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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sleepwalking Man in Underwear Sculpture Is Unpopular at a Women's College

Posted by on Wed, Feb 5, 2014 at 12:56 PM

At Wellesley College, a hundred women have signed a letter of protest about a highly realistic sculpture by the artist Tony Matelli that's appeared outdoors on campus, the Boston Globe is reporting.

A representative for some of the protesting women says he's disturbing for women who've been raped, molested, assaulted sexually. People on the other side say some art is naturally disturbing to some people.

This is a tough one. People are already slinging around Tweets mocking the women protesters, telling them not to go to Florence, ha ha, et cetera. But this guy's not a classical sculpture in the vein of either Michelangelo's (idealized) David, or Donatello's (come-hither) David. In pictures, it looks like there's something pointedly monstrous and zombie-like about him, blank-minded, liable to do anything—yet liable for nothing, since he's not even conscious. When you look at it that way, you can see him as a predator. And from there the feeling easily wanders into the territory of rape, the most difficult violent crime of all to report, the crime that lets the greatest number of perpetrators just wander away mindlessly.

And you think, A museum at a women's college would probably have to be obtuse not to foresee that there might be some reaction to planting on the lawn a guy in his underwear who looks like he's out to get you.

Then again, the museum director clearly sees the man on the other side of the spectrum of potential danger: as vulnerable, in danger, not a perp but a would-be victim. In a defense of the piece, she describes how he's by the roadside, wandering. It's a classic case of differences in interpretation, these opposites. I can't say what he's like. I haven't come across him except in pictures, and he really seems to vary according to the picture. In this picture below, he looks a little pathetic, lost.

  • Courtesy of the artist and the Davis Museum

It's a good thing when people are empowered to call out horrors like being attacked for sex and forced into sex, and people are getting more and more comfortable doing that. Now what happens when art stumbles into the fray of a good thing?

The museum's original explanation of Matelli's work, written before the protests began, describes it in terms of "discursive use of time," "existential equivalents," and "profound reorientations of perspective." But the effect seems more basic in this case than those highminded ideas sound. It hardly matters that movie animators and sculptors like Duane Hanson have crossed this terrain many times—this is still the uncanny valley. March people through the uncanny valley and you invite them to blur the line between life and art, real and remembered.

At the same time, I'm not sure I see how taking down this art is a real statement or action against rape culture. How do you draw the line? A probably unanswerable question I wish I could know the answer to: What about the art would have to change for it not to be upsetting? If his arms were down? Is it the near-nudity? Is it something else we don't know about, something having to do with inside campus knowledge or the placement of the sculpture or the way it's being presented and talked about? I'm not advocating that art should be committee-edited—speaking of disturbing ideas—but I am advocating ongoing conversation, and maybe even responsive actions that do more than merely remove or destroy. As for next time: I think it's possible to anticipate a reaction like this one, especially in this context. But every environment is different, and every time another time. Can you really control for reactions when you're presenting art? Knowing curators and artists, I know there is plenty of self-censorship before anything even gets out there. What's being controlled for already? It is strange to use the word "control" in relation to art, but the idea that art is some flail-around free zone is not true, either. These kinds of conversations always draw out extremes, when the areas in between are far more interesting.

You'll remember the case of Ben Beres's print at Cornish in 2012. He made a print using the full names of many female Seattle artists, each name printed under a generic pair of cartoon breasts, and it was removed from an exhibition by the college after faculty members whose names were included (without their consent) said they'd feel sexually harassed if it was on display in their workplace. That was a very different case in many ways, and in some ways a simpler one: people's actual names used, their actual private workplace, laws that govern such things.

But it again brought art and politics into conflict. The discussion it engendered was the work of art that was communally created; that dialogue was a more powerful cultural force than the single piece itself, and more art will come out of that, too, if it hasn't already.

Maybe that can happen at Wellesley.


Comments (103) RSS

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dnt trust me 1
add another 10,000 words and you'll have one of those little Art Critic books that people must be insane enough to buy at museum gift shops.
Posted by dnt trust me on February 5, 2014 at 1:04 PM · Report this
You are giving philistines that have way too much time for finding things that offend them, and broadcasting the fact that they have taken offense, way too much consideration here.
Posted by Rhizome on February 5, 2014 at 1:11 PM · Report this
"Art is making me feel uncomfortable and unsafe"

God forbid.
Posted by GermanSausage on February 5, 2014 at 1:11 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 4
The main annoyance to me would be that, if I didn't know it was a sculpture, I would think it was a creeper or a guy who needed help. It's basically a permanent installation of a practical joke. I'd like to know what idiot gave the greenlight to that project.
Posted by keshmeshi on February 5, 2014 at 1:22 PM · Report this
Is this the high art of "rape culture" ?
Posted by ChefJoe on February 5, 2014 at 1:25 PM · Report this
Posted by rob! on February 5, 2014 at 1:26 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 7
It is provoking a reaction, which is what art should do, and art doesn't have to make people happy. But the school also has a responsibility to provide a safe atmosphere for its students, and if the piece is causing widespread emotional distress among students, it probably shouldn't be there.

