Cryptic Campus Artwork Incites Debate

Or, Mystery Signs Leave Students Totally “BUGGIN’”

This past weekend was marked by the sudden appearance of at least thirteen mysterious plywood signs scattered throughout Reed’s campus, which stirred up an online debate. By Sunday night, the signs greeted students walking around campus with messages such as: “OUT WITH THE OLD OUT WITH THE NEW,” “IT’S A CRIME,” “GLUEBABY,” “BUGGIN’,” “TO ALL THE SPIDER’S I LOVED BEFORE A NETFLIX ORIGINAL,” “NO WEED ONLY PCP,” “DON’T GO THERE,” “WOLVES?!,” “OBJECT, IN MINE CLOSE, VERRY CLOSE,” “WILL TRADE HANDJOB 4 UR TEETH,” “THIS SHOULD REMAIN UNSAID,” “IN DOG WE TRUST.”

The creators behind these cryptic signs spoke to the Quest about their artistic statement that sparked a campus-wide debate. One of the several artists behind the signs, who requested to remain anonymous, reported that they “just did it for fun” and that there is no real message behind the signs, except for the one that reads, “IN DOG WE TRUST.” Another student affiliated with the anonymous group of artists told the Quest, “Those residing on the campus of Reed College should embrace the brevity of comfort and the gravity of danger in the world we live in. Not only do we all need to be uncomfortable (viscerally and toe-suckingly) in response to art, we need to fuck off with our falsely comforting statements to others.”

Artists’ intentions aside, many student responses to the signs were quite critical. Several students on the Reed Questions Facebook group argued that the signs are childish and feed paranoia. Juliana Cable, one of the directors of Reed Arts Week (RAW), assured everyone that these signs are not affiliated with RAW. They went on to say, “I worry about the association at Reed between weird, intimidating, inhospitable changes to public space and ‘art kids.’ The fact that some folks automatically assumed this was some kind of promotion for Reed Arts Week frankly speaks to a history of pretentious inconsiderate bullshit that I, and lots of other RAW staff and artists, are actively fighting against. I love weird, difficult art as much as the next guy, but I also have anxiety and PTSD and don’t think there’s anything cool or edgy about making people’s daily life on this campus harder for no real discernible reason.” Other students in the Facebook group expressed concern about the signs, citing them as “creepy,” while others seemed to appreciate the work, particularly enjoying the signs “I graduated and all I got was this sign,” and, “BIG FROG.”   

Students like Cable raise an important point concerning the responsibility of people who use these public spaces as a canvas for their own projects. It’s unclear if we should expect to see more of these works in the future, but these signs have already begun to spark a fruitful discussion about the relationship between private projects and public spaces, one that will, perhaps, continue throughout the semester, with the advent of Reed Arts Week soon approaching.


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