Integratives Faculty Spotlight: Eric Anthamatten

In the 2013-2014 academic year, ADHT launched the Integrative Seminar and Studio as a cornerstone of the foundational first-year of Parsons’ innovative new curriculum. Dynamically bridging theory and practice, Integratives explores methods of collaboration and interdisciplinarity as a means to catalyze productive dialogues between studio and seminar practice. In these courses, students investigate the myriad ways that reading, writing, research, and making come together to form the fertile ground of creative and critical inquiry in art and design. Drawing together—and blurring the boundaries between—intellectual and material practices, Integratives instills a rigorous and generative mode of thinking and making that all students carry with them across their four years at Parsons.

Rory O’Dea is the Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art and Design and the Course Coordinator for Integrative Seminar and Advanced Research Seminar. His scholarship explores the intersection of visual and verbal languages in post-war and contemporary art, with a particular interest in the ways that artists and designers draw upon the discourses of research, history, and fiction in order to shift our understanding of the past and the conditions of possibility for the present and future.  

In the Spring of 2017, Parsons graduated the first class to complete the new curriculum, and on the occasion of this extraordinary achievement, ADHT would like to recognize and celebrate the exceptional creative, scholarly and pedagogical practices of our Integratives faculty in our Integrative Seminar & Studio Faculty Spotlight Series.

In this feature, we catch up with Integratives faculty member Eric Anthamatten, borrowing some questions from the Proust Questionnaire in the spirit of true collaboration.

 

Please tell us a little bit about your background: what is your primary scholarly and/or creative practice?

My primary work focuses on issues involving punishment and incarceration. I have taught philosophy in prisons in Texas, New York, and Connecticut for ten years. It is this experience that has served as the “ground” that informs my various scholarly and creative endeavors. My dissertation was titled “Pedagogy of the Condemned,” and I hope to develop this into a book that continues to explore the intersections between education, formations of the identity “criminal,” and the many (problematic) philosophies and practices of punishment.

But when the sun sets, I perform under different “heteronyms” in a variety of mediums: poetry, music, and performance art. Some of this work is conceptual and avant-garde (for example, on Inauguration Day, I painted myself orange, wore a diaper and a blonde wig, and crawled like a baby the 5 miles from the Wall St. “charging bull” all the way up Broadway to Trump Tower), but much of it is also connected to my care, concern, and critique for social justice and emancipatory politics.

What would you say is your pedagogical approach to the Integrative seminar that you teach?

I try to make the classroom as dialogical and embodied as possible. By “dialogical” I mean a sort of Socratic scene of speaking and listening directed at some question or issue. By “embodied” I mean incorporating practices that do not render the student to be a passive receiver of mere information, sitting quietly in their desk only using eyes and ears, but an active co-participant and co-creator, working to engage with and transform information into knowledge, not only through “mind”, but with their entire being, something that not only involves hands, but the physical encounter with the world of things and the world of others. While I think that there is a time and place for more traditional “lectures,” as a teacher, my point of departure is always the question, not the answer, the process, not the product, the activity.

Has leading this course in any way informed an evolutionary change in your academic pedagogy? In your scholarly/creative practice?

I am “trained” as a philosopher and do most of my scholarly work around social justice issues. But, I have always been involved with many creative endeavors, having been a musician and performance artist for some years. Teaching art and design students (mostly international students) most certainly has forced me to (positively, I think) figure out different ways to convey important ideas about self, meaning, and engagement. I am constantly surprised by the ways in which some of my students approach some of the artistic and social problems that I introduce in the course. Their creativity and enthusiasm often keeps me engaged, invigorated, and somewhat hopeful that the work that I do as an educator has some small effect in making the world a bit more humane, just, and beautiful.

Which living person do you most admire?

Anyone who is living and not merely existing.

What is your current state of mind?

“Mind” does not exist as a “state,” but is a dynamic fluctuating collision of electricity and blood, something that can never really be grasped, much less articulated.

When and where were you happiest?

If the question is “When did you feel most content?” or “When did you experience the most joy?”, then probably I would reference some moment in my childhood, maybe the serious engagement with my imaginative world of play (Star Wars, G.I. Joe, toys that involved building…Is it strange that I always was drawn to the characters that wore masks?).

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I am a professional snoozer. I can hit the snooze button four times and exist in that somnambulant limbo for hours. I get up when I have to, and I am punctual and reliable to a fault, but I love sleep. It’s perhaps my favorite “desire.”

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

If you ask some of my family, they would say that my role in The Dark Knight Returns as a member of Bane’s team of anarchic revolutionaries is my most notable accomplishment.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

The wisdom of Silenius: “Best to never be born. But second best to die young.” But if I had to choose, probably a tardigrade.

Who are your favorite writers?

I have never read anything like Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. Always Whitman. Lately, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ and Roxanne Gay’s comic book run of Black Panther.

Find Eric online at www.ericanthamatten.com and @eAnthamatten

Integratives Faculty Spotlight: Maya Pindyck

In the 2013-2014 academic year, ADHT launched the Integrative Seminar and Studio as a cornerstone of the foundational first-year of Parsons’ innovative new curriculum. Dynamically bridging theory and practice, Integratives explores methods of collaboration and interdisciplinarity as a means to catalyze productive dialogues between studio and seminar practice. In these courses, students investigate the myriad ways that reading, writing, research, and making come together to form the fertile ground of creative and critical inquiry in art and design. Drawing together—and blurring the boundaries between—intellectual and material practices, Integratives instills a rigorous and generative mode of thinking and making that all students carry with them across their four years at Parsons.