I think the school has a greater responsibility to the safety of the students than to the right of an artist to scare the fuck out of people. Maybe when repeated calls come in to campus security or the police department about a mentally ill man seen wandering on the roadside, they'll do something about it.
Posted by MacCrocodile on February 5, 2014 at 1:32 PM · Report this
theophrastus 8
It's an interesting border-line issue. when does Art become shouting "fire!" in a crowded theater? will this work become a cause to trample one another?, no, but its main effect would probably be to generate costly alarm. should wax museums be contained in a space preparing us that there are realistic appearing troubling images, or should shock and dismay before realizing a fake be allowed as 'Art'? (and won't someone think of the children??) i say it should be allowed, but the authorities ought to be forewarned.
Posted by theophrastus on February 5, 2014 at 1:35 PM · Report this
raindrop 9
I think that Hillary Clinton went to Wellesley, one call from her (or her staff) and its gone.
Posted by raindrop on February 5, 2014 at 1:38 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 10
Holy shit what a no-brainer. Must be nice to have time to waste discussing something like this.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on February 5, 2014 at 1:48 PM · Report this
@10: You comment here often. You seem to have plenty of time to waste.
Posted by bigyaz on February 5, 2014 at 1:57 PM · Report this
kk in seattle 12
A visiting exhibition of "Piss Christ," on the other hand, wouldn't get much more than a yawn.
Posted by kk in seattle on February 5, 2014 at 2:00 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 13

And a powerful cultural force it is.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on February 5, 2014 at 2:01 PM · Report this
So, naked woman = art. Semi-Naked man = scary and bad, must be removed. Got it. Not sexist at all
Posted by high and bi on February 5, 2014 at 2:12 PM · Report this
Those po' oppressed, struggling womyn at Wesleyan college.

Maybe we should start a fundraiser for them to pay their tuition?
Posted by Kickstarter? on February 5, 2014 at 2:18 PM · Report this
ferret 16
At the end of the day, it just isn't good art. It is much as it is thought provoking, it is hardly aesthically pleasing. I rather have something aesthetic at that point in the road, or blend in with the landscape.

Personally, I would call Andrew Goldsworthy, and see what he can do with the space..
Posted by ferret http://!/okojo hide on February 5, 2014 at 2:23 PM · Report this
Alicia 17
I don't put Art-with-a-capital-A on a higher pedestal than someone's sense of physical safety in the place where they live. Yes, good art creates a disturbance, but there should be a purpose to that creation other than the disturbance itself. (Assholes also create a disturbance -- as do predators.) The disturbances of art should have something redemptive or transformative or enlightening about them.

As for how to make it better? I'd love to see a series of photographs of the artist living with this sculpture in their own house. Eating breakfast, with the zombie-dude behind him. Watching tv, while zombie-dude apparently walks by. Gardening, while zombie-dude waters the tomato plants. You'd still get a similar sense of uncanniness, without actually triggering people into panic attacks and flashbacks.
Posted by Alicia on February 5, 2014 at 2:29 PM · Report this
#15: Is "aesthetically pleasing" now a prerequisite of "good" art? I agree that it's ugly and disturbing and I never would have approved its placement there, but who cares about how pleasing a work of art is?
Posted by Jizzlobber on February 5, 2014 at 2:33 PM · Report this
ferret 19
@14 I think what is so controversial about the piece are the placement of the hands. If the hands were somewhere else, (but then the sculpture wouldn't be searching) it would not be so annoying/scary to others.

In an odd way, I think if the sculpture lost the briefs, had the hands at a different position, it would be looked upon differently. It looks like a car accident victim in a David Lynch Movie. I think half the problem is the location..
Posted by ferret http://!/okojo hide on February 5, 2014 at 2:34 PM · Report this
Of all the pieces to place in an open space on the campus of a women's college this seems like an odd choice.
Posted by bigyaz on February 5, 2014 at 2:34 PM · Report this
I could imagine it being creepy especially after dark (5pm or so). But it doesn't matter what I think -- this is a private school with expensive tuition, so if the students don't want the statue, it should go.
Posted by wxPDX on February 5, 2014 at 2:41 PM · Report this
Oh for Christ's sake. What is the difference between giving politically correct busybodies censorship authority over art and giving it to fundamentalist cranks? No art museum should be kowtowing to the professionally offended. There is vastly more to art than being 'esthetically pleasing' and if that's all you think art is about than I'm sorry, you are an ignoramus.
Posted by Rhizome on February 5, 2014 at 2:44 PM · Report this
ferret 23
#18 No, Aesthetically Pleasing≠good art.. Aesthetically Pleasing can be bad art.. The point of making the sculpture as life like as possible, is more of deception and a double take for the viewer than art, much like put a fake deer there, as wardens do to catch hunters out of season.

