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Thursday, 18 June 2020

Not Just Statues

The statue debate which has erupted recently should, logically, apply to other things.

Buildings are an obvious example. Banqueting House in Whitehall is historicly important as England's first neoclassical building. It also has an extraordinary painted ceiling by Rubens.

It was built by James VI and I to glorify himself and the Divine Right of Kings as the painted ceiling makes clear without subtlety. His son Charles I used it for the same purpose.  These elitist values might well be offensive to some people.

Others might point out that Charles I was condemned in what can be seen as the world's first war crime trial, and Banqueting House was the scene of his execution.

The double meaning is unusual but the use of a building as a vehicle for a political meaning is not.  Other vehicles include many of other forms of art such as painting, music, murals, photographs and so on. Many of our institutions such as museums and universities were founded using arguably tainted money.

Are we really going to engage in a cultural erasure programme of these things every few years in a Fahreinheit 451 way?

And would such an exercise not simply be a distraction from the hard grind of actually eradicating deep seated problems such as institional racism?

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