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Tear of Grief: massive. ignored.
November 19, 2011 12:08 AM   Subscribe

You probably don't know about a giant 10-story tall Russian memorial to war dead on American soil. It's not a trick statement, like on the contested Commander Islands in the Bering Sea. No, real America. New Jersey. It's called To the Struggle Against World Terrorism (or "Tear of Grief") and was installed in 2006 on the end of a working pier, facing the Statue of Liberty, prime real estate. Snopes created a page after incredulous queries. You can see it on Google Maps, Wikipedia.

The sculpture is by Georgian-Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli. He's the president of the Russian Academy of the Arts. Reportedly his "grandfather" paid for it (12 million dollars), and he obtained the metal "From a military factory that did airplanes. Dzerzhinsk. A secret city." Putin and Clinton showed up for the inauguration.

The sculpture appears to be a "white elephant". It didn't get much press and was called "a giant tea biscuit", and "one of the worlds ugliest statues." He's made other large statues, but among certain Muscovites they have a saying, “That’s just plain Tsereteli,” meaning something that's useless and tasteless. Yet, many non-artist-types seem to like it. The Port Authority has since bought the land and wants to move it, but a local taxi driver has started a petition to keep it in there.
posted by stbalbach (66 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Uhh...I'm not the only one who sees that, right? ...Right?
posted by phunniemee at 12:18 AM on November 19, 2011 [38 favorites]


So I stumbled upon that statue a few months ago when I was on (I was tricked, I swear!) foreignpolicy.com and saw their list of 10 ugliest statues and it honestly one the only one where I looked at it and thought "hmm... not bad." It kinda reminds me of the OKC Bombing memorial maybe in a derivitive way. I dunno, I guess I feel like a big scar of steel actually kinda captures how I feel about 9/11... is this why I'm not an art critic?

( I will agree, however, Tsereteli's statue of Peter the Great looks like some puke-propaganda combo)
posted by midmarch snowman at 12:29 AM on November 19, 2011


midmarch snowman, one of the defining features of "bad" civic art, as defined by art critics, is that people who don't care about art criticism seem to like it. Funny how that works, isn't it?
posted by 1adam12 at 12:32 AM on November 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was kind of surprised after looking through the first few links and generally having a neutral opinion of the statue's appearance, (only of what it was trying to convey - and liking the concept) only then to read how many people thought it to be an eye sore.

This may not be what other people saw, but my immediate thought was of when rain water gets into cracks of rocks and freezes. The rock then breaks apart so easily and crumbles.. and I particularly like that metaphor in relation to what happened on 911.. fitting in a way.

I've always thought art was most effective when it got people talking, regardless of what they were talking about. If its causing people to interact and engage with each other over opinions and feelings of the piece, then it's done its job. Whether it be negatively or not.
posted by Bron-Y-Aur at 1:10 AM on November 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


midmarch snowman, one of the defining features of "bad" civic art, as defined by art critics, is that people who don't care about art criticism seem to like it. Funny how that works, isn't it?

Of course, people who don't care about art criticism also like an awful lot of the "best" pieces of art, as defined by art critics. Cause there's sure a lineup to see, say, David, and I don't think it's all art critics.

And on the flipside of your somewhat snide definition, civic art disliked by the cud-chewing masses must have at least some merit. So, presumably, here's the piece of public art with the strongest critical pedigree (i.e. chosen as worst by a dreadfully plebeian group of internet users).
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 1:15 AM on November 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


My god, it's pure smut!
posted by molecicco at 1:32 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I saw what you see, phunniemee... I wonder if that's the unspoken objection many have? At any rate, I kind of like it.
posted by taz at 1:35 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]




In Russia, monument cries on YOU!

Joking aside, the snopes link kinda reminded me of something. I used to be quite close friends with David and Barbara in the mid to late '90s. We did some T.V. appearances together for various "Eye on _____" shows back then. (Philly After Midnight, etc.) and I was a frequent contributor / collaborator with them at the time.