I do think in many ways it would be less threatening without the underwear, and make the sculpture into a nude, which would be better aesthetically, but the location is kind of an odd place, especially with the trees and the ground around the sculpture.

Posted by ferret http://!/okojo hide on February 5, 2014 at 2:46 PM · Report this
I got assaulted and mugged by a group of young black males once, can I have any depiction in art of young black males removed?
Posted by If they give me the willies on February 5, 2014 at 2:50 PM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 25
The headline made me think a man found himself unpopular after sleepwalking into a sculpture depicting underwear.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on February 5, 2014 at 2:54 PM · Report this
In a setting where I'm sure it's popular to talk about the tragedy of social conditioning that has led us to conclude that every picture of a naked or barely dressed woman is inherently sexual and objectified (why can't women's bodies just be their bodies?), I find it disappointing some of them would assume that a sculpture of a man in his underwear is inherently the sculpture of a predator. Look at him. He's hapless. Covered in snow, unable to move, oblivious to his surroundings.

I think there is a real problem when it is wrong to call every woman in her underwear a sexual object, but it's ok to call any random man in his underwear a creepy, threatening predator.
Posted by nullbull on February 5, 2014 at 3:00 PM · Report this
sirkowski 27
The snow is pretty offensive too. Think of all the people who have died frozen.
Posted by sirkowski on February 5, 2014 at 3:21 PM · Report this
I would like it better if he was sleepwalking wearing boxers with a raging hardon sticking out of his fly, walking to the woman's dorm.
Posted by jeffy on February 5, 2014 at 3:23 PM · Report this
seandr 29
They should have gone with a statue of a woman of color, or maybe some sort of abstract assemblage of blocks and spheres.

You know, something that says "this place is classy!"
Posted by seandr on February 5, 2014 at 3:28 PM · Report this
seandr 30
@26: I find it disappointing some of them would assume that a sculpture of a man in his underwear is inherently the sculpture of a predator

I wouldn't make too much of this. Keep in mind, the student body of Wellesley is 45% over-protected daughters, 45% man-hating lesbians, and 10% girls who were rejected from all the ivy league schools.
Posted by seandr on February 5, 2014 at 3:36 PM · Report this
@30: By all means, engage in stereotypes of which you obviously know nothing.
Posted by bigyaz on February 5, 2014 at 3:44 PM · Report this
"By all means, engage in stereotypes"

What, like stereotypes that all white men in whitey tighties are rapists?
Posted by I wear boxers, chicks think I'm not-rapey on February 5, 2014 at 3:47 PM · Report this
By the way, I doubt many rapists strip down to their whitey tighties when they rape.
Posted by Makes the get-a-way a little slow on February 5, 2014 at 3:49 PM · Report this
It doesn't matter why women don't like it. It's a women's college, and it should protect the rights of women, especially the many that have been subjected to sexual abuse. As such a woman, I can see how disturbing this statue is, particularly if one came upon it at night. Honestly, I'm surprised that a vigilante hasn't done something to get rid of it yet. I would have- that would scare the crap out of me. The statue shouldn't be there if women are disturbed by it, period.
Posted by Alex McFarland on February 5, 2014 at 3:58 PM · Report this
A dramatic, verbatim reading of the petition:…
Posted by sleepwalker on February 5, 2014 at 4:07 PM · Report this
@34,"the statue shouldn't be there if women are disturbed by it."

If women are disturbed by it, maybe they ought to go somewhere else.
Posted by GermanSausage on February 5, 2014 at 4:12 PM · Report this
raku 37
Shocking -- SHOCKING -- that the commenters here don't give a shit about people asking to please stop doing something because it's hurting them.

Privileged dudes right to do absolutely anything they want trumps other peoples ' right to not be hurt for existing in society, after asking you to stop. Fuuck. Yoooooou.
Posted by raku on February 5, 2014 at 4:14 PM · Report this
fletc3her 38
Perhaps people have missed the point that it's meant to be clothed creatively.

Otherwise, fuck it. The students of Wellesley should get something they like for their lawn.
Posted by fletc3her on February 5, 2014 at 4:22 PM · Report this
@37, you're not really that stupid, right?

