Finding relevance in bulletin boards

Yesterday, Nick Venturelli ’12 said he walked by a bulletin board dozens of times during the course of his day, but stopped to look at the flyers only twice.

“There’s not many leisurely strolls I take,” he said.

Art students have been making art out of the omnipresent campus bulletin boards.
Patrick Lee
Art students have been making art out of the omnipresent campus bulletin boards.

Like most Yalies, Venturelli said he receives most of his information about campus events online. He said he occasionally skims the messages, if only to delete them from his e-mail inbox.

But in an attempt to catch students’ attention, three Yale artists are experimenting with the visual presentation of bulletin boards. And while the three artists said they do not expect passersby to start reading flyers regularly, they hope their projects will at the very least inspire fresh ways of thinking about the many clustered kiosks around campus.

One of those artists is Mindy Lu ’10. In her spare time, Lu manipulates, reprints and rearranges the flyers on the bulletin board outside Sterling Memorial Library. She aims, in part, to get people to notice something different about the board and, in the process, engage with it for a longer time.

“It’s more important for people just to notice the way the bulletin board functions,” Lu said. “It’s a subtle intervention.”

CALL FOR ATTENTION

Daphne Fitzpatrick, a critic at the School of Art, taught Lu in a sculpture class two years ago. One of the assignments in the class revolved around bulletin boards, and it inspired Lu’s current work.

In an independent project last fall, Lu removed the posters from the bulletin board outside the library, photocopied them onto brown craft paper and re-posted them two weeks later. For her second installment this spring, she took down the posters and reprinted them in color to 75 percent of their original size, leaving a conspicuous white border around the edges of each page.

“You have this population that has a very short attention span, especially the younger generation,” Fitzpatrick said. “Making people look at something twice, that’s kind of a potent place that she’s working with.”

Traditional sites of information exchange, such as bulletin boards, have lost some of their effectiveness as they face new competition from the Internet, Lu explained. Online platforms such as Facebook, e-mail and YaleStation, which has a digital bulletin board on its home page, have become increasingly popular.

After all, even if they have a moment to stop and observe the flyers, many students said, the cacophony of overlapping, weather-beaten posters often makes it difficult to read through each one.

Two other Yale artists, Dylan Dewitt ART ’09 and Yeju Choi ART ’09, are collaborating on a project with the bulletin boards inside the entrance hallway

of Green Hall, the School of Art building. Their interest also lies in “slowing down the perception of bulletin boards” by intervening in their design and layout, Dewitt said.

For the first phase, Dewitt and Choi took photographs of two bulletin boards with all the postings, printed out life-size images and pasted them back onto the boards as new backdrops. Then they posted pieces of black paper between the images of the posters, intentionally confusing the original backdrop and postings.

“It’s supposed to be this place where your attention is supposed to go,” he said. “But because it gets so cluttered … it kind of becomes, especially in this hallway, a place where no one pays attention to at all.”

THE ILLUSION OF CAMPUS LIFE

During official campus tours, most visitors will walk by at least a few bulletin boards on campus, said Alex Cadicamo ’10, a head tour guide for the admissions office. And while tour guides are not required to point the boards out, many often do as proof of student activity on campus, she said.

While many students said the boards are not the most effective modes of communication, they agreed that their public presence is important in conveying a sense of the University’s vibrant social and extracurricular scene.

Despite the recent installment of an LCD screen poster board in the Bass Library’s Thain Family Café, Yale Recycling Coordinator C.J. May FES ’89 said in an e-mail that Yale has not considered phasing out bulletin boards and kiosks because of their wide use by members of the University community.

“We are all overwhelmed by e-mails and other electronic forms of communication that rocket into our face at light speed,” he wrote. “By contrast, kiosks provide a means of sharing information at a human pace.”

Fitzpatrick agreed that bulletin boards, as ubiquitous physical objects around campus, fulfill a function that virtual or online bulletin boards cannot.

“Even if you don’t read them, you know there’s meetings going on, there’s lectures going on, dances going on,” she said. “If they went away and everyone was just on their iPhones, I think that would be a loss.”

Lu, Dewitt and Choi have no way of knowing the real impact of their projects, but they hope their art will at least serve an aesthetic — or perhaps symbolic — function. Hannah Zornow ’11, another art major, said Lu’s project helped her realize that bulletin board advertisements serve as “the background noise of this campus.”

“You want to be assured that there’s a thriving community, but it’s hard to parse out any individual poster,” she said. “It’s like this relic, this comforting, physical thing to cling to.”

Comments

  • Investors drooling

    I find the bulletin boards that are indoors--such as the ones in WLH--to be quite effective. I read them all the time while waiting for classes to start.

  • Anonymous

    not even a mention of jessica svendsen?

  • net drub

    Agreed, #2: shameful, but not surprising.

  • Anonymous

    Jessica's work isn't about intervening, it is fully complicit with the system… it's thematically unrelated. It's not the same genre of work.