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Yet another sculpture idea

Much has been written and said about the new sculpture proposed for the Student Center, but I have yet to see anyone come up with a solid solution to the controversy. I'd like to try.

I recently had a surprise opportunity to discuss the project with Ellen T. Harris, MIT's associate provost for the arts. The conversation was extremely illuminating for me.

First she explained the symbolism in the communal effort of collecting the hair from the community. Then she explained the meaning of the object's shape. It will look like the hat of a shaman, the "scientist" or "engineer" of the ancient tribe, as well as the hat of a jester. This shows the duality of MIT students, being engineers and scientists as well as jokers.

It will also symbolize the two sides of technology, one being good, advancing the world and improving life, and one being bad, creating materials for war. The "war" theme is also shown in the use of <>


hair, since hair was an important prize in ancient war (scalping) and the image of the long-haired warrior is a tradition.

While this all makes perfect sense to me, there are some naysayers on campus who don't like it. Whom do you believe? Proponents say Joe and Josephine Average see the sculpture and say, "Look, a dual-sided symbol of technology as well as the two faces of MIT students expressed through the power of hair!" Critics think Joe and Josephine will say, "Christ, I wouldn't want to meet the cat that coughed that <>


son-of-a-b---- up."

The symbolism of the object, however, is only one positive facet of the project. More important, according to Harris, is the wonderful controversy and discussion the sculpture has caused. Art is something which should provoke a reaction in the observer, and this proposal has certainly done that. The sculpture has been nominated for Big Screw and nicknamed "Transparent Hairizons."

And oh yes, it's expected to cost about $75,000.

I started by saying I had a solution, and I do. From what I understand, a good project will be symbolic and provoke reaction. No problem.

I would now like to publicly offer my artistic services to the MIT community. I will admit that my work is not extremely well known, and I certainly do not expect to be hired without a resume, so allow me to outline some of my previous works.

My first work, Baby Food On Kitchen Floor (1972), displayed a raw but powerful statement of anarchy in a closed environment. By boldly mixing the strained peas and carrots, I showed my irreverent sense of the absurd, as well as not knowing any better. The work provoked a strong reaction from its audience, particularly Mom.

I reached my most creative and prolific period from about 1976 to 1979. One of my favorite works from that period is House Made of Popsicle Sticks (1977), a powerful statement about the plight of the homeless that proved to be years ahead of its time. It invoked a reaction in my then three-year-old brother, who smashed it in a creative fit of his own.

Also from that period is Clay Ash Tray (1978), a statement on gift giving and the crass commercialism of Christmas, which I gave to my own father. Another work from 1978 was Hands, in which I placed my palm in paint and stamped my palm print on a white paper. I did this in several colors, the contrasts screaming of the anguish I felt at the time toward the 15-minute recess and lack of chocolate milk at snack hour.

Some of my more mature works are those I'm proudest of. Laundry Pile (1989) is my statement on conserving water and, dually, a comment on the garbage piling up in the world. Doodle (1990) is a powerful cry for help from a young man who should be doing a calculus problem set.

But enough about my past works. For my newest work in the Student Center, I want to create a sense of community while also making a troubling dual statement.


When I was thinking of the project at first, I had trouble deciding what medium to work in. Then it hit me. Air! The entire MIT community breathes the air on the campus, symbolizing the communal nature of the piece.

Next, I tried to decide how to symbolize the ideals I wanted. I asked myself what I felt. Finally, I hit on a dual symbolism. The sculpture would be in the shape of an emptiness formed of my medium of choice, air. This would symbolize the emptiness many MIT students feel toward the Institute a lot of the time, <>


as well as the emptiness of our wallets. It would also symbolize technology's contribution toward the poor quality of our air.

I believe that this proposal will most certainly ignite debate. I also hope that the starkness of the air will provoke a response in the observer, hopefully along the lines of "Wow, what an attractive Student Center!"

Coincidentally, the total cost of materials and my fee for this project would total $75,000, the same amount as the project currently being considered. However, MIT being the fine institution that it is, I would be willing to waive this cost provided that MIT makes a $75,000 donation to the United Way in the name of the MIT community.

I understand the seriousness of the original proposal, and personally I love it. I'm just trying to satisfy a few closed-minded individuals on the campus who can't understand how a large, obscurely symbolic pointy wire frame draped in hair and covered with shellac (or the equivalent) will fill a void in the Student Center atrium. I honestly believe that my proposal contains all of the positives of the original and none of the parts people have taken a disliking to.


His artistic side now ignited, Tech columnist Bill Jackson '93 is considering leaving campus to "find himself." His detractors have already begun to suggest where he should start looking.