In junior year at Oberlin College, George and I founded the Oberlin Street Art student "organization". We would run out in the middle of the night and construct anonymous, absurd, temporary street art chaos. Sometimes, we would enlist some friends; sometimes, we would deny all responsibility; always, we would add magic to the world. Here I highlight some of our favorite projects.
The original mission. George and I made nine pixel-perfect life-sized Mario question blocks, full of power-ups, and hung them up early in the morning on the first day of finals sophomore year. This was before we founded Oberlin Street Art, so except for our girlfriends, no one knew it was us, even our closest friends, for years.
Tappan Arch Box
The boxes were just too high to jump for, so glorious climber Jesse Bradford climbed the arch to get it. Then he climbed higher and put it on top of the arch.
Studying for Finals
We hung them from trees over high-traffic sidewalks.
George tests the punchability of the question block, but he needs a super mushroom.
Jesse actually defeated many of our ladder-assisted placements with his fearless climbing. He later joined OSA, unaware of our culpability.
The mushrooms were highly prized amongst students. We later befriended this girl, Shalini.
Boxes upon Boxes
Each box took thirteen hours to make over the course of a semester, so that's basically a three-credit class in art and crafts. By the end of the semester, our dorm room was overflowing with them--yet we hid them from spying guests (our friends).
That Was You Guys?!
When we finally posted this photo after three years, Tom Gorlin said: "Holy shit, that was you guys? It's this kind of thing that makes life worth it."
We never did figure out who got the invincibility stars.
After the boxes were ransacked for power-ups, the students often hung them back up for others to enjoy. We later saw one of the boxes being used as a dorm storage box.
I have no idea how they got some of those down.
George had to tie the fishing wire carefully around the eyehook while perched on the ladder in the dark and in the rain. He did not die.
We bought one league of packing tape, wrapped it around our victims, cut them out and taped up the exoskeletons, dressed them, and placed them around campus.
For senior finals week, we invaded the King building with a dozen that we'd built up over the semester (which, when stockpiled in random human-sized places around a small apartment, freak out a landlady miserably). Students were alternatively bewildered, bemused, creeped out, and delighted. Some avoided the tape people. Some hung out with them. Some tried to ignore them.
The ignoring strategy sometimes backfired. I dressed up as one (with tape hands and feet and a tape mask covering my face under a hoodie) and sat in a common area without moving for two hours. A girl started studying near me. Every time she didn't furtively look at me for five minutes, I would turn my head a little more towards here until I was looking right at her. Then two girls, arguing whether the tape people were real, started prodding me and then dared each other to sit in its lap. At that point I had to lurch up and terrorize the building amidst onlookers' shrieks and giggles.
On the way out the building, as I was lumbering myopically after George, the president of the college walked by, then did a triple-take, or so I was told.
The first tape person we made had leftover LEDs from throwies as eyes and a trashcan for a head mold.
Students liked to bond with the tape people.
One league of tape: 144 rolls. Thanks, Student Finance Committee!
Tape arm protruding out of a wall with a red LED in its finger amuses Norse girl.
This guy kepts his pants and his place on a stairwell air duct for months.
We really should ahve taken more pictures of the tape people in their natural habitats.
Once you're taped up, you're completely at the mercy of your tapers.
It took over an hour to enshroud each victim.
George, Scott, and I filled hundreds of balloons with helium early one morning and made a giant balloon arch across the quad, dangling hundreds of prizes from it.
The helium tank came from a welding supply store, because party supply store helium isn't metal enough.
The arch ended up being many hundreds of feet long.
No one tried to pin it on Earth Day this time.
We hung about two hundred art pieces from the arch, some originals, and some remixed advertising.
Campus Security had us take it down before it sunk to the point where it would semi-decapitate cyclists, because apparently that happened before.
We assembled the art over many weeks.
The students rushed to snatch the prizes.
When you tape a rare-earth magnet to a coin-cell battery and a bright LED, you have a throwie. Projectile street art! We would often hand these out at night while wearing our Guy Fawkes masks and other students would festoon the metal bits of campus. I don't have any shots of them deployed.
Throwies last for weeks or months.
Throwies cost about $0.67 each to assemble.
Throwies are the second-most effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder.
Grid out a picture, get some chalk, go out at 4AM, and grind your frozen fingers off. Art?
Antonio just loved rays.
Seriously, every single design he made: rays all over the place.
Pig Head Guy
George, Jesse, and I did this one without Antonio. Ahh, no rays.
Then Antonio and Wirtz retaliated by designing this kick-ass battleship shooting artillery--and adding explosions and smoke and damage to our pig head guy.
George and I secretly made a giant mural advertising the junior recital of someone we did not know. Liz Hibbard wandered by in the middle of the night and helped fix her face.
By the end of the mural, you can't tell whether you're grinding chalk or fingers into the ground.
What does it mean? Even Antonio has no idea--but he'll make something up. Antonio is funny.
With no one taking responsibility for the giant chalk murals, the newspaper chalked it up to Earth Day.
Tape together some paperboard, trace out a design with a projector, razor out your stencil, and you're a street artist. Spray paint? That's for bad-asses! We used chalk dust so it would be non-permanent, because our art isn't good enough to endure.
George would make most of the designs from pictures he found on 4chan.
You'd want to get the ground wet so the chalk would stick better.
Here I am blue-ing it up with one of our stencils.
We went through a lot of razor blades.
Our slipshod projector-tracing setup produced many a janky stencil.
We loved this one and put him everywhere. The skateboarders must have gotten so sick of him.
No pics, but once we had a Revolution Fist stencil that said "BOP IT!" Drunk kids accosted us during the act: "Wait, so are you for Bop It, or against Bop It?" They continued to argue this without noticing we had left.
My visiting mother applied this one with me. We were heavily dusted.
Snow Spiral and Snake
During a huge blizzard, while everyone was asleep, I went out and made a giant spiral in the main quad. I also made the main sidewalk into a slithering serpent that took about twice as long to walk. Everyone walked in my snake for about two days until they plowed.
Spiral and Snake
You can't really see, but this person is caught in the snake.
Spiral and Grappling Hook
Oh yeah, we had a grappling hook. What secret street art society doesn't?
Spiral at Night
It's dark, but you can see the spiral. (Snake was gone then.)
Snow Angel Legion
George and I made over a hundred snow angels lining a sidewalk.
We had extra Flex points at the end of Oberlin, and they can only be used in the college stores. We decided to buy forty chocolate bars and lurk them around campus.
What do you mean, chocolate doesn't grow on trees?
Chocolate bar resting in the Science Center.
I look back and shudder at the milk chocolate. I need to go eat some 100% dark to rinse my mouth out.
I have no idea what most of these textbooks are any more.
George would find all sorts of crazy files left on the library computers hooked up to the scanners. One time, he found eighty pages of insane genius sketches and ramblings, like a da Vinci on acid had scanned his trip journal. This other time, he found this piece of anyonmous, creative writing and decided to write it large across the sidewalks of Oberlin. Found art made resplendent.
George nimbly skips from letter to letter like a charcoal-wielding chimpanzee.
We wrote it such that you would read half it going one way and then would have to turn around to read the other half. People did.
It ended something like, "... and I can't stop biting my fingernails and counting the days. Days until you."
Wish I'd kept the full text.
I wonder if it was a creative writing piece or part of her journal? We couldn't tell.
The part I remember was when she talked about Claudia Kishi's earrings.
The original author must found her work on the sidewalk, but as both she and us were anonymous, we never knew what she was thinking.
Middle-of-the-night-when-no-one-is-awake extends well past sunrise in college towns.