Inventing the Twentieth Century.
As many observer has recognised this Sculpture is a subversion of the American iconic and monumental sculpture carved into the living rock of Mount Rushmore, and depicting four of the USA’s most prominent Presidents; Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
Since its construction in the early 20thC Mount Rushmore has been parodied and used to represent the Fab Four; Indian Chiefs; heroes of Black American history; Deep Purple; and many more.
This example accepts the 20thC as the “American Century” in which the US became the dominant nation on earth, whilst suggesting four alternative characters from the 19thC that most influenced the intellectual climate of the 20th. So if the US were interested in thinking, these are the guys that ought to be on Mount Rushmore.
From left to right the we find Charles Darwin. Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, and Friedrich Nietzsche.
Few would disagree with the massive impact had by the evolutionary theories of Darwin, the revolutions stimulated by Marxist ideas and the fact that Marx’s economic theories are still used by the left and right to understand how capital works.
JS Mill’s ideas are perhaps less well known, but no less important. He argued for the ideas of liberty, free speech, women’s rights, and equality that have laid the basis for extending the vote to all, and the emancipation of slaves.
Nietzsche who looks towards the other three is the critic, the sceptic whose philosophy has provided an analytical, even nihilistic eye on all philosophies laying the ground for expressionism, postmodernism, individualism and egoism. He is probably most famous for his declaration that “God is Dead” and shares with the other three the position of Atheism: a fitting quartet for the Century that has been called “The Godless Century”.