Friday, 14 April 2017

Faux pas

Heated controversy at the University of East Anglia in Norwich over an Antony Gormley sculpture on the roof of a building that looks like someone about to commit suicide.

Apparently the sculpture has been mistaken for a real person by some students. One student asked "Is this some kind of sick joke?" and another said "It's a bit tactless to put a statue on top of a building filled with people on edge during exam season."

The University defended the sculpture, declaring that placing it at roof level is "thought provoking and offers both spectacle and surprise. All staff and students have been made aware of the new art installation on campus, and where the sculptures will be located."

But since sculptures are normally at ground level and not on rooftops, surely what seems to be a human figure on the edge of a roof can only suggest imminent suicide? There's nothing to indicate that it's only a sculpture.

Maybe I'm missing something, but surely whoever decided to put the sculpture on the roof must have realised the suicide possibility and the effect it would have on unsuspecting passers-by? Or were they so dim it simply didn't occur to them?

And surely a sculpture can only be properly appreciated if it's somewhere you can inspect it closely and examine the detail and texture and artistry? You can hardly do that if it's on a roof and barely visible.

It would be interesting to know what Sir Antony Gormley himself thinks of the sculpture's location. Did he approve, or did he think it would be elsewhere? None of the reports so far have asked for his comments.

You just can't say it often enough - location, location, location.

28 comments:

Jenny Woolf said...

I guess the university was taking it for granted that people would know this was Gormley's trademark - human figures (based on himself) in unexpected places. But that was making a very broad assumption, I think. My favourite Gormley figure is the one standing - but upside down - on the ceiling of the hallway in the Wellcome Museum - very odd!

Nick said...

Jenny: They probably did think that, especially given the emphasis on art at UEA. Nevertheless, I can see that the immediate reaction of someone suddenly catching sight of the sculpture might well be "Oh my god, they're going to jump off the roof."

Yes, the Gormley sculpture at the Wellcome Museum is rather wonderful. And you couldn't possibly think it was a real person hanging from the ceiling!

tammy j said...

they don't dare put anything like that on a roof here.
it's inviting the prairie high straight winds and the eventual tornado to do its job!
and it really does look uncomfortably like someone about to jump.
can't say i like it really. but then i'm no conno~sewer! LOL

Nick said...

Tammy: We've had some pretty strong winds too, so I hope the sculpture is well secured, or it might topple down and brain an innocent student!

Even if you're familiar with Gormley's sculptures, you might still do a double-take and think, is that a Gormley - or is it a real-life jumper?

John Gray said...

I kind of like it

Wisewebwoman said...

I totally like it. Evocative and thought provoking. (Obviously)

XO
WWW

kylie said...

Judging by the photo, I suspect it is bigger than a human form and it should be self evident that it's not "a jumper"

Good art will challenge the audience and this is doing exactly that. As for the ability to see details etc, while those things can add to the way we experience and appreciate an artwork, I think the fundamental emotional reaction is much more important so this ticks that box, as well

Bijoux said...

It gets people talking, but I agree that it might be stepping over the boundary. Where do we draw the line? What if the figure was crouched down with a gun?

Anonymous said...

I love it and I love Antony Gormley's work. Art must always be a surprise . And if we consider all the time what maybe can happen (heavy storms or whatever) we will no longer step out.
Mia More

Dave Martin said...

The poncey intellectual side of art is a mystery to me. I know what I like and what I don't. To me this seems pointless, ill-advised and (like a sheep in formaldehyde) not remotely artistic. But each to their own...

Nick said...

John: Given you volunteer with the Samaritans, I guess you're somewhat of an expert on the subject....

www: Evocative and thought-provoking? Well, it certainly is that.

Kylie: It definitely provokes an emotional reaction. Perhaps we'd have to see the sculpture in situ to form a valid opinion of it.

Nick said...

Bijoux: If the figure was crouched down with a gun, that would be really scary.

Mia: It annoys me when works of art are banned from display for what seem to be totally irrational and idiotic reasons.

Dave: The pseudo-intellectual aspect pisses me off as well (all those utterly pretentious exhibition guides). I think the sculpture is art, but I do wonder why that location was chosen.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Bijoux makes a good point about where we draw the line. I can imagine several ways the figure might be arranged to look threatening or frightening. I can't decide about this one - seems iffy.

Nick said...