Rory O’Dea is the Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art and Design and the Course Coordinator for Integrative Seminar and Advanced Research Seminar. His scholarship explores the intersection of visual and verbal languages in post-war and contemporary art, with a particular interest in the ways that artists and designers draw upon the discourses of research, history, and fiction in order to shift our understanding of the past and the conditions of possibility for the present and future.  

In the Spring of 2017, Parsons graduated the first class to complete the new curriculum, and on the occasion of this extraordinary achievement, ADHT would like to recognize and celebrate the exceptional creative, scholarly and pedagogical practices of our Integratives faculty in our Integrative Seminar & Studio Faculty Spotlight Series.

In this feature, we catch up with Integratives faculty member Maya Pindyck, borrowing some questions from the Proust Questionnaire in the spirit of true collaboration.

 

Please tell us a little bit about your background.

My creative practice involves writing, drawing, public interventions, and experiments with sound, text, and other media. I majored in studio art and philosophy as an undergraduate and got my MFA in poetry. I’ve always moved between and combined writing and visual art practices, and my scholarly practice also combines the two. I’m currently a doctoral candidate in the English Education program at Teachers College, and my dissertation is written as a visual-verbal poem. It explores pedagogies of poetic inquiry through processes of remembering and returning to the four schools I attended as a K-12 student in Boston and Tel Aviv.

What would you say is your pedagogical approach to the Integrative seminar that you teach?

I want my students to move away from set ideas about personal style—even voice—and explore different ways of working language. I like to give exercises that bring writing and visuals together; that make a work from a random source, as with erasure poetry; that require careful observation of an everyday object or place; that play with chance or accident; and that ask students to imitate an unfamiliar style or structure of writing, usually based on the readings.

As a teacher I encourage students to follow the unknown, to de-center writing from ideas about the self, and to explore a range of subject matter, voices, and forms. Ultimately, I see it as a way of cultivating empathy—braving intimacy with what might seem unfamiliar.

Has leading this course in any way informed an evolutionary change in your academic pedagogy? In your scholarly/creative practice?

I love how seminar and studio work in tandem and form generative connections and how each course treats writing, making, and thinking in relation. Teaching Integrative Seminar has pushed my assignments to become more interdisciplinary and multimodal and has me thinking a lot about perspective, too, when it comes to writing.

The opening of Maya’s exhibition, “Today I Saw,” at the Milton Art Bank in Milton, PA (the show ran from 5/13 – 7/15). The installation combines sound, text, video, and social practice to build an archive of local sights while putting the town of Milton in a global context.

Which living person do you most admire?

Ai Wei Wei for his courage and how he and his work are one urgent thing, and unapologetically so. I also admire his work for its beauty.

What is your current state of mind?

#shocked #angry #somuchworktodo #fire&focus

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Chastity, obviously. Temperance is a close second.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

My internal divisions and separations.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

A bee—to see in dots, to live among flowers, and to sting only when my life depends on it.

Who are your favorite writers?

Claudia Rankine. Lucille Clifton. Naomi Shihab-Nye. Jean Valentine. Gilles Deleuze. Sherman Alexie. Emily Dickinson. Adrienne Rich. Anne Carson. Mahmoud Darwish. Maggie Nelson…

What is your motto?

“You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Besides functioning as a way to nip whining, the motto’s pedagogical, suggesting that it doesn’t serve us to be picky.

My second motto might contradict the first, but I think they need each other: “You can get it if you really want, but you must try, try, and try.” –Jimmy Cliff

First Year Faculty Awarded NYFA Artist Fellowships

The School of Art and Design History and Theory is pleased to announce that four First Year faculty received Fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts for 2017!

NYFA Artist Fellowships are awarded to originating artists living and working in the state of New York, and are granted to “fund the artist’s vision or voice.” The Fellows are:

Space & Materiality professor Shari Mendelson for Craft /Sculpture

Time and Drawing Imaging professor Diana Spungin for Craft /Sculpture

Integrative Studio professor Charlotte Schulz for Printmaking, Drawing, and Book Arts

Space & Materiality professor Jim Osman for Craft/Sculpture

Interview with Shana Agid, Ph.D. – “Making Possibilities as We Go”

Shana Agid is an artist, teacher, writer, and activist whose work focuses on relationships of power and difference, particularly regarding sexuality, race, and gender in visual and political cultures. In addition to serving as Director of the Parsons First Year program, Agid is an Assistant Professor of Arts, Media, and Communication where he teaches book arts, collaborative design, and service design. He has an MFA in Printmaking and Book Arts and an MA in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts, and a PhD in Design from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). He is on the Editorial Board of Radical Teacher and a co-founder with Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani of Working With People, a curriculum and web-based resource on the complex contexts of partner-based and collaborative work in educational environments.

Agid was recently the recipient of the Award for Diversity and Social Justice Teaching, The New School’s annual honor recognizing a faculty member who uses pedagogies that promote inclusive learning environments, integrates theory and practice to support social justice learning and leadership skills in the context of teaching students from underrepresented groups, promotes reflection, builds community, facilitates organized action through teaching that goes beyond advocacy and promotes critical thinking and dialogue from diverse points of view.

Congratulations on your Award for Diversity and Social Justice Teaching! This is such an amazing level of inspiration to your students and peers!

Thank you! It’s an incredible honor. Mind-blowing and humbling.

How long have you been teaching at The New School?

I’ve worked at The New School for just over 10 years, and have been teaching 8 of those.

Where did your pedagogy path begin? Were there professors, activists, academic figures that inspired you?

