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Issue 1836 (PDF)
The student newspaper of Imperial College London

Keep the Cat Free

Halloween was a month ago, Imperial

What is it with Imperial and ugly art?

Nico Toran Illustration


in Issue 1836

Can someone remind Imperial that Halloween was a month ago? The College has wheeled out a spectre from its closet, cobwebs and all.

This week, Felix revealed that Imperial has renewed its efforts to secure planning permission for a mural students described as ‘void’, ‘meaningless’ and ‘garish’, less than six months after its original application was rejected.

For those unacquainted with the original fiasco, here’s an excerpt from a previous Felix article, dated 16th March 2023:

The mural has reportedly been in the works since summer 2022; however, residents of the building – staff and students of the Department of Physics – did not find out about the plans until the morning of Friday 24th February. This is despite a notification being sent to Blackett and neighbouring buildings, including Huxley, in early February.

It is unclear who received the notification, as Operations Manager for the Department of Physics, Luke White, was also unaware of the plans. He discovered and notified his colleagues of the application within three days of the deadline to comment.

‘Nevertheless, there have since been 37 objections made online by outraged staff and students alike.’

Members of the Physics department fought hard to ensure that their voices were heard, and Westminster City Council ultimately rejected the proposal, on the grounds that the ‘visual impact [of] the mural would harm the appearance of the building and this part of the City.’

The College though, apparently missed the memo. It has rehashed the same mural, minor changes notwithstanding, and moved it to the adjacent Roderic Hill Building.

By doing so, it has made the mural less visible from Queen’s Gate. But the fact still stands that students and staff find it downright hideous.

The proposal reads like it was written by a 12-year-old on a deadline.

Here is a selection of our favourite comments from Imperial students, sent to the Felix Instagram page:

The whole debacle reminds us of the end to a horror movie: you think you’ve slain the ghost that’s been haunting you, only for it to re-emerge unannounced in a post-credits scene.

The man with the golden dong

What is it with Imperial and ugly art? The College now seems bent on amassing a collection of unsightly curios, and fighting everyone who objects until it gets it way.

Last year, it was ALERT, the phallic Antony Gormley statue that had students up in arms and the international media pointing and laughing. Union Council lobbied against installation of the statue, describing it as ‘exclusionary’, and produced a now-iconic figure to illustrate its point, featuring the words ‘Penis (erect)’.

This year it’s the mural, which the College seems intent on pushing through, even in the face of widespread opposition, and a letter of refusal from Westminster City Council.

It just can’t seem to take no for an answer.

The mural proposal document is a treasure trove; it reads like it was written by a 12-year-old on a deadline. Here are a few highlights:

This will ensure that the public art – and its message of the relationship between mankind and nature – can be utilised to draw people onto Prince Consort Road where only then can the mural be seen in full and truly experienced.

The proposal has also been subject to internal consultation at the College, ensuring that the location, size and style or [sic] the proposed mural are all in keeping with what those who work and are studying at Imperial College would expect and consider appropriate for the western end of the Blackett Building and the campus as a whole.

[This passage appears to have been copied verbatim from the old proposal. The authors didn’t even bother to replace ‘Blackett’ with ‘Roderic Hill’]

And best of all, running out of justifications for the mural:

The proposals will provide further enhancements to the South Kensington campus public realm and, through the creation of a distinctive feature, improve the ability of those who are unfamiliar with the campus or the local area to effortlessly navigate their way around.

You honestly couldn’t make this up.

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