Monday, March 30, 2009

Kite Day

Kite Day is a day-long event celebrating Springtime and Community, and advocating urban open space. It takes place during a selected day in April, National Kite Month. At the selected site, all will be invited to fly their own kite. A number of white kites will be distributed during the weeks preceding the event, and there will be a number on hand the day of the event. Kites will also be used a advertisement with all event info and instructions printed directly on them. These kites will also have an area on which the participant will be asked to fill in the blank ‘OPEN SPACE IS ‘. The kites will be white. The messages will be black. They will be individual, but of the same language. By delivering kites and instructions to them directly, local educational institutions such as New Urban Arts ,Hope High School, and Vartan Gregorian Elementary will be invited to participate directly.

The program of the event will be kept intentionally diverse, there will be areas to decorate the kites, refreshments, and possibly a band. The aim of the event to create a moment of pause where members of the community may come together with a common interest. The act of kite-flying elicits many nostalgic memories for us, it carries with it connotations of Springtime and rebirth. It is light and playful, yet the visual poetry of the sight of tens (or hundreds) of kites being flown in unison amongst the thrust of high rise buildings may serve to remind us of the preciousness of urban open space. It would be magical to see kites being flown in on a site where it will never again be possible, as the site will be inevitably be occupied by another building or parking structure. This project creates a direct connection between earth and sky and our inextricable connection to both as humans.

At the end of the of the event, the kites will be collected, organized, and with a written manifesto submitted to city hall as a document to the ongoing need for urban open space.

The Beast

Perhaps a brief explanation of how I got to my final idea will help explain it further.
One night, not too long ago, a homeless woman entered the I.D. building. She walked right into the metal shop and took a seat. A few students started talking to her and had mixed reactions, some weren’t bothered and continued to talk to her, others decided they were going to call public safety. The latter had a definite result, public safety arrived shortly after the phone call, and the woman was given some kind of citation for trespassing. The effect of this incident was fairly small, but fascinating. She was only in the building for a short time, but she changed the dynamic of interactions between everyone present. It seemed to heighten some kind of sense of danger in a place many see as private. We each take claim of our studio space as our own, and this intrusion made us very, even if only for a short time, our private space as one that is penetrable.

No irony intended, originally I wanted to do a project I called “Sex in Studio”, in which I would place provocative nude figures in each studio as sort of super-stimuli. The idea was to bring something of the true private realm into what we consider to be our personal space, in order for students to start to question its intent, what’s appropriate what’s not and everything in-between. So basically, what happens when you insert private activities and thought in a communal space that is meant to be private?

I began to question the outcome of such a project, and found the possible value of the end result to not be satisfying. So I decided to do something similar, but different, and perhaps something with a more positive approach. I decided I wanted to keep the focus on RISD studios and do a project that visually represents the positive qualities of each department.
Since RISD is so department centric, and with a little inspiration from a friend who loves to personify animals in her drawings, I decided it was about time each department got a mascot.
I want to assign each department with a shell of what I think represents it best, based on both Celtic and Native American symbolism, using an animal to personify each department. All of these are subject to change and are based on a quick study of animal symbolism. I chose to use animals as signifiers because they carry a lot of meaning, and have so many positive and negative connotations they can be interpreted in millions of different ways. And for the most part, they are more approachable then provocative nude figures.
Animals have been used to represent unique human characteristics in literature, film, and television, so it has been come natural for us to compare ourselves with traits we find in animals. I also wanted to play with the idea of a mascot kind of figure, something that represent the department as a whole, and encourages students to interact with it.

Here are the preliminary assignments;
Sculpture - Elephant
Ceramics - Turtle
Painting - Whale
Textiles - Spider
Apparel - Cat
Glass - Jelly Fish
ID - Alligator
Architecture – Mountain Lion
Illustration – Badger
Jewelry - Raccoon
Intar - Bee
FAV - Bat
Graphic - Rabbit
Printmaking - Bobcat
Photography – Lizard
Furniture Design – Wolf
For my intervention I want to make wire forms of each animal, cover them in clear plastic, and place them in their corresponding departments with a name tag and a brief explanation.

And then I am going to impose a task to go along with the figure. I’m going to leave an opening somewhere on the animal for kids to put whatever they want inside of it, with the preface being not trash and hopefully anonymous(or not) thoughts, opinions, and art. My goal is that these animals become a temporary honorary member of the department, and students develop a sense of ownership of it. The animals will live in their departments; they won’t be tied down in any way and will most likely move within the buildings. At the end of their lifespan within the department I will bring together what is left of the animals, and create a beast by combining all of the forms connecting each and every department. I want to sort through what was placed inside the animals and create a tent structure to blanket the beast if enough material has been collected; if not some other arrangement could be made. It is my hope that this beast be displayed in the Edna Lawrence Gallery, the space where freshmen display their work as a sort of offering to those about to join the ranks.

This project in the end will be a physical representation of the collaboration of all of the departments in a way that didn’t require direct social interaction by intentionally but will most likely foster it through the intrusion of space. Its my goal that through this project you will be able to see and appreciate the value of each department individually and as a whole, understand how the work together.

We are separate, we function separately but we are co-dependent in sometimes an unnatural non-social way in which one would work without the other, but with every loss the first would become less unique.

Here is an example of what the wire form might look like for the Sculpture Department, along with the name tag/I.D. that would be around its neck;

Video Projection Loop

I am proposing a piece about distance and memory in space and time. It also has to do with the voyeuristic tendencies of people, their desire to see through the lens of an increasingly anonymous society. The camera has a strange effect of disconnecting the subject and the author. The goal is to transform the space (currently undetermined) by flattening the physical space to a screen or surface through projection, and condense time through an overlap of time.

