A sculpture has sparked controversy at Imperial College London.
Sir Anthony Gormley used steel blocks to create his piece called “Alert,” which was meant to portray a human squatting, but the students think it appears more equivalent to an “erect penis” instead.
With the art set to be installed this year in a plaza on campus, Gormley released a statement that appeared on the school’s website.
“Through the conversion of anatomy into an architectural construction I want to re-assess the relationship between body and space. 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,” he wrote.
The student union was less than impressed and released a statement of their own that was obtained by the Guardian. They were concerned the sculpture would ruin the school’s reputation.
“While the artist’s intended form may [evoke our] ‘community of scientific research’ the phallic interpretation does not. The name Alert could also be understood as referring to the statue’s phallus being erect,” they wrote.
The students were not upset with the idea of phallic art in general, they were more upset with it being showcased in such a public location.
This is the second time Gormley’s work has resulted in controversy, as, in March 2021, his work was compared to sex toys and removed from an East Suffolk beach.
Another concern was “Alert” being “exclusionary” by showing a man and not a woman.
They claimed that when originally shown the artwork, the school hid the part that looked “phallic” by using a different angle.