A sculpture on campus should be representative of the people and culture. The people affiliated with the college want to be proud of the display as it reflects their identity in a collective space. Students at Imperial College in London were shocked at the reveal of a sculpture proposal designed by Antony Gromley. In this case, they were more appalled than proud and protested the installation.
The proposal features a six-meter sculpture, called ALERT, made out of steel blocks and positioned to depict a squatting figure. The figure has a three-meter-long object extending outwards. This stacked tower is still in the works and the plan is to install it in the Dangoor Plaza, which is part of the university’s South Kensington campus.
In the corrupt minds of students, they did not interpret it as a squatting person. They observed a figure having an erection. The Imperial College Union released a motion to prevent its installation due to its vulgar expression in a public setting. They argued that the statue could potentially “hurt the image and reputation of the college.”
Students interpret the design as a person flashing their erect penis, while the artist intended it to be a protruding knee. Gormley said: “Balancing on the balls of the feet while squatting on its haunches and surveying the world around it the attitude of this sculpture is alive, alert, and awake.” Men experiencing erections are also alive, alert and awake. Hence the confusion.
The union expressed concerns about the sculpture being exclusionary. It is demonstrative of the gender imbalance present on campus. Based on university statistics, “the university has one of the highest males to female student ratios in the UK, with just 39% of full-time students at the university identifying as female in the 2020-21 academic year.”
Some things cannot be unseen. If students have erect penis imagery associated with this sculpture, it is challenging to arrive at a different interpretation. If the motion is unsuccessful, they might have to put a positive spin on boners as they are stuck staring at it for their remaining academic years.