The arrangement will consist of a video camera, a laptop, a projector and a surface or screen (constructed or existing) on which to project. The projected scenes come from the camera, which are captured and stored on the laptop to be projected at a later time. The camera will capture what is projected as well as anything standing between the screen and the lens.

The delay between the captured scene and the projected scene create a special opportunity to capture a series of scenes, overlaid both in the documentation of the piece as well as in the experience of the viewer. The piece will transform itself as it progresses, as the viewers begin to realize they are participants as well, as anybody who moves in front of the screen will be projected moments later.

I am curious about the possibility of synchronicity. My hypothesis is that there might be unexpected rhythms or patterns that emerge as the piece progresses. At first there will be no footage to project and viewers will lose interest quickly. By the second loop, there might be moments of overlap where the viewer comes across a scene of another (or possibly themselves) from moments earlier. This moment will be captured by the camera and played back moments later. I’m interested to see if this sort of interaction will build upon itself to create a much denser layering than I expect.

I am equally intrigued by the degradation of the imagery depending on the conditions of the space. If there is too much light, the projection will be washed out and will therefore disintegrate in the loop more quickly. In the dark, of course, the projection will be clearer and perhaps the time that is compressed into the scene will represent a greater space-time.

The project is a sort of introverted system of place making. Scenes are collected and built upon one another. It brings into question the ethics of public display, voyeurism and consent, but as it evolves, it may become extroverted. It relies on the viewer’s ability to change, to understand and learn from repetition and possibly voluntarily engage the piece. This commitment from the viewer/participant is crucial to the success of this piece. The goal is to transform the space through a different kind of use, not to record a layered series of images. The documentation (footage incessantly fed back to the projector) becomes the creation of a new place, creating an ambiguous relationship of the viewer/participant and the space/piece.

Possible sites|


This will likely be an issue. I will need a camera, a projector and a laptop, and I'll need them for more than a day. I will have to get in touch with media resources to hopefully arrange to get this equipment for a longer period.

I'll also need to secure all the equipment. I think a box would be good to protect, and also to conceal, the equipment. The safety of the equipment was a main factor in choosing sites. I was looking for places that I could set up and leave for longer periods of time. Something indoors (perhaps in the window sill of somebodies office) would be ideal, and I could project through the window.

Also, I may need to construct a screen. I toyed with the idea of projecting onto an existing surface (hopefully aligning the projection to the existing texture) but it might lose too much information. Anyway, a screen could be constructed fairly cheaply, maybe out of fabric.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

wall space

RISD students, for the most part, remain within the boundaries of their departments. We spend the majority of our time in studio, and when we are in a common, on-campus space (like the dining halls, the RISD store, the library, or the mailroom) it is either brief, with people from our major, or by ourselves. We are very protective of our own studios and shops, and don't easily welcome outsiders to our major space. As we saw this year (with the addition of the "student center" to the RISD store), when community space is labeled for us, it is completely rejected and ignored. In addition, it isn't realistic to have a student center on campus. We both have limited free time, and the free time we do have rarely overlaps between majors.

Often it seems like there is little or no community at RISD, but this is precisely why we are a community. RISD students are bound by their passion for art and design. Because we are so passionate we spend all of our time working and little time socializing. A community space at RISD needs to respond to the way students live and work. A community space should be open to RISD students, and the public. It should be flexible, it should evolve, it should be organic.

The bathroom stalls in the buildings on campus (especially in those that house more than one major) have developed a wealth of conversations on the walls. These messages have created an immense since of ownership and community. New drawings or text appear daily, responses to these materialize, alterations occur, and before long there are layers of student communication. Moreover, this type of communication is anonymous which allows people feel safe, and thus, more honest. 

My proposal is to emulate the bathroom phenomenon by allowing the space between Memorial Hall and the museum, from Benefit St. to the Chase center, to permanently be a completely open, unstructured, non-policed space for 2-D and 3-D work of any medium by students and the public (graffiti, text, sculpture, ads, installations, whatever). This will allow people to contribute, on their own time, in their own way, to an ongoing conversation and common body of work. Also, it will, in a way, be a daily show of current student’s effort and thought. Because of its location on Benefit St. and behind the Chase center, it both is a highly trafficked and central space for RISD students, and it might help to suck the local, non-RISD, population into the bowels of our campus to interact with and learn about students and their work. Also, it will, in a way, be a daily show of current student’s work and thoughts.

This budget for this proposal is $0. It is funded and maintained completely by students and the public. All is takes is an approval by someone up top, and completely ignoring that space when it comes to cleaning and maintenance.

White Tents Revisited

Conceptually, the original proposal for this project attempted to explore two ideas: uncertainty and precise indeterminacy.

The courtyard between the Chace Center and Metcalf building was chosen as the location for the proposal due to its heavy traffic of both RISD students and the general public. I envisioned this type of transitional space to work best in testing the two ideas I mentioned previously.

The white tents represent mini space makers. I want people to circulate through them as they move through the site. They would move from outside to inside and back to outside. I want them to spark curiosity and ambiguity. I see them as an opportunity to describe circulation. The experiment would explore whether people conform to the circulation path or describe their own.
I plan on revising the original program of the tents. Initially, I envisioned the program to include food stations, work space, social gathering, and circulation. Realistically, many of these are not feasible because of limited resources and finances.

