London College students panic over ‘phallic’ sculpture

Students these days are certainly prone to ideological disputes: currently, at Imperial College London, a group of students is move to block the installation of a sculpture by artist Sir Antony Gormley due to concerns that the steel structure, which some students are affirming is “phallic in nature”, “will harm the image and reputation of the college”.

The motion to block the sculpture, which is being distributed by the Imperial College Union, claims that while the sculpture is meant to depict a crouching human body, it instead evokes a phallus which is equivalent to a protuberance. which exceeds “about three meters horizontally.”

There is “nothing inherently wrong with phallic imagery in art”, the the movement continues, but “the phallic interpretation’s preoccupation with the penis might be considered inappropriate for large public display, especially given the size of the statue”. The Daily Beast has contacted Imperial College Union for comment.

“Despite the support within the union and the fact that the document has apparently been seen by senior college staff and the Gormley team, I doubt it will affect the installation of ALERT», an anonymous student of Imperial College Told The arts journal. “I don’t think that’s the kind of thing the college would back down from or listen to the students.”

There’s something inherently depressing, frankly, about young students reacting so vehemently to a sculptural interpretation of the human form. Even if the work is a penis in disguise: who cares?

The statue, titled ALERTconsists of blocks of steel coated with a stable oxide, ensuring that when exposed to the elements it will take on a more rusty hue.

“Through the conversion of anatomy into an architectural construct, I want to reevaluate the relationship between the body and space,” explained Gormley. in a report. “Balanced on the soles of her feet while squatting on her haunches and surveying the world around her, the attitude of this sculpture is alive, alert and awake.”

Gormley’s work has previously been at the center of a gender-related controversy: In 2021, iron sculptures by the artist were removed from East Suffolk beach after critics complained they looked like sex toys, or in some cases, rabbit droppings.

Nor is it the first time that a sculpture by Gormley has drawn the wrath of students: in 2018, Claspa sculpture by Gormley installed at Newcastle University, was protested by many students, who found the spindly structure to be a “strange thing”, “a piece of driftwood”, “ugly” and “awful”.

“Public art can stimulate conversation and enrich our environment,” said Professor Eric Cross, Dean of Cultural Affairs at Newcastle. said at the time. “The scale of this striking work and its prominent position will create a new focal point on campus and provide an opportunity to reflect on our relationship with others and our environment.”

The specific part of the new statue that the Imperial College Union seems to take issue with is the part of the rendering that Gormley claims evoke the knees. The pupils rather think that this part is a penis.

“Although the form intended by the artist may [evoke our] ‘scientific research community’, the phallic interpretation does not”, the motion of the Union keep on going. “The name ALERT could also be understood as referring to the erect phallus of the statue.

The Daily Beast has also reached out to Gormley and Imperial College for comment.

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