04/29/2015 09:42 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Iconic John Harvard Statue Gives Voice to Students


The iconic John Harvard statue by Daniel Chester French that sits soberly in Harvard Yard has been projected into the 21st century this week. Long the subject of foot rubbing, tourist photos, and student pranks, the bronze statue is now the vessel for artist Krzysztof Wodiczko's latest public art installation. Using video projection to transform the statue of a student as John Harvard - a 17th-century English minister who founded the institution - the artist is using Harvard's bronze face to project a conversation that sheds light on the diverse voices that make up the student body at the illustrious college today.

One of the 22 students who were interviewed to be be the faces and voices projected onto the statue calls out "We need black voices, black thinking and black writing." Another, a first generation Harvard student talks about the pressure of being the promise for their family, the fear of failure. And yet another implores their fellow students to fail big as the only way to truly find growth.

Wodiczko, renowned for his large-scale slide and video projections on architectural monuments in New York, Paris and around the world, says he wanted to challenge the us with the questions: "What is Veritas? What is this collective body of students at Harvard today?"

Well, many of us might start with the word privilege the minute these students pass through those gates into the Yard, but Wodiczko who was born in Poland in 1943, wants the students to tell us more. And as the projection rotates through the different student voices, we hear about loneliness, the lack of black voices, black writing and black thinking, the drive and connection to a greater journey, the fear of failure and the pressures of being the first person in a family to go to college - let alone Harvard.

The John Harvard projection, which is visible after dark, will be on view tonight from 7pm and closes at 11pm. Heidi Legg interviews Wodiczko about the project on