent the futility of the rat-race and American corporatism, as well as materialism as advanced by negative cultural institutions.
Thin woman: to represent the unreasonable and damaging emphasis on appearances. Her sickly thin physique, fat lips and breast implants are meant to demonstrate culture’s destructive stressing of beauty, especially as it relates to the unrealistic expectations society places on the superficial beauty of women and young females.
Naked child: to represent freedom, wonder, curiosity, individualism and experience, all of which are oppressed and destroyed by dangerous cultural institutions. The child represents the ideal democratic system wherein people are not domesticated or hampered down by the weights of materialism and other malaise that results from cultural indoctrination such as anorexia, body dysmorphia, dysfunctional families, greed etc..
Sword: to represent reason and the courage to fight back against dogma, damaging norms and status quo.
Falling money: to represent the blind faith in the failing value of fiat currency and the emptiness of materialism.
Stained glass design: to allude to the destructive power of dogma. I am not claiming that religion is destructive, however we hope it might remind people of the negative results of taking dogma too far, and not reigning in the potential danger of ideology. For instance, the iconoclasm of religious relics (like stained glass) in 16th century Europe–a direct result of the Reformation which led to the execution of thousands of innocent free-thinkers–is a direct reminder of the oppressive tendencies caused by cultural institutions.
The fluidity of the child is meant to demonstrate his independence, innocence and freedom. It is contrasted with the rigid, uniform and unnatural postures of the man and woman who are obviously burdened by the weight of cultural indoctrination. The action of the child stabbing the man is meant to represent the potential triumph over the ongoing struggle against corrosive prevailing societal norms.
The memorial will be undeniably offensive to many people, however I believe that it needs to invoke an emotional reaction in order to make an impression on viewers and to more effectively demonstrate the even more offensive consequences of ignoring the atrocities of certain cultural norms that undermine individual flourishing. I hope to affect stakeholders–i.e. everyone who is surrounded by popular culture– by sparking a reaction and conveying the emptiness of adhering to that promoted by pop culture. I also hope to reaffirm the paradigm held by, and actions of, those who already strive to live independent of–or even speak out against– such culturally fabricated demands, customs and normalizations.