Characters invading campus – a naked man, a caged woman, the Easter bunny, a life-size STD, a walking bush and a dead banana – may be strangely reminiscent of a bad acid trip, but rest assured, the unusual scenes are simply the product of an ongoing art project.
Spawned from an assignment exploring the concept of personal space, these creative costumes come out of Art Studio 7A, professor Kip Fulbeck’s Art and Life class. Students enrolled in the course are required to occupy space on campus for two hours in an original way – without breaking the law, of course. Regardless of their chosen acts, students must receive permission from TAs before beginning their projects and are not permitted to execute their work off-campus.
“The project has several basic strategies,” Fulbeck said. “The first one being to explore the variations between private and public space, the second one to explore the boundaries between conventional versus unconventional social interactions, and also to have [students] understand responsibility in operating within a system of behavior.”
Almost entirely naked, Sara Hays sat in a box of Styrofoam peanuts and flowers earlier this week. Hays, a second-year communication major, stationed herself in the main roundabout by Storke Tower with a series of signs reading, “Nothing is as it seems because everything that is, isn’t.”
“It’s fun to see peoples’ reactions,” Hays said. “Some people went around the roundabout in circles in order to ask me questions. I also caused a couple of [bike] accidents. The kids taking a tour of the school a little bit earlier even started taking pictures of me.”
As part of his personal space project, Adam Cruz, a fourth-year art major, wrapped himself in sticky adhesive and roamed the campus as a self-described “STD.”
Cruz rolled on the ground around the Arbor and the UCen, collecting various debris that clung to his costume. After two hours of such antics, Cruz had accumulated a layer of dirt and leaves adorned with a condom, a pen, a dollar bill, a packet of honey, a cigarette butt and a newspaper.
“I’m trying to find out if a person would be treated differently if it was known that he had an STD,” Cruz said. “There’s a sign on my back that reads, ‘Would you touch me without protection?’ and people wouldn’t hug me when asked to. There was an overall negative reaction. I got weird looks, people turned away at the sight of me, threw flyers at me. … I felt kind of bad. People were like, ‘get away from me!'”
Meanwhile, Alexandra Christopher, a first-year art major, set up a white-board near the Arbor displaying strips of paper bearing the phrases, “I’m sorry” and “Thank you.” Those passing by were encouraged to contribute a unique phrase and stick in to the display board.
“I’m trying to get across the idea that people always hold something back,” Christopher said. “I want to give them the chance to anonymously express themselves and give audiences a cathartic experience.”
Jay Xue, a first-year biology major, will be presenting his project today from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Xue and a partner will lay out a red carpet in front of the Arbor, taking pictures of crowds to challenge students’ comfort levels by invading their personal space.
“[I will use] art as a form of introducing new ideas to people,” Xue said. “I learned that it’s hard to change people’s conventional ways of living. We’re living by all these rules and whenever someone tries to break these rules in a radical way, people don’t know how to deal with it. They either ignore it because it’s too much to take or get irritated by the whole ordeal.”
On Sunday, the students will begin their next task – an alternative persona project. According to Fulbeck, they have one of two choices for this assignment, both requiring a 48-hour commitment.
Students can either change one small aspect of themselves – such as using the opposite hand in everyday activities, speaking with a stutter or faking a pregnancy – or adopt a completely different personality. Fulbeck said those selecting the latter option are in for a complex and difficult experience, as students are not permitted to break character throughout the two-day period.