Intervention: Reserved

by | Nov 10, 2018 | Artwork #3: Intervene, Projects


Place a piece of paper reading “Reserved” on a table in a dining hall, or other area where seating is open. Wait 20-60 minutes to see what happens.


The first round was in Stetson East. The sign read “Reserved (in large font) for those without backpacks (in smaller font)”. Duration: 60 minutes.

The dining hall wasn’t too busy, but there were enough people that at least 10 came and went over an hour.  Several people looked at it, and one girl with a background touched it, read the small text, and then chose another booth. Everyone sat around the booth it was in.

The second round was also in Steast. The sign read “Reserved for those wearing Husky gear”. Duration: 30 minutes.

I chose a busier time to see if desperation for seating would make people more willing to disregard the sign. The same thing happened, with no one sitting there. However, the different this round was that when I looked up the sign was gone; someone had taken it.

The third round was in International Village. The sign read “Reserved for a couple.” Duration: 30 minutes.

Several people gave the sign strange looks or frowns, and one person talked about it to their friend, came over the the table, set their stuff down, read the small text, and went back to their old seating place.

This got me thinking that maybe people were hesitant to sit at a table that said “Reserved” even if they fit the description, so I made a new sign.

The fourth round was in Curry Student Center. The sign read “Reserved for those who wants to sit here.” Duration: 1 minute

This time I decided to “reserve” the table for anyone who read the small text. Once I set it down, the table was claimed within seconds of me walking away to get a picture. I wonder if this was because Curry was really busy, or because older students might have less indecisiveness about sitting at a table marked reserved.

The fifth round was in Steast again. The sign read the same “Reserved for those who want to sit here.” Duration: 20 minutes.

Because of the change of setting, this time took longer for someone to sit down. What I found interesting was that several people read the sign and decided to sit somewhere else (this may indicate they only read the large text?) After 15 minutes someone finally read it, smiled, and decided to sit there.


I originally had the idea to give flyers to those distributing flyers, namely the Jehovah’s witnesses, but that proved too difficult. Instead, I decided to play with the idea of how much people trust signs to have authority. Even the paper sign I made in Paint and then printed on normal printing paper seemed to have some sort of authority, even though it really didn’t. The structure of the dining hall was a good place to set it, because seating is always open, and I’ve never seen any table be reserved. How and why would you even reserve a table in a dining hall? Still, people seemed to buy it. Surprisingly, no one contradicted the signs through the 5 runs, and more than that, no one fitting the descriptions decided to sit there either, until the last sign (“Reserved for those who want to sit here”). I wonder: if there were to be someone fitting the description sitting at the table if others would be more keen to sit there (or if a person sitting there would stop them from doing the same instead of sitting by themselves.)

This intervention played with the cultural expectation of food seating, or the experiential affordance of a table. A table can be reserved in a restaurant setting, and even though the dining hall is not a restaurant setting, people are easily willing to accept it since the context is similar enough, even if they’ve never had the experience of reserving a table in a dining hall. It also questions what makes something have authority, if there is nothing concrete to back that up. The sign, though paper, had enough details (the fact that it was printed, the font, the more complicated way it was folded) to register as “formal”. If I were simply to have written Reserved on a scrap piece of paper, there might’ve been less regard given to those instructions.

This idea fed from similar ideas from past projects, namely the beach balls left in the quad and the origami paper cranes left out. I wanted to do something regarding out of order elevators or showers, but that had already been done. It was also inspired partially by Chris Burden’s questions of authority, and his Shout Piece, described in On Edge like this: “he sat on a brightly lit platform… ordering people to ‘get the fuck out”—which most did, immediately.” That description stood out to me.

Overall, I think this intervention was more of a social experiment, but a success nevertheless.