Sudler Fund project probes ephemerality

Next week, Ames Brown ’02 will bring Reality to Davenport College. Today, M&M Mars Inc. will bring the 80,000 individually wrapped Starburst Brand Original Flavor Fruit Chews he requires in order to do so.

Brown’s specific brand of “Reality,” as financed by the Davenport Sudler Fund, is an “intellectual journey to the sad reality of the places we dream about,” according to his project proposal. Available in Davenport Studio 56 for viewing and consumption beginning May 6, “Reality” is a self-proclaimed multi-ton foray into surrealist modern art. That makes Brown, in his words, a pioneer.

The exhibit is about unity, he said, about bringing people together to “enjoy the same great candy experience.” It is an “intellectual journey,” a “profound piece of art” made entirely of rainbow colored bonbons.

It is “Vintage Ames,” according to Davenport Dean Peter Quimby, who said he knows little of the project beyond passing conversations with Brown.

The original proposal requested $925, all but $170 of which was intended to go towards 85 pounds of silver-wrapped white mints, the most inexpensive sealed candy he could find. The plan fell through, though, when the committee rejected this portion of the request because “the fund cannot fund food expenses,” he said.

Unphased, Brown turned his attentions from Louis Sudler to Mother Yale at large. Brown wrote over spring break to Forrest E. Mars, Jr. ’53, one of Yale’s “most venerable alumni” and the Chairman of M&M Mars, Corp.

Brown wrote to Mars requesting the 80,000 separate pieces and received notice from corporate brand manager Judy Onderko saying the best they could do is send the candy in bulk, free of charge but grouped in twos, from which Brown will have to remove 40,000 cellophane wrappers when the candy arrives this afternoon.

“Eighty thousand pieces of candy,” said Davenport Master Richard Schottenfeld Tuesday night. “Wow.”

He said he has worked with Brown throughout the sculpture’s development process, from the initial idea to the candy search, and is now eager to see the results.

“Ames has been amazingly persistent in figuring out how to get things done,” he said.

Though the medium has changed, the plans laid out originally for Schottenfeld and the Sudler committee – inspired by an exhibit of Cuban artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ work at the Museum of Modern Art – has remained the same.

Upon entering Studio 56, the viewer’s first reaction should be amazement, according to Brown’s master plan. “How is it possible that all this brilliance is here!” he envisioned visitors asking in the proposal.

“At this moment,” he continued, “I am saying to the viewer that ‘this is possible. You can never know what is possible, and that is a joy of life.'”

Each visitor is instructed to take a piece, place the wrapper in a designated bin and eat the fruit chew. Up until this point, the exhibit is all sugar and smiles. But then the reality of Reality sets in.

The project is ultimately about decay, Brown said. With each visitor, the beauty of the spectacle diminishes a little bit; it is a “beautiful path that is over-trodden.”

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