Additionally, my original proposal primarily focused on RISD students and failed to address ways of uniting the general public with campus. After re-reading Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics, I have explored alternate ideas for the program of the white tents. Bourriaud states, “Art is a state of encounter…a work can function as a relational device in which there is a degree of randomness.” I am very much interested in this idea of randomness and uncertainty. Bourriaud also writes, “It can be a machine for provoking and managing individual or collective encounters.” Using the idea of art as a tool for social encounter, I have developed a new proposal. There will be a different art project inside each tent. As people move through the site, they will have the opportunity to add to the piece of art. Multiple tents may be used to house one piece of art. Not only will students and other community members have the opportunity to contribute to the art, but they will be able to decide which piece of art they would like to contribute to. For example, one of the art projects will be a large mural for painting and drawing, another will be adding clay to a large piece of sculpture, adding a chosen word to a large paragraph, and a performance art tent.

This new proposal allows members of the community (who may not be associated with RISD) to become involved with students and the school. It’s a way to promote creativity through social interaction. The artwork begins to define a history of the previous people who passed through the space. It’s uncertain what the end result will be. People may or may not visit the site at other times throughout the day to see how the artwork is changing and developing. Some of the pieces may be much more developed than others due to popularity and interests of the people traveling through the site.
I have diagramed possible formations of the tents.

The first formation describes a linear circulation through the site. The red lines represent possible routes of encounter with the tents and the blue represents a possible route of avoidance. This formation explores how people may react to the tents. Will people use them as circulation and go through them to get across the site? Or will people treat them as furniture in a living room and go around them?

The second formation describes routes that allow people to move in multiple directions of the site. Additionally, this formation describes the tents in both individual and cluster formations. The tents are arranged so that smaller pockets of space are created. Will people use these new activated zones for gathering?

The third formation describes the tents in two linear arrangements. Possible circulation routes allow people to move in the center of the two lines or routes through the tents. This formation explores the typical “flee-market” arrangement.

The fourth formation pushes the tents to one side of the site. This arrangement allows people to freely pass through the site without being confronted with the tents. Interaction with the tents is by choice only. This arrangement explores whether or not the ambiguity of the tents attracts people to see what is going on inside them.

Like I mentioned previously, I am interested in uncertainty. I am uncertain what the projected outcome of the event will be. That being said, I want to receive specific results from the experiment. I see both the failure and success of the space to be extremely valuable. In fact, I hope that I see a mixture of both. My actions during the experiment will have to respond to the failure of the space. Can I re-arrange or change the tents during the experiment to respond to how people are passing through the space. Which formation was receiving better results? The result of the experiment will not be something that I gather at the end of the day but rather continuously throughout the entirety of the intervention. What aspects had to change? What things about the space attracted people to stay and use the tents? How were people interacting with each other? Were students meeting fellow students they had never met before? Was the ambiguity and uncertainty of the space attracting students to stay rather than pass through?

Additionally, I hope that the physical relic of the artwork informs me something about the experiment. How were students reacting to the art compared to the general public? What were students saying to each other and members of the public? Were people interested in seeing what the final piece of art looked like at the end of the day? Were people even interested in contributing to the art?

This project excites me because of its uncertainty. I am unsure if this type of event could habitually occur on campus. However, I am hoping it will begin to show whether the physical location of the site (an in-between space on campus with heavy circulation going through it), and the idea of the space (an amorphous, uncertain, and changing space, with multiple programs), can have positive results on campus.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009



RISD Green / Benefit St

Market sq / Waterfront RISD Store


Through both RISD students and the wider providence community, design and build artistic sculptures to go on display on either the street or the open sq spaces.
The Idea to show & present the creative side to what we do here at RISD for the wider community to see as well as be involved with, and to try and involve the idea of the “Street” with what goes on internally behind our building walls.

My Intervention would involve a number of students from different RISD departments working together to create work which can be viewed and enjoyed by the wider community, as well as creating a sense of our community being part of an area alongside the local community. In the interviews I conducted one aspect which became most apparent was the lack of interdisciplinary socialization which went on with students really involved in there own departments.

I would want to involve as many departments in this project intervention as possible, the idea being one or two student from each. The key departments; Interior Architecture, Industrial Design, Sculpture, Textile, Graphic Design, and Museum Education.

Why Museum education one may ask! Well in order to involve aspects of the wider community I would want to involve school kids who could be part of creating designs or patterns for these sculptures. The students in the Museum education department here at RISD are directly involved with Kids from schools as well as Kids ill in hospital who could also be involved in the project.

The graphic design students would be involved in the presentation side to the project slide show, posters, promotion really the publicity side. As we would want to get the message and the intervention project out there so that the wider community would want to visit as well as feel involved with livening up an area.

From the other Department students would be involved in the design and creation of these sculptures to be placed in the community spaces at the chosen locations on campus.

Further to this if the projects took place on public property such as benefit st and Market sq then the involvement of Providence Planning department would be needed.

The outcome of the project one would hope would be a project, which brings RISD departments together all involved in one project. It would involve and also bring the wider community of providence together by involving the younger generation of the community. It would also present what we do behind our closed doors and try bridge the gap between the Academic institution and communities beyond.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Two Thoughts

As I reflected on my interview with Keith I kept going back to one thing he said, that “Providence is lucky to have the Refugee Community that we do, ”. Keith talked about diversity, and the kind of beautiful new learning experiences refugees and the people interacting with them get to have every day. And all I could think about was the fact that this community, the refugee community, is nearly obsolete at RISD. And of course it is not just the Refugee community; it’s pretty much every community outside of a two mile radius. I am not suggesting that everyone has know about what communities exist around them, but in order for us to become successful artists and designers we cannot turn a blind eye to life, if we had the opportunity to see every corner and meet every person in the Greater Providence area in our first week here I wonder what our artwork would look like. We even turn a blind eye to each other, in order to avoid over-generalization I will speak for myself, as a RISD student I work hard and feel like it truly has a bearing on how much time I am willing to invest in the community.

