Michael Lewis, chairman of the Art Department, has an article in the Wall Street Jornal on memorial designs for the World Trade Center. Lewis suggests that:

Perhaps the greatest threat to the memorial is that it will be too laden with visual imagery: the slurry wall, the sunken pit, even twisted shards of the buildings themselves. The site should be allowed to speak for itself. It should be enclosed in such a way that its immense scale can be grasped in its totality, giving the visitor an abstract impression of the magnitude of the attacks and of the tragedy. It should be a solemn enclave, screened from the bustle of the city–perhaps through an arcade, which defines space without blocking it.

Above all, the World Trade Center Memorial must be lapidary, a useful term that literally means the terseness appropriate to carving on stone. It would be wrong to communicate anything other than the simplest of declaratives: We mourn, we persevere, we continue.

It may be that we cannot take the true measure of 9/11 until a generation has passed. After all, the monuments to Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson on the Mall came at least a half century after the deaths of their subjects. We should not be bullied by well-meaning intentions into something we will regret. In that case, it would be better not to build at all.

But if we are to build, we should agree on first principles. We cannot go too far wrong if we pledge ourselves to no violence, no swagger, no clutter, no despair.

Some on the Right don’t like the way that Lewis looks at things. James Bowman, in the context of an article on war and masculinity, writes:

By coincidence, I notice that one of the “four cardinal principles” enunciated by Michael J. Lewis, head of the art department at Williams College, in the Wall Street Journal for the memorial to the victims of September 11th at the World Trade Center site is that it must portray “No violence.”

The memorial must not perpetuate the violence of the attacks, nor imply it by fractured form. It must heal the wounds, not pick at the scab. Most of us experienced 9/11 on television and have a storehouse of visual horror to draw on. As vivid as those visual images were, they have no place in this design.

Ah, yes. Shades of the “cycle of violence” that those Middle Eastern primitives, unlike our very clever American columnists, haven’t the wit to escape from. It’s all very well their taking the high moral ground about somebody else’s quarrels, but I wonder if the widows and orphans of 9/11 will be equally keen on refusing to “perpetuate the violence of the attacks”? They, at least, will be harder to persuade that “violence” is not a perpetual feature of the human condition — like the masculine virtues (and vices) which it has always elicited.

I would guess that Bowman more misunderstands Lewis than disagrees with him.

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