Totem – Leuven, Belgium - Atlas Obscura

Nothing in a quaint old town of Leuven really prepares you for a sight of a giant shiny green beetle impaled on a 75-feet high needle.

The name of the sculpture is ‘totem’ and is a work by Belgian artist Jan Fabre, who also covered a ceiling of the Belgian Royal Palace in bugs. This very unusual sculpture decorates the square in front of the historic KU Leuven University Libraries. Its appearance becomes much less bizarre if you know the artist’s intention.

The sculpture was erected in 2004 to commemorate the 575 years of the university KU Leuven. A library is a collection of knowledge, carefully handpicked, cataloged, and put away for safekeeping, somewhat like a bug in an insect collection. Furthermore, the anatomy of an insect is reminiscent of a clockwork, a tiny precise mechanism, a product of science and technology.

Some say the totem represents the fragility and ephemeral nature of life.

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