The Origins of Eyebombing

Interestingly, at this time the corona-virus pandemic is causing massive intervention to the normality of operations in busy cities where lifestyles revolve around social gatherings for occupations, education, and economic spending. The new normal is isolation to keep people quarantined from one another and as of recently to stay locked up in our homes as much as possible to prevent further spread of this contagious disease. Due to these complications, I decided to postpone my second attempt at eyebombing in Colorado, especially because now is not the time to encourage the interactive addition to my endeavors or to be handing out homemade kits for people to join me in eyebombing. Despite my desire to rise above the panic revolving around this pandemic, I do believe it is possibly best to play my part in diminishing the numbers of rising cases by staying at home and away from others in a physical sense.

That being said, I wanted to take this opportunity of solitude to do the research and discover the origins of the artistic movement I am now proud to call myself a part of. In doing so I learned some interesting viewpoints that will aid me in developing the collaborative concept in my practice of eyebombing once the quarantine is lifted and normality returns to living operations. I look forward to pushing this project along with my new knowledge of its genesis. For now, I will share the knowledge I have accumulated, because it seems to not exist online yet in a united format. I had to do some digging around to piece clues together, including using google translate for websites in different languages.

In my searching, I first discovered two Danish artists who are most often credited for the creation of the movement as a form of civic street art. They jointly created a website via Tumblr in attempt to gather a collection of eyebombing artworks made by them and others all in one place. This site gained mass attention when Pee-wee Herman, who had a large following on Twitter, posted links to the site in 2011. The site offers a spot for submitting photographs of eyebombing, describes the process and suggests some rules, and has a link to a Reddit group where people can further share and discuss. Perhaps the most exciting discovery for me to make is that they are in a partnership with The Googly Eye Foundation which actually sends free googly eyes to people who request them for the purpose of eyebombing!

The Foundation offers tips to civic eyebombers

Then, in 2013, BBC news released a video titled, “What is Eyebombing?” that features the duo enacting their process and describing their conceptual ideas. In the video and on their website they emphasize a few rules for what they believe eyebombing entails. The first rule is that eyebombing must take place in public spaces. They do not believe that it is a fight for public space, but they see it as a way to humorize and humanize the world around us. Ultimately, their goal is to bring more laughs and smiles into the world. They describe places where people look sad as an ideal environment to eyebomb, because it provides the opportunity to brighten peoples busy lives. The other rule they have is that they do not support the use of stickers, paint, or other graffiti-related tools. It is important to them that you can remove the googly eyes just as easily as you put them on to differentiate the movement from vandalism. Thus, this is where my practice largely diverges from theirs, because I am using wheatpaste and spray adhesives — both common graffiti tools. One of the guys says, “The city is full of advertisements, posters, and banners everywhere. To me that is more vandalism than a couple of googly eyes”. This statement supports the ideals that come with intervention art and tactical urbanism for reclaiming public space from the corporations even though that is not their intention. The reason they claim to dissociate from graffiti is because they believe graffiti artists are looking for fame or to get their name out, but conversely they utilize googly eyes because they are anonymously generic and leave no trace of the artist. Thus, their intention is to give the gift of a smile to their viewers without taking any credit. This concept also pairs well with the ideas of intervention and gift giving.

The Danish duo explaining their ideas
The Danish duo eyebombing together
They explain avoiding putting eyes on human images or sculptures, because there is no need to humanize what is already human nor to add to an already beautiful work of art.
An example of their work. Link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8kM3fJocH4&feature=emb_logo

In addition to asking for submissions of anonymous eyebombing images on their website, the duo also encourage people in the streets to join them. In the BBC news interview, they talk to strangers in the city about the project and they offer googly eyes to them, much like I had been planning to do. Seeing the enthusiasm of the people whom they approach and encourage makes me even more excited to participate in this collaborative aspect of eyebombing. Due to their beliefs in anonymity and emphasis in collaboration, it is difficult to find any information on the two Danish artists as individuals, even their names.

After doing some more searching, I soon discovered that although the Danish artists certainly made eyebombing popular, they actually did not start it. The earliest example of eyebombing as a larger movement comes from a French artist in the late 80s. Domininique Benracassa’s project, “Ca Vous Regarde”, which translates to either “Is is In Your Interest” or “It’s Up To You” depending on the contextual information around it, is described on the artist’s website as an urban intervention installation project. Varying from the Danish artists and my eyebombing, Benracassa puts googly eyes on any inanimate object, including those which are not in public spaces such as food or book covers, staging them to photograph as if they are portraits of people. Therefore, the artist is still interested in humanizing inanimate objects.

An example of Domininique Benracassa’s eyebombing
He also fabricates his very own large-scale googly eyes to put on larger objects in public spaces

On his website, he writes about the theories and concepts behind this urban intervention project. His main concern is to reverse the roles to invent a different perception of space by giving objects the role of watching us. He believes that this switch allows the things to live and challenge us and make us ask questions such as “inanimate objects, do you have a soul?”. This way of thinking certainly categorizes the project as urban intervention, because it is thinking outside the normal day to day concerns of modern life. The artist says that this project is inspired by George Orwell’s 1984 and that the artistic action encourages us to question ourselves in an increasingly intrusive society, although it is playful in nature. Benracassa admits that the idea came to him through working with children and understanding their way of looking at things literally. He believes too that eyebombing is a process to share and collaborate with in a civil approach that is fun and accessible to everyone. It puts the individual participating in it at the center of the creative process. He thinks this has potential to point towards intellectual blindness that prevents us from approaching reality in a simple way. It is very much a project about questioning one’s own way of seeing.

Link to Benracassa’s project: https://www.do-benracassa.com/%C3%A7a-vous-regarde/

Now, having done my research and gaining a better understanding of the background of eyebombing, I feel more prepared for future eyebombing projects. I will be borrowing some ideas from all of these previous eyebombers, and I may keep some of my own practices which diverge from either of these as well. I will continue to use more permanent forms of adhesive although it pushes my practice more into the realm of vandalism, because one criticism I have seen about eyebombing is that it is just “littering” and creating garbage. I think finding ways to make them more permanent and withstanding against the weather is a way to combat those criticisms. I will definitely be looking into getting free googly eyes from the Googly Eye Foundation, and I may submit some of my own photographs to the online archives of eyebombing on the Danish artists’ website and the Googly Eye Foundation’s instagram. I am grateful that they are keeping archives and encouraging others to interact with the project. I also still plan to hand out kits, and I will probably be pointing people to these already existing resources when I do. I am also super interested in making some larger scale googly eyes like Benracassa to make fun compositions on larger forms. It is interesting to see that he puts them on inanimate natural objects too, as this is something I had not thought of. I am not sure I want to do this, though, because it feels a little too invasive of nature. Conclusively, these artists have all shaped my perspective on eyebombing a little further, and I hope they can now be examples to inspire civic eyebombers reading my blog. Their intentions are genuine and valuable, especially in todays fast paced society.

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