Once 9/11 happened, though, everything changed, including our relationship. Snopes.com exploded in popularity due to the many myths emerging from the events. David and Barbara could scarcely handle all the media attention they were getting, but took it in stride. I eventually faded away and enjoyed watching them do what they do best. It was gratifying, but also kind of bittersweet watching them go from a pair of like-minded hobbyists to one of the web's most indispensable resources of facts.

Back on topic, I don't see this monument as "bad art." It it's ugly, it's only because it represents an ugly event. "Guernica" isn't a particularly attractive painting, but the message of ugliness comes through loud and clear.

That being said, I think the "teardrop" element itself is a bit glurge-y for my taste.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:46 AM on November 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, that 9/11 memorial has nothing on this monstrosity. Just look at it. The thing looks like something you'd get on your city screen in Civilization II after you build Wonder of the World: Golden Horde. (And what do you call that architectural style anyway? Neo-Turkmenbashi?)
posted by alexoscar at 1:46 AM on November 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, that 9/11 memorial has nothing on this monstrosity. Just look at it. The thing looks like something you'd get on your city screen in Civilization II after you build Wonder of the World: Golden Horde. (And what do you call that architectural style anyway? Neo-Turkmenbashi?)
Having been to Ulaan Bataar (but not having seen that monument) I have to admit, again, I kinda like it. Imagining a bunch of people on horseback on that vast steppe on the precipice of habitability riding and conquering without exhaustion until they reach the Danube. Yeah, it makes about as much sense as a 150 foot tall silver Gengis Kahn. For whatever reason that eyesore (and in the sun I imagine that's literal) seems appropriate for the setting.
posted by midmarch snowman at 2:30 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just another person's opinion, but the torn structure looks just about right to me (negative space and all that), while the teardrop just seems superfluous. The balance is all off on it, too. Is that supposed to actually represent a real tear? Because tears don't really get that long.
posted by Gilbert at 2:41 AM on November 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


'a cross between a scar and a female sexual organ.'

Wow, I'm an even more horrible person than I thought. My first impression was "So this is a memorial to all the people who were teabagged by the Silver Surfer?".
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:01 AM on November 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


Uhh...I'm not the only one who sees that, right? ...Right?

WELL WE CAN'T UNSEE IT NOW
posted by louche mustachio at 3:08 AM on November 19, 2011 [12 favorites]


I think it honors the two twentieth century threads of Russian monumental gigantism by being simultaneously jarringly abstract and disappointingly literal. Russians know how to do giant monuments without pussyfooting around, you know.

That said, working for the organization that coordinates the installation of public art in Baltimore has given me a great insight into the workings of public responses to public art. The great self-appointed art critics out there fancy themselves as revolutionaries in red scarves at the barricades, sounding the charge, but when you ask the actual public, most people just sort of shrug and say, "yeah, it's okay." It's just too easy to be one of those annoying people who are just outraged at everything, all the time. Sheesh.

All that said, the criticism that it's vaginal strikes me the same way as the criticism that's always leveled at the Washington Monument and other long, pointy structures. What's wrong with dick and puss, for pete's sake? We have those things. We like those things. Being teabagged in a nonpolitical sense is fun. What's the prob?
posted by sonascope at 3:38 AM on November 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


the organization that coordinates the installation of pubic art

FTFY? (oh man, we're really off the rails at this point, aren't we?)
posted by ShutterBun at 4:15 AM on November 19, 2011


I'm not the only one who sees that, right?

His art has been commended as being strongly vaginal, which bothers some men.
posted by theredpen at 4:17 AM on November 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


I see it as a representation of the rip in the universe, with the smallest hint of the first of the Great Old Ones oozing through. This is not a memorial; it is a devotional site. And you will all be worshiping there soon enough....
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:42 AM on November 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I like it. I think it emotionally conveys the ugliness and sadness of 9/11 very well.

Now this eyesore in Michigan is another story.
posted by caddis at 4:46 AM on November 19, 2011


*Sigh.*
Better call the museum and cancel my installation honoring oversized genital piercings.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:17 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, technically, the Russians were kinda sorta our allies for a while during WWII. Sort of.

