Endearing nickname given to William Kofmehl III, currently a fifth-year senior in fine arts at Carnegie Mellon University. For the duration of the spring 2002 semester (until May 2002) Kofmehl will be living in a two-and-a-half-story house near the base of Doherty Hall on campus wearing a lobster costume designed by his mother while Kofmehl was in the third grade. The house is made of scrap wood from ongoing construction at Doherty Hall, and includes an "umbilical cord" which will be tethered to its inhabitant at all times to ensure that he does not leave.
Except during a brief scuffle with several fraternity brothers who forcibly entered the house, Kofmehl has not spoken English but rather developed a distinctive language of tones and other sounds. Two of his friends act as interpreters. During daytime hours, the house welcomes visitors, including journalists from The Pitt News and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette -- both of which have provided far more information and insight than Carnegie Mellon's own The Tartan.
Because Kofmehl is a Fifth-Year Scholar, his tuition is being paid for by the university. He has also received a $1,000 Small Undergraduate Research Grant (SURG) to help in the construction and furnishing of his house. Many people, including people posting comments to the Pitt News's web site, have questioned whether this is an appropriate use of university funding. Regardless, the whole situation has been a curious PR issue for Carnegie Mellon and its College of Fine Arts (CFA). The makeshift house is located in a very secluded corner of campus, so visiting dignitaries cannot see it easily.
Kofmehl's project crosses the boundaries between research and performance art, in a way that is simultaneously thought-provoking and offensive to some. At least, that's what my barber told me as he cut my hair today.