You're only pretending to be stupid?
Posted by GermanSausage on February 5, 2014 at 4:28 PM · Report this
Misandry on the march.....

I suspect the man looks like too many Wesleyan ladies' banker fathers back in Connecticut.
Posted by Misandry at Wesleyan? I'm shocked! on February 5, 2014 at 4:30 PM · Report this
@36 The students who live on campus are each paying $57 *thousand* dollars a year to do so, yet you expect them to "go somewhere else"?…

It really does not matter what we think. When it costs that bloody much to go to a college, the student body's opinion matters. Hell, I teach at UW, and the students here get pissy if they think I'm misusing their tuition dollars. The people paying tuition, alumni, and donors are going to make this decision, not the school administration.
Posted by wxPDX on February 5, 2014 at 4:39 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 42

They ought to have to leave a women's college after the semester has already started? How charitable you are.
Posted by keshmeshi on February 5, 2014 at 4:39 PM · Report this
My first thought were of the pilot episode of Breaking Bad.
Posted by Senor Guy on February 5, 2014 at 5:03 PM · Report this
@38 You called it. If you find the mostly naked dude offensive. Dress him to be non-offensive. Balloons on him would do wonders. T-shirts, pants, hats, dildo's....use glue and duct tape to secure as desired.

Maybe the "get offended and complain" reaction is exactly what is intended...with the hope (apparently failed) to change that reaction to "get offended and ACT".

Art is often interactive, this is version of a blank canvas. The students can paint that canvas as the choose.

Posted by Bigwave425 on February 5, 2014 at 5:26 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 45
Photorealistic sculpture is always creepy. Always. They're going to be getting 911 calls from campus visitors until that thing falls apart.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on February 5, 2014 at 6:01 PM · Report this
There is absolutely nothing "rapey" about the sculpture. It's a pale, balding, slightly pudgy man in his underwear. The outstretched arms might suggest sleepwalking, nearsightedness, or being a zombie (which could make you fearful of having your brains eaten, but not of rape). You could argue that being in his underwear sexualizes him, but that's no reason to make the jump to rape

Unless, of course, you're predisposed to think of male sexuality as inherently rapey. Which says a lot more about the critics than it does about the sculpture.
Posted by Bama Librul on February 5, 2014 at 6:14 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 47
@12: Spoken like a true Republican. "Heh, those stupid women. Why won't they be offended by what offends ME?!"

@46: Yeah, it'd make me uncomfortable because I'd worry about someone mentally ill freezing to death in the woods. It's not like he's "attacking" their dorms or something.
Posted by undead ayn rand on February 5, 2014 at 6:20 PM · Report this
"$57 *thousand* dollars a year to do so,"

A $250,000 college education. My god, they're so oppressed!
Posted by Do they hate their daddies for paying the bill? on February 5, 2014 at 7:34 PM · Report this
Rotten666 49
This is dumb. The statue is dumb. The people crying rape culture are dumb. People who support the statue are dumb.

I can't imagine getting emotionally invested over something this dumb.

Carry on.

Posted by Rotten666 on February 5, 2014 at 7:57 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 50
my 1st thought is "who sleeps in their tighty whities?"

a more realistic sculpture of a man in his 40s getting up in the middle of the night, naked, with a piss hard, would turn wellesley student's hair white.
Posted by Max Solomon on February 5, 2014 at 8:16 PM · Report this
"HE" looks just like my long lost cousin Bjorn, is that you?
Posted by longwayhome on February 5, 2014 at 8:34 PM · Report this
kk in seattle 52
@Jen: This is only a "tough" one if you can point to even one other instance of recommending that art be removed because it is disturbing. I remember the Stranger having a good laugh about the mayoral candidate who was disturbed by the sculpture/fountain in front of Pier 70 of a naked man and boy (funded by a gay man!). Who's to say that doesn't trigger fear of abuse among some of its viewers? I'm all for the dialogue, what the hell, but what's next, banning Guernica because it may induce PTSD in veterans?
Posted by kk in seattle on February 5, 2014 at 8:45 PM · Report this
ams_ 53
This would freak me right out if I encountered it at night. I'd definitely call 911 of try to help this man. I may also think he was a predator and still call 911. When my sister was 12 some guy came out of the woods wearing a diaper and asked her to follow him in to look for his missing canoe paddle. A man in his underwear out of place will always be assumed to be a predator by some, and rightly so.
Posted by ams_ on February 5, 2014 at 8:56 PM · Report this
IndicaDogwalk 54
It's Wellesley - did you expect another reaction? Anyone who knows anything about Wellesley should not be surprised.

