College of Liberal and Fine Arts


Tech Totem Installed in MH by Anonymous Artist

March 5, 2012

Last Monday, Professor Deborah Wagner arrived at her office door to find a professionally sculpted totem pole made out of discarded computer cases, internal parts meticulously crafted to resemble animal life, and custom pre-Columbian decals. Four computers tall, the crowning piece consisted of a coffee machine embellished with rotating compact-disc eyes and metallic wings announcing Ms. Wagner’s upcoming summer course, Ritual & Symbol (ANT 3133.01F).

It wasn’t long before a crowd of admirers formed around the impressive piece. Adding to the enchantment was the fact that the totem pole had been left outside Ms. Wagner’s door anonymously, somehow carried there and installed in secrecy between six and eight in the morning. The identity of the artist, now known to be art major Charlie Nowak, would not be revealed for another three days.

In Ms. Wagner’s words:

“On Monday morning (February 27) I came upon what appeared to be a stack of old computers that were set outside my office door. As I got closer I realized that it was a sculpture of a totem made out of old computers. I was struck by the fact that whoever made this did not leave their name—it was an offering to me that was anonymous until just yesterday.”

“The totem is embellished with all kinds of different pieces of computer hardware artwork and custom stencil designs. Every piece utilizes some component of computer technology that marks a clan lineage with various totem animals. The very top of the totem traces back the apical ancestor to the coffee maker (I can relate, I love coffee).”

“I immediately was struck by the layers of artwork—everything is embedded with so much intricate design. I think the artist, who I now know is Charlie Nowak, a former student and art major here at UTSA, is utilizing discarded technology to perhaps make a statement that moves beyond Duchamp’s toilet (‘what is art’ to ‘what are we doing to the environment?’) but this is just my early perception—as I look at it I contemplate many other ideas about what Charlie is saying—every time I look, I see something new.”

“I am moved and honored by the amount of work and creative genius that went into this kind gesture, and I certainly hope to figure out a way for more people to enjoy this amazing piece of artwork.”

(Photos by M. Cavazos. See more on the COLFA Facebook page.)

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