So I have two thoughts on this, in the form of an intervention.

One would be to represent the center-point of RISD’s campus, or whatever we deem it to be with a giant snow globe, with a model of RISD inside. Most likely it would be a RISD campus map, 3-D or whatnot, in grayscale. And then outside, represent the communities that exist around RISD, maybe using mile markers, and people you can meet, or representations of building with pictures of things they sell, all in color. It would be up only for a day, and probably would require some permission. The event could be as low profile as just setting it up or it could have more to it. For example, it had an entrance and an exit rather, or students got a free bottle of bubbles for coming to explore “Providence”, or maybe they get a handful of colored sand and were able to sprinkle it inside the snow globe onto the grayscale campus.

The effects of this type of intervention I would hope to be of course educational, I am sure people would learn and be able to teach others more about their surrounding communities, and perhaps be inspired to explore it. Maybe students could even add to it if they wanted. Or perhaps it is just a symbolic knowledge that there is a world around us and we can never truly have a great understanding of what that is exactly.

Another idea I had was to physically representing connections that are lost, illustrating the overall lack of community. Using strings to run throughout campus connecting building, homes, and studios. I represented here what it would look like to connect 15 West with the Quad. The sheer weight of representing each student would cause the giant bundle of strings to sag and droop down overhead.
The effects of this type of intervention is less clear, it is not educational in any measurable way, but I can only hope that it would open eyes again to how we do share common bonds even cross-studios.

An Interview with Chris Andries

Interview With Chris Andries
Monday, March 9 2009

Chris Andries is the current co-owner and operator of Armageddon Shop, a record store & mail order store located in Providence, RI. Armageddon Shop opened in 2001, and is an hub of community activity.

Chris has also been the primary booking manager at AS220.

Over the course of our conversation, I asked Chris about his involvement in the Providence community, as an owner of a record store. We spoke specifically about his role in the Providence rock community as the booking manager at AS220. Chris spoke explicitly to the importance of effective physical advertising, methods of mobilization, and the importance of cross-programmatic spaces.

At Armageddon, Chris supports local artists. He allows local musicians to shamelessly plaster the front windows of the shop with concert bills, of which he keeps on and therefore has amassed quite a rare archive of Providence musical ephemera. Inside the shop he encourages local artists to hang artwork, display magazines, shirts, and of course cd’s, all on consignment. On a more personal note, Christ has bore witness to casual interactions at Armageddon blossom into, not only relationships of a musical nature, but of a romantic one.

To be continued….

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bathroom conversations

After interviewing fellow RISD students and local artists, I started to look closer at where, on campus, I felt a sense of community.

Almost all of the responses from RISD students were either convenient places, like the dining halls, or places specific to a group of people, like studios. These results reaffirmed the idea that RISD students, for the most part, stay within the boundaries of their department. This consists of studio spaces, shops, and near-by cafes. Department studio spaces and shops certainly create a sense of community and ownership, but they also brew animosity and departmental prejudice that exacerbates the department bubble syndrome. The cafes or coffee shops that happen to overlap people of different departments only happen by convenience and hold no real sense of community (ex: cable car: I.D. and Architecture). In addition to the reclusive nature of departments, any and all attempts to create a common space on campus were not only not used, but also completely rejected (RISD store ‘student space’).

At RISD, we may not be a community by social interaction, but we are a theoretical community, grouped because of our passion for art and design. I think this community rejection speaks to our theoretical connection. As artists and creators, we want to make our own space or mark; we don’t want to be told where to be social. Labeling is a huge problem as far as creating a common space is concerned. In her book, Jacobs rejects new urban planning and supports diverse, organic growth in cities. This applies to RISD, but 10 fold. A community space at RISD needs to be informal, flexible, and constantly evolving.

I began to think about the places I frequent on campus, and if I really felt attached to or apart of any one of them that was outside of my department space. I decided that for me, some of the bathroom stalls on campus have the best sense of community.

I started to reminisce about the first floor bathroom on the front side of Bank building. Last year this space belonged solely to my department (furniture design), but felt so much bigger than that. The Bank building was home to the painting department several years before, and I’m not sure what else before that. The bathroom is extremely small (barely room for one), and the walls hadn’t been cleaned in years. Because of this, a wealth of conversations (political and vulgar), drawings (funny and dirty), and tags had built up to cover every surface of the room. I loved being in that bathroom to read or contribute and felt a true bond to the space. After the Metcalf store moved into the Bank building the bathroom was white washed covering at least a decade of work including my favorite conversation:

-“Do girls poop in here?”
-“Yes.” (in pink, fancy letters drawn to look like turds)

Now, because the studios that used to be in Bank are now in the Metcalf building, I call the 2nd floor bathroom home. This bathroom, too, has built up a diverse and hilarious body of work, and was recently partially covered with blue paint by another student. This vandalizing upset the community of stall users and quickly personal and intellectual attacks on the blue vandal materialized.

Every time I go into this bathroom I am excited to see what has been added or removed or responded to. These walls of the stall have been a way for people in different majors, who otherwise would not usually socialize, to communicate with one another in an unbiased environment. It is an appropriated space for a makeshift community center for students to constantly share ideas, images, jokes, and insults.

My proposal is to allow students and the public to communicate by contributing 2-D and 3-D work to all of the surfaces between the Chase center and Memorial hall (like the bathroom stall). This space is new and sterile, lacking character and any evidence that students actually attend RISD. This space would not be labeled a student space, but would hopefully attract people interested in drawings, conversations, and jokes and inspire them to add. In addition, it might allow for the Chase center to feel like a part of RISD not just a billboard or source of income.

