​​​​​​​2017 was a year of uneasy critical reflection for the United States. White nationalists' violent protest in Charlottesville, SC over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee resulted in the death of Heather Heyer. 
2017 was also a year of reflection for The University of Michigan– as the campus celebrated its Bicentennial, students called for the renaming of the C.C.Little Science Building, named for a past University president who was an avowed eugenicist and propagandist for the tobacco industry. 
In that moment, the students and faculty were all paying close and critical attention to the memorials and plaques around us – what they say and who they say it for – and as it turns out, they're everywhere.

Ann Arbor is full of plaques.
Some are charmingly pointless and obscure, others factually incorrect or incomplete. Some memorialize the dead, while others (many others) commemorate donors.
Around this time, the University was in the habit of removing 'problematic' (or pointless) plaques, but I believed the better solution would be to call attention to them – annotate them with plaques of their own. So, for my senior thesis, I did just that. 
...I made plaques for plaques.  
The Mundane-Redundant Plaque
In the image above, there is a plaque at the foot of that sundial. However, you couldn't read it if you tried– the patio where the sundial is has been retroactively closed to the public. So, someone decided a solution would be to make a second larger plaque facing the hallway window– a window no one stops to look out of. So, I made a plaque to get you to look at the second plaque to get you to notice the first one. A good example of plaque buildup.
The Anxious-Hopeful Plaque
Many plaques call awareness towards an issue, or gesture towards an anxiety about the future. 
This plaque outside the School of Natural Resources building states the following: 
"In the future may we not 
have to be concerned over
global warming. May efforts
to reforest, recycle and
conserve energy eliminate
this escalating crisis. This
maple was planted on the
eve of Earth Day 1989 to
symbolize our hope."

I believed the plaque needed an update.
An Update, from 2021
Since 2013, students had been pushing for the University to divest from fossil fuels – seemingly without much traction. However, in 2021, after continued protests and sit-ins, the University finally reversed course. 
Annoyingly, it seems as though the University President wants to pat himself on the back for doing so, framing it as a shrewd business decision & a noble stance – despite the fact that he was outspokenly against the notion of divestment for years.
The This-Aged-Poorly Plaque
For nearly a year, University students and faculty were calling attention to the fact that a campus science building was still named after C.C.Little, an ex-president who was a pseudoscientist and eugenicist. However, it took the administration months to remove or rename the building. 
The C.C.Little Science Building was renamed, or unnamed, just days after I made this plaque, between the time of making and placing it. By the time I placed it, it had become the "1100 North University Building."
I wrote the plaque only speculating that the building would be renamed that year. Reality caught up to the fiction. 

The Hard-to-Find-and-Impossible-to-Read Plaque
This plaque is for a time capsule from 1972, placed in the foundation of the Art and Architecture Building. For some unknown reason, a trash can was permanently installed in front of it, making it nearly impossible to read.
The original plaque ends with this sentence:

"It is our sincere hope that creative expression
be not artificially restricted but
responsive only to the human imagination."
Many plaques, you might have noticed, fit in multiple categories. This is an "Anxious-Hopeful" plaque as well as a "Hard-to-Find-or-Read" plaque. In this case, the plaque reflects the automation anxieties of the 1970's.
So, I made a plaque for the trash can, and flipped the last sentence around to reflect a cautious optimism towards automation and AI in the arts.
The Memorial Plaque
This plaza, (seen here swimming in trash following a Saturday afternoon college football rampage) is named after Gemini Astronauts and Michigan Alumni James McDivitt and Ed White. The plaque was made before what I believe to be the epilogue to their story– that McDivitt's photo of White is currently one of the furthest pieces of media from Earth in history. I wanted to make a plaque that added the end of their story.
On the opening night of the thesis show, an alumni and aerospace engineer who was wandering through the gallery saw this piece, and mentioned that he got a chance to see Ed White and James McDivitt speak when they came to campus. 
The Private-Property-Vanity-Goof Plaque
This plaque – which reads "Charlotte, Jack, Thomas and Gigi were here. June 2013" – hides on a wall down an alleyway behind a sandwich shop. At first I wondered if these four people were local legends. I later discovered that it was just the project of a local real estate developer who owns the building, and the names are of his four children. 
I thought it was interesting that the plaque was right across the street from Ann Arbor's famous Graffiti Alley, and that it looks like some upscale kind of vandalism. 
So I tagged the wall with my own plaque. 
An Update
In April 2021, a bit of campus news caught my attention. A group of faculty, students, and members of the Graduate Employee's Organization union and the Lecturers' Employee Organization union staged a 'renaming' of Weiser Hall, named for one of the current regents. The GEO wrote an Op-Ed regarding their call for Ron Weiser's resignation here.​​​​​
The response from the Regents was to follow suit in symbolic protest – by voting to censure Ron Weiser and call for his resignation – but in essence achieving nothing outside of good optics. As of this writing, both the building name and the Regent remain.
So it begs the question, is a 'Satirical Creative Intervention' like this just priced in to the academic environment? If all it does is allow for some minor catharsis without creating real change, is it really effective? 
My thesis project does not propose guerrilla plaques as a great way to achieve change. If anything, I wanted to highlight plaques' many limitations. Plaques are obscure, overlooked, incomplete, and usually go through many institutional hurdles to get approved.
However, they can tell us a lot about the people who made them – their fears and hopes and values. For that, I believe they're worth paying attention to.

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