Comatose robot symbolizes the de-industrialization of America

This huge, comatose robot sculpture graces the quad at the University of Alabama:

But the artwork and its sculptor - UA graduate student Joe McCreary - have a serious story to tell. Goldie symbolizes the closing of Birmingham's Sloss Furnaces in 1972 and America's passage into the post-industrial era. The robot is not so much dead or sleeping as turned off.

"The robot's been decommissioned, shut off," McCreary says. "It's not needed anymore..."

In some ways, Goldie reflects all the shut-down equipment that visitors can see at Sloss. Tons of equipment left over from the furnaces' heyday still litter the site.

"All around the site there's heavy equipment - locomotive cranes, big scoops - that's been decommissioned," says McCreary, who earned a B.F.A. from the University of Southern Mississippi. "They're points of interest for the walking tour of the site. The idea is that the robot is a simulacrum for the people who worked at the furnaces and are no longer there. Then there's the bigger picture of the iron industry in this country - how it's slowly in decline."

Woods Quad Robot Sculpture Draws Attention, Provokes Thought (Thanks, Chris!)


  1. That robot looks a lot like the ones from Ghibli’s Laputa (Castle in the Sky on the US).

  2. The problem with symbolism in art is that it isn’t there until you project it onto what you see. Thankfully, this art is good enough to not depend on it.

  3. I had the same reaction as #1, but Laputa’s robot (from the Ghibli (“ghee-boo-ri”) Museum, a fantastic place every self-respected anime buff should visit) is actually a bit different.
    Then I thought it looked very similar to the Iron Giant, but when I checked, it actually turned out to be a bit different as well.

    I guess there’s a bit of all of them in the work, but it’s not a clear ripoff, and it really is a poignant and accessible piece of art. Congrats to the author.

  4. Sculptures of giant robots are the best kind of sculptures. I’d like to see a series of robot statues emulating the great sculptors, as in Robot David, or Robot Venus de Milo.

    It’s also good to see my alma mater mentioned here on boingboing.
    Roll Tide!

  5. Me: “Damn, that looks like a nice robot. Wish I lived in a place with culture.”

    Me, five seconds later: “Oh, wow! It’s here?!? I know what I’d doing over lunch!”

  6. Do you think the artist understands that we manufacture more stuff in the US now than we did in the 70s we just do it with fewer people because of, well, robots?

  7. I’d like to see this on the grounds of Sloss Furnaces, along with all the other decommissioned equipment. That would engender some double takes, I imagine.

  8. MIKEWEBKIST @11: the author explicitly mentions the iron industry, which is declining in the States.

  9. it still looks like the robots from laputa to me , i just wish it had fox squirrels running on it

  10. The robot has much symbolic meaning. It illustrates what has happened to Americia’s ability to manufacture many things besides steel. Other countries practice mercantilistic trade policy to prohibit the US from taking their markets. The US has welcomed every commer to take the most plum consummer market in the universe, ours. We can not make a military weapaons systems without imported electronics. We can no longer make the clothes we wear.

    When Americans spen money on goods 50% of it goes overseas. The comatose robot is also the symbol of jobs American once had when American buyers supported american workerswere able to

Comments are closed.