Work and Food

At RISD there is no lack of diversity but there is a distinct lack of connectivity. Through our investigations it has become clear that the RISD community is fragmented into departmental components. As stated in a previous post the strongest sense of community I have felt here at RISD has been in the shops/studios. Reflecting upon this I can see why it is so. Given that there is so much emphasis put on production it makes sense that we spend so much time in the places where this production happens. We work in the studios and shops of our respective departments leaving only to get sustenance, fresh air, for a class or sleep (quite a few of us sleep on a couch or under a desk as the semester progresses). There is a twisted pride surrounding how much we work.

The communal workspaces, within each department, posses elements that foster a sense of community. They are places where community grows organically through casual interaction. People ask for advice and help, offer advice, help and support, share tools, materials and food. Bonds are formed through hardship, super ordinate goals, generosity, co-operation and emotion. I think these interactions make for better final products as well as a more enjoyable process. Though these places bring together a diverse population, the populace is gathered from within the department.
These shops are technically accessible to all the RISD community they cannot be USED by all the community for reasons of safety.

Where is the line between institutionalizing and recognizing and/or replicating and/or encouraging? I think that a 24hr RISD workshop that sold coffee, snacks nuts & bolts would be infinitely more successful than a typical student union/center ever could be. The logistics of such a place are preventative, but were it possible I believe the potential level of consideration and innovation in our work would be exponentially increased. Imagine the inspiration and solutions grown in such a cross pollinated environment. People from different disciplines sharing thoughts, advice, critiques, and knowledge, bringing all their diversity with them to the table in this creative environment would be incredible.

My proposed intervention will hopefully capitalize on the thoughts stated above. The location I have chosen is the partially covered courtyard at the top of the stairs between the RISD museum and the Metcalf building, a spot that also happens to be close to many of the important other common spaces on campus (RISD store, Metcalf store, mailroom and museum). I believe this space to be an ideal location to set up and outdoor communal workspace. Setting up 4-6 worktables, designed to serve the needs of a variety of disciplines, and access to power under the overhang will provide a pleasant, sheltered outdoor common area for students to gather and work. As the weather gets nicer peoples desire to be outside grows. This intervention would give them somewhere to go and still be able to work. Also providing opportunity for casual interactions, influences and cross-pollinations between disciplines. With some encouragement, I believe the students will develop a sense of ownership over this space and prevent it from becoming a disaster zone that would require its removal. It would have the added benefit of allowing the greater Providence community a glimpse into our world.
My other concept is inspired by a combination of last weeks guest, the family van and my own feelings about the food culture at RISD and in America in general. Too often we are grabbing something fast and eating on the run. Rarely do we sit down for a relaxing, conversation filled meal with friends/family. I have always found a meal to be the perfect setting in which to share and create ideas with others, reflect on things, release tensions, laugh and recharge physically and emotionally through the pleasures of food and conversation. A good meal is an amazing icebreaker. The intervention would be a bi-monthly, roving potluck dinner party. It will require a small mobile cart containing a microwave, toaster oven, hot plate and cooler/fridge fro storage and reheating. It will be structured to encourage attendees to buddy up with a friend from another department, which would offset the cost of contribution and help expand the circle. The kick off location will be the ID gallery at 161 S main St followed by events in other departments’ community areas. Creating a space that moves throughout the various departments will allow people to interact with new space, places and people while simultaneously being a familiar environment. Food is a commodity at RISD and can be utilized as tool to enhance community. The smells of food and the sounds of revelry will attract passers like moths to a flame. Slowly this circle will expand and people will perceive the value in taking an hour or two every so often to interact with other creative people over a meal.

White Tents

Through conducting interviews and listening to other presentations, it is clear that RISD students need unity outside of the studio.

If we think of RISD for a moment as a small city, Jacobs explains, “It is so easy to fall into the trap of contemplating a city’s uses one at a time.” I fall into this trap and apparently many other students do as well. RISD can easily be defined as a city with many individual businesses that serve different uses.

Continuing with the metaphor of a city, there is no denial that RISD is a diverse place – artists with varied backgrounds, skills, nationalities, religion, and aspirations. Jacobs writes, “City diversity itself permits and stimulates more diversity.” Jacobs’ four conditions for diversity are all present on RISD’s campus. On paper, it appears to have all the ingredients to be a very powerful place that facilitates unity and growth.

So, why isn’t it?

Why is it that the four students I interviewed have never met each other before? Does this matter?

Is RISD as diverse as I think it really is? (We can look at admission statistics to ascertain this information, but more importantly: Does RISD FEEL as diverse as it actually is?) Is this what students need? Personally, I get extremely excited when I meet someone outside of the architecture department. It is during this time that I remember that I am a RISD student. In that moment it reminds me why I chose to come to RISD – to be completely immersed with the best designers and artists in the world. How can a community space exist which utilizes RISD’s diversity and sustain itself for growth?

It is apparent that I am eager to find a way to answer all the questions I have.

A proposed plan for a public intervention may begin to address my curiosity. I have chosen the courtyard between the Chace Center and the Metcalf building as a location for a simple reason – it’s an in-between space on campus that is used for circulation by many students in differing departments as well as people not affiliated by the school at all.

Why is this space more appropriate than Market Square?

Although, Market Square is also utilized as heavily for circulation, the Chace Center courtyard, for the moment, is more of an ambiguous space. Market Square has places to sit which begin to suggest programmatic intentions. Although, spring is not here yet, I have never seen anyone sit on the steps in the museum’s courtyard. In contrast, I have seen people utilize Market Square for rest in the winter.

