Tuesday, February 20, 2007This past week, I was perplexed by the appearance of numerous strange ice sculptures around the University of Chicago campus: armless, legless squarish torsoes a little over two-and-a-half-feet high, each bearing a Moai-like ice head and a...er, "flagstaff at attention" (although some of the statues had lost their "staffs," either through vandalism or sublimation). A white sticker was affixed to each one, bearing the Internet address herm.notlong.com. Now, the UofC campus is no stranger to odd guerilla artwork and performance pieces, but how could one not be curious when confronted by one of these on the way to work?
Turns out I've been lax in my history lessons. The priapic popsicles are a modern-day resurrection of ancient Greek hermae, protective stone statues
dedicated to the god Hermes. In 415 B.C., saboteurs from Syracuse (the one in Greece, not the one in Upstate New York) were alleged to have defaced the hermae of Athens, thereby threatening the success of the Athenian expansion in the Peloponnesian War.
Creating and deploying the UofC Ice Herms was no small task - each one reportedly weighs 140 pounds. Just think - the UofC Humanities curriculum wanted to phase out Western Civ recently. Lesson: you can set up dozens of bephallused ice sculptures on this nerdiest of campuses and they'll stand until melted. Try doing is almost anywhere else and you might get arrested for "endangering public morals." You've gotta love this place! Even though the hermae are melting, their brief presence surely put a smile in many people's day...I'd love to hear what some of the resident bluestockings (of all genders) had to say about the herms. ;)
How'd he do it? See the laborious step-by-step process at "The Erection of the Ice Hermai" (ha, ha). Since they will all likely be gone after today's 40°F thaw, view them for yourself at Neoherm's Ice Herms Flickr gallery (Image above from Neoherm's Flickr set; this one was set up outside of Regenstein Library). [Note: one of the links on the "Erection of the Ice Hermai" is broken, but with a little experimentation I found the right URL - http://picasaweb.google.com/neoherm/TheMakingPartII, where Neoherm freezes heads, torsoes and phalli after creating molds in Part I. This shot, depicting frozen phalli next to packages of hamburger in the icebox (possibly NSFW depending on where you work) is especially amusing.]
UPDATE - I took this shot of what's left of one of the ice herms Wednesday afternoon: not much to speak of.