Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dulce et decorum est

Douglas Coupland would appear to be under the impression that his is a fresh, innovative, and daring light shed upon The old Lie.

Douglas Coupland, needless to say, is a twit.

Diogenes Borealis gives us a rather more enlightening demonstration of the effect of a flame-thrower on Styrofoam:
Today's Hideous Public Art draws your attention to an eyesore that was recently unveiled in Toronto. Erected a musket shot away from historic Fort York, Douglas Coupland's Monument to the War of 1812 is not only gimmicky, childish and banal, but it is in astonishingly bad taste for a sculpture meant to commemorate a formative event in our nation's history that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people and the burning of the city of York (now Toronto). Not only that, it panders to an unfortunate tendency in Canadians to go out of their way to thumb their noses at our American neighbours - it's a $500 000 flip of the bird disguised as art. But what can one expect from Douglas Coupland, the writer and aesthete who gave us Generation X - the novel that elevated that nihilistic slacker generation from mere annoyance to cultural icon?


Surely this is a joke. Someone from the Christmas-window display team at the downtown Bay store is using up some leftover Christmas decorations for a seasonal display, right? This can't be a monument to an actual war where people died to protect their country, can it?


Excuse me, Mr. Coupland, but didn't we lose the Battle of York? If this thing is installed a few blocks away from the site of the garrison that failed to protect the city from destruction by an invading American army, isn't it a bit, oh, I don't know, arrogant to show a British soldier victorious over a fallen American? I guess history is a fluid notion and it can be rewritten after all.

What do Americans in Toronto think? A spokesperson from the American Consulate politely told the press that the Consulate had no comment on the monument, but said the U.S. government is committed to freedom of speech.

You know, the War of 1812 used to be a big deal in Canada. We used to take pride in the fact that the British army and Canadian militia held the attacking Americans off for almost three years and preserved Canada as an independent nation. The men who died in that war used to be considered heroic figures. We used to erect monuments to them that were, well, monumental and heroic ...
Well worth the read. As indeed is all of Eric's (ongoing) series "Hideous Public Art"--a rollicking jaunt through some of the more excremental of Canada's commemorative spaces, à la James Howard Kunstler's "Eyesore of the Month".