I’ve been lucky to have been surrounded by smart, challenging, and caring teachers—and people who were not officially teachers, but from whom I learned so much—all my life. These were people who maybe more than anything believed in learning as much as teaching and were skilled in asking the right questions to push a person or group further, and people who were just generous with their knowledge and open to sharing their experiences.

Right now, my thinking about teaching is still deeply influenced by two of the greatest seminar teachers I’ve had, both of whom spoke sparingly (a skill I’m still working on) and guided complex conversations in class that pushed us as thinkers and as people in the world, where I always walked out having learned something, even if I wasn’t always comfortable in the process. It is also influenced by people with whom I’m working in collaboration: organizers at Critical Resistance, students and teachers at the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS) and from a previous project with the Fortune Society, students from Parsons and The New School. And, I’m driven by and drawn to constant conversations—some out loud, many in my head—with thinkers, writers, designers, artists, activists whose work constitutes the learning I’m doing every day. These include people like Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Avery Gordon, Mabel O. Wilson, Ashley Hunt, Ann Light and Yoko Akama, Lucy Suchman, researchers at the Center for Codesign Research (CODE) at KADK in Denmark, researchers in Participatory Design, María Torre, Michelle Fine, and others at the Public Science Project, Susan Leigh Star, Stuart Hall, Thuy Tu, David Brody, Christine Gaspar and others at the Center for Urban Pedagogy and the Equity Collective, and many others who asking critical questions of art and design practice, of histories and systems of power, and of teaching practices.

Could you intersect the rewards and challenges of facilitating inclusive learning? 

I think that the longer I teach, the more I’m learning about making classrooms or other learning spaces into collective spaces. And this looks and feels different for different courses, types of classes, and groups of students. I’m taking “inclusive learning” to mean something at the intersection of collaborative learning or critical pedagogy and an anti-oppression approach, so something both widely inclusive of a range of sources, ideas, experiences, and critically oriented to the systemic production of exclusion and absence or the prioritization of dominant voices. In that sense, I think the rewards are striking, they are things like working with students and others to create spaces in which—at best—people feel “comfortable being uncomfortable” (an idea I’ve learned from students and teachers at WHEELS), and also feel free, and know that these are not only not mutually exclusive, but deeply linked. The rewards also include watching the making of a space in which students feel like they can make arguments, claims, and demands based on ideas and imagined possibilities informed both by what they know and what we’re learning together (from still other people, doing that, also). I also think that learning to be a stronger facilitator, a good mentor, and a better listener are all rewards of teaching this way. The challenges include facing my own limits, and creating a space with students and others in which we all can do that well. I think that at times it’s difficult to do it all in one semester, to set mutual agreements, build knowledge together, talk about, practice using, and get comfortable with fundamental concepts—whether in design, critical thinking, or histories of knowledge that inform the course context. And it is always hard, even when we work to build these kinds of learning / making / doing spaces together, to address different understandings and experiences of power, especially as it manifests in our day-to-day lives (as racism, sexism, heteronormativity, immigration status, privilege, opportunity, scarcity, fear, risk, etc.).

What is your role on the board of Radical Teacher? How do all of your different roles complete, complement, challenge, and characterize each other?

Well, I took a leave to complete my PhD and haven’t started working on it again yet, though the journal is doing some fantastic work. Before my leave, I worked on the layout, art direction and design, and I co-edited three issue clusters. Two I co-edited with with Erica Rand. In Teaching Beyond Tolerance, we built on work we were both doing around critiquing the frameworks of “hate crime” and “tolerance” as limiting discourse and action around violences of domination. The second was called Beyond the Special Guest: Teaching “Trans” Now.  I also co-edited Teaching Against the Prison Industrial Complex with Kate Drabinski and Michael Bennett, which focused on strategies for teaching from an abolitionist lens when teaching about the prison industrial complex.

The work I do across teaching, editing, writing, design collaborations, organizing, bookmaking and printing, etc. is—even when it doesn’t seem like it entirely—all deeply connected. Each is a site of learning and experimenting, developing knowledge and ideas, imagining what will actually create meaningful movement toward a world in which people have access to creating self-determined lives. So much of this right now is about thinking with people, hammering out ideas through practice, and taking these steps through building real options. For me, a lot of it is about learning how to do that with a broad range of people, and some of it, necessarily, is also about doing that work alone, through writing and making art in which I ask a lot of similar questions, but in different ways, specifically in ways that allow me not to have to answer them, but to explore them as questions. My roles as a teacher, editor, art director (which I haven’t done for a while now), writer, etc. all came together in my work on Radical Teacher, and I think the journal puts together fantastic resources for teachers who are also invested in working out ideas and learning new approaches to teaching.

Can you tell us about your project Working with People, especially how the keywords format offers attention to the power of language?

Working with People started as a collaboration between Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani, Cameron Tonkinwise, and me after we’d all been teaching courses in which students were being asked to engage with outside partners and/or to think critically about their own (mostly) design practices. We were struck by what we felt was a missing set of tools or a curriculum to foster critical conversations about what it means to collaborate, or to work with people. The keywords structure was one way we imagined we could both begin a conversation—using language that was, as we note on the website, either highly used but under-examined or conspicuously absent—and start to make what we thought was a necessary critical intervention by taking as a given that we do not all agree about these terms and that discussing and debating them is a critical component of engaging in the complex contexts of most collaborations (no matter the sector). We developed a curriculum based on these Keywords, and began collecting one-minute (more or less) definitions from first colleagues at The New School, and then a range of partners and collaborators, asking them only to pick one or two words and define them as they thought about them in their work. Gabrielle and I have continued the project (Cameron moved on to Carnegie Mellon and is now at University of New South Wales Art and Design in Sydney, Australia), and typically, we use WWP in a workshop format, though we’ve also had faculty use the curriculum as a structure in classes. You can see a bit more writing about it, in the context of a two-year service design collaboration between students at WHEELS, Fortune, and The New School, here.