My interview with Tyler Denmead sparked my interest with ambiguous and uncertain spaces. It became evident that the success of New Urban Arts was greatly influenced by its completely amorphous space that changes daily. It’s unclear where one office or studio starts and ends.

Taking ideas from my interview with Tyler as inspiration, I have proposed a question that is the conceptual basis for the public intervention: “Will a changing, uncertain space, that responds to people’s actions within the space, promote a unified community?”

It is important to note that my proposal for the public intervention is an experiment. The formal qualities of the intervention are of little significance, they would purely exist to facilitate the conceptual question that I established previously. The experiment could begin to show whether or not RISD is capable of supporting this type of space and more importantly, demonstrate whether or not RISD students hold shared values about it.

The interview with Tyler also brought forward issues regarding the notion of the physical location of space versus the idea of the space. The courtyard at the Chace Center represents the physical location of the space. It is my hope that the experiment will test the idea of the space. The results may show if the idea of the space can manifest itself in other spaces on campus – possibly in more of a permanent location in the future.

The script of the event is as follows. I plan on setting up individual white tents inside the courtyard for one complete day. Why white tents? Firstly, I want the tents to be seen as mini space makers. I want people to circulate through them as they move through the site. They would move from outside to inside and back to outside. I want them to spark curiosity and ambiguity. Why are they here? Do they begin to define and influence the path people are taking through the courtyard?

I also see them as a way to define specific program. Each tent may have a specific program. One tent can be designated as work space, another for a food stand, one for socializing, and the others simply for circulation. Multiple tents could have similar or the same program. It is my intention that the program of the specific tent is not apparent on the outside. By traveling through them, the public understands what you do inside them. People will ether pass right through them and ignore the event taking place inside, or the event may slow down their path and spark curiosity and interest.

Although each tent has a specific function or program, I want there to be a sense of no barriers. I want people to understand that although each tent is a separate component, they are all interrelated to one another. Multiple tents could be positioned in a way so that more than one is defining an interior space. The program in these specially positioned tents could have the “open shell” idea that Tyler defined in my interview with him.

Another aspect of the experiment is the concept of precise indeterminacy; the idea that the designer constructs a “generative system of formal production, controls its behavior over time, and selects forms that emerge from its operation” (Kolarevic 26). I want the program of each tent to be defined yet allow the people who engage the space to affect what happens inside it. For example, if the “work space” tent has benches inside, will students move the benches around? Will they move the benches outside the tent all together? I want the space to continuously change as more students pass through it. I want the tents to be responsive to the students. Is it possible for the program within the tent to completely transform as students see fit.

Like I mentioned previously, I am interested in uncertainty. I am uncertain what the projected outcome of the event will be. That being said, I want to receive specific results from the experiment. I see both the failure and success of the space to be extremely valuable. In fact, I hope that I see a mixture of both. My actions during the experiment will have to respond to the failure of the space. Can I re-arrange or change the tents during the experiment to respond to how people are passing through the space. The result of the experiment will not be something that I gather at the end of the day but rather continuously throughout the entirety of the intervention. What aspects had to change? What things about the space attracted people to stay and use the tents? How were people interacting with each other? Were students meeting fellow students they had never met before? Was the ambiguity and uncertainty of the space attracting students to stay rather than pass through?

It is too presumptuous to think that the results of this experiment will be the answer to RISD’s lack of a unified community. However, I am hoping it will begin to show whether the physical location of the site (an in-between space on campus with heavy circulation going through it), and the idea of the space (an amorphous, uncertain, and changing space, with multiple programs, can have positive results on campus.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

generators of diversity

RISD students have not relocated. If you ask student where their home is, they will most likely reply a different state or even country. The fact being they’ve been living in Rhode Island for up to four years does not matter, home is defined as another place. I never fully understood this, when people ask where my home is I respond: Providence, where else would my home be. I learned later this was not a common reply.
People come to RISD for college, they don’t move for jobs, to place their children in a better school, to be near elderly parents, or any other reasons other then college. Jacob’s first rule to creating diversity in a city is the district should serve more then one function.(150) I would consider College to be the primary function of the area. Nothing compares to the colleges as far as bringing people into the state. The name ’College Hill’ was not a coincidence.
Jacobs second rule is, “Most Blocks must be short; that is streets and opportunities to turn corners must be frequent.”(150) For the most part RISD is a great example for this rule. The rule implies that people will see each other and bump into each other periodically. This becomes cloudy in a college environment. I’ve had a quite few experiences passing classmates without acknowledging each other. In a city community it is not as common to run into an acquaintance. This intersection is too familiar to the college student, making the situation less meaningful and less obligated to respond every time he/she crosses path with a familiar face. In a comparison to my college experience at Maine College of Art, students always acknowledged each other in passing. Concluding, RISD holds a reputation of being a stuck up school, maybe this behavior has been past down from generation to generation?
“3. The district must mingle buildings that vary in age and condition, including a good proportion of old ones so that they vary in the economic yield they must produce”. (150-151)The campus district of Rhode Island School of Design entangles large industrial buildings, multi-family houses, and modern architecture achievements. Buildings range in appearance and condition. In Jacobs 3rd rule, the east side portrays a structured model to fill the requirements. The rule only depicts the physical structures, without mention of the society inhibiting the environment. The society that occupies the majority of the space are college age students coming from higher economic brackets. This class distinction plays hard against promoting diversity. Realtors know the market and can raise rents coordinating to students need for housing. The RISD area is home to many buildings, but a society that does not “vary in age or condition”.
College hill has a lot of people all in a small area, making RISD completely compliant with Jacob’s rule number four. “There must be a sufficiently dense concentration of people, for what purposes they may be there”. (151)
Jacob states cities do not automatically generate diversity by existing. (148) RISD is a prime example of this understanding. RISD offers stores and restaurants, but all are owned by RISD. The College has unwritten social rules, and behaviors. These culturally learned behaviors override common courtesy of passing in the street. Much of the population is from one social class. Comparing what forms diversity in a city to what promotes diversity on a campus are two very different things. Like Jacobs’s rules to have diversity develop, colleges have diversity promoting centers. The one big difference is that colleges accept the type of person they want, where a city can not as thoroughly restrict its population.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Organic Space

I had the opportunity to sit down with Tyler Denmead, co-founder of New Urban Arts. Although the conversation took place at the CIT, I was able to gain an understanding of the incredibly intriguing space that exists at New Urban Arts.

