When I first saw the blue signs around Pitzer’s campus, I did a double take. I had read the word “California” faster than I had realized that it was written backwards. “AINROFILAC TODAY YOUR HOST IS JAMIWU” it read. Looking it up later, I found that Jamiwu is the name of what we call Mt. San Jacinto, one of four sacred mountains that Edgar Heap of Birds makes reference to in his signs around campus.

Stylistically and literally, Heap of Birds’ art installation points to our college campuses and the erasure of the history of the land they are built on. He uses clean, simple and sturdy signs that look as is they could have been built by the college institution. Walking around the campuses, we are used to seeing signs for events and buildings – it is how we define the geography of our campuses and define what is culturally significant for us. But Heap of Birds’ signs definitely stick out. “California,” the name for this place that we are used to using, is written in backwards text. It is denaturalized as the principle signifier. Meanwhile, we are offered an alternative, and politely reminded that “Jamiwu” is our host.

(Last spring, I was inspired by Heap of Birds’ use of sign as political/artistic medium and as part of my junior show, I created three signs to go around Pomona’s campus. Going through the sign company that created our “wayfinding” signs, I designed and commissioned three signs are put them up in the middle of the night. ) Epstein_Wayfinding


About eliciasepstein

Documentarian; maker. Southern California.

5 responses »

  1. socalens says:

    Elicia – that’s very cool that you were inspired by Edgar Heap of Birds to create your own sign installation on campus.

  2. hannahmwebster says:

    Elicia, I was so delighted by your saying you had commissioned art inspired by Edgar Heap’s very literal signage that you decided to create your own signs. What was the response to your signs? Did you receive questions or was your installation anonymous?

  3. rbhalla2018 says:

    Was the reaction of your sign installation similar or different from people’s response to Edgar Heap of Birds’?

    • I actually don’t know actually, because initially I only told a few other students and professors in the art department that I was doing it. I think most people didn’t even notice them at first because they blended in.

  4. alexamuniz says:

    I think your signs are really cool. Where were your other signs and what did they say? I also am interested to know if anyone has noticed your signs and what they think about them. Are they still up?

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