Regarding your article “How can we design something to transition people from a system that doesn’t want to let them go?” I was very impressed with the duality of perceptions of a clipboard and how the design and usage of it communicated with your students. Do you still teach this course? Is this related to your COLLABORATIVE: HUMAN SERVICES course? Are there other examples of design behaving this way?

Thanks for your comments on that article (and for reading it!). I do still teach the course; it is that Human Services class, which I’ve taught with the Fortune Society and with WHEELS (and for a couple of years, with a three-way partnership). The class started as the first undergraduate Service Design class at Parsons, started by Lara Penin, who is now Director of the MFA in Transdisciplinary Design. At the time, I didn’t know about Service Design, but joined the class to do a discussion about prisons in the United States, as this was the focus of the course (they were partnering with Fortune then). I was so interested in the work, and the approach, that I stuck around and helped facilitate, and learned alongside the students in the class. The second year, I co-taught it, and then Lara invited me to take it on. When I was teaching that class, my interest in design with social justice organizations, and overlaps and differences between design and social justice organizing approaches, led me to pursue a PhD in Design at RMIT (in Melbourne, AU). Through shaping and reshaping this class, ultimately through designing the course to try to meet learning goals and the needs of at least two groups of students, I learned a lot about what it meant to really begin to shape collaborative courses and learned a lot about why they are hard to run well, even as they can be so important when we put in the work to really make them reciprocal and critical. (I did this first with Fortune, where we were working across the GED / High School Equivalency learning goals of Fortune students and the mostly introductory, sometimes intermediate, service design skills of Parsons and New School students, then with WHEELS, where we worked with students from 10th through 12th grades with a range of learning goals.) So many things are hard in these classes, and so much of the work is turning what is logistically difficult (aligning schedules, working without financial resources, etc.) into both meaningful opportunities to talk about challenges and into things to design with and for. Additionally, I’ve begun with my partners and students in the classes to learn what works well and not as well for building mutual trust, opportunities for mutual learning and knowledge-making, and for setting manageable goals for a project in a semester (I still struggle with this!). I think that so much of that course is also about working with Parsons and TNS students to begin to unseat assumptions about what design does or can do when we really begin to work closely with people, and how our assumptions—either about people’s contexts or experiences or, critically, about design as a tool for creating “solutions”—can stand in the way of actually making connections with people and being able to do meaningful work. I think this class has become a class that is as much about developing the ability to design for collaboration—inclusive of noticing and seeing moments like the one I had with the clipboard and understanding what that can do to a working relationship and taking accountability for it—as it is about making a service design. I do think people in some places in design fields are working on this. The Center for Urban Pedagogy and the Equity Collective are definitely thinking about this, and it’s a key thread in the theory and practice of Participatory Design, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), and other sites where design and Science Technology Studies overlap. A number of design researchers have been using feminist epistemologies over the last almost two decades now to explore these relational questions. And that’s picked up recently. The Ghana Think Tank also does this by turning the assumptions about “developed” world designers making “solutions” for “developing” countries on their head, working with think tanks in a range of countries and occupied / locked down spaces to brainstorm ideas about problems collected in more privileged spaces.

How do you strike a balance between social justice theory and practice?

I see them, not surprisingly, as deeply intertwined. I am a believer in praxis, and think that so much of what we learn—especially as designers, artists, writers, and makers—is through practice. This is how we come to know the world, and I believe it is how we come to know how to reflect on it, and make new things from it. I also think that we cannot do that without reading and listening and observing, so I’m not implying that we make all our knowledge from our own actions or understandings, not by a long shot. But I do think that what we read or hear or learn this way is best put into practice through practice, and that it takes on new meaning and new life in those moments, which can then feed back into what we write and make and speak. Cultural Studies scholar Lawrence Grossberg talks about this in an interesting way in his book Cultural Studies in the Future Tense, in which he argues for the deep relevance of doing research into the present moment (or conjuncture) not to prove a thing you already believe, but to follow questions presented by the current conditions so that one might also act to address them. I remember taking notes from it at one point early in my PhD work and making a note to myself that just said, theory -> do -> theory -> do, and this became for me a way of thinking about what designers do (and don’t do) to fully contextualize our work, especially on social and political issues.

What role does reflection play in your teaching practice? 

Reflection figures into my teaching practice in at least two ways, one that’s older and one that’s newer to me. I have always used reflection on my own teaching practice as a means for growing. I draw on student evaluations—both formal and informal—my own writing and reflection on courses, on the feedback and ideas of TAs in my University Lecture course, and the feedback and ideas of my peers, all as ways of reflecting on and, hopefully, making changes to improve and hone that practice. I will never see myself or that work as finished, I don’t think. I maybe will have run into a problem if I do.

More recently, because of the reflection-based focus of my practice-led PhD process, I’ve begun thinking more about how to make reflection a critical learning component of my courses. I’ve always used written and visual reflection and critical engagement as process and general check-in as students work with their ideas, but I’m trying now to begin using reflection as a semester-long process with a culminating assignment and conversation as a means to ask students to look closely at their own practice in development and begin to create language for what they see themselves doing, believing, imagining, etc. I think this is a means for both developing a sense of one’s own practice through critique and curiosity, but is also a way to begin noting your influences, the theories and ideas that shape your approach, how the context of a given moment or project has shaped how you went into it or what excited you or made you nervous about it. I think these forms of reflection are critical for becoming a designer (or artist) who can learn to be what Lucy Suchman, in her article “Located Accountabilities in Technology Production,” has called “[answerable] for what we learn how to build” (2002, 96). This kind of reflection is a tool for locating ourselves, again and again, and I see this as one critical piece of responsible and engaged design (and other) practice. I am, however, still learning how to make time for it in classes and to meaningfully structure it in classes!

