UEA criticised for controversial art installation

Students at UEA have started a petition against their university to remove an Antony Gormley statue of a human on the roof of the campus library.

One of the main issues highlighted by students is how they feel the university doesn’t handle mental health issues correctly and many have tweeted saying the statue has implications of suicide and is very discomforting for students with high stress during exam season, while others have expressed that it matches UEA’s brutalist campus.

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One final year student tweeted the university’s Vice Chancellor, Professor David Richardson, saying “uea has constantly let students down in regards to mental health and now you’ve placed a statue on the edge of the library…”

The installation comes shortly after UEA’s Union Council elections, where the driving force for many students’ campaigns was improving mental health services within the university, so the arrival of the statue has understandably left many students frustrated at the university’s unwillingness to acknowledge their dissatisfaction.

Not to mention the five students from Bristol University that have taken their own lives in the past year, which amplifies the need for universities to support their students as much as possible when it comes to mental health.

On the other hand, the statue has generated discussion on these issues, with Prof. Richardson calling it an “arresting installation, which will add an exciting dimension to our campus art trail”.

Since the backlash, UEA have released a short statement saying:

“In today’s world there is a danger the first response to any given concern is to reach for the demand to restrict, ban, move or remove. The purpose of a university, however, is to encourage freedom of thought and expression, to develop critical thinking, and to contribute to society through the pursuit of knowledge.”

Gormley said of his work being displayed at UEA: “I like the feeling of the campus and its openness to the sky and the changing conditions of light and weather. Between the undercroft of the library and its exposed parapets and the teaching wall, I hope the work engages with the life of the University and with elemental conditions.”

The statue is part of a three-piece exhibition which, if the petition is unsuccessful, will be on display for five years.

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