As Cornell’s Ithaca campus warms up after a winter punctuated by a historic March snowstorm, students have noticed something odd sprouting from the ground in the Arts Quad.
“Cornell Beach,” reads a sign erected by an Arts student earlier this month, next to another warning that there is no lifeguard on duty and telling Cornellians to “swim at your own risk.”
There is, of course, no water to swim in or sand from which to build castles, but the student who erected the signs, Daniel Seung Hwan Lee ’20, said he was hoping to redefine a space that thousands walk by daily without taking much time to appreciate or acknowledge the area.
Lee said he wanted to install “something so out of place that it catches your attention and makes you think, ‘wait, was this always there?’ because a lot of people walk by this place without thinking what’s actually there.”
The signs were for Introduction to Sculpture, a class taught by Prof. David Snyder, art, who said Lee’s project “emphatically ‘claimed’ a chunk of the Arts Quad by naming it with signage.”
“The assignment dealt with the consideration of sculpture as a practice that is not exclusively limited to the construction of form or objects,” Snyder said in an email. “With this project, students are meant to consider the relationships between objects and people within specific spaces and contexts.”
“I appreciate how it implements a kind of re-branding (the grassy verge on the side of the footpath is now Cornell Beach) as a means of suddenly making a nowhere-place seem special,” the professor added.
Lee set up the signs during the week of April 10, and within a day or two, the “Cornell Beach” sign had been swiped, leaving only the warning about the lack of a lifeguard.
“I knew it would have to get taken down at some point, or someone would steal the sign,” Lee said.
The signs were made using wood pieces and spray paint, Lee said, adding that he had requested Google Maps add a “Cornell Beach” label to the area on the Arts Quad — so far, to no avail.
Snyder added that the installation also points to “the ridiculousness of certain forms of territorial circumscription,” as when “gentrifying neighborhoods adopt new monikers in order to gussy up their image.”
The heavy snow in March, Lee said, helped add to the juxtaposition of the beach signs and the pause he hoped it would give people as they rush to class.
“A beach in Ithaca is so out of place and I felt like that’s the perfect thing to put in the middle of the quad,” he said.