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MIT Should Scrap Ugly Metal Artwork

Column by Anders Hove
Executive Editor

I've heard a lot of griping about MIT over the years. People say they hate the place and they'll never give MIT another penny after they graduate. Some of them will stand by that resolution, while others will cave, inexplicably funneling vast millions back to their concrete alma mater.

Even with all the cynicism, however, I have never heard someone voice the intention to harm MIT after graduation. I had sort of assumed that once gone, we could at least bury the hatchet, if not forgive and forget.

The case of Elliot K. Wolk '57, however, takes MIT-hating to a vengeance. This man has just donated to MIT (or loaned, really) a massive hunk of twisted metal. MIT has responded by enshrining the piece of metal in Hermann Plaza in front of Dewey Library. "Art" they call it. This particular blob of industrial excrement is known as Two Indeterminate Lines, although it more resembles a gigantic Slinky plopped on its side.

I don't know what happened to Wolk during his years at MIT, but it must have been pretty bad. I imagine there were fewer electives back then, more labs, and fewer choices among dormitories. Without a doubt, the administration was just as prone to top-down decision-making then it is now. This side of Cambridge was one big factory in the 1950s, still another factor that may have contributed to Wolk's angst. The campus also suffered from an acute lack of women.

On the other hand, some things were probably better. Lobdell (Harold E.) was a dean of students, not an Aramark hell-hole. Most teaching assistants probably spoke something resembling English. Finally, there were no clusters, no e-mail flame wars, and no Student Information Processing Board. Which reminds me - rumor has it some people even showered back then.

Nevertheless, Wolk must have suffered a great deal. Hence the Indeterminate Lines.

MIT has now acquired a good deal of yucky modern art, and yes, most of it comes in the scrap metal variety. Best by far are the Henry Moore "reclining figures" in Killian Court. Most deem the Great Sail acceptable, while Transparent Horizons is universally condemned. There are other less favored scrap heaps scattered evenly across campus.

This latest addition brings the Sloan region under the metallic sway as well. The great MIT Rust Belt now extends from the Longfellow Bridge to those giant red triangles in front of Tang Hall.

Chances are that, with the advent of lifetime e-mail forwarding, alumni frustration with the 'Tute will only continue to increase. For this reason, we should prepare a strategy for dealing with future scrap metal donations.

I propose that the MIT Planning Office designate a reasonably sized, contiguous, out-of-the-way area as an official MIT junkyard. Once this is done, alumni could do their worst. Missiles, old mainframes, ships, gigantic double helices - all these things would be welcome at the junkyard. And of course, there could be plenty of the old standby: bolted hunks of scrap metal and coiled rebar, huge slabs of steel with welded blobs dotting their surfaces, all painted black to indicate their newfound status as official art objects.

I can understand and sympathize with alumni who want to give MIT scars to match those they received here. Yet there is no reason why current and future students must suffer for their pains. Lord knows we suffer enough as it is. An official MIT junkyard is the solution to our growing art problem. The sooner we implement it the better.