Monday, March 30, 2009

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;

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