Bad History

From an interview with Sterling Ruby in the journal Kaleiodoscope, 2016.

Shortly before the fall of the Wall, I gave a lecture at the Free University of Berlin. Walking out of the hall, I noticed a plaque above the entrance that said something to the effect that ”Dr. Mengele had conducted infamous experiments on human beings here.” One of my hosts, a veteran of the German New Left, proudly explained that hundreds of students and faculty had been tear-gassed and arrested during the long campaign to erect the plaque. I was impressed. 

Remembering ”bad history,” as well as commemorating those who resisted it, should be priorities in civic art as well as primary education. The 1943 Zoot Suit Riots would be a future candidate (a proud bronze zoot suiter in front of the Million Dollar Theater?), as would be a major memorial in front of the Department of Water & Power to the victims of the Mulholland Flood, when criminally bad design led to the failure of the St. Francis Dam in 1928, killing 500 people, mostly Mexican harvest workers in the Santa Clara River Valley. Or at Union Station and Santa Anita Racetrack, to commemorate the internment of the city’s Japanese population. Or the Black Panther headquarters, bombed and shot to pieces by the LAPD in 1969.