Regarding diverse points of view, do you have any advice (e.g., design, teaching, or self-awareness practices) on holding subjectivity in one hand and equality in another? 

Making space for diverse points of view—when they are not oppressive or seeking to perpetuate violence of any kind on another person—is a critical part of teaching and of designing with people (or doing anything collectively). I think there are a number of ideas from community organizing that can be useful in classes, like making community agreements (or norms) and recognizing that these are both provisional (they need to be made and remade, left up and revisited) and deeply grounded in a commitment to respectful collective practice, including how we disagree and argue respectfully. I don’t think agreement is always the goal, and sometimes the work of teaching is about trying (and I think it is hard!) to make spaces where disagreements can happen and one can still facilitate a combination of working with the ideas and experiences people bring to the room and also facilitating a systemic conversation that helps to place those ideas in context. Why might one person experience a word or image as violent when another does not, what histories contribute to that, what privileges, etc.? There is sometimes a tendency to imagine the goal is to work toward a common denominator kind of agreement, or, for some, to say that some things (conversations about racism or sexism or sexuality, for example) don’t belong in a given critique or discussion because those conversations are “loaded” or difficult, but I think the need is to go into those discussions and talk about the contexts, and to educate ourselves when we do not know. As designers working with people, and as a teacher, I think there is a kind of listening that one can do that allows for responding in ways that include everyone, but don’t privilege voices that historically have dominated (white, male, straight, socio-economically privileged, “citizen,” etc.) and make space for experiences of harm caused by racism, sexism, borders, Islamophobia, heteronormativity, etc. I also think this same kind of close listening is precisely what allows designers to hear what isn’t being said, and to begin to use that as material for starting conversations with people and designing in ways that critically engage the fullness of a given context. We have an obligation to create spaces with students (and staff and faculty) that actively resist replicating structures of isolation and harm, and to be consistently engaged in challenging ourselves to do that work.

Many people struggle to pay attention and stay “engaged” in the post-2016 election America. Any inspiring and guiding words for participating in social justice without burning out?

I have three go-to authors on this right now:

Ruth Wilson Gilmore, in the text of her Presidential Address to the American Studies Association  called “What is to Be Done?” talks about the critical importance of organizing with other people through making infrastructures (like unions and universities) that can challenge systems of oppression and repression. She writes: “Organize. Infiltrate what already exists and innovate what doesn’t” (263). This, she argues, is one possible answer to “what is to be done?”

Angela Davis notes in Abolition Democracy that demonstrations, meaning protests made up of people in the streets, in order to be meaningful, need to be demonstrating something, not an idea or demand alone, but, again, the power of organization (not necessarily a professionalized non-profit, but the regular, everyday organization work of people). She notes that it is this – the demonstration of the power of people doing this work together, people being organized – that makes demonstrating powerful.

And, finally, Lawrence Grossberg, the Cultural Studies scholar, writes in Critical Studies in the Future Tense that critical theory has the capacity and responsibility to “articulat[e] the negativity of the present to the positivity of the future,” to engage with the idea that “it is only because the present did not have to be the way that it is that the future can be some way other than where it appears to be heading” (94).

Taken together, I think these three ideas remind me that it is in practice—every day, often unremarkable practice—that we make power and reconstitute an idea of the future that is precisely about redirecting the present, about grounding our arguments and actions in a critical understanding of histories, and moving forward, together (even as we also differ). So, I think that means that in order to not burn out, it helps to be grounded in building things, one thing or many things, with others, where you are. This may also mean learning to be a solid ally, to educate yourself and to seek out knowledge, or it may mean finding out who near you is also interested in building, and around what needs or desires. It takes being humble, I think, and patient, while also being persistent and curious. And I think, most of all, it means remembering that people are making things for themselves everywhere, every day, and while it may not always be our thing, or our day, that we can be looking for, supporting, or making organizing—making possibilities—as we go.

Do you have any upcoming shows of your art you’d like to share before we conclude?

I’ve got a piece in a show right now called Not the End at Equity Gallery on the Lower East Side that is co-curated by the Executive Director, Melinda Wang, and a Parsons faculty member, Aaron Krach. From the website: Not the End explores how artists respond to our current age of anxiety. Will they take to the streets in protest? Will they retrench to their studios? Will they come together to collaborate? Will they continue their pre-election trajectory or change course to create works that react to the times? Yes, and everything in between. The show is up through May 6th.

 

Parsons ADHT First Year Student Featured in Milk Magazine, BET: MYLES LOFTIN

 

Myles Loftin started developing his photography skills and career five years ago. It was the summer before he started high school. Cut to the Fall of 2016: he’s an in-demand photographer working in New York City. He’s also a Parsons First Year student in Gigi Polo’s Time course. The final assignment inspires him to pull from ideas noted in his journal. He creates a “multimedia project that humanizes and decriminalizes the societal image of black boys and black men dressed in hoodies.”

Cut to the following semester: In March, 2017, Milk Magazine, BET and VICE Creators publish feature articles on Myles and his illuminating project.