Agent: I guess you draw the line at anything that could be seen as alarming, and I would think quite a few people coming upon the sculpture unexpectedly would be alarmed. You don't expect to see a sculpture on a rooftop, so surely your immediate thought would be, is that a person?

Ursula said...

Utterly depressing. What's "art" got to do with it?

Anyway, don't put stupid ideas into people's heads to pull a prank. I know at least three people in my life who were (in their young age - cue Uni) or still are reckless and perfectly capable of going up there, standing right next to that statue, pretending to sway with the wind, and at least one of them - law of average - WILL be falling off. That's when it becomes "life art". Complete with funeral.

The sins that are committed in the name of "art" are many.

U

Nick said...

Ursula: I doubt somehow that any student would go on the roof and pretend to be suicidal. But you never know - in a moment of drunken lunacy, they might just do something so unfunny and irresponsible.

Yes, there are many sins committed in the name of art, but then again there's plenty of sinning in the name of all sorts of human activities. Like all the embellishments and inventions that find their way into supposedly truthful autobiographies.

Rummuser said...

Sir Antony Gormley has achieved what he wanted. Widespread publicity for his work and more importantly for himself. My reaction to the statue and its location is 'Nuts!'

Nick said...

Ramana: He's certainly had plenty of publicity. I still wonder what he himself has to say about the rooftop sculpture.

CheerfulMonk said...

Ursula's comment reminds me of a student at Cornell once. He did a handstand on a bridge over a gorge to impress his girlfriend. He did, but not the way he wanted. He fell over into the gorge and killed himself.

Nick said...

Jean: That's horrifying. There's a long line of men foolishly trying to impress their girlfriends and coming a cropper.

Anonymous said...

Why seem you all to be so conventional ?
A person doesn't need a sculpture on a roof to commit suicide. Why do people need an explanation for everything ?
Mia More

Nick said...

Mia: I don't think putting the idea into people's minds was the main objection. People were more concerned that it looked like someone was about to jump off the roof and they needed to raise the alarm.

CheerfulMonk said...

I like it. The statue looks poised, not desperate. But I wouldn't like to walk under it just in case it fell on me. I recently watched a TV show where a poor person got killed by a body falling on top of him. It was murder, not suicide. Double murder as it turned out.

Nick said...

Jean: A body as a murder weapon? Very original. Yes, I also wonder how secure that sculpture is. Would it resist a really fierce storm?

Ursula said...

This is directed at Mia More:

So, apart from you, those of Nick's readers who commented are "all" "conventional"? What constitutes "conventional"? Refusing to gawp with the admiring crowd when faced with an unmade bed, a preserved cow and some dog shit "artfully" turd in your front garden? Expression of self, is that it? Expression of self is fine. Just don't call it art.

Art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. A personal perspective. Not something that can be prescribed to the "conventional" by those who flatter themselves to be UNconventional.

With his post Nick highlighted something. Namely that the world is full of shit. Or, as the cynic may agree and Ramana said, in this case a publicity stunt well executed.

Still, controversy is to be encouraged if only so no one goes to sleep.

U

PS Don't walk underneath a ladder.

Nick said...

Ursula: Being your usual provocative self I see. I'm sure Mia is more than capable of defending herself.

No, I didn't say the world is full of shit. Or that art is a load of shit. The sculpture and its location might however be a publicity stunt. It might well also be art, but as I said, if you can't get close enough to examine it properly, it's hard to say if it's art or just an unremarkable human lookalike.

Oh, and I rather like Tracey Emin's unmade bed.

Ursula said...

Serious question, Nick, and I am genuinely interested in your answer:

What's to like about Emin's bed? By the way, I like her, the person. She appears a bit lost but has made "art" out of her persona. In common with Hirst "The Emperor's New Clothes" spring to mind. An audience applauding that which doesn't exist.

For the record: I didn't mean to imply that either you or I think art is "a load of shit". Abd, trust me, oh the irony of it, no one is more critical of "art" than artists. They tear each other apart where mere mortals wouldn't dare to tread at danger of eggshells lying in waiting to be crushed.

U

Nick said...

Ursula: Well, appreciation of art is a very individual thing, isn't it? It's hard to explain why I like My Bed. I suppose it typifies a particular sort of life: disordered, messy, rebellious, with no attempt to look respectable or hide anything embarrassing - tampons, contraceptives, vodka, fag ends, tatty slippers, discarded tights etc. It suggests a flawed human being with all her weaknesses, as opposed to the perfect, idealised human beings depicted in other works of art. How's that?