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

Comments

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.
2
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.
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.
5
Is this the high art of "rape culture" ?
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.
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.
9
I think that Hillary Clinton went to Wellesley, one call from her (or her staff) and its gone.
10
Holy shit what a no-brainer. Must be nice to have time to waste discussing something like this.
11
@10: You comment here often. You seem to have plenty of time to waste.
12
A visiting exhibition of "Piss Christ," on the other hand, wouldn't get much more than a yawn.
13
@11

And a powerful cultural force it is.
14
So, naked woman = art. Semi-Naked man = scary and bad, must be removed. Got it. Not sexist at all
15
Those po' oppressed, struggling womyn at Wesleyan college.

Maybe we should start a fundraiser for them to pay their tuition?
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..
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.
18
#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?
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..
20
Of all the pieces to place in an open space on the campus of a women's college this seems like an odd choice.
21
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.
22
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.
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.

24
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?
25
The headline made me think a man found himself unpopular after sleepwalking into a sculpture depicting underwear.
26
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.
27
The snow is pretty offensive too. Think of all the people who have died frozen.
28
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.
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!"
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.
31
@30: By all means, engage in stereotypes of which you obviously know nothing.
32
"By all means, engage in stereotypes"

What, like stereotypes that all white men in whitey tighties are rapists?
33
By the way, I doubt many rapists strip down to their whitey tighties when they rape.
34
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.
35
A dramatic, verbatim reading of the petition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USB2hDh5…
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.
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.
40
Misandry on the march.....

I suspect the man looks like too many Wesleyan ladies' banker fathers back in Connecticut.
41
@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"?
http://www.wellesley.edu/admission/finai…

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.
42
@36,

They ought to have to leave a women's college after the semester has already started? How charitable you are.
43
My first thought were of the pilot episode of Breaking Bad.
44
@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.

45
Photorealistic sculpture is always creepy. Always. They're going to be getting 911 calls from campus visitors until that thing falls apart.
46
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.
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.
48
"$57 *thousand* dollars a year to do so,"

A $250,000 college education. My god, they're so oppressed!
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.

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.
51
"HE" looks just like my long lost cousin Bjorn, is that you?
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?
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.
54
It's Wellesley - did you expect another reaction? Anyone who knows anything about Wellesley should not be surprised.

55
@54 Lots of angry, rich lesbians?
56
I wouldn't want this on my front yard, either.
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.
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.
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.
60
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?
61
" 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.
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.
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.
64
@59- Wellesley and most other historically women's colleges are still single gender.
65
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.
66
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.
67
@52 - Nailed it.



68
@64: My mistake, I thought coeducation was much more popular than it is, apparently!
69
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.
71
@emroho: Thank you for that!
72
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?
73
Super-realistic?

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.
74
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.
75
@74: I take it you're more the "still life" sort?
76
Reaction to art reveals as much, if not more, about the viewer(s) as it does the artist.
77
@69: Leering? Really? Can one leer with one's eyes closed?
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."
79
I think it looks pretty cool, I don't see many photo-realistic statues, it's a cool medium.
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.
81
@80- "Leer: noun
1.
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.

82
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.
83
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.
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?

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.
86
@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.
87
"Rape culture"? Jeez get a grip. The USA isn't that much like South Africa... yet.
88
It's so awesome watching the "progressive" left eat its own asshole.
89
@88: Whatever gets you sploogin' I guess, man.
90
@89 your comment raped me!
92
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.
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.
94
@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?
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.
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?
97
"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?
98
@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.

99
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.
100
It's fucking brilliant.
101
#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?
102
@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.
103
#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.