December 29, 2011

Former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz advocates blowing up a public sculpture.

He writes:
Blow it up. That’s right. Attach some dynamite to the base of the darn thing and launch it. We could make a big party out of it... People could gather to watch the event from a safe distance...
I wonder what Cieslewicz thought about the Taliban blowing up the Bamiyan Buddhas?
"They drilled holes into the torsos of the two statues and then placed dynamite charges inside the holes to blow them up."
Do you feel glee at the notion of blowing up a work of art that you find ugly? Should the people of a particular place have the power to destroy a work of art if they hate it? I supported moving one famous sculpture that was an arrogant and hated imposition on the people who had to live with it.

As for the particular hated sculpture Cieslewicz wants to blow up — I like it. I think it's smart and amusing — an obelisk that is "ruined" to the point where we can see that it is composed of footballs — set outside the football stadium.
It’d be one thing if it had been Pablo Picasso trying to force his vision on us. But who the heck is Donald Lipski? I doubt seriously that Madison will be embarrassed someday as the town that didn’t appreciate Lipski.

So, if the public hates it, don’t force it down their throats.
Why would you say "don’t force it down their throats" about something that's obviously a phallic symbol? Why exactly does the obelisk upset you? Before exploding this thing, I urge you to submit to a Freudian session of deep (throat) thought. Throats... Lipski... are the lips key?

Think, Madison, think. Why does this sculpture — "Nail's Tales" — bother you? Why does it make you think of explosions?

By the way, when Chicago's monumental Picasso sculpture was unveiled in 1967, Mayor Richard J. Daley said: "We dedicate this celebrated work this morning with the belief that what is strange to us today will be familiar tomorrow." Various politicians complained that the thing should be removed.  Ald. John J. Hoellen wanted it replaced by a statue of "Mr. Cub . . . Ernie Banks."

In the philistine tradition of Alderman Hoellen, Cieslewicz recommends replacing the obelisk with a statue of Donna Shalala.

ADDED: I posted about Our Football Obelisk back in 2008... with my photograph of it:

Our Football Obelisk

51 comments:

Dust Bunny Queen said...

It is pretty ugly.

Please forgive me for the visual image.... it looks like a warty dog's dick.

or a really bad fake fruit display from the 1960's. You know those plastic apples or lemons all glued together in a towering pyramid and spray painted silver grey.

Michael said...

I think every community gets the public art it deserves.

Curious George said...

Well if Madison does decide to blow it up there's a juice vendor nearby that has some experience in these things.

George Grady said...

Ann,
Didn't you post a picture of the football obelisk once? I might be misremembering where I saw it...

IggyRules said...

I like it.

edutcher said...

Better yet, tear it down and use it to make a good wall someplace.

toby said...

I think your overrreacted here. Mayor Dave is a wimp and classic "progressive" but this is nitpicking. There are many more substantive points to debate w/ this guy.

That's just my opinion I could be wrong.

Petunia said...

It bothers me because it's not art, and it doesn't show any talent or creativity. I read that the sculptor claimed to have been inspired by the Camp Randall arch, which has been there for almost 100 years, and felt that his sculpture was an appropriate counterpoint to the arch as an entrance to the Camp Randall area.

Wrong.

How much did this scam cost the university?

Removing the football penis is also not even remotely comparable to the Taliban's blowing up of the Buddha statues, which had been there for almost two millennia and were an important religious site.

Craig said...

I think I'm detecting a trend among Althouse commenters. The football obelisk inspires fewer negative comments than the works of Frank Lloyd Wright or Philip Johnson. I haven't drawn any conclusions yet, but my initial thoughts are not good.

deborah said...

It's whimsical.

IggyRules said...

I don't like this:
http://dprbcn.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/07_stara_zagora_01.jpg?w=600&h=400
or this:
http://aegischronicle.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/mlk-statue.jpg?w=600&h=400&h=400
They're the same.

Jess said...

Why not replace it with a statue of Ernie Banks?

ampersand said...

Save your outrage for the coming battles to save Egyptian artifacts from the newly installed government.

MrCharlie2 said...

How about replacing it with a statue of Janet Reno? Everyone would hate that.

Bob_R said...

You are a bad man Curious George.

paminwi said...

Overwhelmingly the citizens of Madison agree on the one thing "That is ugly public art!' I say get rid of it in any way possible - blow it up, run it over with a semi, give it someone in another state, whatever - just get it out of here!

We've had many columnists write about this monstrosity (Doug Moe, John Roach to mention a few) and there are always more comments following their articles about removing it than keeping it.

Sometimes governmental art boards make bad decisions and this was one of them.

nana said...

I am reminded of the field of corn in Columbus Ohio.

Psychedelic George said...

Remember the controversy over the Frank Stella (?) piece "Tilted Arc"...the massive rusting steel thing that pedestrians hated because they had to go around it...and VP Mondale's wife tried to save?

Who cares about inconveniencing the little people. It's art!

Ultimately relocated, I think.

ricpic said...

A Prick Too Far

They stuck a phallus in the public eye.
They thought that they were cute.
The benighteds reaction was a beaut.
They blew the thing sky high.

Sofa King said...

It reminds me of that stink flower.

wildswan said...

It's ugly. But don't waste public money by blowing it up. Call it "Symbol of Corporate Greed", notify the Occupiers that Scott Walker loves it,let them put graffiti on it and partially destroy it, photograph it there, and then sell it to the Smithsonian. Or call it "Liberal Overreach", hold Tea Party meetings there, photograph the ensuing conflicts and sell it to the Smithsonian. Etc. Come on, Cheeseheads, think out of the box.

