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Remembering Erostratus

In Abraxas, a fine British magazine, Paul Newman writes a nice article about Erostratus’ immortality in the context of a discussion about the Millenium Dome. Erostratus burned the Temple of Artemis in Ephesis in 356BC in order to immortalize his name. Although it was forbidden to write or say his name on sentence of death, his name endures:

Erostratus triumphed over the oblivion that engulfed more distinguished achievers. For in denying a name, we engrave it more deeply upon the memory: thus prohibition becomes an act of instatement. By designating it as “the love that dare not speak its name”, Oscar Wilde rendered his predilection permanent and unforgettable. Absence, after all, is merely the echo of a once-solid body.

Andy Warhol pronounced everyone entitled to fifteen minutes of worldwide fame, and in such a climate the contemporary artist in particular feels duty-bound to brand his signature on the non-too-responsive hide of the public. In order to do so, his symbiology may run to excrement, intestines, underwear and the contents of dustbins. If he does not shout loud enough, he will not be heard, for there are plenty of rival voices prepared to drown his. It would not be an unoriginal notion for a modern artist to stage a ‘happening’ in which he destroys the work of his contemporaries, so that his name above all should survive the holocausts of centuries.

(Paul Newman is the author of a History of Terror).

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