This semester, Reed has borne witness to many oddities: On Friday, September 22, some Reedies went about their daily activities on campus clothed in pajamas and carrying sleep-related paraphernalia. On Friday, September 29, students roamed campus in formalwear, linking arms when they encountered co-conspirators, before reconvening to read poetry to the Moon on the Great Lawn after dark. On Friday, October 6, students with X’s scrawled on their hands played a daylong, campus-wide bartering game, exchanging assorted possessions before again meeting on the Great Lawn, this time for a show-and-tell. On Friday, October 13, they assembled for a jam session in gothic robes. On Friday, October 27, the participants in this elaborate conspiracy took a break from daytime activities, but planned to hold another Moon ritual.
Reedies who observed these actions might suspect that Portland has secretly begun fluoridating its water, but in a loss for the health of all our teeth, they are in fact the doing of Joyous Whimsy Club (JWC), one of Reed’s newest student organizations. JWC has a dual-pronged mission of returning campus culture to the mystical days of Olde Reede’s absurdism and overthrowing global capitalism, a mission inherited from the now-defunct Reed Kommunist Shit Kollective as well as a long list of historical avant-garde movements in the non-Reed world like the Situationist International. Subscribers to the club’s email list were encouraged to attend rallies for Gaza over fall break, and messages frequently interlaced descriptions of the club’s upcoming actions with critiques of capitalism and imperialism.
JWC is the brainchild of Ivy Queen ‘25, who sat down with the Quest for an interview this past week. The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Louis Chase (LC): Can you tell me a little bit about what Joyous Whimsy Club is and why you started it?
Ivy Queen (IQ): The concept behind Joyous Whimsy Club is that I’ll send out a poll on Fridays people can respond to over the weekend, which is silly, low-commitment things that they want everybody to do as a group. And then on Monday, I’ll put some of this together and say, oh, guys, we’re rubber ducky-bombing the campus, or we’re wearing cowboy hats to Commons on Friday, or whatever it is. It’s also expanded into people [hosting] their own little events, and I’ll just send it out with the email. The whole purpose of the club is that when I applied to Reed, I thought half the appeal for me was just all those silly traditions, and I thought I was going to see some really wacky shit. And coming into junior year, I was like, I have not seen enough wacky shit. And I was like, it would be so rad if we had a club that was just solely committed to doing weird shit in public.
So Joyous Whimsy Club was born. I submitted the form that creates the link on Reed’s page of clubs, and then they actually accepted it. And then I was like, oh, shit, I actually have to do it. So it was really, like, a dumb idea, and usually my dumb ideas don’t take off, but this one really did.
LC: What has Joyous Whimsy Club done so far?
IQ: We’ve had a few events. My favorite event that we did was this last one, we got a bunch of people together and we were in ghoulish-themed costumes. And we all brought some sort of instrument or noisemaker, or some people screamed, weirdly enough. We hid in that doorway [to Commons], and when people walked in, we played spooky noises. That was really hilarious. And that was my favorite thing.
LC: Joyous Whimsy Club is in some ways an heir to organizations that existed at Reed previously, like the Reed Kommunist Shit Kollective. How do you see Joyous Whimsy Club in relation to Reed’s history and culture?
IQ: When I actually came up with Joyous Whimsy Club, I didn’t think that I was intentionally trying to resurrect Olde Reede or have it be anything like Reed in the past. But I think I was indirectly inspired by that because you hear about how crazy Reed was before, and a lot of that is attributed to Reed KommunistShit Kollective. So I would hear about Lewis and Clark streaking, and I didn’t know it was them at the time who started that, but I was like, damn, we should do that. We need that again. So I started Joyous Whimsy Club to kind of bring back, I guess in some sense bring back a little bit of Olde Reede, and the more that I’ve looked into Reed communal shit collective, I’m like, we very much are an extension of what they were. We occupy the same place. And even though it wasn’t intentional, I want it to be a little more intentional about bringing back crazy traditions.
