Furniture Design

Tim Miller

My thoughts and behaviors are influenced by a compulsive disorder. Observing this, I’ve learned how much my outlook can be shaped by my own ritualistic patterns. I live with a heightened sense of awareness toward my particular compulsions which has shaped how I see the world. In this thesis writing and collection of designed objects, I am seeking to further explore my own experience with compulsive thoughts and behaviors, unpacking how they manifest in the day-to-day, how they direct my perception, and ultimately how they serve as a driving force behind my design process. By observing these tendencies and articulating the source of my convictions, I’m laying bare the process by which I design and hoping to develop a better understanding of which aspects of my design approach lead to compelling results and which become obstacles. This writing takes on a spirit of self exploration and is intended to be an ever evolving tool for refining my approach to design.
Pivot Candle Holder
Years of compulsively counting, searching for symmetry, and creating patterns, have significantly impacted how I interact with the world and what I naturally direct my attention toward. My perception has become heavily filtered and I spend my days observing shapes, patterns, objects, and architecture, often to the detriment of the tasks that require my attention. Over time, this hyper-focus has drawn me to art and design, areas that allow me to create the harmonies I long for rather than turning outward to find them. Design offers a level of control I crave and allows me to impose the order I feel I need on the physical world around me. I am able to align the internal with the external. It has become a way for me to externalize my compulsions, channeling them toward productive outlets. It is a respite from having these things only contained internally.

My central point of formal inspiration for my thesis body of work is the circle and the ways in which it can be deconstructed while still maintaining some reference back to the original form. Despite working with a range of materials, colors, sizes, and typologies, this original source of inspiration still serves to tie each of the pieces together and helps create a cohesive collection that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Much of my work relates to connectivity and the relationship between adjacent parts, highlighting how the connection itself serves as the most significant element in the piece. This focus uses geometry as a tool for dealing with spatial relationships between components and provides solutions for how elements can be joined together seamlessly. It offers a system within which patterns can be formulated. I get endless inspiration for creating formal interactions from this system, often leading me to discover hidden functionalities.

I’m drawn to the idea of connectivity in a mechanical sense as well as in how we connect with the objects around us. Connections serve as transitional components within a system, allowing multiple parts to become integrated and bringing wholeness to a multi-component object. This point of transition is where I find the most potential in a design. It directs how a form takes shape and affects how the components will interact with one another, determining whether an object is fixed, modular, mutable, kinetic, or disassemblable.

Textiles

Nastia Ross (Onegina)

This thesis investigates technical and performance capabilities of extra thick flat-knitted 3D spacer fabrics. Several combinations of knitted structures and fibers are suggested for thermal and impact protection, general insulation, architecture and construction. Methods of constructing three- to seven-layer spacer fabrics up to nine inches thick are explained.
Fully fashioned coat, 2016
Space suits can provide a lot of inspiration about the protective clothing but they are a bit far away from the current everyday urban life. The most challenging environment an ordinary city inhabitant can possibly face is a short-term analog of Alaska pipeline construction setting in the 1970s. Alyeska Pipeline second-hand parkas can still be found on places like eBay and tend to sell out fast.

A likelier possibility is facing cold temperatures around -10C and hotter periods at about +30C with wind chill and radiation pushing these averages to more extreme -35C and +45C. For these environments, sportswear companies supply “functional” or “performance” clothing, on one hand, and casual wear brands manufacture apparently less performing but more fashionable items. Specialty brands like Canada Goose focus on just one type of thermal clothing (insulation). This market landscape has a gap between the narrow view of the athletes and endless variations between the peculiarities of their sports, on one hand, and the ordinarity of the casual wear that performs no better than for between-the-chairs trips in the city. From a standpoint of a person who does not plan to win Olympics and runs once a week to be no later in the office than his boss, the choice between the hundreds of types of the runnings shoes is confusing as it is impossible to predict which type will suit him better, if at all.

The task of differentiating between the “pants for snowboard” and “pants for skiing” may not be accomplished when both are viewed as means to protect a clerk during a longer commute in the winter.

Marketing for this type of clothing sales is also targeting sport ambitions, not much, if at all, the life outside of an arena, a slope or a treadmill. That clerk who decided to go for a long walk in the snowy park before he goes for a job interview needs to identify either with snowboard people or with mountain ski people and then to separate this newly chosen identity - a nicely protected winter jogger – from the one he has built professionally or personally - an identity of a properly dressed employee, for instance. The huge logotypes that sportswear companies are infamous for placing over their products do not make them more attractive to the non-sports oriented people.

Sculpture

Susana Oliveros Amaya

The Ti(d)es That Bind Us is a project that uses photographic and mixed-media installation methods to analyze the historical narratives of the United States. Through this analysis I am interested in deconstructing this narrative’s connection to ideologies which arose from coloninalization, and I search for how these ideologies were used to inform and support white supremacy. Using documentation of sites of historical preservation and reenactment, as well as staging photographs within these spaces and contemporary locations, which point to the past being present, I use photography to disrupt national narratives. Using mixed-media installations, I conceptualize and recontextualize the symbols and objects that are used to overtly and mundanely enforce and support narratives and ideologies associated with colonization and white supremacy. The of aim of this body of work isn’t to offer substantial solutions to the social and political quagmires of today. The goal is to offer a space where viewers can reassess their beliefs and question the objectivity of narratives which obscure and disregard centuries of continual oppression.
Cleaners
Last year, I went to Wendy’s because they had a $1 “value menu”, and even if I do not eat French fries often, they are probably near the top of my list of favorite things I really like but should not eat. As I waited sitting in one of the booths, I noticed that they had installed a glass that separated the tables from each other. The curved glass was installed on top of a rectangular partition, such that its green organic shapes looked like the leaves of a snake plant growing out of the wood. Apparently snake plants, or sansevierias native to West Africa, are among the top ten plants used in offices and malls to separate spaces and decorate interiors.

The last time I went back home for the summer, my mother had decided to get a small carpet to be placed by the shower that had different grey and white circular shapes. They looked like rocks, but it was jarring to feel my wet feet on top of furry rocks that did not feel like standing on top of a rock. My mom had also bought small lavenders for the bathrooms, and left them on top of the toilet. Even if lavender is commonly used in bath and beauty products, since it is appreciated for its smell, the plastic lavender from my house was odorless. It was as if preserving the form of the flower would somehow convey its smell. Tiles became reminiscent of different kinds of stones and bathroom top tables were supposedly polished blocks of granites or marble.

How is the Black Gold Snake Plant- Sansevieria- Impossible to kill!- 4” Pot from Walmart, the Artificial Potted 24” Snake Plant from Floral Home and Wendy's SXW-019GF Green Frosted Fern Natural Window Film working differently? They all rely on an understanding of interior space and a specific definition and desire of nature. Wendy’s plant-like dividers become commodities, or images of commodities, at the endpoint of a history of flowerpots, industrial plastics, and traditions of room division and home decoration. Its definition is rooted in a division between human and nature as separate entities and contribute to what is culturally perceived as natural.

This division further enables the ongoing commoditization of different forms of “a natural world”, one that creates the sensation that the bathroom should feel like being in the middle of the forest, or taking a shower under a disinfected waterfall. Rocks become soap dispensers and plants and flowers blossom everywhere in different forms. All leading tome, back in Wendy’s, enjoying my delicious French fries in the middle of a snake plant plantation.

From the floors to the walls of kitchens, hotels and restaurants - all the way from hospitals waiting rooms, shopping malls, banks branch offices to bathroom utensils- things seem to be designed as re-surfaced products. Covered and wrapped surfaces with skins, layers and veneers. These materialities produce hide, reveal, confuse and reshape objects, producing over stimulating and suggestive spatial narratives oriented by taste, class and gender. By complicating the limits that divide humans and objects, these products also destabilize the relations between decoration- architecture and the natural- artificial while authoring new materialities that become ideological watermarks.

