Sunday Nobody: The Viral ‘Meme Artist’ Behind Art That No One Asked For

One day this summer, a man in Seattle gathered ingredients to make hot dogs: sausages, buns, a 50-pound block of aluminum.

He outlined his recipe in a breezy, three-minute video he posted on social media. First, boil hot dogs in water. Then use industrial milling equipment to create a frankfurter-shaped aluminum mold. (A drill may be required to carve out the squiggle of ketchup.)

Next — and try not to overthink this part — freeze the leftover water into nearly 400 glistening hot dog ice sculptures.

The man behind the dogs is a 29-year-old artist who calls himself Sunday Nobody. For the past two years he has been carrying out immensely effortful gags that heap time, attention and technical skill on a series of unlikely muses.

These are unusually disciplined exercises in pointlessness. Once his ice sculptures were good and frozen, he shipped them to buyers in unrefrigerated containers to ensure that they would be puddles upon arrival.

For another project, which he documented in a video viewed 15 million times on TikTok, he spent four months building a 3,000-pound concrete sarcophagus to entomb one bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. “I thought I had been bored many times in my life,” one commenter wrote in response, “but now I’ve realized that I’ve never been truly, genuinely bored, like Cheetos-sarcophagus bored.”

Lately Sunday Nobody’s harebrained tutorials have crept inward from the art-kid fringes of TikTok and onto the feeds of millions of viewers, many of whom may not have been seeking out absurdist conceptual art that is designed to provoke.

“There’s probably 10 percent that say, I hate this; this is a waste of a human life,” Sunday Nobody said in a recent interview.

Other viewers are perplexed by the spiky, circuitous videos breaking through their otherwise predictable feeds. In comments and group chats, they wonder: Who is this guy? How does he have so much free time?

And why, exactly, is this how he’s decided to spend it?

Sunday Nobody has a great deal of energy that appears distributed almost at random. On a video call from his apartment in Seattle, he spoke with roughly equal reverence about his girlfriend (supportive, levelheaded) and industrial lathes (great for carving large blocks of metal).

The artist requested not to be identified by his real name for an article about his online escapades. He goes by Sunday Nobody to maintain a “church and state” separation between his personal life and his artistic pursuits, he said. Plus it stings to have keyboard warriors criticize you by name for your homemade sarcophagus.

He happens to disagree with the commenters who believe he is frittering away his life. In December he left his 9-to-5 job as a motion graphics animator at an advertising agency with a year of savings set aside in order to dedicate himself to even more time-intensive projects.

“I’m not nervous at all,” he said, looking nervous. “I have no anxiety about it. Everything will be fine.”

He held up his iPhone and scrolled through a list of nearly 500 ideas: a single-use glass Jenga tower. Ranch-flavored mochi. Pennies made of pure gold.

Sunday Nobody has been tinkering obsessively since his childhood in Boston. He was dyslexic and struggled in school, but in his free time he delighted in self-assigned construction projects: a trebuchet, a potato cannon, a hang glider that did not glide. “My identity got tied up in this thing that I felt good at, when I felt like I was bad at everything else,” he said.

He studied art and film in college — he declined to say where — then turned to base jumping, an extreme and usually illegal sport that involves hurling oneself off a cliff with a parachute. He traveled the country living in a van until he ran out of money and took the advertising job in 2019.

He found it dull by comparison. So he did what anyone would do: program a machine to write out the entire script of the movie “Shrek” on a single, six-foot sheet of paper. He documented the process, which included adding a frame and a label that said “21st-Century Religious Manuscript,” in a TikTok video that has been seen more than five million times since he posted it in 2021.

In a rented truck bay he had found on Craigslist, Sunday Nobody set his sights on bigger, goofier projects.

Sunday Nobody describes himself as a “meme artist.” He dredges up obsessions from when millennials ruled the internet — the Rickrolling meme, “The Bee Movie” — and repackages them in painstakingly constructed irony.

There is usually no good reason internet users glom on to a certain piece of media and “elevate it into the pantheon of memes,” Sunday Nobody said. He enjoys stretching that randomness into absurdism. For his most recent project, he 3-D-printed a miniature Gothic cathedral to function as a public shrine to Mike Wazowski, the perky, green spheroid voiced by Billy Crystal in “Monsters, Inc.”

Commenters sometimes debate: Is this conceptual art or trolling? Is Sunday Nobody gunning to be the next Banksy — another pseudonymous artist who has created work that self-destructs — or planning to tape a banana to the wall of Art Basel anytime soon?

That tussle is as much a part of his work as the product itself. He maintains that he is going for thoughtful provocation, not cheap thrills. “I don’t want to be an edgelord artist,” he said.

Sunday Nobody said he was inspired by some of his contemporaries riding the line between artist and prankster, like MSCHF, the smart-alecky collective known for its globular Big Red Boots, and Pablo Rochat, the creative director who adhered AirPod-shaped stickers to the sidewalks of San Francisco.

Like those provocateurs, the inefficiency of Sunday Nobody’s projects sometimes rankles observers. “Most things in life are optimized to be efficient,” he said. “Art is totally useless, and at the same time weirdly, completely necessary.”

In Sunday Nobody’s case, it is also expensive. He said Operation Hot Dog Water cost him $21,000 between buns, shipping, sealant and other expenses. (Selling the sculptures for $44 apiece, he did not break even.) He has around $9,000 in credit card debt, he added, $5,000 of which was spent on mold-making silicone.

He is uneasy about showing his work in galleries, which he worries could sap them of some of their irreverence. Neither is he sold on going the route of an influencer and subsidizing his work with brand sponsorships (although he was tempted by one offer from a cheese company).

Those questions hover in the background while Sunday Nobody focuses his immediate efforts on obtaining 28,000 beers.

That’s a lifetime supply, he said, according to his calculations that factor in the global average life expectancy and the daily drink recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He would like to put all of the beers in one room and give them away to one person as a commentary on our societal relationship with alcohol.

Like most of his projects, it sounds expensive, grossly inefficient and sure to be unevenly received. That’s OK with Sunday Nobody. “I just want a reaction,” he said.

Sumber: www.nytimes.com