The Walls Have Eyes

ANASTASIA DE CELLE | PHOTO COURTESY With the simple addition of googly eyes, mundane objects are given life.

What makes an inanimate object become “alive”? A name? A set of eyes? A face that somehow expresses emotions so similar to your own? Why is it that when a pair of googly eyes are put on a trash can does it now have a face, an expression of shock, a creation of positive emotions from the viewer and desire from the person who put the eyes there to continue this trend by covering multiple areas of their school building with these cheap cartoon eyes?

Join me on this life-changing adventure to examine humanity’s most compelling research into googly eyes.

I have a long history with googly eyes and continued my obsession into my first self-guided assignment in photography. I walked around downtown Fargo and placed googly eyes on random public objects like a trash can or a fire hydrant and captured these newly born expressive beings with my camera.

I had now taken a step toward defacing property or, more accurately, Facing Property. You know, now that I think about it, should I be admitting this? I trust you, my reader, that you will not alert the authorities upon my admission.

Despite the rebellious nature of this, the reception I got from this project was extremely positive from my fellow students and even a majority of the faculty (for liability purposes they did not and have not condoned this behavior).

Despite my efforts, I was not able to keep my project a complete secret. A few students found out I was behind the googly eyes and offered to help. I became known as the “googly eye dealer,” and subsequently, the privileged few who knew became my cronies.

One of the most strategic places was a well-used stool, which I put a slew of “Googlers” on the bottom of. It became a monster and now haunts my nightmares. After spending over 7 and a half hours applying 968 googly eyes on this stool, I then placed the stool on top of the table so that someone would have to move it. Once they did, they would undoubtedly hear the ominous, soft rattling whooshing sound of a thousand googly eyes moving and discover the hidden nightmare.

As soon as I began placing the googly eyes, I noticed they were moving. I found a significant number disappearing — and occasionally I found googly eyes appearing where I had never placed any.

I created an online survey and had it emailed out anonymously to the Art Listserv. Among other lines of inquiry, the survey asked people who were in Renaissance Hall regularly whether they had noticed the introduction of googly eyes, if they had moved any and about their emotional reaction to the introduction.

The following are a few compelling responses:

“You have a good sense of humor. Sometimes it’s the little things on a bad day that can make it better. One of those things is finding something unexpected that makes you laugh.”

“I think they’re a hoot; makes me wonder: A. Why are they there? Who did it? B. How long did it take to do it? C. I like them, they’re fun!”

“It’s pretty funny. Animate more things. Personification is awesome.”

Through this project, these googly eyes became so much more than superficial tools to create faces; they became an integral part of the collective experience in Renaissance. Even though this experiment is complete for now, it has grown into a collective experience, whose participants witnessed and in many cases willingly risked getting in “trouble” for the experience of spreading a little fun.

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