Ceramics

Coco Johnson

The Ti(d)es That Bind Us is a project that uses photographic and mixed-media installation methods to analyze the historical narratives of the United States. Through this analysis I am interested in deconstructing this narrative’s connection to ideologies which arose from coloninalization, and I search for how these ideologies were used to inform and support white supremacy. Using documentation of sites of historical preservation and reenactment, as well as staging photographs within these spaces and contemporary locations, which point to the past being present, I use photography to disrupt national narratives. Using mixed-media installations, I conceptualize and recontextualize the symbols and objects that are used to overtly and mundanely enforce and support narratives and ideologies associated with colonization and white supremacy. The of aim of this body of work isn’t to offer substantial solutions to the social and political quagmires of today. The goal is to offer a space where viewers can reassess their beliefs and question the objectivity of narratives which obscure and disregard centuries of continual oppression.
Pokey Boi
My work draws on aspects of the surrealist movement utilizing the creativity of absurd imagery and odd arrangement of objects. By layering unconventional body parts together and creating intriguing formations with the body, I attempt to summon the surreal and the way the body interacts and interconnects with its surroundings. The fragmented anatomical configurations allude to elements of visual abstraction and reference the bodily arrangements or patterns observed in artistic swimming. My forms are androgynous and ambiguous in order to emphasize a sense of disembodiment. By grabbing and pulling sections of the body and collaging them together into a visual object, the work becomes centered around the choreographed form and relieved from the hierarchy of body identity. Ultimately, the final object is of bodily origin but is represented in a way that exerts a disconnect from the self.

Additionally, my work highly references and is inspired by the Baroque era. My work plays on the classic ideologies of the Baroque in that they are overly ornate, decorated, and suggest the grandeur. I often use rhinestones and specialty fabrics that are used in competitive artistic swimming costumes.

Traditionally, one thinks of adornment as ornamentation for the pureness of decoration and beauty. However, I purposefully use embellishing materials in order to directly represent the empowerment of the body and confidence that beauty brings to an identity. Employing ornamentation as a tool, I 'seduce' the viewer in with something immediately appealing and striking. This seduction brings into question the notion of what is beautiful or attractive and for what reason.

Industrial Design

Charlotte McCurdy

What would it feel like to get back into a present-tense relationship with the sun? In order to combat climate change, we must develop technologies that allow us to address material needs with present-tense sunlight — that is, with the stored energy of photosynthesis that took place during our lifetimes. By making familiar objects with post-petroleum materials, I strive to create direct access to a viable post-petroleum material culture and make the connections between daily life and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration more comprehensible. As a proof-of-concept, I developed a marine-algae plastic. From this plastic, I produce consumer products that embody a life after petroleum while highlighting the ways in which climate change is already present in our lives. I want to speed our society’s transition away from fossil fuels and create tools that allow more people to participate in that process. Our health, our society and our environment depend on it.
After Ancient Sunlight
Imagine you are a coral. You are a tiny, sac-like animal that lives in a colony of your clones. You are a builder. You build your exoskeleton out of calcium carbonate at your base. Over many generations, your colony will build a skeleton on an architectural scale.

But you are not just you. A symbiotic algae lives in your tissues. It is able to photosynthesize and give you energy. You provide it with shelter. Your colony is restricted to shallow water where the sun can reach your algae, but you depend on this mutualism. It seems like quite a deal.

Your algae also provides your building material. Your algae’s photosynthesis, which feeds both of you, takes in dissolved carbon dioxide and water, using the energy of the sun to break apart and recombine these molecules into sugar and oxygen. In this moment of recombination, you gain the carbon that is the basis of all of the molecules that build your body. You will live off this oxygen and this sugar and use them to build and burn your fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Even the DNA of your identity and the enzymes of your digestions are precise, complex molecules built on a chain of carbon. As you live and build these molecules with the energy and matter your algae captured from the sun and seawater, you will respire some carbon dioxide back into the seawater. But you will also use some carbon to build your skeleton of calcium carbonate. In this way, carbon from the air gets captured in your house.

Over the next several years you will live and grow. You will reproduce both asexually and sexually. You will expand your reef upward and outward. Over thousands of years, you (and “you” might remain alive as a clone of the “you” during these millennia) accumulate and bury such a vast skeleton that the old components of your abode might transform into stone in the right geologic conditions. In this way, you are not only the architect of great reefs; you are an alchemist, a creator of sedimentary rock. You and your kind are the mothers of all the limestone in the world.

What happens next to your house, now limestone, varies widely. It might get involved in mountain building and recrystallize into marble. It might end up in a cave, contributing to the formation of cathedral-like stalactites. But it also might soar above an urban landscape, transformed by humans into cement. Cement at its core is made by combining your limestone with mineral clay. The humans will heat your limestone until some of its carbon, trapped so long ago by your algae, is forced out, leaving a reactive molecule. Then the humans will add water when they are ready to build their houses. The much-transformed remains of your house will start as a pourable slurry, form crystals, and set into the strong building block of their modern era.

As a messenger from the humans: thank you, coral. We got quite a deal.

Graphic Design

Kit Son Lee

CTRL SHIFT makes a case for design under contemporary computation. The abstractions of reading, writing, metaphors, mythology, code, cryptography, interfaces, and other such symbolic languages are leveraged as tools for understanding. Alternative modes of knowledge become access points through which users can subvert the control structures of software. By challenging the singular expertise of programmers, the work presented within advocates for the examination of internalized beliefs, the redistribution of networked power, and the collective sabotage of computational authority.
Selected Spread from CTRL SHIFT
I am writing this essay in a piece of software /*Google Docs*/ accessed via a piece of software /*Google Chrome*/, which is running on another piece of software /*macOS Catalina*/, which is running on a piece of hardware /*MacBook Pro*/. If I were writing in a programming language and you were a computer, this essay would be software, and in reading it, you would be executing its commands. But I am writing this essay in a natural language /*English*/, and you are /*presumably*/ not a computer. Therefore, the extent of my power is to put words together to make a point, and the extent of your power is the ability to choose whether or not to agree with it. I say “extent” because neither of our powers in the moment of writing or reading can impact the hidden structures of Google Docs, or Google Chrome, or macOS Catalina, or the MacBook Pro.

That doesn’t mean our powers are equal. Written convincingly enough, this essay might make you execute its ideas. Meanwhile, your reading it does fuck all to me. Remember how marketing shifted programming’s action point from executing programs to writing them, in order to bolster the imagined worth of software? The worth might have been imagined, but belief in it is what perpetuated it. Software’s /*and therefore, the programmer’s*/ power lies in herding belief, as does graphic design’s, as does mine in writing.

I am presenting computation to you through several layers of mediation: natural language, typesetting /*design*/, the printed page. Software mediates similarly, through programming languages, operating systems, the GUI. At each layer, software and I are first obscuring computation, then deciding which parts to reveal, consciously /*according to our agendas*/ or unconsciously /*according to our values*/. Your engagement with computation is kettled by our /*software’s and my*/ decisions, all of which were made well before you entered the frame.

Alright, put away the guillotine. Though you might not be a programmer, you have most likely written an essay at some point. You, too, have abstracted objects or ideas into words, made choices about what to describe and what to omit, and controlled the reader’s understanding through these choices. You’ve experienced the power of being the writer of a work. That means you’ve tasted the power of programming despite /*maybe*/ not being a programmer. And if you’re anything like me, that is, if you don’t like being controlled, you also don’t like controlling others. Your implication in power drives you to find ways to redistribute it.

