To be honest, seeing a half-naked sleepwalking dude on a college campus wouldn't be the weirdest thing ever, but when it's on the campus of a women's college, in the dead of winter, and the dude is, well, not even real, it gets a little weirder.
A statue on the campus of Wellesley College is giving students the creeps, because it's not only strange to behold, it apparently has a predatory air to it. The hyper-realistic figure is part of an installation by artist Tony Matelli. It's called "Sleepwalker," and it's a guy, not exactly of college age, eyes closed and mouth open, lurching blindly toward something, while clad only in a pair of droopy underpants. It is also placed in a highly-trafficked area of campus.
Some women of Wellesley are less than pleased. One student started a petition on change.org to have the installation removed, calling the statue "a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for some members of our campus community." Currently, the petition has 538 supporters.
The statue -- and it bears repeating, which is wearing only underwear -- has sparked a web of conversation about sexual and emotional triggers, about artistic freedom, about safe spaces, about sensitivity. Lisa Fischman, the Director of the Davis Museum which was responsible for the installation, responded to students' concerns on change.org.
"Art has an extraordinary power to evoke personal response, and to elicit the unexpected," she wrote. "We placed the Sleepwalker on the roadside just beyond the Davis to connect the exhibition -- within the museum -- to the campus world beyond...I watched from the 5th floor windows today (intermittently, over several hours) as students stopped to interact playfully with the sculpture."
"He is not naked," she reminds us. "He is profoundly passive. He is inert, as sculpture. But he does inspire narrative."
And "narrative" is certainly what the statue got online. People had a field day with this bizarre creature, and he even has, yes, his own Twitter account.
And despite concern that Wellesley students don't appreciate, er, art, it seems the "Sleepwalker" has some fans.
Well, if art is meant to inspire dialogue, then mission accomplished, freaky naked guy. Frankly we're surprised no one has vandalized it by, say, lending it a jacket.