Posted by IndicaDogwalk on February 5, 2014 at 9:05 PM · Report this
@54 Lots of angry, rich lesbians?
Posted by Jesbians? on February 5, 2014 at 9:52 PM · Report this
Michelle Maibelle 56
I wouldn't want this on my front yard, either.
Posted by Michelle Maibelle on February 5, 2014 at 10:36 PM · Report this
seandr 57
@31: By all means, engage in stereotypes of which you obviously know nothing.

You've got a point - I wasn't even aware of the stereotype that man in underwear = rapist until today. Still, it sounds kind of fishy to me.

@41: The students who live on campus are each paying $57 *thousand* dollars a year

Actually, dad is paying the $57k in most cases. Perhaps that's what this sculpture is about - a dad, wandering around lost, unwelcome and unwanted by the same institution that was happy to "take the shirt off his back".

@41: the student body's opinion matters.

Actually, I do agree. I just think "I don't think that sculpture belongs here" is a more compelling critique than "help, that sculpture is trying to rape me."

That said, the more I think about it, the more clever I think this work is. This particular piece in this particular place evokes all kinds of ideas about how men and women relate to each other. I understand why they want it off their lawn - I'd certainly want it off my lawn - but unlike most public art which strives to be pointless and safe and boring, there is some wit and cheek behind this one.

I also think that if the world were a better place, the student body would have embraced him, and perhaps mischievously contributed a bathrobe, tutu, tiny hat, glowie necklace, 12th man shirt, cigarette, baby stroller, etc. on occasion. He's kind of crying out for some props.
Posted by seandr on February 5, 2014 at 11:13 PM · Report this
sissoucat 58
I find it disturbing because it's photorealistic.

I don't see anything rapey in it. What I see is a mentally ill person about to freeze to death. That gives me pause and makes me want to help. Then I realize it's fake. Then I'm creeped out I was intentionaly fooled.

Is this statue's objective to make me unlearn automatic compassion and empathy towards people freezing to death ? "No, don't stop to help that -- it moves pathetically but you never know, it may be an animatronic !"

And yeah, he needs at least a new makeup. How come students have not thought of creatively defacing it yet is beyond me ; are students that tame nowadays ?

Oh, and "women's college" ? There are colleges that are not mixed-sex in America ? How strange.
Posted by sissoucat on February 6, 2014 at 5:11 AM · Report this
undead ayn rand 59
@58: Art's supposed to make you feel ~something~.

And historically women's colleges are mixed-gender these days, but still match a certain educational slant and continue to trend with more female applicants.
Posted by undead ayn rand on February 6, 2014 at 7:55 AM · Report this
Once, during a walk across the U of O campus, I ran into a guy who looked a lot like that statue, complete with the tortured expression and lack of all clothing except his skivvies. I was alone and when he spotted me looking at him he became angry and started toward me, which freaked me out a bit. As I continued along the path home, I spotted pieces of clothing here and there, which I assume he had removed in the throes of a really awful trip. Possibly due to being off his meds. I felt bad for the guy. I saw him a few times after that and he seemed fine, but yeah, it wasn't a great experience. My dislike of this statue has nothing to do with being politically correct or looking for things to offend me. There's a difference between being offended and thinking something is stupid and useless for causing people to feel shitty. Plus, this is so obviously the worst idea for a statue ever, its very existence is proof someone is trying to troll students. Haw. So funnayyy.

Another reason it's a piss-poor idea for a sculpture is due to the immediate reaction upon seeing it is: someone may be in dire need of help. For that reason alone it's inappropriate. So I guess it does provoke, but its provocation is not due to any depth of meaning. More like yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater. It's not a fitting piece of art for the campus of a prestigious women's University based on its artistic merit, that's for sure. It's probably better suited to somewhere in Fremont, maybe with the other troll piece of art.

We have enough real-life dudes with bats in their belfry hanging around creeping people out, do we not? Do they so richly enhance the experience of life that we need to add one as a permanent fixture?
Posted by spinflux on February 6, 2014 at 8:46 AM · Report this
" its very existence is proof someone is trying to troll students."

I can tell you are a bonafide super savvy art critic. Have you ever been to an art museum?

The complaints of the self appointed outrage committee are asinine and it is certainly not fitting for a 'prestigious university' to allow them to compromise the independence of its art museum. If they are afraid of a sculpture the world must be a really really terrible place for them.
Posted by Rhizome on February 6, 2014 at 9:14 AM · Report this
yucca flower 62
I wouldn't want it crapping up my college campus either. Can you imagine driving down the road and that creepy POS looming out of the fog at you? It looks like the shock troop of the zombie apocalypse. I don't know about it giving off a rapist vibe but it sure does give off a brain-eater vibe.
Posted by yucca flower on February 6, 2014 at 10:00 AM · Report this
seandr 63
@spinflux: but its provocation is not due to any depth of meaning

It's provocation is due to the fact that it immediately engages the viewer. As for depth of meaning, one could write pages about the various possibilities of engagement and their implications. Can't say the same about this pedestrian piece of pap.