So you must have a feeling as to why I—despite being a programmer—am only writing as software. An essay is not beholden to software’s rules, including those control structures that separate programmers from users. Additionally, you are approaching this essay not as a user but as a reader, and one with knowledge of writing. You might not be able to read code, but you can parse my argument, pick it apart, take it up, or throw it out. I am calling attention to my writing choices /*the abstractions by which I exert control over your interpretations*/ to expand your existing capacity. If you know how I’m manipulating you, the extent of your power—to make choices regarding application of my ideology—grows.

Addressing one’s choices is not typical of writing. Great writers obfuscate their decisions; their constructions become a matter of style, to be studied and interpreted in seminars across the country. Meanwhile, literature where the writer’s hand is too evident is often criticized as “ham-fisted” or “belabored,” both of which this essay might be. I take that risk because this essay is an analogy for software. Your understanding of my writing on a structural level evens out the power discrepancy between us. I want to believe that achieving parity here can open the possibility of a similar leveling between programmer and user.

Jewelry + Metalsmithing

Valerie James

The structure of this thesis aligns directly with the ritual structure of the rites of passage as set forth by ethnographer Arnold van Gennep. I see myself as both a participant and purveyor of ritual, visualizing the liminal stages of my own life into tangible and intimate pieces of jewelry. According to Gennep, a participant progresses through a rite of passage in three stages: separation, liminality, and re-integration. Each chapter is organize around these three categories, and on how the work and I pass in and out of the studio. Out/Separation describes the process of walking and poetics of the moving body. In/Liminal details the specificity of the processes at my bench and how I transform. material. Lastly, Out/Reintegration investigates the mobile potential of jewelry and the effect it has on the wearer. I see this work as a never ending sentence—a continuous ritual of making in which process is content. Theis work is both a mark of my artistic labor and witness to my existence.
Instants // Intervals
Outside the studio, I walk. Walking allows me to clear my head, and to contemplate and alleviate stress. I slow down and breathe. An avid walker for most of my life, only recently have I seen the value of this activity for its meditative qualities, and as a rich resource for my work. There is a clear distinction between habitual and ritual walking. Daily, many of us walk, yet to devote attention to the act of walking as an intentional ritual is something else. I walk with the intent of collecting data. The information I collect comes from my observations of a path and my own state of mind when walking. Sometimes it is a deep contemplative state of mind and other times it is scattered and fleeting. In many ways the thinking that happens on these walks generates that path I take.

I began my practice in walking by wandering, intuitively letting my body guide me from sidewalk to street to field. My walks are now defined by a set of parameters, yet still enable me to enter a path in an open state of transformation: I begin at an origin point, observing my surroundings as I move, letting myself be guided by a specific landmark or destination—for instance, a pink house seen from several streets away. I explore several different paths to reach these particular points. By repeating these walks over and again, I develop a special— and spatial—relationship with the path, and uncover its hidden qualities. These then lead to new walks. Both the experience, and the physical evidence of this experience, are then recorded or translated into jewelry.

Like my making, walking with the purpose of ritual requires solitude. It is this element that enables me to interact with both interior and exterior space. This practice is my way of working sequentially, of slowing myself down so that I may discern the nuances that are observed in transitional moments. Through my work, I want to bring an awareness to the importance of observation. No matter which way one walks a path, it always offers something new—continuing a reciprocal relationship for those who listen and pay attention.

Architecture

Kevin Crouse

The Ti(d)es That Bind Us is a project that uses photographic and mixed-media installation methods to analyze the historical narratives of the United States. Through this analysis I am interested in deconstructing this narrative’s connection to ideologies which arose from coloninalization, and I search for how these ideologies were used to inform and support white supremacy. Using documentation of sites of historical preservation and reenactment, as well as staging photographs within these spaces and contemporary locations, which point to the past being present, I use photography to disrupt national narratives. Using mixed-media installations, I conceptualize and recontextualize the symbols and objects that are used to overtly and mundanely enforce and support narratives and ideologies associated with colonization and white supremacy. The of aim of this body of work isn’t to offer substantial solutions to the social and political quagmires of today. The goal is to offer a space where viewers can reassess their beliefs and question the objectivity of narratives which obscure and disregard centuries of continual oppression.
Whole Foods Funded Housing
Architecture's relationship to the economy limits its capacity. to build, lending to the oft-frequented speculative competition. In order to build, architects pursue projects outside of their immediate surroundings. oftentimes in the rapid urbanization of emerging economic zones. resulting in designing from afar. This furthers architecture's involvement in problematic tropes of erasure. key to cultural gentrification and imperialism. While context may' shift from project to project, context as a methodology provides a framework to critically' engage history into the built form. Asa imam to combat these issues, an amalgamation of reuse and preservation can work to dissolve the systemic relationship between architecture and erasure.

Identifying Whole Foods as an icon of gentrification. the process of shifting between cynical rhetoric and optimistic designer counters the anonymity of big-box stores. turning a non-place into an idiosyncratic home. The entry way complicates an entrance to a market—it is stepping into a neighborhood instead of a store. In the ascension of the building. pockets frame ways for light and views to reach lower floors. The market and housing constantly shift, fragmenting blocks from accessibility. This strategy. continues through to the top floor and the units shift from single level rooms to duplexes offering more workspace for residents.

My thesis takes on the qualms of living within the anonymity of capital to create an actualized localism, avoiding the fraught tropes of altruism. I end on this optimistic perspective knowing that it was a challenge; it is much easier to work through critique. creating extreme satires. instead of offering a hopeful future; it is to opine—to have a clear position within the ambiguous and complex field of architecture.

Glass

Ashley Harris

The Ti(d)es That Bind Us is a project that uses photographic and mixed-media installation methods to analyze the historical narratives of the United States. Through this analysis I am interested in deconstructing this narrative’s connection to ideologies which arose from coloninalization, and I search for how these ideologies were used to inform and support white supremacy. Using documentation of sites of historical preservation and reenactment, as well as staging photographs within these spaces and contemporary locations, which point to the past being present, I use photography to disrupt national narratives. Using mixed-media installations, I conceptualize and recontextualize the symbols and objects that are used to overtly and mundanely enforce and support narratives and ideologies associated with colonization and white supremacy. The of aim of this body of work isn’t to offer substantial solutions to the social and political quagmires of today. The goal is to offer a space where viewers can reassess their beliefs and question the objectivity of narratives which obscure and disregard centuries of continual oppression.
Fragile but Touchable
In Fall, 2020, I was racially profiled. Interrogated about my place and belonging within an institution in which I believed I belonged. At that moment, I was forced to confront the fact that there will always be a sense of otherness about me to many people who I encounter. My tan brown skin, curly hair, my hairy arms, are all at the surface of my body. They are parameters by which people can create their perception of who I might be. These parameters do not consist of a deep understanding of the surface level, however. That understanding is a result of using all sensory responses as a guide to acknowledge information that would otherwise be glossed over. I leave marks and traces of my path and navigation everywhere I go. The places which I enter, envelop me and I, in turn, do the same.

Printmaking

Lindi Shi

The structure of this thesis aligns directly with the ritual structure of the rites of passage as set forth by ethnographer Arnold van Gennep. I see myself as both a participant and purveyor of ritual, visualizing the liminal stages of my own life into tangible and intimate pieces of jewelry. According to Gennep, a participant progresses through a rite of passage in three stages: separation, liminality, and re-integration. Each chapter is organize around these three categories, and on how the work and I pass in and out of the studio. Out/Separation describes the process of walking and poetics of the moving body. In/Liminal details the specificity of the processes at my bench and how I transform. material. Lastly, Out/Reintegration investigates the mobile potential of jewelry and the effect it has on the wearer. I see this work as a never ending sentence—a continuous ritual of making in which process is content. Theis work is both a mark of my artistic labor and witness to my existence.
Grandma Ji, 2017
When I was in elementary school, my teacher punished me by making me copy the textbook for talking in class. At that time, I wished to have a copy machine to do the work for me. However, that is not the motivation to study printmaking. I do not need to multiply my works as I am a “nobody” now, but I still love printmaking. I guess that because I am an introverted person and printmaking is an indirect art making process. I am always afraid of drawing since I started taking foundation art classes. The incorrect line stands out like an ugly scar in between the hatchings, which terrifies me. Yet, I am not that anxious when working on a matrix, because the matrix will complete the final touches on the paper, instead of my pencil. No matter if the matrix is a relief block, copper plate, litho stone, or a silkscreen, I could pass along all my pressure to it.

