Cross Campus | 11:36 pm | November 17, 2013 | By Amanda Buckingham

A new sculpture, but what does it mean?

Habakuk
Photo by Yale Daily News.

The dedication of Cross Campus’ newest resident — a sculpture by Max Ernst — takes place Monday. As a work of art at a major institution of higher education, one of of the first rites Habakuk must endure is a debate on its significance and identity within the ethnography of campus culture. In honor of the sculpture’s official induction in the Yale landscape, XC explored this context by asking various Yalies, “What does Habakuk mean?” 

Is University President Peter Salovey subtly installing statues of himself? 

“I think it symbolizes a forward looking Salovey leading Yale onto the 21st century. The hole through the head represents ‘insight’ into the future ahead at ‘40 degrees.’ I realized a third eye was carved out from the bottom of the sculpture aka the foundation. This hints at Salovey’s ability to see beyond what he sees himself. His third eye reflects the visions and ideas of the entire Yale community [as represented by the base].” – Johnny Xu ’17

TC Gargoyle Salovey

The Trumbull College Potty Court gargoyle, painted as Yale College Dean Peter Salovey by the Trumbull College Class of 2008. Photo by Trumbull College Class of 2008 via Wikimedia Commons

Or perhaps it is the equivalent of a large billboard sign pointing to the road, a road that leads to Toad’s…

“It looks like a toad. I object to the subliminal advertising.” – Alex Fisher ’14, political science major

This is the answer that would get you maybe a 2 or 3 on the AP Art History examination.  

“Max Ernst said it was supposed to resemble birds but also has influence from African and Pacific cultures. It reminds me of the Easter Island heads, which I think is pretty cool.” – Matt Kubicki ’14

“I like it, personally – I like a campus that has quirky things all over. The location – right next to WLH – is a bit weird, but I suppose that keeps it from getting in the way.” – Matt Kubicki ’14 added

Your reason to begin protesting the statue:

“You would think Yale with its fine art galleries and amazing History of Art department would have the sense to fill this school with gorgeous monuments but alas that is not the case. A new addition: the roughly 12 ft. tall metal version of a small wooden art model is an absolutely hideous abstract contemporary creation. At first glance it seems like a tower with a beak when it reality it’s nothing more than a deformed phallic-shaped penguin somewhere between Up’s Kevin and Morse’s Lipstick.” – Helder Toste ’16, art history and Latin American studies

Penguin
By Hannes Grobe/AWI via Wikimedia Commons.

The correct response to give if prompted in section:

“Habakuk means ‘meerkat’ in Urundi, a dialect spoken mainly by Kupuan tribe in East Africa. In their most recent history, they were known for standing up against Belgian military occupation from 1916 to 1924, following the end of World War I. Their revolt lead to the unification of many East African tribes who were able to use gain independence after the Kupuan revolt. I think the Habakuk represents standing united against adversity and social norms, and thus becoming a leader to pave the way for others who are still too afraid to stand. The same way that Yale strives to be a global leader in education, opening up opportunities for those who did not have them handed down.” – Isaak Cuenco ’16, art history and nuclear engineering major

A bizarrely popular comparison of the sculpture to Excalibur from Soul Eater

“It is hard to ignore the fact that Habakuk’s new sculpture on campus closely resembles Excalibur from Soul Eater.  Is he trying to tell us that we are too self important, that our singing is off pitch and repetitive, that we are too demanding of others?  Probably.  But it might just mean that although Yale is old, narcissistic, and pedantic, we still have a lot to offer the world.” - David Rico ’16

Other Yalies also noted its similarity to Asian pop culture figures such as Pokémon’s Porygon.

Eugena O’Donnell ’14 posited that Habakuk “looks like a duck.”

Regardless of controversy regarding the sculpture’s meaning, Yalies can agree with Toste that “the new sculpture is an attempt to capture your imagination, to get the viewer thinking about form and challenge your perception.” Oh new 15-feet, 5,000 pound amorphous black mass — consider the campus perception challenged!

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