The University of East Anglia is facing severe backlash for their decision to place artist Antony Gormley’s statue on the rooftop of the UEA library, creating the appearance of a man about to commit suicide.
UEA student Katherine Leaver shared an image of the statue on Instagram with the caption, ‘does this strike anyone else as morbidly [inappropriate?]’ Another UEA student, Natalie Froome, tweeted that the statue is a ‘constant visual reminder’ to those with mental health issues or experience of losing someone to suicide.
However, not all responses to the statue have been totally negative. Instagram user Sarah Jones (@sarahantoniajones) shared a picture of the statue and wrote, ‘I went to go visit the now-controversial Gormely [sic] statues installed at UEA today and you have to admit they’re striking’. Megan Murray (Instagram user @megoo969) commented on Lisa Irvine’s (Instagram user @buckiequeen) photo of the statue, ‘I like ‘em…but they might count as “trigger material” for some people and I don’t think that’s really what the uea [sic] were going for.’
Photo of the statue from Instagram user @schrodingerskatakat
The official UEA press release regarding the statue states that it is part of a three-sculpture project by Gormley, and that the installation ‘will enhance the campus for students, staff and visitors alike.’ The curator of the project, Calvin Winner, stated, ‘These spectacular and poignant sculptures will complement the campus and will provoke discussions exploring the relationship between man and nature.’
However, not all students seem so sure that the effects have been positive. An anonymous petition on Change.org titled ‘Take the Anthony Gormley Statue off the library roof’ has garnered 175 supporters in the past week. Alison Mcnair, a supporter of the petition, stated, ‘I work with young people with mental health issues and my daughter attends UEA…I think this is a very dangerous place to put a statue. Rather than promote understanding of mental health, it could give people ideas when stressed/depressed, especially around exam season. Please put the statue in a more appropriate place.’
The Sainsbury Centre director Paul Greenhalgh has defended the statue in an Eastern Daily Press article, saying, ‘Sir Antony is universally recognised as one of the greatest sculptors at work today…We are so proud that we now have major works by him on display in our region.’
Emma, a UEA student in her third year, said, “I don’t like it. It mocks people who struggle with suicidal thoughts. They [UEA] should admit it was a mistake and take it down.”
Ruth, a UEA student in her second year, said, “I think that it’s provocative, which art should be. It really caught my attention and once you know it’s a statue I don’t see the problem.”
UEA has been contacted but are yet to comment on the petition to remove the statue, or on specific mental health concerns regarding the statue’s placement that are being raised by students.