Paper
Often when making paper, I think of it as an erotic action. The gesture of papermaking is like having sex with nature. Nature provides man with original fibers and other substances, and the man creates a new creature by a series of actions. The process is very wet, slimy, and sometimes dirty, and it causes my lower back pain. Nevertheless, when finally peeling my shiny sheets off the boards, I always feel proud as a parent. The next step depends on my paper’s natural qualities and on me to find out if it will be a sheet for printing, sculpting, or performing.

Yarn
Crochet is additive and unstoppable. Probably because I have a mathematics degree, I can't help thinking about crocheting a fluffy three-dimensional function model. By using a double crochet stitch, how many stitches should I add to each loop so that the tangent plane of the cross-section at any point is forty-five degrees? To answer this question, I have tried so many types of yarns and crochet stitches. In the end, I still haven’t solved the problem but am obsessed with making mini crochet figures.

Painting

Jarrett Key

Jarrett Key’s thesis book examines their journey towards understanding their freedom through three lenses: Survival, Transformation and Celebration. Through pointed excavation of the oral histories and lost stories of their upbringing in rural Alabama, their work presents critiques of the historical conditions that sowed the seeds of their contemporary personhood, while simultaneously creating spaces to celebrate beauty, joy, and survival. The objects Key builds perform their freedom and are crafted from materials that reference pieces of their own personal narrative. Highlighting works from Leaving the City (oil paintings on cement), the Hot Comb (forged black steel sculptures), and Slave Ship/ESP (oil on canvas and cement) series, Key’s thesis unpacks their artistic process and objects, while sharing those voices that inspire their practice.
Sharina Sunbathing
I often think of all the Black people that have come before me. What they endured, what they were expected to survive. Their survival becomes the first lens I look through to understand my own freedom. There is a direct line between the life these ancestors lived and my own -- for without them I for sure would not exist. When I consider how my family arrived to the rural South, I quickly realized that the generic history of enslaved Africans and their passage across the Atlantic would have to suffice. I don’t have records of my family’s lineage. I’m not sure who owned my ancestors pre-abolition, I don’t know the specific port my ancestors entered as they were forced into this “new world.” So the diagram in my elementary school history textbook would have to suffice. I’m sure you know the one I’m referring to: Under the chapter titled Slavery in the Americas, a small image depicts, in horrific detail, African slaves stacked efficiently in the bowels of a slave ship.

I first saw this image in 1998 in the third grade
classroom at Mother Mary School in Phenix City,
Alabama. Many of the nuns who ran this all-Black
Catholic school were from Jamaica.
I remember Sr. Joanne specifically gave
us time to look at the diagram.
As she moved across the classroom she said,
When slaves were brought across the...
Atlantic! Several students shouted out.
They were brought on huge ships. It was a terrible
and difficult journey that could take months.
Many people died just traveling across the ocean.
Sr. Joanne wore a more casual habit style than
some of the older nuns. She wore a tight fitting royal
blue coif with a simple haint blue blouse
and a conservative navy skirt.
Describe this image? What do you see?
One kid yelled out, They are real close.
It’s packed in there.
Yeah, it looks completely full, someone else added.
What has always disturbed me about this image is
how un-humanly the enslaved are illustrated.
As if their bodies are only puzzle pieces used to
depict their own destitution.
I said, Why do they look like that?
They don’t look like real people.


Many years later I found out that this image is called the ‘Brookes’ slave ship diagram. This diagram was first printed in 1787 by James Phillips, George Yard, Lombard Street in London. English abolitionists alarmed by the horrors of the Atlantic slave trade printed the Brooke’s diagram in a series of anti-slavery pamphlets, newspapers, and journals. The Brookes diagram depicts the bowels of the ship loaded to its full capacity - 454 people. The ‘Brookes’ itself sailed the passage from Liverpool via the Gold Coast in Africa to Jamaica in the West Indies. This image swayed public sentiments regarding slavery, particularly among white women in England. Fast-forward to my Bedstuy apartment in 2014. Black Lives Matter was in full motion, as Black and POC folx filled the streets to protest against the repeated killing of Black people by Police Officers. I stood in my makeshift studio, a narrow 30 ft long hallway that connected Kit’s and my room to the kitchen. The chants of “Hands up Don’t shoot” and “I Can’t Breath” echoed as I worked. I put stencil to paper and built text-based paintings that allowed me to meditate, to reflect on the state of the Union. I felt so unsafe, so frustrated, so angry, and so sad as my news feed flooded with images and videos of folx that look just like me being shot down like dogs on concrete streets.

NCSS

Megan Brief

Human and nonhuman animal lives are intimately entangled. In the age of the Anthropocene, it is imperative to reexamine our proximity and kinship with nature. Human-wildlife conflict can evolve into coexistence through conservation efforts marked by creativity and compassion. To inspire conservation action among North American audiences, we must enact novel ways of disseminating scientifically technical concepts. Multimedia storytelling can encourage equitable involvement among lay participants in conservation spaces. When inclusive of Indigenous knowledges, and conscious of damage narratives, such innovative stories can empathetically communicate wildlife degradation and injustices, as well as animate vulnerable human and nonhuman communities.
Photo taken in the Northern Rockies
Charismatic megafauna species such as rhino, elephant, and tiger, as well as lesser-known mammals like the pangolin, are among the growing list of endangered species imperiled by the illegal wildlife trade. This industrial scale transnational crime network has an estimated annual value of USD 20 billion.

Conservation initiatives implemented by international organizations have disproportionately focused on African and Asian nations due to the geographical regions in which many of these nonhuman animals are endemic. Often forgotten, and critically overlooked, is the United States as one of the largest consumers of illegal wildlife and wildlife products worldwide, with an estimated value of $2 billion annually. Analysis indicates that between 2004 and 2013, 47,914 illegal wildlife products, 81,526 pounds of illegal wildlife, and 7,111 illegal animals were seized.

The U.S. ranks second globally in consumption of products derived from the illegal wildlife trade after China, and is one of seven nations under investigation for tiger trafficking. Despite the staggering evidence to support U.S. involvement in the illegal wildlife trade, responsibility is diverted to the global South, where disempowered communities suffer from racist and xenophobic stories about their experiences, eternalized by outsiders.

The biological and biodiversity conservation sciences have historically been a source of siloed, natural science-driven knowledges and approaches, comprised of biocentric value systems. Coupled with endorsements by international organizations, conservation initiatives can quickly become concerned with protecting nonhuman animal populations at the cost of human welfare, rights, and livelihoods. A common critique is that the biological conservation sciences do not attend to the history, politics, and power embedded in the places where environmental protection takes place. These misappropriated concerns must be redirected to acknowledge, understand, and actively engage with the social, cultural, and racial dynamics within communities who share endangered nonhuman animal habitats.

Over the summer of 2019, I studied “The Art and Science of Conservation in South Africa,” taught by Dr. Lucy Spelman. I was often told by the wildlife experts and rangers in the Limpopo Province, that a dead animal is worth far more than a living one in the trade. A privately owned rhino for example, costs around USD $20,000 alive, whereas, post-slaughter, one can sell its horn on the black market for USD $60-70k per kg. It’s through this commodification of life that nonhuman animals, and the humans who protect them, become alienated, become less-than, become invisible.

