Photo by Maxim J (maximpj; Flickr CC)
Marx and Engels
I know, I know – you're angry. I can feel your vibrating fury radiating through the wireless. There is a hole in your newsfeed because I have not been keeping you abreast of the adventures of Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer. And who can blame you? He's a man who is not bound by his remit. Who among us can say the same?
Not only does he play the piano but he, you know, deals with transport issues and stuff. But that's not all. Cabinet meetings are said to be frequently punctuated by the silver fox's raffish, off-the-cuff humour and uproarious impressions of the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal.
Anyway, he has now angered some Berliners by suggesting that we move the statue of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels from the centre of the city.
Now you've gone too far, Ramsi, you meddling Bavarian. I happen to love this statue, and not because I'm a communist, which I'm not. I love many statues in the centre of Berlin. I have a particular fondness for the Gothic action scene featuring the mounted St. George fighting a dragon in the Nikolaiviertel. I love this one for all its naturalistic details – the veins on the terrified horse's belly and the scales on the reptile's back. What I especially like is that it captures a moment when George is not yet winning (despite the look of implacable murder on the saint's face), which makes it very tense.
But the Marx/Engels one is very different. The old ideological pair are also implacable, saintly even, but they stand still and solid, gazing sternly across their Marx-Engels Forum. They are not naturalistic – slightly stylised, fattened and smooth. But that doesn't mean there aren't life-like details: Marx's nose looks distinctly blocked, which the real Marx's often were, thanks to all the mucus-inducing cigars he smoked and the respiratory problems that afflicted him.
But this statue also echoes its 1980s origins – the combination of the serenity and the fixed, stiff positions they have adopted (one seated, one standing), always reminded me very much of 1980s pop legends the Pet Shop Boys, who didn't mind a bit of communist imagery themselves.
I'm sorry Ramsi, you and me are on different sides now.