When asked how he and other artists encourage one another to use their craft to make statements and tackle the issues, Myles says, “One of the best ways to tackle it is to just put yourself out there, putting out the positive side. The side that the media doesn’t really show accurately. Me being a successful black photographer is one way of rebellion against the media, which is trying to portray a different image of what black boys are.”

Cut to Parsons Art & Design History & Theory announcing on our online magazine how proud we are of Myles and his reflections of the times: extraordinary pride!

Read the Milk Magazine articleBET article and VICE Creators piece on Myles. Check out Myles Loftin’s website and Instagram

UPDATE: Myles was one of two students selected to represent Parsons School of Design at the NYCxDesign Student Showcase Night in May 2017, hosted by SVA’s MFA in Products of Design department.

TIME: METROPOLIS

For this installment of First Year Features, we present Gigi Polo’s TIME: METROPOLIS course and the work of her students. The course is described as an introduction to the cultural and perceptual constructions of time. Learning to work with time involves more than simply editing video and sound into linear sequences. It entails the consideration of time as a designed idea that can function as a tool. It asks how this tool, in turn, affects how objects function, how environments are perceived, and how experiences are shared.

METROPOLIS students investigate the passage of time through the cycles of the city. They investigate how urban environments affect inhabitants and how time investment, perception, and waste relate to cityscapes, their growth and decay. By exploring the dimensions of time through spaces, in terms of systems, occurrences, shifts, and transformations, students use a variety of media—drawings, photography, digital montage, time­-based media—to examine and visualize the perpetual change of self.

Gigi shares, “I teach concepts through which students learn time theories in relationship with time-­based media to develop storytelling. The progression starts with two-dimensional mediums. And from there, semiotics and film theories are introduced.”

This course is one of four required courses in the curriculum for First Year students. To help illuminate this unique intersection between time and design, Gigi introduces her summer 2016 students Moran Danker, Josefina Bailléres and Byung Park, whom we are showcasing by assignment.

 

Moran Danker will use these photos as the basis for her projects.
Moran Danker will use these photos as the basis for her projects.

I.  Time Distortion in an Emotional City

Students explore the perception of time in space through a series of self ­portraits, and develop a personae based on emotions that arise from that experience. The project is inspired by La Jété, by Chris Marker (1962).

Moran Danker’s still­image narrative, personae acting in time and space
Moran Danker’s still-­image narrative, personae acting in time and space

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II. Route to Self

In this project we look at the Charles Sander Peirce theory of Visual Semiotics: Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness and Deleuze film theory, specifically the “Movement Image,” a theory Deleuze grounds in some aspects of Sander Peirce Visual Semiotics.

Josefina Bailléres’s multi­sensory space
Josefina Bailléres’s multi-­sensory space
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First Year students Sophia Parisel and Josefina Bailleres

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With her video piece, Josefina Bailléres visualizes a different dimension of her personality:

Moran Danker’s personality explored via time (head’s up, there’s audio):

III.  Personal Interests through Biodiversity

Students conduct research of the biodiversity of two sites of Central Park (Conservatory Garden and The Ramble) and analyze samples in the The New School science lab. Based on findings, students design an artifact: space, garment, accessory, art piece,  space that represents their hypothesis/conclusions. A side narrative is also produced to exercise film theories learned during class.

Byung Park designs an artifact with his findings.
Byung Park designs an artifact with his findings.

 

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Student charts it out
Student charts it out
Student analyzing samples
Student analyzing samples
Student analyzing samples
Student analyzing samples

Time isn’t just a challenging concept to examine; it’s a family of sensory dimensions to experience. By experiencing Gigi’s TIME: METROPOLIS course, her students are given tools they might not find in theory alone. Or if they do, it’s unlikely they will have as much fun as exploring, via tangible mediums, the cultural and perceptual constructions of time.

Integrative Studio 1

In Integrative Studio 1, students explore a range of visual, analytical, and making skills while working on projects that are collaborative and cross-disciplinary. The questions that underpin the learning process are: How do we make sense of our ideas, the information we collect, and our hunches and theories? What can this inquiry tell us about why we make certain decisions as creative thinkers?

Integrative Studio 1 integrates learning from other first year courses, especially in thematic links to Integrative Seminar 1.

The Studio as Circus

In Alexander Calder-esque fashion, two of Derek Haffar’s Integrative 1 Studios created and staged their own circuses. In this year’s iteration of the Integratives circus, students worked collaboratively to design characters, write scripts, and perform the event for live audiences. Students were asked to work with pedestrian materials so as to maintain Calder’s aesthetic.

The Magic of Collaboration

Polina Budilina, who captured much of the event’s magic, explains, “The circus was an eye-opening experience. I didn’t even think it would be possible to make basic wire sculptures come to life. This project made all of us come up with solutions that we would not usually think of.”

Studio students prepare for characters' live performances beneath the big tent.
Studio students prepare for characters’ live performances beneath the big tent.
Zoey Sun’s circus aerialist, photo by Polina Budilina
Zoey Sun’s circus aerialist, photo by Polina Budilina

Yasemin Varlik’s Aerialists

First year student Yasemin Varlik created aerialists for the group circus. She reflects, “The character making process for this circus was very different from other projects because these characters had to be moving figures. The figures had to somehow come into contact with each other and swing from the same rope.

“After brainstorming, I had the idea of using magnets with divergent strengths to make the lady figure somehow let go of her own rope and attach to the man via the strong magnets on her feet.”

Yasemin remembers, “Performing with the aerialists for a live audience was very stressful because I knew that if one little move went wrong the whole show would be over. I definitely learned new techniques that I didn’t know existed. Also, I was able to fully understand the problem solving process throughout the semester. I came up against many obstacles but was able to find a solution.”