New Urban Arts was founded in 1997 while Tyler was a senior at Brown University. During this time, Tyler was active with Brown’s public engagement department. His desire to get involved with a public project dealing with creativity led to the creation of the program.

Tyler was interested in the idea of “nest building.” This was a concept that Tyler repeated throughout the interview. He stated, “relationships are situated and need a place…the studio space itself was a transient and dynamic place.”

When asked more about the space itself, Tyler explained that there was an interest in an “open shell” concept for the studio. This meant that there were no classrooms, no studios, and no offices. There was a desire to blur boundaries of all the disciplines within the space. This created an ambiguity and uncertainty of people’s practices – all different practices were visible inside the space simultaneously.

I was very interested in the initial concept of the space. Tyler explained that a lack of resources in the beginning played a critical role in the way the studio was arranged. The floor plan continuously changed on a daily basis. Walls and other areas of the space were torn down constantly. Offices in the studio lacked walls. The space reflected its values – it represented the intellectual aspect of no barriers.

There were many hardships that went with this type of environment. They were bound by a lease that prevented them from being completely free to do as they pleased. Problems arose in the first year which brought up questions of moving to another building. This caused great concern for the artist mentors who were completely attached to the space they were currently in. There were questions of whether or not the space could be recreated in another building.

Tyler explained that it wasn’t about the actual space they were physically in. People were upset about losing the idea of the space. This was a very important point that Tyler made. I asked Tyler if he felt the idea of the space could be transported to another location and be as successful as the initial space. He explained that it takes more than just the idea. The idea is created by the people within a space. Without the people in a space who share the same disposition, the idea cannot be created.

Today, the studio is in the same building as it was ten years ago. Despite minor additions like a silk screening studio, supply closets, and work storage, the space still remains as dynamic and organic as it initially was. Tyler explained that there is little order to how space is arranged. This played a major role in its success. A definitive process as to how space is divided or used has never existed. This is a very important idea of space – a living, organic, amorphous being.

I asked Tyler about the legacy of his program outside of the studio and providence. He is interested in notions of ambiguity, uncertainty, flux, and dynamism and how all of these have a relationship to learning and experience. He explained that it would be incredibly interesting to do a time-lapse movie of the studio over a long period of time and map how the space changes so drastically and constantly. In school, students never experience a dynamic space. Tyler jokingly stated that the space “doesn’t value cleanliness, order, resources, safety, and that it was a dump.”

I also asked him if he had a desire to try setting up a similar studio in another location. He stated that he feels pressure to try this somewhere else – even as a model. He wants others to experience how successful the space really is. However, the success of the space cannot just happen if the idea is there. New Urban Arts emerged at a particular time and under particular experiences. Tyler explained that if this idea came to him today instead of ten years ago, the studio would never have happened and would not be successful. Through sharing his story, he believes other educators and artists can use their own experiences to create a space like New Urban.

There are certain aspects that have to exist: an organic, changing space within a specific site, and shared values of the people. With these initial aspects, the practice within the space could manifest itself in many different ways.

One theme in our conversation was the notion of “the institution.” New Urban Arts is very self conscious of not institutionalizing itself. Instead there is an interest in an impermanent intervention. Tyler explained that the program is subversive yet risks becoming its own institution. They are cautious of anything that makes them appear superior or exclusive to only certain types of people. The studio celebrates all the different types of people who are part of the program and who come from many varied backgrounds, disciples, and skills.

We ended the conversation talking again about the idea of the constantly changing space in the studio. Tyler jokingly admitted that some people think that this notion of a dynamic or ever-changing space means that everything has to be on wheels. He explained that it cannot be as literal or contrived as this to be successful.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Currents in Space Practices (BWD)

Dirt Palace


Xander Marro

Feminist Art Collective in Providence

Founded in 2000

Location -
14 Olneyville Sq. 
Providence, RI

7 Members

Extract from the website: “We provide a space that promotes our personal growth as individuals, and an environment conducive to challenging thoughts and radical actions. We are continuously building and improving our facilities and structure in order to actualize our ideas. Our collective fosters the growth of strong, thoughtful, independent women who use their creative awareness of the world to change it.”

Xander was one of the founding members of Dirt palace back in 2000,

The space an Old Library Building was supported through the city with a lease to buy arrangement. The idea of Dirt Palace was to found a collective space for vulnerable female artists (A feminist collective). At the time there was little opportunities for women artists to support each other and collaborate, with the art scene in Providence at the time more male dominated and supported. There was very little culture of feminist art communities within the city. The Idea, “to make a stand” with the city at the time very supportive of the arts community.

Other the past 9 years there has been 20 people in the mix with 7 people at a time, crazy enough in Xanders words to stick with it. The average turnover being 2 years.

