Image credits: Warwick Media Library

Our guided tour of campus art

You may think you know the University of Warwick campus, but something you probably don’t know is that it is a centre of modern art. By modern art we mean the sense that you can never be 100% certain if it is in fact art or not.

As an alternative to the university-led tours of its sculptures, I decided to put my own, pre-GCSE art expertise to the test and examine the more famous instillations on campus.

No article on campus art can begin without mentioning the infamous Koan, a rotating, semi-cylindrical sculpture that looks like lovechild of the Illuminati triangle and a Star Wars spaceship

No article on campus art can begin without mentioning the infamous Koan, a rotating, semi-cylindrical sculpture that looks like lovechild of the Illuminati triangle and a Star Wars spaceship. While surrounded by mythology, claims of it being run by elves or only moving when ex Vice Chancellor Nigel Thrift sleeps remain unconfirmed.

The subject of various documentaries, this heart of campus life was created by Liliane Lijin, with the title playing on the Zen Buddhist concept of a koan: a question without an answer, which is used as an aid to meditation. This sums up the Koan perfectly: it means nothing and looking at it makes us feel both confused and oddly relaxed.

The campus bus stop boasts the Days of Judgement sculpture, which literally appeared overnight with very little explanation

However, the Koan has a smaller, edgier, more static sibling in the ominously named Needle of Knowledge Obelisk. Hidden away near the Ramphael building, you’d be forgiven for not knowing it exists. While prettier and more explainable, probably dreams of being the Koan one day.

Keeping in the theme of ominous names, the campus bus stop boasts the Days of Judgement sculpture, which literally appeared overnight with very little explanation. Although I’ve been convincing everyone that it is a rat, according to the University art guide the sculpture by Laura Ford is a ‘single cat, preoccupied with its own thoughts and anxieties’, wearing a suit and ignoring the world around it.

Perhaps Day of Judgement is a reminder, despite all our youthful aspirations, of our inevitable eventual 30-year stint in the City working a soulless job in accounting, marketing or corporate law

I’m not entirely sure what the university is trying to tell us with that one. Maybe it’s a representation of students in Term 3. Or perhaps it’s a reminder, despite all our youthful aspirations, of our inevitable eventual 30-year stint in the City working a soulless job in accounting, marketing or corporate law. Who knows.

My personal favourite on-campus sculpture has to be the red climbing frame-like statue outside Old Rootes (note: do not climb on it if you want campus security to like you).

This sculpture, at a certain angle, spells ‘TOIL’, a slightly terrifying message to read on the way home from a freshers’ event

This sculpture, at a certain angle, spells ‘TOIL’, a slightly terrifying message to read on the way home from a freshers’ event. And let’s face it, if the university wanted this message of hard work to have effect, they probably should have put it outside a different halls.

Finally, the award for the best-named sculpture has to go to Let’s Not Be Stupid: created by Richard Deacon especially for the university and appropriately situated near the Copper Rooms. Apparently a 3D drawing representing the relationship between freedom and restraint, it stands as a massive pair of handcuffs judging people as they exit Pop.

The award for the best-named sculpture has to go to Let’s Not Be Stupid

This is only a small glimpse into the weird world of campus art, and there are many more pieces dotted around. So, keep an eye out for these, and whatever slightly terrifying message the university is trying to subliminally tell us. I’ll be waiting for my acceptance letter as a tour guide for the sculpture walks.

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