In the corresponding Seminar class, Professor Megan Healey asked students to draw connections between their research and their Studio circus project.

First year student Serra Turkun wrote about the connections between her Studio lion sculpture and her Seminar research:

Choosing similar topics for two of my classes actually helped me a lot because I conducted detailed research which allowed me to create my lion figure. More importantly, it changed my point of view. If I hadn’t chosen my research topic about the circus animals, I wouldn’t have known how bad their conditions are in the circuses and how they suffer during the performances. And because I learned about those conditions, I didn’t make a lion and a tamer with his whip. I wanted to create a lion playing with his ball just for fun, without any harm.

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Integratives4
Sumin Kang’s aerialists, photo by Polina Budilina

 

Stepping into the history of Calder’s Circus, these first year students created a world of spectacle and wonder through found objects and teamwork, inviting us all to experience a little bit of magic.

Space/Materiality

Launched by ADHT’s Insights, First Year Features is a multi-part series that aims to showcase the work produced by students currently enrolled in Parsons’ First-Year Program. Challenging the ways in which making and writing come together in and out of studio, seminar and socially aware spaces, students offer multiple entry points into the task of art and design, and how design engages in our complex and rapidly changing world.

For this installment of First Year Features, we have the work of student Yunsun Lee from Wennie Huang’s Space/Materiality course.

Space/Materiality

In this studio course, students explore how materials and their uses shape meaning, considering concepts such as malleability, texture, smell, sound, taste, and ecological impacts. By completing a wide range of projects, written exercises, class discussions, and critiques, students become engaged participants in a generative, supportive community while being pushed to critically investigate the relationship between making and thinking in a wide range of skills and media.

In Wennie Huang’s Space/Materiality: Body Fall 2015 course, students completed projects entitled Inside/Out: The Head Inhabited. The project required students to make hollow plaster casts of their own heads and, after making surface maps of the casts and creating paper models of their final products, build head coverings which, according to Professor Huang, “involved moving parts that concealed and then revealed a part of their face.” Students were also required to somehow incorporate the Fibonacci sequence in their design.

Professor Huang says that “the learning goals of the project involved having students learn about ‘inhabited space,’ or the intersections between positive and negative 3-D spaces supporting live bodily movement, through a variety of material interactions and explorations, both through individual experiments, as well as collaboratively in a group/class environment.”

Yunsun Lee’s “Circulatory Coalescence”

Space Materiality1

“I have experienced a wide range of different cultures growing up as a third culture kid in Singapore, and I always found it amazing how onions bind other cultures through its constant presence in almost all cuisines. I thought it was the most versatile vegetable ever. Also, evolving from that idea, I was further inspired by how an onion is constructed by multifarious transparent layers, that eventually creates the onion form and structure, and how the different thickness of the layers merge together. I wanted to implement this ‘merging and coalescent’ idea to the headpiece, making it merge into the face; another layer that becomes one with the head. I wanted my design to depict the overlapping layers that are present in onions, and essentially merge with the head by following the natural curves of my skull.”

Space Materiality2

“Making a plaster cast of my head helped me in terms of measuring the shape of the whole head because a person’s head is not a symmetrical circle. It also helped me to look more closely into the curves and structure of both front and back of the head, all in three dimension, which inevitably influenced me to create a piece implementing those curved forms.”

Space Materiality3

“I used plastic sheets and wire for the headpiece and plaster for the head sculpture. Although I have used plexiglass and plastic straw for my first project, the thickness of the plastic sheets that I have used and the methods that I used to connect each part was different. I also used the hooks for the first time, which I placed on the front of the headpiece and connected it with wire. Last project I drilled holes and connected thin metal pipes through to connect different parts, which transitioned into a similar approach for this project, where I made holes with the sewing machine and awls. I also wanted to maintain the similar aesthetic to my first project, in which I used plastic and metal, thus wanted to continue using plastic. Also the transparency of microscopic layers of the onions inspired me to use a see-through material.”

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Yunsun’s learning portfolio, which documents her design process in full, can be found here.

Reflecting on the project, and the teaching process itself, Professor Huang says: “The best outcome is when students learn to access, support and encourage peer learning. If anything, I define this as thematic of the best of a Parsons education, that students learn that their best potential lies in a combination of individual curiosity, initiative, and responsibility coupled with collaborative engagement and exchange, and that through class activities and projects, they acquire methods and techniques for sustaining this dual-pronged approach… What I love about teaching First Year is the tremendous growth that is possible when I break down a project into achievable steps, when I provide students with plenty of resources and support through hands-on demos, and when I structure the class so that students learn together. What is incredibly satisfying is seeing when students, like Yunsun, realize this growth in themselves and in each other.”

 

Time

Launched by ADHT’s Insights, First Year Features is a multi-part series that aims to showcase the work produced by students currently enrolled in Parsons’ First-Year Program. Challenging the ways in which making and writing come together in and out of studio, seminar and socially aware spaces, students offer multiple entry points into the task of art and design, and how design engages in our complex and rapidly changing world.

This installment of First Year Features spotlights “Reversed Rebirth,” Kimberley Jenneskens’ final project from Thomas Bosket’s Time course.

 

Time

Time is a studio course that explores the notion of time as a designed idea that can be used as an art-making tool. Course readings and writing assignments provide students with a foundation of historical and cultural constructions of time. Students work in a variety of media, such as digital video and performance, to take an interdisciplinary consideration of how art impacts our perception and understanding of time, and vice versa.

