The day to day trivialities of life on campus in my first year at Warwick have inspired within me a plethora of feelings: anger (student laundry), fury (prices in Costcutter), indignation (fire alarms), confusion (the colour of the water), agony (hiking back from Tesco with a large number of canned beverages) and a profound, crushing, insurmountable sense of despair (student laundry).
Nonetheless, these qualms have done little to dampen my enjoyment of being a shameless mess of a fresher, however; until recently, there had long been installed an irrepressible itch deep inside my character. An unquantifiable bemusement. Frankly, it’s the only thing which I have lost any sleep over. The quandary which permeated my very soul was this: “…Why is there a big, spinning cone there?” The existence of the “Warwick Cone”, boldly pirouetting, unflappable in its quest to obscure from view one of the few architecturally acceptable constructs in a 5-mile radius, slowly devoured my soul.
Aesthetically speaking it is nonsensical; it is a 20 foot tall white cone reposing outside the entrance of the Arts Centre, presumably made of concrete or some such material, it has lights on it and at night time it rotates slowly. As far as I was concerned, it was an offence to my eyes and the negligible amounts of money I was inevitably forwarding to fuel its nocturnal oscillations vexed me. Having done some research (googling), my intrigue towards its origin and meaning was satiated. The cone, or “Koan” as it is actually called, was ‘designed’ by an artist named Lilian Lijn and was initially installed in Plymouth in 1971.
The cone (I refuse to call it a ‘Koan’) was then purchased by Warwick University in 1972. One can only presume, upon seeing its mesmerising, mysterious beauty, that to allow it to remain in someone else’s possession would be unthinkable, almost criminal. All very interesting so far, yet further probing and shameless copying and pasting from Wikipedia can reveal that “the Koan is intended to represent the Buddhist quest for questions without answers”. This apparently is rooted in the Buddhist concept of a Kōan (I’m not going to explain it, look it up yourself), meaning, unless I’m being a bit thick here, the basis for the entire piece is rooted in that omnipresent tenet of high art throughout the ages: the pun.
Allow me again to be presumptuous in guessing that this meaning is lost on virtually everyone who views the cone without a working knowledge of Zen Buddhist lore, perhaps rendering the entire exercise somewhat pointless. It is also possible to adopt an air of cynicism towards the arrogance of attributing such a complex notion to such an intrinsically simple and lazily designed sculpture.
Accordingly, I too believed the cone was pointless; I too was a cynic, until I was struck by a beautiful epiphany whilst triumphantly returning from one of those arduous seminars where you fortunately get away with both saying nothing and knowing nothing of the relevant course material.
After a successful hour of hiding tentatively in the corner and taking swigs from a water bottle at tactical moments, I was ebullient, and I could see, in a potent instance of intense, effervescent clarity, the beauty of that most unsightly monument.
In one visual inhalation the wonderful, hilarious pointlessness of the entire thing became painfully clear to me. Without realising it, the cone represents a parody of sculpture itself insofar as it is so intriguing and noticeable yet presents no apparent meaning, image or even idea to the average person. It is unashamedly, in my opinion, a testament to ineffectuality amidst a sea of hideously contrived architecture, a fetish to fatuity.
Lodged combatively amongst a labyrinth of brutal concrete angles the most unimaginative Soviet architect would be proud of, the soft curve of the cone mirrors the nocturnal sleeping patterns of students worldwide, coming to life at night, resembling nothing but a twirling, Christmas themed sex toy, devoid of any rational reason for its existence. The moment I realised this is when I won the victory over myself. That is how I learned to love the cone, and that is why you should too.