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As Warwick Arts Centre’s 20:20 refurbishment project gets underway, Liliane Lijn’s iconic White Koan is vacating its usual home near the building entrance. Over the next three years, the sculpture will head out on a tour of the University of Warwick campus, beginning with a stint on Gibbet Hill in 2017-18.
“With the Warwick Arts Centre 20:20 Project starting this autumn, we are moving some key works of art. The White Koan is too important to go into storage so the Koan Tour has been developed with its supporters,” explains Sarah Shalgosky, University of Warwick curator. “White Koan will spend one year up at Gibbet Hill and then move to other sites on the campus in succeeding years before returning home in 2020”.
Standing at 6 metres tall, the Koan was initially installed outside Warwick Arts Centre in 1972 after starting out its life on the roof of London’s Hayward Gallery. Taking the form of a rotating, conical construction with light-up elements, the innovative piece combines industrial materials and artistic processes. Artist Liliane Lijn is known for exploring the interaction between art, science, technology and eastern philosophy and mythology. The sculpture’s name is a pun on the Buddhist concept of a “koan” - a device for contemplation or question to which there is no answer.
Since arriving at the arts centre, it has grown in popularity among students, staff and visitors alike, taking its place at the centre of many of the campus’ urban myths. Legends have it, for example, that the Koan stands over a tunnel allowing senior staff to escape from their nearby headquarters; that it was the nose cone of a failed Apollo mission; that it is occupied by a very small inhabitant and that it’s owned and controlled by a High Priestess.
In the early 90s, it became the subject of a comic strip by Steve Shipway, and over the years a number of Koan memes, videos, university societies and social media accounts have been created – the Koan has already expressed enthusiasm for its move via its own Facebook page. Students have also created petitions to include the Koan in the university logo, and it is already a proud mascot for Warwick’s University Challenge team.
Warwick Arts Centre’s 20:20 Project is an extensive redevelopment scheme taking place over the next three years. The centre will remain open throughout the process with a full programme of events and shows, some of which will be held in an on-site temporary theatre called The Goose Nest.
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