In Thomas Bosket’s Fall 2015 section of Time, students developed a project titled “Singular Place and Self.”  Working from the definition of “psychogeography” presented in Amanda Wasielewski’s essay, “Psychogeographic Mapping Through Film: Chantal Akerman’s News From Home and Patrick Keiller’s London,” students began by observing themselves in New York City and were encouraged to mark/draw, collage and go outside the linearity in order to explore the relationship between their personal space and context, to larger or public space and contexts.  Bosket says, in reflection on the project, “Our challenge was to get out of our heads and use our bodies as our brains. This allows for the unexpected or unknown to rise against logic and become useful to their creative pursuits.  The classroom becomes an organic creature that is hard to separate into parts…this brings in the greatest levels of discovery and invention.”

 

Kimberley Jenneskens’ “Reversed Rebirth”

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For my project, I’m focusing on exploring and visualizing a so-called Reversed Rebirth and how the fictional misunderstanding of distorted time is the driving force behind our perception of the existence of life. At this point I am imagining a video piece that uses flashbacks of both personal history as well as captured movements and trends of society to analyze and illustrate the flashback of memory and if/how this influences our future behavior. Through the use of opacity and omission techniques, I would like my video to make the viewer examine whether our life cycle is really that circular or whether it is more an idealized vision only and therefore more of a linear experience. In order to convey the idea of the deconstruction of time, I would like to play around with sound as a contradicting element in terms of placement in history and thus time.

Time 3

time 4

Presentation ideas: Projecting on draped garment

  • Emphasis on circular vs. linear
  • Direct relationship between intention and final piece (both literal and figurative)
  • Using body shape as direct reference to fictional idea

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Stills from the installation (“distorted timeline”):

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Of the project as a whole, and as exemplified by Jennesken’s project itself, Bosket reflects: “The classroom becomes an organic creature that is hard to separate into parts. It is a whole – only to be experienced. We play games, we lower expectations and costs so that everyone can participate at every level…this brings in the greatest levels of discovery and invention. Students begin in a grasping to possess their city but they end absorbed in the marvel they are living and making.”

Edible Montages

Launched by ADHT’s Insights, First Year Features is a multi-part series that aims to showcase the work produced by students currently enrolled in Parsons’ First-Year Program.  Challenging the ways in which making and writing come together in and out of studio, seminar and socially aware spaces, students offer multiple entry points into the task of art and design, and how design engages in our complex and rapidly changing world.

For the second installment of First Year Features, we have the work of students Anney Norton, Balbina De Silva Milmo, Kenisha Bijoux Rullan, and Wilson Diaz Antigua from Alaiyo Bradshaw’s Drawing/Imaging course.


Drawing/Imaging asks first year students to consider how meaning is constructed and communicated through visual images. In this course, students use traditional drawing and digital imaging methods to explore the conceptual, aesthetic, and formal qualities that inform how ideas and impressions are expressed on a two-dimensional plane.

In her D/I section, Professor Alaiyo Bradshaw asks students to try their hand at an edible montage. Using a color pencil drawing of a chosen favorite food, a study of the hand in watercolor, and photo images, students create a personal narrative montage. Preferences have included experiences, emotions, food, music, self-portraits, favorite literature, and more.

Below students show with their final work and their own insights into their process, how the Edible Montage project merges analogue and digital techniques and consists of a continuation of work in visual perception, color mixing and theory, analytical construction, and an introduction to the media of color pencil, watercolor, and Adobe Photoshop.  

Reflecting on these exceptional montages, Professor Bradshaw notes, “Students love the assignment. The project starts out with using only primary colors to create the analogue work. Students are surprised at the amount of secondary and tertiary colors they can create by hand mixing the limited palette. They then digitally collage the scans, photos, textures, colors and techniques until the puzzles comes together to form their intentions or somewhat unintended pleasant surprises.”

Anney Norton

anney norton

“I maintained a more rough and loose look when I cut out certain images, adding a dimension of chaos to a seemingly bright and ordered piece. The roughness was a stark contrast to the refined beauty of the images I used. I felt that the theme of watercolor, and watercolor-esque pieces, glued the different elements of the piece together and gave the whole piece a sense of continuity. The project ultimately allowed me to discover a new medium, one that I have grown to love and enjoy.”

Balbina De Silva Milmo

balbina milmo

“The story of this work involves my transition from Mexico to New York. On the bottom there are trees and two stippling drawings of my sister and me that I created. I decided to leave them black and white and not fully opaque in order to give my piece some contrast. This project really helped me understand how to work with different selection tools, layer masks, layer styles, and other basics that I had not yet nailed.”

Kenisha Bijoux Rullan

Kenisha Bijoux Rullan

“I didn’t really know how to situate the hand. At first I intended that it would reach out to something, but I ended up placing it in the center of the photomontage and duplicating it so that it looked like it was reaching out to another hand. This, to me, represents the connection between people in the city. The movement from the evergreens to the city also represents moving from Seattle to New York City for me. I also changed the hue of the hands, one is purple and one is more yellow/orange to tie the whole piece together.”

Wilson Diaz Antigua

Wilson Antigua

“My main mindset throughout was to achieve a sense of symmetry around the whole piece. Each object that I added had to have its equivalent complementary. Although at first I thought making the montage about myself would give a more personal touch to the piece, I figured that I would learn the most if I just had plain fun with the application. My concept would revolve around the idea of ‘apples vs. oranges’ in a war that transcends time and how the banana was the singularity that would bring peace to both factions.”

All work featured here is done so with the consent of their makers.

This installment was created by Alex Bennett.