Among those at the official unveiling of FREE OBJECT at Trinity today will be students and staff who wrote or photographed their responses to the commanding statue by the internationally renowned sculptor, Sir Antony Gormley, an alumnus of the College.
The five-metre sculpture is the first piece of contemporary art on Trinity’s Backs and marks a new era in the College’s 700-year history.
FREE OBJECT is the largest of the artist’s ‘Blockwork’ series to date, at 2.5 life size and weighing over 10 tonnes. It was installed last year as part of Trinity’s celebrations to mark the 700th anniversary of the College’s early foundations.
Trinity Fellows, Dr Emma Widdis and Dr Joe Moshenska, wanted to engage the College community in the initiative and the invitation to respond in words or images to FREE OBJECT met with an enthusiastic response.
Dr Widdis said: ‘We were genuinely thrilled by the range and originality of entries – which meant we had some difficult decisions as judges of the competition. In our choices we tried to show the range of different perspectives and views that Free Object has provoked. The sculpture has clearly struck a chord with those living and working in Trinity and it is heart-warming to see how students and staff have responded.’
The competition was open to two kinds of entry: up to 500 words in prose or poetry, or a photograph.
Kathleen Mitchell-Fox, a Modern Languages student, won first prize in the writing category, and Judy Sayers, a Natural Sciences student, won first prize for her photograph – a delicate glimpse through the Wren Cloisters’ grilles of the giant blockwork sculpture.
Kathleen was initially bewildered by the sculpture, writing in her piece:
Gormley belongs to concrete jungles and motorways; where park railings rust. I come from Gormley’s places. Everyone does. Not Trinity. Trinity was supposed to be a magical academic fun fair, where Newton still sat under apple trees, and Byron’s bear juggled with heavy bound philosophical treatises to Wittgenstein’s amusement. To me, Trinity was a place outside of time.
So impressed by the standard of entries were the judges that they decided to award a second prize and two highly commended awards in both categories. Dr Moshenska said: ‘It was a privilege, thanks to the exciting range of entries that we received, to be able to inhabit the new perspectives and experiences that FREE OBJECT has made possible.’
Library Assistant, James Kirwan, won second prize for his close-up, black-and-white image that forces the viewer to look again.
PhD student, Anton Baleato Lizancos’ image of the moonlit sculpture was highly commended, as was Computer Science student, Jan Ondras’ stark view of FREE OBJECT against the bare Avenue trees.
In the writing category, Tutorial Administrator, Janice Chambers, won second prize.
Initially, Janice thought of ‘him’ as ‘nothing more than a jumble of blocks, waiting to be knocked over, scattered and re-arranged.’
Approaching alignment however, his symmetry starts to slide into focus and he appears to contemplate the mellow antiquity of the Wren Library with benign interest. Viewed through the wrought iron eyes of the elegant façade of Nevile’s Court, the focus shifts again to reveal a figure, (I definitely think of him now as a man), gazing out, somewhat wistfully, over the bridge towards the punts.
Whereas initially I found him menacing, now he strikes me as calm, kindly, somewhat humble: the slightly hunched stance now seems a little apologetic, self-deprecating even, rather than a threat.
You are so much like me, watching the students pass you by, and without malice, you are proud to see them. From young-faced fledglings, they escape your pedestal donning robes of victory. We are both silent, you and I, but we are silent with joy at watching.
You fill me with curiosity. You have time at your disposal. It is time I will never get to know, and when I am able to retire, you will be there still. I fill you with thoughts I know you do not have, I make a person of you that does not exist, and I call you a name you have never called yourself. I realise, then, you are no person of your own volition, but a means of reflection.
Of course, not everyone took things seriously and it was (this time) Fellows (ineligible, technically, to participate in the competition) who sought to enliven the submissions. Professor Judith Driscoll and Professor Brian Josephson submitted this tongue-in-cheek annotated photograph.