Wildlife rangers assume many roles in service of their communities. They may combat the illegal wildlife trade through military missions, become ecological researchers and conservation educators to local students, or become rehabilitators of injured and orphaned wildlife. Rangers monitor millions of acres of protected area, risking terrorist groups, disease, and fatal accidents, as well as separation from loved ones for what could be months at a time. Whether out in the field, protecting the world’s biodiversity, or at home, providing for their families, their impact is felt globally.

Multimedia storytelling is the medium for which these lives may be reimagined. In a world that is multispecies and multicultural, we need multidisciplinary collaboration. It will never be enough to dissolve centuries of systemic inequities. It will never be enough to eliminate the American demand for wildlife, or the supply in marginalized communities, but it may be enough to evoke the kind of empathy needed to inspire conservation action.

Photography

Xinyi Mei

This thesis centers around the installation Martyr (in exile), a multimedia spatial work that reconstructs and intertwines moments in consumerist life. Through the combination of image, writing, sound, and sculpture, I attempt to generate emotional glitches. These glitches rescue image consumption from its functional, social, and technical contexts like shopping and mechanical testing. The installation relies on the act of viewing and is ultimately completed while viewing is taking place. Most importantly, a glitch creates a failure of communication. I aim to provoke the viewer to grasp a comparison between the empirical and the perceived from the work, based on a shared visual encounter. Three main sections of the thesis sort out my creative intentions. The first section is an introduction of the test sample images produced to sell cameras. I decipher my decision-making in determining them protagonists as well as fetishistic objects. In the second section, I explore the concept of “functional image” I develop to expand the category of image I research. The third section directly describe the work Martyr (in exile). It details the artistic and theoretical strategies I use, including appropriation and simulation; the interpretation, surrealism, and apophenia when I construct the narrative; the shaping of the female body; the decision of creating erotic and violent images; the translation and nomadism; and my inclination to keep the failure of communication. Through creating a perfect mimicry of a known experience of images in daily life, the work Martyr (in exile) can appear to be a celebration, a positive endorsement. I deconstruct the generic approach to consuming images with imagination as the intervention. This work is then itself a performance, a denouncing, a signal of distress. The contradiction of celebration and distress comes not only from the conflict in the narrative content but also from the difference between the lightness of the generic images and the intensity of the writing. As a whole, this written document contains texts that are parallel, occupying equal roles. The writings are intertextual in different genres, and they aim to create an awkward tautology.
Martyr(in exile), 2020-2021
Hito Steyerl categorizes the “poor images” as “low-resolution” “compressed and travel quickly” in her essay *In Defense of the Poor Image*. I see functional images— in which camera sample image is a representative— indicate another “POOR IMAGEs”. POOR IMAGEs seem to have totally opposite capacity compared to what Steyerl calls poor images. They are high-resolution and eloquent. Steyerl also describes these opposite images in the same essay, “more brilliant and impressive” “more scary and seductive”.

The poor images Steyerl defends invite the viewers to participate and reproduce, and to redefine their value. While the POOR IMAGEs are perfectly designed, released by certain agents, and force the viewer to be the receiver. The poor images are travelling quickly because of their compressed quality, and through translation and mistranslation they radiate different meanings. While the POOR IMAGEs are more presented via specific websites or prints and the extent of reinterpretation is limited and predictable. The uncertain interpretations of the poor images are instinctive and natural, and the mistranslations of them are allowed. While the translation of the POOR IMAGE is precise and straight-forward, the mistranslations are illegitimate.

The viewers of the poor images are gathered, as Steyerl says, “... audiences are linked almost in a physical sense by mutual excitement, affective attunement, and anxiety.” Poor images always appear on someone’s alternative Instagram account, reflecting users’ aesthetic preferences or a sentimental night. They usually travel widely on the Internet. People find them, use them, throw them as trash, or pass them to the next person. Poor images thrive in the subculture; they construct the unspeakable anxiety and memes among specific groups with blurry pixels. While the audiences of the POOR IMAGE are dispersed, everywhere, they can be anyone who passes the crossroad seeing the cosmetic advertisement on that billboard, maybe an office lady having lunch break, a high school boy suffering drug addiction, or a traveler who just lost their passport. They are created with specific consumer targets at the beginning, yet, they are put at an overly conspicuous position finally. The POOR IMAGEs broadcast the “common senses”, the standard, the “supposed to be”: “this is how an eyeshadow advertisement looks like”. These images have more accessibility to more audiences but cannot have enough influence to connect those dispersed individuals emotionally.

The POOR IMAGEs always manifest the kitsch, a junior aesthetic, a mainstream-beauty that escapes contemplation and contradiction. However, these images sometimes bring some association and imagination, which are always some digressions departing the “common senses”. They are the daydream, the emotional glitches, just like the technical fuzzy glitches on the TV screen. A tiny glitch can often be disturbing but can form a meditation when the seeing being interrupted.

I want to sit together with the audience, looking at the original POOR IMAGEs, then write down my interpretations, insert my imaginations, point out and magnify these glitches. They are like a hand gesture, a foreplay of language on the tip of the tongue. They do not have any actual impressing value, but a tiny, almost invisible rebellion against patriarchal power.

Landscape Architecture

Gavin Zeitz

The Arctic Commons envisions a world where geopolitical cooperation and transnational friendship generate an ethos of planetary collectivism promoting the future stability in the Arctic and rest of the world. This book will be a guide to understanding the Arctic at a range of scales, from governmental to regional, and finally the experiential and phenomenal that engages the unique ground conditions. The Arctic Commons encourages political action to create a new network of infrastructure that operates as a model for retrofiting global systems which currently fail to represent the common interests of the everyday citizen. Humankind's current standards for social and environmental politics are underachieving at a moral and ethical level, but also failing at the spatial scale that operates in the realm of landscape architecture. Landscape architects have the power to envision futures at multiple scales and from a range of perspectives. This project seeks to traverse these scales and propose a collective perspective for the Arctic.
Terra Incognita in Alaska
The North is not empty, and it never has been. The phrase *terra nullius* is used, often by governments, to describe a territory as a "no-man's land". It has a history of being used as a mechanism by colonial governments to project ownership onto territory commonly owned by indigenous communities. The Arctic has often fell into this category as an "uncivilized" or "no-one's land" and has been described frequently as uninhabitable *terra incognita*. In Greco-Roman times geographers subdivided the world into different "climes" as a way of categorizing the (un)inhabitability of a region. Aristotle and Ptolemy viewed the Arctic as a "frigid" zone of the world where human life could not exist. In the nineteenth-century the Arctic came into the crosshairs of Russian hunters, white explorers, and Romantic landscape painters who depicted the Arctic as an unpopulated and untouched wilderness evoking sentiments of the sublime. The 20th century, in particular the Cold War era, ushered in an age of militarization and globalization of the Arctic . Throughout the Arctic radar stations and military outposts popped up and redefined the cultural and spatial organization of many indigenous cultures. This was also the age of oil discovery and white migration north, which both had an equally momentous effect on the economic, political, and cultural practices in relation to the land and resources.

The contemporary spectacle of the North is concerns the Arctic as ground zero for climate change and as the location where climate change will have the most significant and radical effect. What does this mean for the future of the Arctic? Obviously this means a variety of things to a wide range of people. Photographers and tourists flock to the North to experience the last frontier" or to capture a photograph of a melting glacier, but these fetishized perceptions of the North represent a parochial and colonial understanding of what has long been a working landscape where plant nations, animal nations, and human nations have adapted to the harsh climate to live in harmony: In fact the earliest known evidence of human inhabitation in the Arctic is 40,000 years ago in western Siberia and 15.000 years ago in North America. This extensive history has shaped many cultural traditions that are deeply connected to the landscape and the environmental context within which they are situated.