The problem with the sculpture is that it's unpleasant to look at, and that's a fair enough critique. Not a huge problem as it turns out because it's not actually a permanent installation.
Posted by seandr on February 6, 2014 at 10:24 AM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 64
@59- Wellesley and most other historically women's colleges are still single gender.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on February 6, 2014 at 11:17 AM · Report this
It's placement near a road makes me worried it would cause an accident. If you didn't know what it was, and did a double take driving by. That makes me think of the House of Cards episode where the podunk county in GA had to decide what to do about a water tower painted like a peach, but it actually looked like a giant ass or a pair of tittys or something and some teenager died texting about it as she drove by. Season two up in a few weeks!

It also raises in me the fear of stopping to help someone you think might be in danger, who could themselves turn out to be dangerous. Stay in your car, call 911 is the proper thing to do I suppose, but I imagine there are times when you have to risk getting involved or let someone get hurt or die.
Posted by Zbot on February 6, 2014 at 11:32 AM · Report this
Even Amanda Marcotte over at Slate thinks this is a ridiculous non-problem. If she thinks that you've gone too far in your feminist pushback, you've *really* crossed the line.
Posted by clashfan on February 6, 2014 at 1:42 PM · Report this
@52 - Nailed it.

Posted by seatownr on February 6, 2014 at 4:32 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 68
@64: My mistake, I thought coeducation was much more popular than it is, apparently!
Posted by undead ayn rand on February 6, 2014 at 4:51 PM · Report this
I am a Wellesley student from Seattle, and the statue is definitely as weird as it sounds. Some have commentors have aptly suggested we clothe the statue, or make it part of our community. In reality, we've been trying to do that. My friends have put hats, scarves, sweaters and boxers on him. If he has to stand outside, he might as well be warm! These items have been immediately removed by campus police. As I type this, there is an officer parked in their car, watching the statue and those who wish to interact.

The director of the museum suggested that the statue was merging the worlds of art and life, but in all actuality we are having art forced upon us, without the option to adopt and incorporate him into our community. Yesterday, a snowman was built within his leering embrace. It is gone today, and it's not because the snow melted. That's what I find wrong.
Posted by emroho on February 6, 2014 at 4:56 PM · Report this
70 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
seandr 71
@emroho: Thank you for that!
Posted by seandr on February 6, 2014 at 8:49 PM · Report this
Super-realistic? Where is the body hair? A man who has let himself go and sleeps in his dress whites is going to be disciplined about waxing?
Posted by repat on February 7, 2014 at 6:04 AM · Report this

Someone in their forties, who has let themselves go and wears their dress whites to sleep is not someone apt to engage in disciplined waxing. At least it maintains the myth that men should be hairless.
Posted by repat on February 7, 2014 at 6:12 AM · Report this
it's crap, and don't tell me if it provokes a reaction it's art. bedbugs provoke a reaction, war crimes provoke a reaction, a surly customer provokes a reaction in a server, this is just bad art like so much public art.
Posted by bigerasers, concreteblocks, underwear! on February 7, 2014 at 9:13 AM · Report this
seandr 75
@74: I take it you're more the "still life" sort?
Posted by seandr on February 7, 2014 at 10:09 AM · Report this
Laurence Ballard 76
Reaction to art reveals as much, if not more, about the viewer(s) as it does the artist.
Posted by Laurence Ballard on February 7, 2014 at 10:10 AM · Report this
aureolaborealis 77
@69: Leering? Really? Can one leer with one's eyes closed?
Posted by aureolaborealis on February 7, 2014 at 10:26 AM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 78
@69- Good to know.

@77- Interesting question. I'd say a look can be leering with closed eyes. "A leer" is a facial expression (no need for eyes) but "to leer" involves a gaze. So leering would usually imply looking, but it could mean that the expression has assumed to form of "a leer."
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on February 7, 2014 at 1:14 PM · Report this
I think it looks pretty cool, I don't see many photo-realistic statues, it's a cool medium.
Posted by North by Northwest on February 7, 2014 at 2:44 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 80
@78: Yeah, no. It's to look in a certain way (v), or a certain kind of look (n). One cannot look with closed eyes. It's minor, but the sheer volume and absurdity of the projection that's going on in this story makes me feel the need to point it out.

Here is another angle on this. Closed eyes. No smile. It's the face of an unconscious man. Pretty much anything else you see, you're putting there yourself. Imho, of course.
Posted by aureolaborealis on February 7, 2014 at 3:27 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 81
@80- "Leer: noun
an unpleasant, malicious, or lascivious look."

