October 28, 2008

Battle of the Pen(cils)

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For all students who have ever gotten bored in a class before, young or old, engineers or literary free spirits, there is good news. Your doodles, those things you sketch in the margins of your notebook as you struggle to keep your eyes open after a late night of partying, er, studying, are now considered art.
Gavin Michael Arnall ‘09, Shuja Haider ‘09 and the other members of The Society for MUTT (an independent student organization that stands for the Maintenance of Useless Trash and Trivia) created an exhibit that was displayed in the Johnson Museum through last week. The exhibit, entitled “Class(room) Struggle: The Repressed Harmony of Doodles,” displayed the doodles of various Cornell students. Created in classes ranging from Synoptic Meteorology to Political Theory and Cinema, the doodles themselves ranged from the classic heart surrounding “I <3 SH” to trees, eyes and an underwater world. Some of the most common doodles depicted creatures. What kinds of creatures, you might ask? All kinds, from real ones such as seals to jagged box-shaped monsters, the kind that kids dream live under their beds. Students often create doodles while listening to a lecture, while completely spacing out or while falling asleep. In all three of these situations, they are most likely not concentrating solely on the picture they are drawing, but are thinking about something else. Wikipedia defines a “doodle” as “a type of sketch, an unfocused drawing made while a person's attention is otherwise occupied.” This description makes it sound like a doodle is meaningless, something to be merely crumpled up and tossed in the trash on the way out of class. After seeing the exhibit, however, it is difficult to accept doodles as only worthy of being thrown out and never looked at again. Most likely, some doodles are meaningless, but it is inevitable that some are anything but. One doodle depicted a crushing heart surrounding initials, another, a face with the a thought bubble saying, “Blah blah blah boo." Some doodles shown in “Class(room) Struggle” had obvious meanings, but others less so. A student’s doodle of a beer seemed to scream, “When will the weekend be here?!” Okay, that one might not be that difficult. But an underwater world? Maybe the person wants to escape to a place far away from here. What about a fence? Maybe that artist wants to get out of class. Maybe the student feels trapped and fenced in a situation they can’t get out of. Freud must have thrived on doodles. Freudian psychoanalysis and hidden meanings aside, doodles are art. Just because they are created when the artist is supposed to be doing something else (listening to a professor, for example), does not mean that the resulting product should be punished and branded as pointless. “Class(room) Struggle” showed that these products often display an incredible talent on the part of the artist. To quote Wikipedia again (for the last time, I promise), “Doodling is mainly made by young people around the world, notably students.” Thus, even if you don’t buy the “doodling can have meaning” spiel, at least recognize that the art of doodling is one that is shared by, and therefore connects, different types of students — great artists or not.