The space – The building an old library would to most standards be seen as being uninhabitable and to most city inspectors unsafe with old wiring and lack of heating (so its freezing), but as can be seen this adds to the charm of the space and lends to the argument that without the organizations take over and development of it the building would of fallen into complete disrepair.

The space covers 2 floors – the bottom Studio space one enters strait from the main street entrance is where the 7 artists each have a area within the large open plan room to work in. On the same floor and off from the main studio space, is where the organizations office is, a drum room, textiles fabric room and a dark room.

On the second floor is where the Old library is which is still used thou in need of a bit of a sort out. Xander says there has always been great plans and ideas by one or two members over the years to develop and reorganize the space such as a ‘radical book store’ but no ones ever got round to it. In the past the library used to be the center for ‘Books Through Bars’, which sent books to prisoners who were denied access to reading material. But as I learnt, when the main lady who had a passion for this moved so did the process, and it is now run from the local library.

The 2nd floor also houses the bedrooms with each of the 7 women having there own separate private rooms. The Kitchen which overlooks the main road and is directly above the ground floor studio space is a really great communal space and one which really represents the artistic surroundings one is in, the musty smell emphasizing the lack of heating while blending in to the whole fabric of the building. In the kitchen the cupboards are jam-packed with pots and tins of this that and the other. The old antique kitchen table is where Xander and I end up chatting over a cup of tea.

It becomes apparent that while they are a collective community in terms of the space they equally use and share they are on the other hand individually working on there own projects and outside work, and therefore it is a space which provides for individuals to develop there work and interests while in a creative environment.

Dirt palace isn’t an active community space in general terms for the wider community but does offer use of there screen printing facility’s to groups as well as allows use of the library once a month. Those from the wider community who do use the space on these occasions are often those known to the dirt palace members (friends of friends) and therefore it seems more of a close knit community rather than one completely open to just anyone. The gallery space in the main front window running along the pavement is usually used to exhibit international artists work and is not usually used to exhibit member’s work.

Asked about the feminist aspect to the organization, the response – “No diapers”

Interview with one of the members –

AMP magazine also did a recent interview about Dirt Palace which Im trying to track down at the moment.

Better World by Design Conference


Tino Chow

Final Year RISD Student ID

What local community or communities are you part of?
Better World by Design, IDFA, What We Do, OSL,

What is the Better World By Design?
The BWD was a conference I helped to run. The conference focused on the questions, Designers, engineers and academics should be asking, How can we use technology to improve the world?

Where did you organize for the conference to take place?
The conference was a collaboration between RISD and Brown University students. Brown offered the use of the facilities for the conference to take place and with many different areas to stage different discussion groups and different talks given it seemed the perfect place to locate the conference.

What spaces did you make?
Well we wanted to have the conference located in one central area but also spread out on campus into separate spaces so that people could go to one place to here one talk and find information on one thing and another place for something completely new and different.

How was space set apart for specific use compared to its usual function?
The conference took place over two weekends, as lectures and class took place in the spaces normally in the space we were using the weekends were the best time to dually use this space at a time when academic classes would not be taking place and when students would be able to attend.

Is this a continuing project?
Yes, currently were looking to expand; tho keeping in RI based. And we are looking to make the conference an annual occurrence.

How do you apply Jacobs’ concepts in this chapter to your experience or the experience of the people you have interviewed (at RISD or outside?)?

In Jane Jacobs chapter ‘ The generators of diversity ’ Jacobs focuses on the diversity within city and the districts, which make them up. It is not an assumption that diversity is natural to big cities and in this sense is natural to institutions such as ours, RISD.
In 1791 James Boswell noted when referring to the city of London and how different it is a place it is to individual people, saw two different outlooks on city life from those involved in it. He explained these outlooks one being from the perspective of a narrow minded person who sees and views city life in terms of their particular pursuit, occupation & life. The other outlook, that of the intellectual who views the city as a place where a number of different activities and pursuits take place throughout the city all the time, and is open to the idea of pursuits outside his own individual world.
I believe at RISD it is easy for us all to fall into the first classification one where are idea of what happens around us is overlooked and instead focused on ones own life and work and therefore the opportunity to break out and interact with other people in different areas is lost, and so does the opportunity to build ties and relationships within the greater community at large.
Jacobs first important question in the chapter refers to city planning. How can cities generate enough mixture among users-enough diversity-throughout enough of their territories, to sustain their own civilization? This is a question I believe we should be looking to answer when focusing on the community that is RISD.
From the interviews I carried out it seemed this issue of diversity sprung up throughout with students feeling segregated, part of only the community, which forms their place of work. It became apparent from answers given that a central area where people could meet and socialize with different students from different disciplines was in great need to bridge this gap. It also became apparent to me that there was felt a lack of inter-discipline integration between student departments, which a few interviewees wanted so that they could interact with students from different disciplines.
Looking at the student population at risd there is a great diversity of students in particular from Asia. It seems apparent that although a real effort is made to try and integrate students from varying cultures, there is a cultural divide amongst communities here with students many students really only socializing with those who can speak there home language. Even thou this is only natural and is seen in every city and community, it works against efforts to bring communities such as ours together and therefore a greater effort maybe needed in part to bridge these gaps.
A lively city scene according to Jacobs is largely by virtue of its enormous collection of small elements in proximity to each other. From the answers to the interviews I found it was interesting how all the students ate lunch at different places to each other with all bar one listing one of the three places being home. All these places are again spread out and most did not involve campus dining. From these answers it gave me a sense that even in a city like providence there is no real
Central area or street where this vibrancy can be found from day to day and hour to hour in proximity RISD students other than Thayer St which would be seen as being too far away. Rather there is the aspect a number of different places dotted around. Each frequented by the small local community in proximity to it.