You’ve seen his work around campus — dining halls, Ridge Walk, even Geisel Library. The Guardian sits down with none other than the “Googly Eye Guy.”
Anyone can, theoretically, claim that they’re behind the googly eyes trend on campus. So why you?
Well, I did it in high school, and I started doing it here as well. I’m not the first person to ever do it in the world. There’s even a subreddit for it, which I didn’t find out about until I started doing it here. But I didn’t invent the hobby. But I guess I’ve been doing it for a while now. I’m pretty sure I’m the first guy to do it at least at this university.
Why did you start doing this? Did you have any inspiration, any purposes in mind?
No, not really. In high school, it was because my classes were fairly easy, I didn’t really have anything else to do, I was just bored. I thought it was really stupid, but it made me laugh seeing them on garbage cans. I thought it was funny. I don’t know where I first saw the idea of that; I assume somewhere on the internet. But it’s not an original idea that I had. I didn’t invent it.
Could you describe your process and methods?
When I first started, I bought them at this craft store, but you had to put tape or glue on the back, and I used tape so you can take them off easily ‘cause I didn’t want to permanently vandalize anything. So I started out with tape, and then sticky tack that you hang up posters with. Those were kind of slow and inefficient. That’s what I started with here, too, but after I ran out pretty fast, I bought a bag of, like, five hundred on Amazon, and they came with a thing you peel off and it just sticks on the back. That was a real game changer.
I have a habit now of seeing faces in inanimate objects. Whenever there’s a circle or people. Like pictures, posters.
What was the first thing you “googly eyed” at UC San Diego?
I don’t remember. I think it was a trash can or something. I think it was either one of the trash cans in Sixth College by the apartments — which is where I live — or maybe one of the dryers in the laundry place; I’m not sure.
What was your latest?
The last one I did … Oh, yesterday morning [Thursday, May 9] I was really conflicted about this one. You know, in Pines there’s the “Chef Ivan” picture — he seems like a really chill guy. I saw that picture of him a while ago, and I was like, “Oh, I should do that,” but then I thought, “Well, that’s a person,” and I don’t want people to think I’m being a d— or disrespectful. But in my head, I don’t really think of it as, like, disrespectful. I just think, “Hah, look it’s funny.” But I don’t want people to think I’m a d— or something, so I didn’t do it. But I guess yesterday, I was particularly bored or something. I was just looking at the picture of him, and, I don’t know, maybe it was his facial hair or his hat or his facial expression; he just seemed like a guy who wouldn’t really care about it. So I made an executive decision.
Have you ever been close to getting in trouble?
No. Okay, kinda by The Village at Torrey Pines, there are silhouettes of people on banners for Rady School of Management. I did those, and I had to stand on the railing to do it. It was after I broke my collarbone, so it was kind of physically difficult, but I climbed on there. I waited until I didn’t see anybody, but one guy walked by and was like, “Oh, are you the guy that’s doing that?” And I was like, “Yeah, that’s me,” and he said he enjoyed my work. So, yeah, nobody’s been like, “You damn degenerate kids and your pranks.” I think of it as a pretty innocuous thing, but you never know.
They’re easy to remove, too.
Yeah, if you don’t like it, or if you are offended, you can just take them off. But at my high school — it was a Catholic high school — we had a bunch of pictures of religious figures and stuff, and I never did those. I didn’t want my school’s administration to suspend me or something. I’ve been trying to walk the line between innocuous and harmful.
How many things have you “googly eyed”?
Oh, man. The bag I get off Amazon — depending on how big the individual eyeballs are, the bag could have anywhere between 100 to 1,000. I don’t know, I would say over 1,000, at least. But a lot of them get taken down really quickly. There are some that I put up in, like, October that are somehow still up now, but there’s also some, like whenever I do dining halls, I always get taken down by the next day. [He jokes.] Yeah, it’s really demoralizing. No, I don’t really care. Like, at OceanView Terrace, I go there a lot because the pizza’s good and they’re open late, but I always do the soda machine, and it’s always down the next day. It’s real disappointing. Sometimes when you peel them off they leave a little white adhesive, so I always see those. I can always tell when they’ve been taken down.
When did you first start doing it at UCSD?
I started doing it right when I moved here, which was late September or early October.
Which ones are you most proud of?
The two that I’m most proud of got taken down pretty quickly — I don’t know if you saw them. One of them — there’s that bridge that connects Sequoyah Hall and some economics building, I think. I did those. But the other one, the one I’m probably most proud about, was this one, but it got taken down. [He pulls out his phone and shows a picture of Geisel Library with googly eyes above the entrance.] I did it at, like, 5 a.m., and then I went home and went to sleep. And then I woke up, and it was not there at, like, 9 a.m., so I was really sad, but got the pictures.
