Ideal city: public art: fictional and free
[Long ago I posted W.H. Auden’s description of the landscape, language, government, architecture, etc, of his “personal paradise,” his version of the ideal city. I’ve always vaguely intended to “fill out the form” myself, but whenever I tried, it started to feel forced.
One reason for that, I think, is that I was trying to fill out Auden’s form. I don’t have strong opinions about formal dress, I do have strong opinions about city layout, something he doesn’t mention. Another is that I was trying to fill it all out at once. Better, I think, to determine each feature only when I happen upon a particularly good angle to take.
Without further ado, then, I’m introducing a new series of “Ideal city” posts. These will come out sporadically, as inspiration strikes, but I hope there will eventually be at least a half-dozen of them. I already have three or four planned. They will vary greatly in length.]
The public statues in Auden’s ideal city are “Confined to famous defunct chefs.” That’s a bit too flippant for my taste, but I like the basic idea behind it: public statues shouldn’t honor “great men.” In my city, they won’t: they’ll honor fictional characters. Just imagine it: Achilles Circle, Sherlock Holmes Square, Dornroschen Piazza, Ishmael Marina. The statues could even be replaced every few years, to ensure no one interpretation of the character became too fixed in the public’s mind. If a character fell too far out of popularity it could be replaced by a more well-known figure of similar archetypal significance. One thing has to be clear: the statues are honoring the characters, not the authors who created them. No living authors can have their characters selected, and preference will be given to the archaic, the traditional, and the communal.
This isn’t meant to discourage the desire to do great deeds, or to be honored for them. It’s only meant to ensure that nobody is permanently enshrined for achieving greatness in transient things. Churches will be permitted statues of their saints, and I expect private clubs, even political parties, if I end up allowing them, will put up statues of their founders and heroes. The saints would be permitted on the outside of the building, but the others would have to be displayed privately, either indoors or in walled gardens.
Oh, and no museums, but the civic buildings are full of paintings and sculptures and are always open to the public.