D. said...

crony artism i'm sure

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The new photo doesn't change my initial impression.

LordSomber said...

There was an uproar over the "Iron Horse" sculpture in the Reed quad at UGA in the 60's. It was ugly, but looks much better in the pasture it was later moved to.

Unknown said...

It's not ugly at all. It's an intentional "in your face" mockery of the phallic dominance that Camp Randall and Badger football aspires to. Like all good art - it mocks us right in our very faces and we - the so called "unawares" just pay for it and take it.

I agree with Mayor Dave - blow it up with dynamite in a festival dedicated to the end of the "bald, old white GUYS who still - sadly - almost totally - dominate our fucked up world".

I would tailgate that event ;-)

rcocean said...

Wow, that is one ugly sculpture. I assume the artist was Gay or hated Madison, or both.

Why not just return it to the artist with a note to stick it up his ass?

rcocean said...

BTW, people don't hate "art" they hate "Bad Art".

Something 'artists' don't want to hear.

John Burgess said...

While I don't support blowing it up, launching it sounds like a fun idea!

It could be covered with sparklers and set of on July 4. And Althouse could film it, if there's a fish-eye lens available for her video camera.

Meade said...

Sofa King said...
"It reminds me of that stink flower."

Yes! Corpse flower.

garage mahal said...

The lawn at the governors mansion would be a good place for this.

Sorun said...

I kind of like it, but I also would like a big bronze plaque attached listing its cost so the people who don't like can dislike it even more.

Sorun said...

I suggest that contracts for publicly displayed art include a clause that after 5 years the public can charge the artist rent for parking his crap on a public spot if the art is not popular.

Hagar said...

Public art in democracies - and the U.S. is a very democratic place - tend to be scams.

rcocean said...

"Public art in democracies - and the U.S. is a very democratic place - tend to be scams."

Too bad we don't have direct Democracy, because this scam wouldn't have been elected to anything.

We get crap art like this because of Republicanism. We elect people to buy good art and we get giant penises.

rcommal said...

I went and found the most recent Doug Moe piece on this sculpture and I have to say the following quote made me laugh, a lot : A man who worked near the sculpture told the New York Times, "It was a conversation piece, but the conversation just was never positive."

Read more: http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/doug_moe/doug-moe-all-we-want-for-christmas-is-a-sculpture/article_51bb372a-2e5d-11e1-a64b-001871e3ce6c.html#ixzz1hyoBFtuB

MadisonMan said...

The fungal phallus, as I like to call it, is a perfect counterpoint to the ugly Hotel Red that is across the street.

bagoh20 said...

I say it looks like a later summer Iowa turd. Blowing it up would be a ball, and then just build something else disgusting for next year's party. Create a truly exciting tradition.

Pogo said...

Madison should practice safe sex.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Just put that statue of Donna Shalala within sight. Instant cure for the obelisk's priapism.

I Callahan said...

Sometimes governmental art boards make bad decisions and this was one of them.

Does anyone else see the ridiculousness of a "government art board?"

roesch/voltaire said...

I have long advocated eliminating this pile of bird droppings.

PackerBronco said...

Buckingham's Phallus

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

There is some art that has historical significance, e.g. the large Buddhas blown up in Afghanistan. OTOH, like with political ideas, they say Gingrich might have 3 ideas, 2 great and a stinker and not have the judgment to tell them apart. Why can't artistic ideas be like that. A Picasso you can sell; maybe you need to send some in for scrap metal.

DEEBEE said...

To my eyes it lloks more like the skeleton of a X-Mas tree, perhaps it can be decorated as such every year.

Though the annual war OVER X-mas would become interesting, since the phallus meme is out there.

Mitch H. said...

Give the artist the opportunity to truck his piece off of public property, and if he doesn't, do what you like with it. I'd be careful with explosives and public festivals built around said explosives, though. Seems like blowing up a stone obelisk might be tricky and potentially dangerous to a crowd.

Joe Schmoe said...

As a non-WI-ite I know nothing of this sculpture. I loved the picture of it. So I wanted to see it in context with its surroundings. Architects are obsessed with context, markers, gateways, framing of public spaces and the like. I have to say I like its placement. It sets the corner for the open space/parking lot adjacent to the old fieldhouse (that was kept in a somewhat recent stadium renovation, it appears). Here's a link to see it in context in Bing maps:
bing map link for birds eye view of nail's tail

I can't comment on the local hullabaloo but my outsider opinion is that the piece is very appropriate and thoughtfully placed. I really like it. But if the local citizens don't, do with it what you will.

This touches on the difficulty of incorporating organic forms in art and architecture. Everybody sees vaginas, dicks, and boobs in anything that doesn't have straight lines and 90 degree corners.

Joe Schmoe said...

Does anyone really think a dick comes to a point at the end?

Joe Schmoe said...

I love the tension from the pile of footballs. Looks like they could all come tumbling down at any time. Making cumbersome stone seem so dynamic--loaded with potential energy--is not easy to do. Kudos to the artist.

Joe Schmoe said...

Among the avant-garde I think it suffers from association: football=unthinking man's violent entertainment. Move it in front of a liberal arts building, say it's an expression of the detritus left over from a college that focused more on athletics than academics, and watch it become an untouchable, beloved community icon.

gerry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roz Chatt said...

I do think it's really funny looking art, and being positioned in such a prominent location makes a statement which gives people an opportunity to laugh, if they so choose. Getting pissed off is another alternative.

Otherwise the buildings and the surrounding streets are very boring, banal.

Thanks for the bing link. Very helpful.