There was someone else who did Geisel, but they put them in the windows, and that wasn’t me. I was kinda happy, like “Hooray, I started a trend,” but I was also not really sad, but more like, I don’t know — I just had conflicted feelings.
You wished you did it?
Yeah. You know, ‘cause I was waiting for the right time, for the stars to align, to do mine, and they did theirs first. I was waiting to do mine because the weather was really rainy, and I didn’t know how well the poster board would hold up in the rain.
What do you think of other people jumping on the googly eye bandwagon?
I don’t know. Part of me is pretty stoked. It feels nice to start something. I guess one downside is that if somebody else does it, and they permanently vandalize something, or somehow someone gets hurt … I don’t want it to get blamed on me because I have told people that it’s me. The other part of me thinks, well, if other people do it, if somebody gets hurt, then I can claim that it’s not me. Overall, I’d say it’s cool because other people do it.
But one person I was sitting next to in lecture noticed the googly eyes on my backpack, and she was like, “I noticed you joined ‘Googly Eye Gang.’” I think I said, “Actually, I started ‘Googly Eye Gang.’” And then I said, “It’s not really a gang. It’s just me.” But that feels kind of dishonest because other people have done it, maybe as a gang — I don’t really know.
It feels weird to take credit for it even though other people have done it, too. So now when I tell people, I gotta be like, “Yes, I did it, but there’s some that I haven’t done. But they started doing it because I started doing it,” you know? Like, somebody asked me if I did the Geisel one that was in the windows, and I was like, “Actually, I didn’t do that one. But I did all the other ones.”
Do you have any tips or tricks for those who want to start?
The ones on Amazon you want to buy. They’re advertised as having self-adhesive. Those are the ones you want to buy because they’re really easy. You just peel them off and they stick.
But if anybody wants to do them, I would say don’t permanently alter something. Don’t do anything that would get me in trouble because I’ve told too many people about this. So don’t do anything that would implicate me and anything illegal or dangerous.
When I was making the big ones for Geisel, I was really worried about how I was going to actually stick them there. I was going to use tape, and I had duct tape and packing tape, and they were both pretty sticky. That’s how I stuck the black poster board to the white poster board. I figured it would work, but I went to test it one night and slapped it on the concrete to see how it would stick, but it peeled right off with no weight on it. So that was really disappointing — just threw a wrench in the works.
Then one day I had this epiphany that I don’t need to actually stick the big eyeballs on the concrete. I can just tie fishing wire around something heavy and just hang it over the other side. I used a brick. I was kind of worried. I always try to imagine the worst case scenario. I figured maybe somebody tries to pull the eyeball down and it pulls the brick over and kills somebody. But I guess that didn’t happen, so we’re all right. So don’t do anything that would hurt anybody, and don’t do anything that would get me in trouble because I’ll be upset.
But, no, the more, the merrier. It’s a fun hobby. Plus if you ever have to say an interesting fact about yourself, if you’re in a new class, that’s a pretty good one. Like, “Oh, one thing I like to do for fun is mildly vandalize things.”
Have you used that?
Not in classes because in the past, the first person I told reacted very excited, like, “Oh my god, that’s you?!” It was weird; this campus is so big, I never expected anybody to actually notice more than one or two of them.
How long do you think you’ll keep doing this?
Till I’m dead, I guess. [He laughs.] It’s a weird hobby, but so far it hasn’t gotten old. You think it would get old, and honestly I’m the type of person that criticizes other people for doing the same thing over and over again. Like, all my acquaintances who were at my high school would smoke weed every weekend, and I would always make fun of them, like, “Doesn’t that get boring after a while?” and they’d be like no. But here I am doing this every weekend. And it doesn’t get boring. I don’t know, it’s weird, it’s like one of the things that actually makes me laugh sometimes ‘cause it looks funny, I guess.
Finally, what do you plan to googly eye next?
Well, I did my two big ones. I made those pairs Dec. 11. After I got rid of those, I thought, “Well, I’m done now. What do I do next? I can’t really one up that.”
I do have some bigger googly eyes. I have a drawer in my apartment that’s full of them. You know those sphere things outside of Center Hall? I’m going to do those. But honestly, after that I probably don’t have any big ones. I’ll just keep doing the little ones. You run out of ways to increase the scale of it.
It’s nice being at a university because it’s a contained area where the same people go to the same places every day, so it’s bound to catch on more or become more known. But after I graduate, if I work for some company or something, I’ll probably do that, but if I’m self-employed or whatever, I’ll just walk around whatever city I live in and just throw them everywhere. Maybe, I don’t know. I’ll figure it out. But for now, it’s a fun, weird, stupid hobby that makes me laugh and hopefully other people.