The other thing that really struck me about it was with Joyous Whimsy Club. So half of it was just, I want to see more weird shit on campus. And then half of it was, I feel like people here are really judgy and isolated so that people feel stifled to do weird things in public. And I wanted to bring people together in person, not mediated over social media, [as] a genuine community building experience that also pushed the boundaries of decency in a way that was respectful to people, but pushed the boundary of people excessively judging each other.
The thing that surprised me in relation to Reed KommunistShit Collective was I wanted Joyous Whimsy Club to have this slightly political thing, which kind of ties into the community building thing, but I wanted to have an avenue for Reedies to walk that walk as well as talk that talk where we’re actually gathering together and having conversations about leftist shit. And then I try to promote activist events through that. And it was really cool because back in the day with Reed Communal Shit Collective, they weren’t really officially a political organization. They had communist leanings, which ties heavily into socialism and leftism. But from what I’ve gathered from reading the archives, they did have a little bit of political outspokenness, [and] I think it’s really cool how it developed organically with them, and [that’s] how I want it with us.
LC: What has the reception to Joyous Whimsy Club been?
IQ: The reception has been like, well, I expected to only get maybe 20 people. I was amazed we got 20 people when we did. I was like, shit, this is my silly idea, and it became 20 people, so that was awesome. So having 170, I’m like, let’s fucking go. I think we could be a little bit better in having more widespread attendance. It seems like people are so busy that it’s hard to get people to really show up to events, but we’ve been netting, I would say, 15 people per event, which I think is kind of really chill for a club at Reed. I would like it to be, we do more events that include the whole campus in some way, or have more widespread participation, or are more easy to get into even when you’re busy. But I’m also really chill with where we’re at with having people just show up when they can. And I think a lot of the appeal too, is that if we do weird shit in public and people don’t really know that it’s only 15 people just randomly doing weird shit in public, they don’t know what’s going on, then that makes it weirder. Whereas if the whole campus knows that we’re doing weird shit in public, then everybody’s doing it. So it’s not weird.
LC: What do you want people to know about Joyous Whimsy Club?
IQ: I think at the heart of it, it’s just this really stupid concept of a club, but I have a lot of ideological imperatives going into it. I really want to challenge the way Reedies construct themselves against each other, in a way that’s like Reedies are really anxious with their place in the world, especially with financial demographics of this college. I feel like there’s so much isolation at Reed because people are really scared to be real with each other and push each other in productive ways.
And I also think having more in-person stuff post-COVID that isn’t mediated by social media is also really positive. And then it ties into the leftism; I think leftism happens best when there’s a strong community and people who are willing to be real with each other and push each other to act on their beliefs. As far as pushing boundaries with the weird shit we do, I think that ties into all of that as well. So I really want it to challenge something about Reed and make Reed a much realer place to talk in.
LC: Reed acknowledges a lot of difficulty retaining institutional memory, especially post-COVID. And you’ve gotten into this a little, talking about Olde Reede, but how do you see Joyous Whimsy Club in relation to Reed’s traditions and future?
IQ: I definitely see us resurrecting some old events. I want to bring back a lot of the kind of reckless energy of Olde Reede where it’s like people do shit that you’re like, how the fuck did they get away with that? With the asterisk of we’re in a different time of Reed and that I’m not going to single-handedly change that with Joyous Whimsy Club. There was a time at Olde Reede where there was this unspoken agreement between Reed Kommunist Shit Kollective and the CSOs that as long as somebody who is conscious of safety was running the events, the CSOs wouldn’t bust it. They used to have a stimulant table in the library lobby just giving people stimulants and shit, just like, how the hell? So I don’t know if we can really, especially with new drug concerns at Reed, I don’t know how successful we could be in resurrecting that. But yeah, I would like to bring back some of that ethos of you can be carefree while still being respectful to others. So if we can’t bring back explicitly crazy and/or dangerous stuff that you used to do, then we can at least bring back how carefree you feel when you hear about those events.
Students interested in Joyous Whimsy Club can view the club’s page on the Student Engagement website and add themselves to the email list by filling out a Google Form publicized in recent SB Info emails. A current area of interest for the club is reviewing the archive of RKSK emails from 2001-2015, so Reedies who wish to intermix their joy and whimsy with archival research are especially welcome.