"A look" doesn't mean you're looking. If I like your style, I like your look. Do you really think blind people can't leer?

Perception is subjective, but the stature could easily be seen as unpleasant and it's not a reach to say it's lascivious, especially if you pose another figure suggestively in it's arms (as the students did.)

I don't see the sculpture as sexually threatening. I just think it's uncanny-valley creepy and wouldn't want to have it around.

Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on February 7, 2014 at 4:35 PM · Report this
What would they come up with if the students gave the piece a name. Give the piece a name and he would be less a stranger.
Posted by Lelando on February 7, 2014 at 4:38 PM · Report this
While I personally like this piece, I can understand why women at an all-women's college would find this disturbing and offensive. Granted, women choose women's colleges for a variety of different reasons, but a lot of them do attend because they find an all-female college empowering and safe and an escape from a sexist environment (you don't have to agree with their reasoning, but that IS why many women make this choice).

So the school's allowing a male artist to place this representation of a man who has absolutely no control over his actions at the center of campus is just another reminder to a lot of women that there is nowhere you can go to be free of creepy fucking dudes who don't take any responsibility for their behavior, not even an all-women's college. And while of course, that is how it is in the real world, these women don't feel it has to be that way on their campus, and since it is a private school that they pay a ton of money to attend, they should have a say in what art gets to be represented.
Posted by virginia mason on February 7, 2014 at 5:00 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 84
@81: It's definitely creepy and unpleasant, but that doesn't mean it's leery or rapey.
The way a blind person would leer would be by making some kind of engagement with the object of their attention, which could actually involve aiming their eyes in that direction. The idea being that there's intent that's directed at someone, real or imaginary. That's something an unconscious person cannot express. Perhaps, to encompass your example, I could broaden it to say, one can't direct one's attention while unconscious, whether or not one is sighted, therefore one can't leer while unconscious.
Lascivious? Are you serious? Is this lascivious? How about this?

Posted by aureolaborealis on February 7, 2014 at 5:31 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 85
1. ... an unpleasant, malicious, or lascivious look." "A look" doesn't mean you're looking. If I like your style, I like your look.

I totally missed how badly you jumped tracks here, or I wouldn't have even bothered replying to you.
Posted by aureolaborealis on February 7, 2014 at 5:33 PM · Report this
@69 That sucks. I was about to ask, what the hell is wrong with college kids now days? If I was an artist and I placed this on the lawn of a college campus, I would EXPECT the students to interact with it.

If you guys don't want it, though, I'll take it. I think it's pretty cool.
Posted by Pcoddin on February 7, 2014 at 5:41 PM · Report this
"Rape culture"? Jeez get a grip. The USA isn't that much like South Africa... yet.
Posted by ZA = actual rape culture on February 7, 2014 at 7:00 PM · Report this
It's so awesome watching the "progressive" left eat its own asshole.
Posted by Sooooooooo Pwogwessive!!!! on February 7, 2014 at 7:04 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 89
@88: Whatever gets you sploogin' I guess, man.
Posted by undead ayn rand on February 7, 2014 at 9:06 PM · Report this
@89 your comment raped me!
Posted by Undead Ayn RAPIST on February 8, 2014 at 12:43 AM · Report this
Posted by undead ayn rand on February 8, 2014 at 9:43 AM · Report this
I wish people would try to understand the difference between being offended and being triggered. I really like this sculpture, find it interesting in all sorts of ways, but I don't think women should HAVE to unexpectedly encounter deceptively lifelike images of semi-naked, unconscious men when they're going about daily business. It's just respect for the kinds of background trauma a reasonable percentage of women live with. Would you install an artwork featuring intermittent explosion sounds outside a veteran's centre?

And the issue is not that all semi-naked sleepwalking men are rapists, nor that anyone is saying they are. It's not that the sculptor is bad or wrong for having made this. It's that for someone who is sensitized in this area, the sculpture could very well have strong, immediate, frightening and otherwise unpleasant associations, literal (if on first take you mistake it for a live person) or metaphoric (if you end up meditating on the unconscious, uncontrolled, naked lurching).

All these 'well *I* didn't take it that way!' arguments are nothing but self-congratulation for your own good luck in life.
Posted by diner mo on February 8, 2014 at 7:46 PM · Report this
seandr 93
@diner mo: "Being triggered" is no more a valid reason for censorship than being offended, and while there may be a theoretical distinction, in practice, I don't think think the difference is as great as you are suggesting.

