Ugly and cumbersome, sure; but is it art?
Weeks ago you couldn't walk across campus without noticing the gaping hole in the ground between Doherty and Baker Halls. Ironically placed next to a patch of earth that was being reseeded, the crater on CFA lawn was curiously filled as quickly as it appeared.
So why the digging? Why rip up the ground just to fill it again? Was it part of an organic biology project in which MCS classes would study geological and botanical properties found on our own campus? No, it wasn't. It was the groundwork for adding another piece of donated "art" to our campus.
We've experienced a lot of odd art additions to campus recently. The multi-colored snowman was bad, but bearable. And the Kraus Campo raised the bar for what we considered to be an eyesore and waste of space on campus.
But this new sculpture by Jon Borofsky (A'64), slated to be installed in the coming months, threatens to cross boundaries of taste that some of the other "art" on campus never dared. Picture a metallic, four-story pole protruding at a 15-degree angle from the Mall. Slap a random lifesize man walking up the slope, and voila: the latest addition to our campus's poor choices of abstract art.
The vaguely phallic "Man Walking to the Sky" has apparently struck a nerve; students who have seen pictures of what the sculpture looks like have said exactly what we did: wow, that's god-awful.
One of the most important considerations is the lack of consistency amongst the architectural and artistic styles on campus. CFA is one of the most beautiful buildings on campus; Margaret Morrison's design qualities are undeniably admirable; Baker-Porter is dark, slanted, and leaves much to be desired; Wean is downright depressing. The University Center and the Purnell Center were a step in the right direction during their construction in the 1990s; but this latest trend toward bizarre, tacky art installations is a turn for the worse. A trustee has donated Borofsky's work, and the administration has decided that a pole with a man walking atop is fitting with our campus decor.
We've got to stop this before it becomes a habit.
Now, please don't be misled to believe that there isn't support for art on campus. There's plenty of room for thought-provoking installations that have the backing of both the administration and the student community. A 40-foot-tall pole that will mar the center of the mall and remove essential activity space is in no way worth placing.
Borofsky's art is a little bit outside the realm of what we've seen before. Among his works: the number "2,264,477" painted on a large sheet of paper; a canvas with the words "Object of Magic" in acrylic; and five sculpted men depicted in an installation above a convention center to give the appearance of "flying." And we get a 40-foot pole. The question we want answered is how the administration believes this piece of "art" fits into our campus landscape and what it is supposed to reflect about life here at CMU.
Despite the sometimes ugly exteriors of our buildings, we can't deny the rich historical background most of them have. The erection of this 40-foot monstrosity, however, will undoubtedly overshadow the history represented by the other features of our campus. Picture prospective students, unable to focus on their campus tour because they are too busy gaping at and confused by the huge phallus we chose to put in the center of our campus. As Andy Warhol once said, "Art is anything you can get away with." Let's not let CMU get away with this one.