Fact: We Built the Elephant in the Room

A 5 ft tall, 3 ft wide, and 8 ft long paper mâché elephant to be exact. 

Click HERE to see a timelapse video of the construction This particular project was for a class I took in January at MIT entitled the “Martin Luther King, Jr. Design Seminar,” where we held discussions concerning civil rights, race, and identity. We ended the class by constructing art installations that fit into these themes and displayed them in an exhibition in Lobby 10. My group decided to build “the elephant in the room,” and we wanted to make it as big and noticeable as possible. In order to open up a dialogue within the MIT community we wanted to pose the question “What is your elephant in the room?” and provide sticky notes for people to write down their thoughts and post onto the elephant. One of our group mates found a quote from MLK that went perfectly with our message, which we decided to paint onto the elephant’s side.

“Injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the national opinion before it can be cured.”

-MLK

But first we had to figure out how and where we were going to build it, not to mention how we were going to transport this thing from point A to B in one piece. Keep in mind the fact that Boston was getting pummeled down by one blizzard after another during this time, which did not make for easy travel. In the end we decided to go with paper mâché and used the Kappa Sigma common area as the build site. HERE is a blog about paper mâché that we used as a reference. Who knew that paper mâché elephants were a thing? We originally wanted to make our elephant at least six feet tall and four feet wide but found that the door out of the Kappa Sigma building was only three feet wide. So we had to downsize a bit. DSC_0007 Our first mission was to go around campus and acquire as many copies of The Tech as we could find. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be as many as we would’ve liked. But then we noticed bundles of China Daily at every news stand. So, thank you China Daily for saving the day and making it possible for us to build our elephant. DSC_0005 Next, was the base. We cut out silhouettes of the legs and body from plywood and attached them to a table structure for support. From there we used chicken wire to form the body of the elephant and crumpled up newspaper to add bulk. DSC_0003 DSC_0010DSC_0015DSC_0016 Once we had the basic form, it was finally time to start adding the paper mâché. We used just a basic mix of flour and water. DSC_0017 DSC_0034 Not too bad for one day’s work. We let the paper mâché dry overnight and returned the next day to apply the second layer, also adding more bulk to the places that needed it. DSC_0044 DSC_0045 Then came the ears, which were just cardboard cutouts covered in painter’s tape. And voila! An elephant. We let the second layer dry over the weekend. DSC_0051 DSC_0053The last step was the paint and a duct tape tail, and we were good to go. It took an hour and a half to wheel our elephant over to Lobby 10 (About half a mile) because, surprise! Snow. But it made it over safe and sound and that’s all that matters. The exhibit was up from February 4th to the 12th, so unfortunately Mamar (the name we came up with for our elephant) is no longer around. But I did hear that it might have been adopted by a frat and may make an appearance at a primal party. IMG_1842 So, Mamar lives on!

Just in case you missed it: Timelapse

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