Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day For Peace

As I mentioned in my last post, I did some street art based on the idea that Mother's Day was originally a protest for peace. Julia Ward Howe made the first Mother's Day Proclamation in protest of the Crimean War. I thought to place home made olive branches on different spots around the city evoking peace. I had considered including Ms Howe's Proclamation. But is somewhat florid. She also wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic. I still have a searing memory from grade school of singing the entire hymn, discovering the correct way to spell 'bosom' and realizing the bosom we were singing about belonged to Jesus Christ. This pretty much sums up my problems with 19th century writing in general. I just couldn't cope with all that melodrama. So instead I chose quotes about peace that reflected each spot. Oddly all the places relating to people were about men. This is in no small part due to the phallocentric nature of New York City's monuments and parks. But I rather liked the idea of honoring peaceful men on Mother's Day.

 Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Plaza

"To the children, I say and repeat: do not make war." - Lazare Ponticelli, French WWI Vet

My first stop was to honor those who died fighting wars and to mourn the pointlessness of it all. Earlier this week Evan Fleischer at the Awl wrote a beautiful piece about the last World War I veterans. None of them seemed to think very highly of war.

The Vietnam Vets' Memorial is surprisingly peaceful considering its location surrounded by financial towers and a heliport. The glass bricks are etched with letters from soldiers.

 The Gandhi Statue
"If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children" - Mahatma Gandhi

The Gandhi statue was perfect, as if it had been made for people to tie olive branches to the gate. Someone had stolen his glasses (which must bring some bad karma). I am happy to report that they have been replaced.

Dag Hammarskjold Plaza

"The pursuit of peace and progress cannot end in a few years in either victory or defeat. The pursuit of peace and progress, with its trials and its errors, its successes and its setbacks, can never be relaxed and never abandoned. " - Dag Hammarskjold

I had a hard time finding a good spot here. I was not deeply inspired by Dag Hammarskjold, who died in a plane crash while he was trying to negotiate a cease-fire in what is now Zambia.  The olive branch is barely visible on the edge of the fountain. I suppose I could have clambered onto the fountain and attached it to one of the columns but it is right across from the United Nations. I did not fancy celebrating Mother's Day by getting arrested.

There was an art installation with statues sitting on benches and standing around. I kept mistaking them for actual people which was a little unnerving. They seemed very post-apocalyptic to me, especially the rusty ones.

They also appeared to be naked.

Circle of Animals

"From a very young age I started to sense that an individual has to set an example in society. Your own acts or behavior tell the world who you are and at the same time what kind of society you think it should be"  - Ai Wei Wei, Chinese Artist.

This is when things got out of hand. Ai Wei Wei is not exactly a pacifist and most of his quotes are fairly provocative. He was a respected artist in China until he started criticizing the government for their handling of the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. The government arrested him on April 2. When I saw that his sculptures were unveiled last week, lay an olive branch there. However, the sculptures are in that insane place on the south east corner of Central Park. It was a zoo. Everyone was staring intensely at the sculptures, photographing, etc. There place was crawling with official type people. It just didn't seem to be a good place to do my thing. Across the street, there was a plaque commemorating a war and in the sight line of the sculptures. I thought that would work.

But I didn't account for the tourists. They kept stopping to see what this was all about, and blocking the sight line.

If the naked statues made me feel self conscious, this was even worse. There was only a moment when the traffic was clear. It just wasn't working photographically.
The sculptures are fantastic however, totally worth wading through the crowds to see.

The Dakota
"All we are saying, is give peace a chance" - John Lennon

I had originally planned to lay the last olive branch on Strawberry Field. As I approached, I saw that it was completely surrounded by a crowd. Clearly I need to get up a little earlier to do are quietly in Central Park. I had been lulled into complacency by the thought that everyone would be at brunch with their mothers. I chose the back corner so I would not run afoul of the doormen. (There were two! They looked bored).

This was the first time in years that I did not resent Mother's Day and the relentless drum beat of advertising to spend money on one's mother. While I was looking for the proclamation, I came across some wise advice for children on Mother's Day (couldn't find the url again sadly)
  • Don't talk on your hand phone and send text messages
  • Don't offer household appliances like vacuum cleaners as a present
Words to live by 

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Those are marvelous -- what a good paradigm subversion. Brava!