The contemporary image culture of the Arctic is one that perpetuates the myth of *terra nullius* and mistakenly represents these environments as disconnected from their significance as deeply meaningful. experiential, and cultural landscapes founded on a basic connection between humans and their surroundings. It is a collective notion of a place derived from people living in an environment, not a theoretical or framed image of a landscape. The danger in contemporary representation of the Arctic as landskip, or as an image of a landscape, is the perpetuation of a myth of that degrades the culture deeply embedded in the landscape history and the shaping of space throughout the Arctic.

The prologue of this book focuses on these landscapes as symbiotic relationships where cultural, infrastructural, and ecological processes collide to form a landscape that is often sublime and mysterious, but also an everyday environment where people live and work. The juxtaposition of perspectival photography and satellite imagery creates a microscope effect allowing for an understanding of the terrain and context while also viewing the spatial sequences, material qualities, and phenomenal aspects of the place.

The photographs themselves were selected to illustrate a range of conditions found along a transect from the mountainous Hatcher Pass south through Anchorage and finally to Homer at tip of the Kenai Peninsula. Within each photograph the traces of civilization are evident, but also present is a story of a historical relationship with the land. During the trip there was the obvious sense vastness and remoteness, but in this isolation was a strong sense of community, a type of humanity where people are understood as kinship. This idea of a universal kinship is integral to the way we think about the world in the age of the anthropocene as we reshape our the majority of our territories in response to global landscape change.

Interior Architecture

Rebeca Peña

Why should the poor be forced to live in slums on the periphery of the city when there are empty high-rises in the center? Housing scarcity and densification are increasing challenges in cities as a consequence of urbanization and displacement of communities. By performing a study on informal settlements in the city of Caracas, acknowledging both their strengths and weaknesses, this thesis explores vertical communities and the potential to convert unused high-rise buildings into accessible housing solutions. The Tower of David is both a precedent and the host structure for this thesis, which aims to analyze how collective effort and lack of essential needs were harnessed to transform this unplanned site into a new model of urban living that can be viewed as a prototype to be repeated throughout the world. Central to this thesis is the empowerment of residents, providing them with the tools to become their own developers, designers and builders. In order to build a strong community environment, the intervention will encourage the involvement of middle-income families, as well as lower income residents. The focus will be on the community as a collective and the users as individuals, with the main goal to ultimately produce solutions that are sustainable, flexible and adaptable. The three design strategies included are: 1) the creation of hydroponic farms, 2) a new residential living model developed by and for residents, and 3) a vertical circulation system incorporating public spaces to connect the res-idents with the community at large. Public spaces are the main organizing element, arranged into a continuous sequence vertically through the tower. Traditionally in informal communities, the street is the center of public life and commerce; in this thesis, the street is reimagined as a central ramp and staircase system whereby such activities take place. Like urban planners design the city, the Tower will then become a vertical city in itself.
La Calle
The informal city does not only refer to slums, or the illegal informal settlements, as they might be called. Venezuelan architect Tomas Sanabria created the term “ranchosis”, from the word rancho (slum), as a disease or condition, where the city is inhabited by those who metaphorically carry the concept of “the slums”. The verb “ranchificar”, or to slumify, doesn’t refer to the actual action of building slums, but to the idea of wanting to alter spaces and existing structures in such a way that they look of lesser quality than they had previously, regardless of any construction codes or laws. He explains that every Venezuelan suffers from this condition, no matter social status or education level.

When one lives in a country where it is easy to disregard laws and bribe those who are in power to preserve the status quo, it is easy to lose respect for those around you. Examples include purchasing property and carelessly modifying it without consideration of neighbors, parking on the sidewalks, hanging clothes outside of windows to the detriment of the community’s aesthetic, and so on. It is a disease of pure selfishness that follows a lack of law enforcement, which we have come to accept as the new normal. This concept can be clearly seen in the many social housing projects that have been constructed over the years in Caracas, such as de Enero social housing complex by architect Carlos Raul Villanueva. This phenomenon evokes the question, how can we propose a new model for social housing that doesn’t become infected by this virus of “ranchosis”? Or maybe the better question is:

how can designers adapt to this phenomenon, embrace its flaws and seek a solution that capitalizes upon society’s pitfalls to the betterment of those most marginalized by it?

Digital + Media

Zhanyi Chen

Propelled by questions about the genuine understanding of weather, I attempt to find various collaborative methods with water in different states in the hydrological cycle. Through these methods, I receive input from water directly, mediating with technologies humans use as a way to understand and perceive the world. The marks that emerge from these inputs are crypto-linguistic scripts that whisper water's memories and characteristics, a form of gestural automatism where the immediate experience of (nature's) creating is emphasized and the (human's) conscious mind is diluted. This state of receptivity enables us to dissolve the hard shell of vision so we can pass into a more expansive appreciation and a more comprehensive understanding of the elemental world. I adapted my collaborative methods using various tools according to my collaborators' characteristics (I prefer to call the different aspects of nature I work with my collaborators). For the sea, I used engraved wood boards (Chapter 8); for raindrops, I used water transfer printing (Chapter 4); for river water, I used metal sheets (Chapter 7); for clouds, I used mirrors and an antenna (Chapter 2). This style of collaboration creates a space between my collaborators and me where the authorship can flow and shift. I feel that my collaborators are the artists and I am their assistant or curator. For example, if they are writers, I am the one who helps them prepare the paper and ink. But their creation is actually limited by the tools I provide them, just like our thinking is limited by language, so the authorship still flows back and forth (Chapter 3). Text is a recurring element among these methods. Most of the tools I used helped my collaborators manifest and leave marks that altered the texts in their own language that is illegible to humans. They are crypto-linguistic scripts that remind us of nature's unknowability. And that realization is the starting point of dissolving the hard shell of our vision (Chapter 6).
Terra Incognita in Alaska
The Providence River is an iconic body of water in Providence that flows approximately 13 kilometers from Narragansett Bay to downtown. It is a tidal river that interacts with the sea and its tides. The saltwater in the river, just like seawater, can affect metal easily.

During the Winter Session of 2019, I lived on the west bank of the river, and my classes were on the east bank. I had to cross the river several times a week. Sometimes I passed by in a hurry because I was running late; sometimes I would look away along the river as though my sight could follow it all the way to my previous collaborator—the ocean. But most of the time when I crossed the river, I could smell it. It is a smell that is very difficult to describe in words. It is a mixture of fresh and rotten. It is not stable. It changes subtly every day, every second. It smells like an invitation to me to learn what is happening in the water. Is it possible to capture the river’s essence? What is the essence of it? Can I really understand what is happening in the water at that time?

I hung metal plates in the river and retrieved them the next day, and various marks were left on the boards. Some periods of time in that watery space were captured, recorded, and materialized.

Different kinds of metals formed different patterns I do not understand, but they are narrators of a short journey filled with water, air, and minerals. I tried to describe those patterns: Do you think the brass sheet looks as though the river had torn off a chunk of it, exposing reddish brown wounds? Does the pattern on the aluminum sheet looks like dark clouds that are raining, as if the water is talking about its past experiences? My first impression of these patterns exposed our predilection that we always try to code our environment through metaphors of the things we know. How can I interpret something that is not in my language?

After I retrieved the metal plates, I put them in my studio to keep me company. I will probably never get two boards with exactly the same patterns again. Sometimes I wonder if the river, always so busily flowing, ever misses these tiny substances that were part of it once.

