Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The DNA Windows

These stained-glass windows, which I photographed yesterday afternoon as I was leaving work, are the remnant of a sculpture which was once installed in the Library, but which was removed in the most recent round of refurbishment. The installation itself was entitled "DNA And..." and aroused rather mixed feelings (but then what public sculpture doesn't?) We used to have an A4 handout, so that staff didn't have to try continually to answer the question "What the Hell is that supposed to be?"

Its centre-piece was a large wooden pterosaur hanging above the main issue desk -- copied and massively enlarged from one of those wood assembly kits made up of cross-sectional slices, but with a large propeller at its rear end. I think most people who gave it any thought found its facetious humour rather facile to be addressing seriously any real issues around evolution and genetics, and inappropriate to its setting (its main gesture towards the Library were some dummy books entitled The Beano and Hard Sums). Few were dismayed when it came down. The joke had worn very thin, and there wasn't much else to take from it.

However, the windows (by the glass artist and architect Ray Bradley) remain, and have acquired a restraint and a Tom Phillips-ish elegance now that they're not associated with (or obscured by) their original raison d'ĂȘtre. They depict a nucleotide sequence of the DNA code of a growth hormone (it says here). They're also rather beautiful.

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