Not that it excuses this, this thing.
posted by tommasz at 5:40 AM on November 19, 2011


Id fuck it
posted by nathancaswell at 6:00 AM on November 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I actually kind of like it too
posted by nathancaswell at 6:01 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Plus there are a billion cock looking monuments out there about time we had a vag to go with them
posted by nathancaswell at 6:03 AM on November 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Better call the museum and cancel my installation honoring oversized genital piercings.

Please clarify the phrase "my installation." Thanks.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:03 AM on November 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you like crucifixes bursting holes in walls and Arno Breker-ish males in a state of undress, you'll love this Tsereteli in the City of London. In case the symbolism of a shining crucifix bursting a hole in a wall is a little obscure for you, the then self-styled "people's artist of the Soviet Union" has put further clues in the work's name, which is "Break the Wall of Distrust". A title yearning for a exclamation mark in my opinion, but Tsereteli is a master of understatement.
posted by WPW at 6:07 AM on November 19, 2011


It definitely looks at least as good to me as most of the abstract steel sculpture art works I have seen in public spaces.

I like the Genghis Khan style myself, although 40 meters tall seems a little much. I have seen Mount Rushmore and I think it does not look as good as the (sacred to the Sioux) mountain that was there before surely looked.
posted by bukvich at 6:09 AM on November 19, 2011


At least it's small.
posted by WPW at 6:09 AM on November 19, 2011


This goes so well with the Tomb of the Unkown Penis in Arlington, MA
posted by briank at 6:16 AM on November 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The lifetime achievement award for bad public art monuments goes to The Battle of Liberty Place Monument. The last time I read the plaque it said "white supremacy".
posted by bukvich at 6:27 AM on November 19, 2011


This goes so well with the Tomb of the Unkown Penis in Arlington, MA

Unknown? Pffft. Everybody knows that's where King Missile is buried.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:37 AM on November 19, 2011


The sculpture itself is interesting for the contrast between smooth shiny metal and rough broken stone.

All the claims relating it to tears, 9/11, or the fight against terrorism sound bogus and only distract from the art.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:27 AM on November 19, 2011


My perceptions of beautiful down town Arlington Ma have been changed forever.
posted by sammyo at 7:29 AM on November 19, 2011


I'm amazed at the support this piece is getting here. I looks like something an junior high school student would design. It's big, crazy pointlessly big, and just plain goofy.

I would, however, enjoy having a rendition of it on black velvet, painted with florescent paint and incorporating embedded blinking lights.
posted by cccorlew at 7:55 AM on November 19, 2011


I have to admit, I find it weirdly touching that a random Russian dude would give the US a 9/11 monument. On the other hand, twelve million dollars is an awful lot to pay for a giant concrete vagina.

I live in NOLA, and I've driven by the Liberty Place monument, but never knew what it was. God, that's dreadful. It warms the cockles of my heart to learn that it's defaced pretty much constantly.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 7:56 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


twelve million dollars is an awful lot to pay for a giant concrete vagina.

spoken like a person who's never had 12 million dollars burning a hole in their pocket
posted by nathancaswell at 8:00 AM on November 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


or penetrated a giant concrete vagina.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 8:04 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


So what is the going price for giant concrete vaginas?
posted by tommasz at 8:14 AM on November 19, 2011


$12 million, same as in town.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:17 AM on November 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


It looks like a bajina made outta smoke, big deal.
posted by Mister_A at 8:49 AM on November 19, 2011


I'm pretty sure I saw this statue being worked on when I lived in JC, although we'd moved by the time it was installed. I definitely remember it being talked about. I'm neutral about it, genital appearance and all, but I'm not a huge fan of most public (semi) abstract art. Not a hater, not a lover, just don't particularly care.