Global Arts + Culture Studies

Holly Gaboriault

Encompassing cataloged traces, ideologies and cultural practices, museum collections and institutional archives document both historical and pedagogical relationships within sites combining aesthetic pleasure, contemplation and social power. Objects within these sites are ripe with dynamics of ambiguity and materiality ‘haunted’ with the stories of creation, place and essences of lives lived through and amongst them: the hidden, the neglected, the erased. How do we recognize absences in these spaces? How do we work from absence as a point of departure for storytelling and narrative production? A project of imagination rather than epistemology, this thesis aims to discuss interdisciplinary interventions utilizing the vehicle of absence as a positive, constructive tool for historical activation and reframing void by means of object-based research, artistic activism and curatorial investigation. Artists, designers and makers who conduct visual research at these sites have the propensity to intervene from a place where absence is acknowledged, instead of disregarded, activating social justice and new imaginaries for future art and cultural discourses. The hierarchy of narrative is in continuous flux; and yet someone or something always leaves their mark.
Japanese Noh theatre robe
The aphorism “seeing is believing” claims that in order to accept the existence of something, someone, or the occurrence of an event, you need to see it. Belief is assigned to visual evidence equating substantiated proof and truth; the eyes lead our sensibilities towards belief and perception, grounding us through a visual experience (Cambridge Companion, 177). In 350 BCE, Aristotle’s Metaphysics explored the formation of human knowledge through the existence of things, thinghood, and states of being: “All men by nature desire to know. And (sic) indication of this is the delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves; and above all others the sense of sight. For not only with a view to action, but even when we are not going to do anything, we prefer site (sic) to almost anything else. The reason is that this, most of all the senses, makes us know and brings to light many differences between things” (Lear, 14). In 1848’s Guesses at Truth, J. C. & A. W. Hare wrote, “...of all our senses, the eyes are the most easily deceived, we believe them in preference to any other evidence” (Hare, 314).

Absence and presence are fundamental states essential to the other’s existence; the visible is always balanced by what or who remains invisible. When asked about this research, “What do you mean by absence?” My reply is often, “What do you consider presence?” Absence is both shapeless and shape-shifting; it requires skeptical attention to notions that everything visible is all that is known, or needs to be known. And yet the recognition of absence as a way of seeing is a skill that can be trained and sharpened. A project of imagination rather than epistemology, positioning absence as a point of departure in museums and archives has the capacity to intervene and advance the shape of art and cultural discourses. How do we recognize absence and voids in these spaces? And when we do, are we given the tools to activate these absences?

Breathing into absences within these spaces expands the aperture for knowing and revealing truths. Breathing provides information to awaken and energize by altering pressure to stimulate thoughts and ideas; it is invisible, yet it can be felt; a force passing through in ways both subtle and sudden gust. Not unlike when we have psychological or physical trauma, often in unison, we breathe into the pain in an effort to release it. This motion of expansion and contraction assists the way in which I refer to the activation of absence as a restorative device – a catalyst, a mobilization to instigate and repair – similar to breathing. Departing from points of physical or canonical absence offers a framework for narrative intervention, reinterpretation through object-based research, fresh and flexible modes of situating interchanging dialogues arising from the unseen or dormant, and revaluation upon the textural structures used to describe what can be seen without addressing what is not.

The suggestion of absence implies a truth not immediately identifiable, a suggestion, a hint, or impression upon objects, environments, and moments of consciousness. In considering absence and presence, deconstructive theory applies a mechanism to analyze and reveal a contrastive way of thinking towards authority exploring binaries, breaking down Western hierarchies, privilege and systemic discrepancies. Jacques Derrida asserted unidentifiable and unspoken impressions constitute the ‘trace’, resulting from a rupture or wound that cannot be undone, of which manifests the “the difference which opens appearance and signification” (Derrida, 61). While colonization derived its strength from coordinated erasures, these sites serve as repositories of traces to the survival of cultural devastations perpetrated and collected for display. Within museums and institutional archives, how do we consider traces of the unseen and unrepresented? If the systematic absence of objects, people, and their histories continues to be tolerated, where lies the capacity to intervene? What does an intervention in absence look like?

Beyond institutional critique, this research addresses absence’s function as a crucial observational and interventional skill applicable across disciplines; ultimately a powerful tool for intervention, social practice and the ways in which we make, curate and imagine. My position is situated alongside the work of preceding scholarship, principally the writings of sociologist Avery Gordon and anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot, and the examinations of historian Steven Lubar and museum theorist Janet Marstine. While analysing cross-disciplinary museal and archival case studies and projects, my objective aims to expand upon the application of absence revealing sensorial hauntings and traces, effectively one which directs attention to questioning institutional voids and the perpetuated normalized narratives.

Hauntology, as coined by Derrida, introduced the idea that culture activates its presence in the demand of its past (Derrida; 10, 202). In Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination, Gordon’s book operates as a cornerstone of the sociological framework of haunting applied to interdisciplinary arts and moments when people or events who are meant to be invisible emerge without warnings or notice. A companion for this discussion is Trouillot’s Silencing the Past: Power and Production of History, considering why some narratives get selected to represent history, when most do not; where distance bears no weight for ‘the dead’ who haunt history and make their presence continuously known. Silencing is a trauma, an act more demonstrative and damaging than the failure to recollect, containing a range of disjointed moments and accounts that thread historical narration (Trouillot; 60, 145). Both Gordon and Trouillot observe and reflect upon the living and departed historical actors whose narration prevails towards and against misrepresentations of the past. The application of the term ‘haunting’ in this study is unrelated to the spectral; it refers to the memory of things and the histories affecting it. Charged with intermingling of “fact” and fiction, it is a negotiation of what is seen and what is inextricably woven by colonialism (Gordon; 54, 97).

Interruptions of historical narrative continue to direct my research concentrated upon the awareness of what is missing, the “ghostly” aspects of power and display, and how it can be encountered, evaluated and activated (Gordon, 53). Existence is typically equated with the relationships of representation. Verification that something or someone somewhere survived, prevailed, persevered or contributed lives within the trace. Museums and material culture are inextricably bound as they were created to “become the showplaces for the display of a vanishing world”, but also became a site of analysis and contemplation for how societies think and behave through objects (Tiley; 2, 481). This discourse addresses elements of object-based ontology, acknowledging the encounters and influences of objects, their intrinsic vitality within “things”; that history is continually happening, operating through objects as it would through a person, rather than a finality of what has happened (Trouillot, 139).

I will refer to absence as the durations when a history or narration is not present to an object, artifact, or textile; distanced knowledge by repeated exclusions of historical presences; the unavailable, the unattended to, the misconnected, and the removed. The objects, artifacts and textiles contributing to a collections growth and expansion are irrefutable results of colonial violence and the perpetuated destabilization of globalization. What is historical knowledge in the midst of absence? The reality of absence and haunting are palpable and foundational in the misrepresentation and constitution of the process of historical production; it is both a fact and a practice (Trouillot, 49). It is in this way that haunting materializes into “an essence” when “the cracks are exposed”, misplacement is no longer ignored and the experience of time alters the past, the present and the future (Gordon, xvi). Due to their intimate nature, costume and textiles collections have provided entry points for this research when articles and objects are affected with multiplicities of absences: of the body, labor, context and memory.

Chapter two reflects on the constructions of the curatorial narrative, examining the literature and approaches of museal display, object agency and the politics of material culture in museum collections and archives. What we account for in material existence are attributed towards collective validation of cultural heritage, it does not make space to discuss and account for systematic omissions, exclusions, and variables of the unknown. A place of both fact and fiction, the archive materializes as a consequence of complex historical relationships. Its protection and conservation, like a museum’s collection, is legitimized by its presence in the site itself, an “authorized deposit” confirming its significance and survival over time (Ricoeur, 66-68). Chapter three examines authorship of the archive, the archival impulse, and the absence of female narratives in the design canon. Featuring the interventionary work of Katerina Burin and the exhibited archive of Czech Modernist female architect, Petra Andrejova-Molnár reveals a female designer otherwise hidden from art history’s patriarchal canon. Intervention is the method; trace being its governing structure. In the construction of historical reality attributed to objects and artifacts, their complexities can be recognized with regards to absence becoming a strategy for interdisciplinary research and alternative articulation for creative practitioners and contemporary narrative production.

