What is this?

It consists of fifty jagged steel columns about 33 feet tall arranged in a seemingly haphazard pattern on a brick walkway by a country road in the middle of nowhere. Move around it and then something surprising happens.

Robert Krulwich muses on the symbolism of the monument and its location and why this memorial captures what such a memorial should be while so many others don’t.

To my mind, this is what a public sculpture should be: It should shift, play and be continuously engaging. Time robs most monuments of their original significance. Writing in the New Yorker recently, Adam Gopnik reported that the Statue of Liberty was originally built as an anti-slavery message, a statement by republican France that it was siding with the Union and emancipation. There is, he says, a “broken slave shackle around Liberty’s foot” that is now hardly noticed, because we have reimagined Miss Liberty as a celebration of immigration and welcome.

The new New York [World Trade Center] monument centers on two rectangles, “reflecting pools” that drop water into two pits to a dark space below. If “reflection” means “let’s be sad together,” these pools do that — at least for the generation that was around when the buildings fell. But I wonder what they will say to folks 50 years from now. You will step up to the two big black holes, see the water crashing down then, curiously, bubbling back up, then down again, and you will think … what? It might prompt thoughts about innocence or evil or falling — but, unlike the Mandela sculpture, its message is blurry, more sentimental than provocative. A good monument creates good conversation. In South Africa, they’re having a better one.


  1. moarscienceplz says

    I met a traveller from an antique land
    Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.

  2. says

    Mandela’s freedom campaign was my introduction to anti-racist work in my teen years, and I cried a lot when he was released. By no means flawless, nevertheless his steadfast humanity after the end of apartheid was inspiring.

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