I'm not surprised that the Port Authority wants it gone in the name of redevelopment. I'm not sure I can find quite the right words to describe the emotion I have about the owner of the WTC site deciding that the monument on the pier (as near as you can get in NJ to the actual WTC site) needs to go so they can develop it for cash, but black cynical humor comes close, particularly when you factor in the regional attitudes about the relative worth of New York and New Jersey.
posted by immlass at 9:07 AM on November 19, 2011


Plus there are a billion cock looking monuments out there about time we had a vag to go with them

you mean like the vagina building?
posted by ninjew at 9:34 AM on November 19, 2011


I actually like it, but I'd like it a lot better if the tear wasn't inside the 'tear', (or, slightly less so if it was just a giant stainless steel tear). For one thing, the tear is just too maudlin, too sentimental and too literal. No surprise there, for a piece of popular public art, but the presence of the tear just doesn't make sense in a narrative or metaphorical sense: how did that tear get inside there, whence does it spring, where will it go? Is it the stone itself that is suppurating? Has the tear been revealed by the wound, and how would that work?
Just a big ugly gash in a slab of perfect rock would have done nicely.
posted by Flashman at 9:37 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you think of the tear as a tear it sucks. If you think of it as a blob of molten metal I think it works alright.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:50 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


PS - It's kind of funny that both elements of the structure can be described as "tear". The "tear drop" and the "tear in the wall." Yay English. Tear in a tear.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:51 AM on November 19, 2011


What makes it weird is its location on a working jetty surrounded by warehouses and ship-breaking yards. You wonder what the local dock workers and harbor captains have nick-named it since it's such an unavoidable landmark towering over their daily lives.
posted by stbalbach at 9:52 AM on November 19, 2011


I read that Foreign Policy "The World’s Ugliest Statues" piece and came across this:
...the strange trend of Serbian villages building statues of foreign celebrities. These include Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan, kung fu legend Bruce Lee, reggae star Bob Marley, British topless model turned pop singer Samantha Fox, and actor Johnny Depp.
The others I had heard about, but not the Samantha Fox one. I did some googling and found that:
Serbia was ready to build a statue of Samantha Fox simply because she'd agreed to sing there (and they'd even decided on super-high-quality marble for her breasts). But when Sam sang in the town of Cacak this week, she stormed off stage when they began a chant about wanting to see her breasts. Sam then ditched a ministerial dinner in her honor, and the ministers have now ditched plans for her memorial statue.
posted by Challahtronix at 9:59 AM on November 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Reminds me of Dr Doom crying. Which is to say: something that should not be.
posted by SPrintF at 10:07 AM on November 19, 2011


And here I thought I was one of the hypersexualized hordes. It doesn't at all scream "vagina!" at me. I think it's a great piece of art. The teardrop is a little weird, but I think its reflectiveness makes it work. If you look at it just right, it might remind you of a scrotum, though. Truck Nuts, anybody?
posted by wierdo at 10:40 AM on November 19, 2011


I see your Arlington war monument and raise you Nails Tales. Or, as I like to call it, the penis corn.
posted by Madamina at 10:50 AM on November 19, 2011


Speaking of public art people hate...Milwaukee's least favorite: "The Calling" by Mark di Suervo
posted by MikeMc at 11:03 AM on November 19, 2011


PS - It's kind of funny that both elements of the structure can be described as "tear". The "tear drop" and the "tear in the wall." Yay English. Tear in a tear.

When I saw it, the lacerates flowed down my cheeks.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:31 AM on November 19, 2011


P.S. The statue makes perfect sense if you think of it as a drop of oil.

/kneejerk librul
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:33 AM on November 19, 2011


It doesn't at all scream "vagina!" at me.

You don't hear the screaming because you don't have what it takes to be a professional chest beater!

This is big league stuff. Be honest, can you get passionate about the artistic merits of a decoupage portrait of a crying eagle. Can you argue that traffic roundabouts, words with the letter "C" in it, or any other incomplete circle (or vaguely partial circlish shape are crescents and, ergo, tributes to Islam? Can you ignore that countries other than the United States might have actually fought Hitler or that the French had nothing to do with the US victory at Yorktown and endlessly moan about how we have to go it alone again and again?