Chapter four discusses two global collections amassed for purposes of design education and aesthetic admiration in the decade before and after the turn of the twentieth century: the Asiatic textile collection of Lucy Truman Aldrich bequeathed to the RISD Museum of Art and the divergent menagerie collected by Isabella Stewart Gardner housed in the Boston museum she conceived and constructed. Examining the absence of cultural narrative, labor and the body in the exhibitional display of objects and textiles, each collection provides interactive opportunities for designers to challenge historical knowledge, cultural assumptions and varying degrees of methodology for object-based design research. What are the implications of absence in design? When historical contexts are provided, how can creative response change and contribute to a new sense of responsibility to what has been left out or unseen?

Two examples of designers working with these collections, the RISD Museum of Art’s biennial juried exhibition project, Designing Traditions: Student Explorations in the Asian Textile Collection, and Mexican fashion designer Carla Fernández’s artist residency and exhibition at the Gardner Museum, attempt to provide a platform for informed and historically responsible interpretation used by contemporary designers to translate absence into practice and ethical production. The capacities and constraints of such interventions consider the boundaries of translation and appropriation, and whether or not the contexts for objects reconcile a collection’s acknowledgment of its deep roots in colonialism, expansionist fetishization, and exoticized conceptualization. My approach addresses margins of the curatorial processes and its limitations to confront complex relationships in the production of the creative researcher experience, it discusses how such curatorial and design influences are still capable of historical oversights and cultural misattribution in the guise of studio-based inspiration. Conversation is the medium in the message; the moment of shared communication is the realization of the intervention in visual form (Marstine, 156). Further absence of context and object-based research within historical and museum collections is examined through artistic interventions, including archival explorations conducted in the Rhode Island Historical Society’s Costume and Textiles Collection.

The nonidentifiability of absence is designed to elude detection and evade responsibility. It is to this end that absence has the propensity to haunt, persist, conjure, and captivate. Once affected by absence, preoccupation with what remains and lingers provides indication of surviving evidence of a former existence. The trace then operates as moments of intermission, a procedure to investigate the source of origin of something and intervene in its existence. Traces hold the potential for further knowledge enabling invisible patterns to become visible. Addressing the act of haunting in exhibitions and archives through social activation of memory substantiates the need for alternative methods and practices in producing truth. The ability to provide visual witness in response to absence can be activated through material culture encouraging multiple discussions and necessitation towards innovative forms of ontological and epistemological rearticulation in design research. Exhibiting art and objects negotiate multiple power relationships and bridge understanding of complex cultural influences central to inquiry in display and observation, particularly for what constitutes the absence of narrative through the re-representation and reclassification of fragments. Absence bears incalculable weight pertaining to centuries of transnational mobility, trade and political disputes which have afforded access and acquisition for Western museums and private collectors; all of which irreversibly changed the stability of cultural consumption and shifted the perceptions of global biographies for centuries.

The collection and the archive is a performance. The twenty-first century museum has adjusted to the reality that they are now in the “experience“ business (Bruce, 86). The hierarchy of narrative is a performance in perpetual flux. Developing latitude that supports visualization for transformative scenarios of material culture enables the kinds of divergent backgrounds essential to generating knowledge for better exhibition making and interventions of our inherited histories. The research of absence facilitates inquiry leading to better stories told. Rather than accepting without question, or even worse resigning ourselves to what we have continuously seen and been told, we can utilize absences as a vehicle towards future knowledge. The medium and method in which we learn to notice those voids – those disappeared from history, the memories never discussed, identities systematically suppressed or erased – is central to the argument that institutional spaces and their procedures have operated in the actualization of absences.

Teaching + Learning in Art + Design

Aisha Jandosova

This thesis documents my journey in designing and facilitating a series of artmaking and storytelling workshops for older adults, grounded in a positive view of aging. Building on Tockwotton Makes, a series of 40 artmaking sessions conducted over a period of two years, I envisioned and hosted a new project called Her Story Press, which consisted of 7 sessions of artmaking and storytelling workshops. This thesis collects stories and lessons from both of these programs, which took place at Tockwotton on the Waterfront, an assisted living community in Providence, Rhode Island. Additionally, it includes references to some bold and important work by other active practitioners and scholars, in the field of art programming for seniors. The workshops described here strive to embrace the idea and philosophy of NEW OLD: re-imagining old age as a place of abundance rather than lack, as years full of life, potential and growth; and viewing older adults as valuable workshop co-creators, contributing to a more enjoyable and more accessible experience for all. The purpose of this thesis is to inspire others to join in this kind of work, work that allows you to engage in exciting artmaking in a community setting, and that would surely transform you as an artist, educator and human. 
Matisse Cutouts as part of Tockwotton Makes
Redefining what “long-term” means in the context of an assisted living community was another important learning. During the visioning and planning stages of Her Story Press, I was intrigued by the idea of people working on a single project for 4 months, continuously growing and evolving it. To my mind, this long-term approach would be in marked and much desired contrast to the kind of programming Tockwotton’s older adults were used to: such as 30-minute Bingo-sessions. A long-term, group engagement in a project was a chance for participants to build skills, to establish (or strengthen) relationships, and to improve the quality and depth of our collective output.

In time, though, I began to question – for whom exactly is the idea of "long-term" meaningful? Or even perceptible? The concept/process/timeframe of a long-term project can only be experienced and appreciated by someone who has access to memory – that is, by someone who can remember a journey from A to B, and everything around and beyond it. I came to understand that for many older adults in our workshops, it did not matter whether our project lasted for 4 months or for 30 minutes. What mattered was what we did during those 30 minutes, and what was the “quality of our encounter.” This was when I started thinking about "long-term" as the work of us, the facilitators – as non-old people, with access to memory, and with the responsibility of designing and leading these workshops.

It was on us to spend the time getting to know people, forming friendships, noticing how people are, how they show up, learning what each person likes/needs/wants, and then iteratively adapting our program to maximize enjoyment for older adults with wide-ranging abilities, interests and preferences.

I learned that this type of long-term work is, inevitably and necessarily, a slow process. For our group of facilitators, forming relationships and building trust with older adults at Tockwotton, alone, took 2 years of weekly art workshops. When, with Her Story Press, storytelling was added to the program, we soon realized that, there too, we had to move slowly. We would help our older adult participants tell stories of their long and fascinating lives. But we, collectively, had to start by loosening up and learning the basics – we had to start with 2-minute self portraits, with exploring how much an image could tell a story, and

with figuring out what was the minimum that a story needed to exist. In sum, we had to spend time being and doing things together. From where I am at the end of this work, the idea of “long-term” seems more useful and generative with regard to long-term relationships, rather than long-term projects. Spending time with Tockwotton’s residents allowed us to develop relationships with them, which, in turn, enabled us to craft artmaking experiences in which older adults could participate with joy as their full selves.

I’ve learned that the beauty of long-term engagement often comes through in the in-the-moment richness of workshops, rather than in keeping records of long-term projects and insisting on participants’ remembering the breadth and span of a project over time. Through the long-term relationships our facilitator team had with this community – through 40+ workshops we ran there – people, with and without memory loss, came to trust us, and felt that they knew us. People showed up, they engaged, enjoyed themselves, and smiled, in the process changing the meaning of “long-term” for us.

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