Death sucks. There, I said it. Controversial though the thought may be, I assure you there are lots of people that think like I do. Some of those people have lots and lots of money to demonstrate how much they think death sucks. Others just want to make a really really big point about someone’s death. Here’s a few examples.
We’ll just start with the uber-depressing memorial to get it out of the way. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the (much more PC) Holocaust Memorial, is located in Berlin, Germany and covers 4.7 acres. The site is covered in 2,711 concrete slabs the artist refers to as stelae. The artist says it’s to create an uneasy feeling and a confusing atmosphere. Yeah, it confuses people alright.
One controversy (among many) surrounding the memorial is the fact that it doesn’t make any damn sense. The artist, architect Peter Eisenman, is known for creating installations that remove any connotations of familiarity with the subject matter. The concrete blocks bear no inscriptions or symbolism, making it impossible to know what you’re experiencing without being told. Some visitors say the rows of blocks make the installation look like a graveyard, so there’s that, I guess…
From Germany, we swing on down to India for a look at the Taj Mahal. There are no gray slabs of concrete to be seen. Now this looks a little more promising…
The Taj Mahal, or “Crown of Palaces”, is a mausoleum built by emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife Mumtaz Mahal. At first I was all like “What, the other two weren’t good enough?” Then I learned that she died giving birth to their fourteenth child. Okay, fine, give the woman a memorial. I think it’s safe to say she earned it!
Construction began in 1632 and took 19 years to complete. The bulk of the buildings consist of translucent white marble, with jade, turquoise and other precious stones sourced from places all over India and Asia. A labor force of twenty thousand men were directed by a group of 37 artisans to construct and sculpt the elaborate memorial.
Shah Jahan didn’t get to be proud of his accomplishment for very long, though. He was deposed by his own son and placed under house arrest shortly after the memorial’s completion. Shah Jahan’s son at least allowed the deposed leader to be laid to rest next to his (most) beloved in the Taj Mahal’s tomb.
Our final destination brings us all the way to the Black Hills of South Dakota, USA. That’s where the Crazy Horse Memorial is (very, very) slowly being constructed. The monument is not just a memorial to Crazy Horse, but also a mighty middle finger to the white man.
Okay, so that’s a little harsh. The idea for the memorial started with Henry Standing Bear. He wrote to a sculptor that had worked on Mount Rushmore, saying that “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too.” It was decided to carve the memorial out of the Black Hills, which are considered sacred by the Lakota culture. Construction was begun in 1942…
…Aaannnd it’s still ongoing. Not surprisingly, the people behind the construction of the monument weren’t too keen about accepting money from the US government, so all money to build it comes from donations and entry fees to the memorial. Whenever they do manage to finish it off, the monument will be 641 feet wide and 563 feet tall. Crazy Horse’s head alone is 87 feet tall, 27 feet taller than the faces on Mount Rushmore. There’s currently no estimate of when it will be completed.