Given the made-up controversy surrounding the Flight 93 memorial, it's a wonder this thing ever got built at all.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:40 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like it irregardless of what anyone else says!
posted by P.o.B. at 12:02 PM on November 19, 2011


Things I like: the feel of massiveness, the color changes in certain light, the contrast of smooth and rough textures, the reminder of violence, that it utilizes the imagery of the twin towers without being too obvious, to me at least, but easy to 'get'. I like the imagery of things coming out of cracks, which is always a little disturbing and uncomfortable.

Things I don't like: the flatness of parts of it, not sure if it works from all angles, and the placement on the location seems a bit off. The location highlights the scale, but not in a way that I think works too well. It looks like it is towering over the masses in a way that sometimes looks grand, but mostly looks overwhelming and out of proportion to it's surroundings.

All in all, I definitely vote for it, and do like it, although I do think it could have benefited from being somewhere that works better in combination.
posted by Vaike at 12:48 PM on November 19, 2011


So why did his father cough up this $12M and shipping and installation costs?
posted by infini at 1:08 PM on November 19, 2011


Guys, Zurab Tsereteli is nearly 80, his grandfather and father are probably long dead and didn't pay for anything. That whole thing is based on a misreading of the New Yorker article where they're interviewing the sculptor's grandson Vasili, who's saying that the Zurab paid for it himself.
Asked by telephone about the steel, Tsereteli got into a glum-sounding discussion in Russian with his grandson, Vasili, who, patched into the call from Venice, was acting as interpreter. Finally, Vasili said, “From a military factory that did airplanes. In Dzerzhinsk. A secret city.”

What about the monument’s financing? (It is widely said to have cost twelve million dollars to build.) “My grandfather paid the money,” Vasili said.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 1:45 PM on November 19, 2011


Milwaukee's least favorite

Yeah, but what does Milwaukee know? They let their art museum be in Transformers 3. Milwaukee needs to be ashamed of itself for quite a while.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:32 PM on November 19, 2011


I kind of like it, teardrop and all.

What I like best about it is that it was even erected at all. I mean, it's not like we go overboard to honor the dead in other countries much, amirite?

Thanks, gramps and Zurab.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:39 PM on November 19, 2011


Awfully swell of "the Russians". Makes you wonder where in Russia is the Tear for the 10s of millions who were killed by Stalin's terrorists.

But then, I note that our dead veterans are celebrated on Veteran's Day while 500,000 live veterans wander our streets homeless. And then I remember that it's not how you feel, it's how you look.

Ah, humanity.
posted by Twang at 6:55 PM on November 19, 2011


Makes you wonder where in Russia is the Tear for the 10s of millions who were killed by Stalin's terrorists.

You could look here, for example.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:17 PM on November 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is his mug really on every. single. page? It's disturbing my Sunday morning monument-bashing giggles. I'm about ready to give him the fiver.
posted by thinkpiece at 5:16 AM on November 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Awfully swell of "the Russians". Makes you wonder where in Russia is the Tear for the 10s of millions who were killed by Stalin's terrorists.

You really know nothing about the post-Stalinist and post-Soviet Russian response to Stalin if you think that there are no Russian statues regarding this, and that's even assuming you literally mean Russia rather than the ex-USSR in general. Stalin, just so you know, is from Gori in Georgia (as, non-coincidentally, was prime political/police enforcer Beria). This really isn't a solely Russian story.
posted by jaduncan at 8:17 AM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is his mug really on every. single. page? It's disturbing [...]

Previously.

(click the X in the upper right corner of the ironically-named "appeal" and it will go away and remain away for as long as the cookie lasts)
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:09 AM on November 20, 2011


Also, that 9/11 memorial has nothing on this monstrosity. Just look at it. The thing looks like something you'd get on your city screen in Civilization II after you build Wonder of the World: Golden Horde.

It's better than nothing.

I just wish we had more public art in the US. I'll take hideous statues. Especially the west coast, everything feels so dry. Also, the more stuff there is the more Mount Rushmore's prominence is diluted. It's OK to hate on Mount Rushmore right?
posted by floam at 10:42 PM on November 20, 2011


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