It’s in public but is it for public use?…to what degree is an object considered “art”?
We took our inspiration from the tactical media experiment of piling of candy in a museum. But this time, there was no candy and no museum. Just a sculpture of Ramen noodles outside the Undergraduate Library. And really, on a college campus, a pile of Ramen noodles makes sense. College kids eat this cheap, high-in-sodium meal all the time.
But could we make them see Ramen noodles as something other than food? How would they react if the Ramen noodles were stacked in an aesthetically pleasing way with a “Do Not Touch” sign placed in front of them? What if there was no sign? Then would people take the unattended food?
As much as it was a social experiment, this was also an experiment in art. How do people regard art and treat it differently than, say, a pile of food? People have certain notions about art that sometimes causes them to feel that it is “sacred” and not allowed to be touched or tampered with. In this tactical media project, we desired to see how people reacted towards the sculpture—as art or as food, or both?
Originally, we wanted to use candy but were influenced to discard this idea when met with a high price for a measly quantity. Ramen noodles were economical and the amount we purchased was substantial enough for visual purposes. We arranged the packets in a pyramid underneath the awning of the UL in the wee hours of the morning. We planned to film the area throughout the day to record the ways in which people reacted to and interacted with a pile of “off-limits” food.
Though we didn’t catch it, someone rearranged our sculpture during the day, but left the “Do Not Touch” sign on it. Yet when we recounted the Ramen noodles, some were missing. It was interesting that even though some were missing, the person who rearranged the noodles kept the sculpture aesthetically pleasing. For the whole time we recorded, we heard murmurs about how people wanted to take them and saw people circling it, but never actually saw anyone take them.
By placing the “Do Not Touch” sign in front of the Ramen noodles, we recreated the austerity of a museum in a way. A museum automatically has the “Do Not Touch” aura. The Ramen noodles, without a sign, may not have indicated the same. Indeed, if someone were there handing out the Ramen noodles, they would have been gone in a flash. And once one person takes the Ramen, then it seems that everyone else does. When we left, we both took a pack and then heard the people behind us ask each other, “You want some Ramen?”
Why the difference? Well, that’s up to you to decide.