“Sleepwalker” elicits strong reactions from the Wellesley community

A life-size model of a man in his underwear caused quite a stir on campus yesterday. The statue, titled “Sleepwalker,” was  set up to preview “New Gravity,” the latest exhibit at the Davis Museum from artist Tony Matelli.

Contributed by: Alice Liang '16 Opinions Editor

Contributed by: Alice Liang ’16
Opinions Editor

"The Sleepwalker" by Sammy Marrus '16 Assistant Photography Editor

“The Sleepwalker”
by Sammy Marrus ’16
Assistant Photography Editor

Let us know what you think. Comment below!

7 Comments

  • Emma F. says:

    I wish there had been some advance notice of what statue exactly would be on display where. I’m not necessarily saying that they should get rid of the statue, although I think there are other places on campus that might be better for students, but no one really knew it was coming until it suddenly showed up.

    What bothers me most is that if you live in the Quad or are heading to the Lulu, KSC, or Parking Garage, there is virtually no way to avoid the statue; if it makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, there is no way to really avoid it and still move around campus. I do not think that is fair to students. That does not mean that I think it shouldn’t be displayed, just that there are better locations on campus for it to be displayed that might not be as triggering or discomfiting.

  • Cosmo S. says:

    I agree with everything Emma said. I personally suffer from very intense pediophobia, and the first time I encountered the sculpture it was very unexpected and terrifying. I felt physically ill after the experience. I think it is extremely unfair that the college subjected me to something so triggering without warning or consent.

    In addition to my uniquely personal reason for opposing the subject/placement of the sculpture, I also feel that the college (and/or the artist) exploited the student body for purposes of gaining publicity. I believe that’s the reason why they chose this particular piece of art, its placement on campus, and why they did not inform the students in advance. They knew students would react to, interact with, and write on social media about the sculpture. I mean, think about it… How could they not have foreseen such a strong reaction from students? This had to be intentional, and that is what upsets me the most.

  • Anon says:

    I do agree that the students should have been given more advance notice but I do not believe that there has been enough discussion among students to truly establish a (near) consensus on what should be done now. I understand that it can be very triggering, and for that, there should have been better outreach but I also think it is important to consider that art does trigger a lot more than many people have addressed. To decide this needs to be silenced based upon what appears to be labeled as potentially triggering really seems to fail to address one of the real issues here. As the survivor of emotional and physical assaults both on and off campus, I have to be braced every time I experience art for some sort of trigger. Yet, that does not stop me from engaging with an art work. Through therapy and managed self growth, I know when to leave a situation that seems threatening. I feel much more empowered about this active decision rather than just assuming that those around me have to change for my own issues. I cannot assume that Wellesley Housing will help me, or that my home life will suddenly improve.
    I understand not everyone is as lucky as I was to be triggered in such a way that allowed me to find the right kind of therapy, but then the real issue is discussing how to allow more of campus to address the traumas of their past.
    I think the debate of its removal should consider an option for campus wide discussions about what should happen in the future with both this statue and curatorial decisions. Otherwise, the petition seems to be an attempt at controlling what is allowed on campus through the lens of a very specific group of campus.

  • Emily says:

    This work has left me with many mixed feelings. On the one hand, I can see how this statue can be triggering to people. The figure of a half-naked male with arms stretched out standing on the edge of munger meadow appears at first to be frightening and intended to provoke an act of violence. Once you read the Davis’s description of the work, however, you realize that it’s a sleepwalker, and the intent of the artist is to make him appear as vulnerable and helpless as any real person would feel if found sleepwalking on Munger Meadow. I love art that challenges people and that provokes thoughts and discussions, and this work has increased publicity about the role of art on this campus, which I think has been great for the Wellesley community.
    I’ve read a lot of responses to this sculpture, and someone commented by saying that it appears Wellesley is not as open-minded as they claim to be, and I have to agree with them. Wellesley students have been doing and fighting for things that end up making some people uncomfortable for its entire history. We have been at the forefront of many liberal and groundbreaking projects, and this is something to be proud of in our history. Say this statue was of a woman, and we would be proclaiming that it celebrates the female body and stands for the feminist views we Wellesley students hold. You might not see how it could be triggering as well. This work has encouraged people to educate themselves about contemporary art, and has brought the community into action more than the much more controversial Wellesley 2025 plan ever did. I understand completely that this statue makes people uncomfortable, but I think that educating ourselves on the intent of the artist can help us understand it more. The Sleepwalker represents for me the vulnerability I feel everyday at Wellesley, and the anxiety and nervousness that comes with being at such a prestigious college. If we lives our lives, however, shying away from these things that provoke us, we would not be living our lives to their full potential.
    Regardless of what you or I think, the Davis will not take the work down. This is a very important exhibition for them, and we will soon be forced to get to know the Sleepwalker on our way to class. I stand by them, however, because great art is controversial, and life is filled with things that aren’t politically correct and perfect, even at Wellesley College.

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