Antithesis

This class took place in January 2012 during RISD’s Wintersession period. A website documenting the students’ coursework is available here. The results of the class are also described in my talk Unbuilding.


Dear Wintersessioneers,

To have big, we need small. To taste sweet, we need sour. To see a letter, we need the space around it. Identity is a study in contrasts; our character is made as much by the things we’ve chosen not to do as by the things we’ve done.

More than seven years ago, I taught the fall semester of senior thesis at Parsons School of Design in New York. It was the first of two thesis semesters for my students — I would help them to frame their ideas and initiate a few key projects in the fall, and they would complete their work and install their show in the spring.

I taught in the spring as well. Unlike thesis, my course that semester was an elective studio for seniors. Many of the students I had in the fall also signed up for my elective in the spring. Enrollment in the two classes was nearly identical.

But the class had changed. Fatigue and frustration had started to set in among the group. Students described feeling uninspired and unsure of what they were doing. As a gesture of understanding and solidarity, I retitled our studio “Antithesis,” which, if nothing else, might help to lighten the mood.

This is my third Wintersession course, and I’ve noticed that the dark days of January can produce a similar effect at RISD. Year after year, I join you at a piviotal point: not starting out anymore, but far from finished. In spite of its joking tone, Antithesis 1 was a great success; this year, I thought I’d give it another try.

Your thesis, to paraphrase composer Steve Reich, is a gradual process. Our class will take its inspiration from Wintersession’s speedier pace and interstitial context.

You’ll choose one project per set from the three sets listed below. Each project will ask you engage your thesis investigation directly through a given form. The forms are somewhat generic; which ones you choose to engage and how you choose to engage them is up to you.

During our first class, we’ll spend some time researching and discussing these forms. Later, we’ll spend time in critique better understanding what we’ve made. All three projects will be critiqued first on 01/21 and then again on 02/04, which is my final visit. In addition, all projects should be posted to a classwide website for my review before your visit to New York on 03/10. We will discuss this classwide website in more depth during our first class.

SET 1: Communities

  • Tote bag: Design a tote bag related to your thesis research. Silkscreen and produce at least five bags to distribute and record any responses of note. Document the project.
  • Picket sign: Make a picket sign that helps to illustrate implicit political or power structures embedded in your thesis research. Silkscreen and produce at least five of the signs. Document the project.

SET 2: Compressions

  • Single serving site: Develop a single serving site related to your thesis research. Once the site is online, promote it through word-of-mouth and social media. Document the project.
  • Supercut / trailer: Produce a supercut or trailer related to your thesis research. Upload the video and promote it through word-of-mouth and social media. Document the project. 

SET 3: Contexts

  • Tabletop: Stage a tabletop still life with objects related to your thesis research It should be equal in size to an ISO A1 sheet. Photograph the tabletop and output this photograph at 1:1 scale.
  • Treasure hunt: Conceive a treasure hunt whose clues and objectives relate to your thesis research. Ask a friend or a group of friends to go on the hunt. Document the project.

I mentioned that during our first class we’ll do some research and discussion, and I’ve assigned each of these forms to two of you. Please come Friday prepared to make an informal presenation on the form you’ve been assigned. This can be loose, but plan to show us a few useful examples, share a key reading or two, and help to lead a discussion on the possibilities of the form. We’ll spend about 20 minutes per group.

If there are any questions about the presentations, feel free to drop me a note. I look forward to our time together in the coming weeks!

Antithetically, RG

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