Thursday, 6 February 2014

And in Other Weird Sculpture News Today

That's NOT funny.

The Davis Museum at Wellesley College is holding an exhibit of the work of sculptor Tony Matelli, and to help advertise the exhibit, the museum placed one of Matelli's statues outside. Titled The Sleepwalker, the realistic-looking statue shows a bald man in his tighty-whities lumbering forward with his arms outstretched, his eyes closed, and his head lolling around in deep sleep. It's funny and is, unsurprisingly, a big hit on Instagram. It's also creating controversy, as reported by the Boston Globe, as many students object to the statue on the grounds that it's scary. Zoe Magid, a junior at the university, started a petition demanding that the statue be moved inside the museum. "Within just a few hours of its outdoor installation, the highly lifelike sculpture by Tony Matelli, entitled 'Sleepwalker,' has become a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for some members of our campus community," she writes, adding variations of the word trigger two more times.

The museum director responded but. . .

This email did not placate the critics of the statue, who left dozens of comments, mostly written in feminist jargon.

Amanda Marcotte quotes some dandy examples -- go read.

I'm sure this story is on its way to a conservative media outlet near you, where some white, privileged man in tighty-whities will roll his eyes about the hysterical feminists, which, in this case, well—good call.

Seriously, and I say that SERIOUSLY because I am a feminist, what the hell kind of feminists are we raising these days?


Gristle McThornbody said...

This is going to come off as really cavalier, but if I need to see a statue of a mostly naked person, I find it refreshing that it's male.

I've been called militant by more than one person, but I learned long ago to carefully pick which battles I was going to rant publicly about rather than risk becoming the feminized version of an MRA. I sympathize with any rape victim who truly finds this statue threatening, but I'll be blunt: it's a statue, and its meaning is open to all manner of interpretation, as is any artistic piece. If it had been meant to be threatening to women, please consider how that might have been achieved (charging through the snow with narrowed eyes and a sneer, maybe) and compare that to the statue in its present form.

fern hill said...

Exactly. It's strange and unsettling, but you're right, it's hardly menacing.

It's art.

Anonymous said...

It was clearly intended to provoke alarm. Who can tell it's a statue right away? is it a person in distress? Do I go up and investigate? Should I call for help for this person? Is he frozen and dead and still standing up? WTF? So guess what, it DID provoke alarm. It's a dirty trick. Not funny in the slightest. Unless there is a big banner over this statue saying "Part of our Tony Matelli installation, Come in and see more", I think I would go find the person who came up with this idea and give them a pie in the face and see how funny they think that is.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

My first thought: BRAINS!

As in a zombie.

Beijing York said...

For me, there is only one thing missing from Matelli's installation - there should have been a voting booth where the under-dressed, zombie man was heading.

fern hill said...

@ ifthethunderetc and BY: Obviously I don't see enough zombie movies. Hadn't occurred, but duh, yeah. :D

deBeauxOs said...

When I was a young feminist, we raised shit about Really Important Shit.

Probably because we didn't have social media back then and if we wanted the 'real' media to pay attention to the issues we raised, it had better life-and-death or something close to it.

On the other hand, unless there are women's bodies that can be displayed to demonstrate that our public denunciations are justified and even then, if those bodies are NOT of young, *innocent*, pretty, blue-eyed, blonde cis-women, they're not front-page material.

remi said...

There's a statue in my town of a young girl, leaning against the wall of a nearby building with a book in her hands. It's a lovely statue, one of my favourites, but it's given my father a real fright more than once; when you see it at night, under a cover of snow, it really does look like a dead child slumped against a wall. Obviously that's not the intended theme of the statue, but it just goes to show that artwork can be taken many different ways depending on the environment it is placed in and the experiences of the people viewing it. Dismissing someone's perception of a piece of artwork as silly or "hysterical" is foolish; obviously there's no one way to interpret something, and if someone else interprets it differently than you, that doesn't make them wrong about how the artwork makes them feel.

fern hill said...

Art should startle. I did a double-take when I saw this in my nabe. Not that I think this is particularly interesting art, except in the reactions it has elicted.

And sure, everyone's reaction is valid. But "valid" doesn't entail "sensible". These young feminists are mouthing off a bunch of blather they've heard. They're not "interpreting", they're regurgitating. Trigger, trigger, trigger.

It's silly. Not wrong, but silly.

Niles said...

Apparently, there's a dog statue in association with the man statue, somewhere else on campus and it's meant to look like a service dog.

What got to me was the paint job. It reminded me that the classical Greek statues were not the pristine stone that they appear to modern eyes eons after the fact.

They were painted to look real flesh and blood, with historical contemporary comments speaking to how they looked as if they were living. They were garbed as well, in fine fashions, with some of them having different dress depending on the season.

It's art. It just strikes me as odd that the student body in general wasn't made aware of the artworks being put up on campus before it was installed. Don't these things usually get a lot of fanfare and hoopla about art being part of education?

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