The Monument to Workers – Hamilton, Ontario

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I haven’t done a blessed thing since I arrived in Chatham, Illinois except eat (too much), sleep, and fool around on the computer (mostly on Facebook – it’s a stone gas, man!). So, for images, I’m going back to Hamilton, Ontario to show you a most unusual monument.

Its called the Monument to Workers. It’s located at Hamilton City Hall (Main W. and Bay Street):

Monument to Workers, Hamilton City Hall (Main W. and Bay Street)
I imagine that you can see, even without clicking to enlarge, that the figure has no head. Therein lies the interesting bit.

Of course, the monument itself is  of interest to the community. Hamilton is a steel makin’ town and has plenty of other hazardous industry. Workers die every year in Hamilton factories and many more are injured. As I was photographing, a guy rode up on a bicycle to chat with Eunie. He said that he had worked in a steel mill and had once stood beside a fellow worker and watched in horror as the man lost an arm. That’s pretty gruesome. Nobody can argue that dead and injured workers don’t deserve a fitting memorial.

What is of interest to an outside observer is why the figure has no head. It flies in the face of logic. Nobody we asked knew why. I’ve Googled it until I was blue in the face and found only this, which provides no explanation.

I don’t want to get into gory speculation, but I am puzzled. The first and most obvious question is how is the figure is hanging onto the wall without a head. Then there is the curious presence of the hook-like appendage between the shoulders. Eunie says it’s a halo. I’m not buying that. Why did the artist choose to depict it in this manner? Nobody seems to know.

I mean no disrespect whatsoever by bringing this up. I think that the monument is a marvellous idea. Casualties of our industries are seldom memorialised in such a powerful manner. I applaud it and am touched by it.

Yet, the puzzle remains.

If anybody out there knows the answer, please comment so that we may all understand.

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2 Responses to “The Monument to Workers – Hamilton, Ontario”

  1. Tom Says:

    “The Monument to Workers Injured and Killed on the Job was installed at the corner of Main and Bay streets in April 1990. It has become a focal point for organized labour in the city. Sculptor Paul Cvetich created the life-sized bronze figure hanging by its fingertips from the top of a collapsing steel wall. No doubt it’s disturbing and controversial — particularly because the figure appears to have no head — but isn’t that the point?

    Certainly, the construction worker ad is graphic and disturbing. But it’s no more graphic than scenes of violent death we see on prime-time television or in movie theatres. Given how inured we seem to have become to these images of blood, gory body parts and dead bodies, maybe the graphic nature of the WSIB campaign is what it takes to shake us up, to make us take notice and really think about the safety of our workplaces.”

    Read more…

  2. MadDog Says:

    Tom, thanks for the information. All of the rest is pretty obvious and very moving. I can see why the missing head would be controversial. Even after reading the Spectator article, I’d still like to ask the scuptor why he went the no-head route. I get the thing as a whole, but I don’t understand the message of “no-head”. What is it supposed to be saying to me?

    All of the people with whom I talked also had the same question.

    Thans for reading and thanks for your comment.