As much as I feel for those who've been traumatized by rape, war, car accidents, loss of loved ones, bad relationships, natural disasters, etc., the world can not simultaneously be free and on a mission to eradicate everything that might stir up someone's bad memories.
Posted by seandr on February 9, 2014 at 12:43 AM · Report this
@seandr: I also wish that people would try to understand the difference between censorship and dialogue. Nothing in my comment indicated a mission to eradicate. If you read the petition this blogpost refers to, it requests that the sculpture is moved inside the nearby museum and out of the students' high traffic area, not removed entirely. Read above and you will see a comment from a student who says that students at Wellesley have tried to interact with the sculpture to make it less threatening, and that those interactions are now being policed.

I think it's important that, when an artwork has this kind of effect on survivors, they get to say so and ask for a change. Sexual violence is a bit different to many other kinds of trauma in that, thanks to special taboos and stigma, its prevalence is in inverse proportion to its visibility. Although there's been a rebalancing of visibility in the last couple of years, it remains extremely difficult for most survivors to be 'out' or to talk at all about the daily effects of their experience. Society at large is in the habit of being unconscious of those effects, and is surprisingly curmudgeonly about making any accommodation once unconsciousness ends. It's hard to wake up, huh?
Posted by diner mo on February 9, 2014 at 3:13 AM · Report this
persimmon 95
I think there is a line between good judgment and bad judgment. Putting a tongue-in-cheek Hitler statue outside the NSA? Sassy. Putting a tongue-in-cheek statue of Hitler outside the Holocaust museum? Asshole. On its face, I don't think this statue offends. But if a group of people find it sufficiently traumatizing to start a petition, I don't feel like we, as a sensible society, have any right to denigrate their emotional experience. Sure, we can't make the world trigger-free. And I don't think anyone who can be triggered by daily interactions with the world should be allowed outside of a psychiatrist's office until they've learned some coping mechanisms. But if you put something up that was actively traumatizing people, doesn't it make you an asshole for keeping it up after they complained? For the love of god, they could just move the statue somewhere inside.
Posted by persimmon on February 9, 2014 at 11:23 AM · Report this
undead ayn rand 96
@92: "don't think women should HAVE to unexpectedly encounter deceptively lifelike images of semi-naked, unconscious men"

Is there a large enough percentage of women assaulted by sleepwalking/"unconscious" males that this combination of factors is seriously a trigger?
Posted by undead ayn rand on February 9, 2014 at 4:06 PM · Report this
"It's that for someone who is sensitized in this area, the sculpture could very well have strong, immediate, frightening and otherwise unpleasant associations, "

Having been mugged by a gang of young black males, can I have the same right to veto any art that reminds me of them?
Posted by Can I censor? on February 9, 2014 at 4:39 PM · Report this
@94 I don't think you understand the difference between censorship and dialog. Dialog might be if someone wrote a letter about how the sculpture made them feel. What we have here however is a pressure group actually trying to dismantle an artwork (moving it inside is yes dismantling the work as it is intended to be experienced). This is an effort to censor plain and simple.

What is Wellesley? A battered women's shelter? A convent? Or is it an allegedly enlightened institution of higher learning? What kind of education are these women getting there for their $50,000+ a year? It seems like it is pretty light on the humanities given their amazingly ignorant views about art.

Posted by Rhizome on February 9, 2014 at 6:57 PM · Report this
Quick question to the author. In the original article about the case of Ben Beres's print at Cornish it states the pieces were removed because of the complaints of "Two Cornish staffers" while this article says "faculty." I was just wondering which it was.
Posted by FannyFoonan on February 9, 2014 at 8:29 PM · Report this
It's fucking brilliant.
Posted by Richard G in PDX on February 9, 2014 at 10:34 PM · Report this
#98, RE: censorship - So where do you draw the line? If a white artist chose to display a sculpture of a white man standing there with a noose on the lawn of Spelman college, do you think that would be acceptable? I mean, he's just standing there, right?
Posted by virginia mason on February 10, 2014 at 11:04 AM · Report this
@98 That is the thing with censorship. Where do you draw the line? Many people don't think there should be a line until they see something that offends them. Others think there should be no lines at all. This is were the debating starts.

And as far as your sarcasm about white man in a noose? I could see replicating American lynchings but replacing the victims with examples of other oppressed groups or with the oppressors as being an interesting piece. You should keep working on that.
Posted by FannyFoonan on February 10, 2014 at 12:15 PM · Report this
#102, I think you misunderstood my comment. I was asking #98 (I'm a different person) if there is any censorship he or she would support, since s/he seemed to be opposed to all forms, and yet in some cases, such as my example, it does seem clearly appropriate.

Also, I was referring to a white man holding a noose, not in one, just to clarify.
Posted by virginia mason on February 10, 2014 at 1:08 PM · Report this

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