All Articles
All Articles

2014 Parsons Festival: Making/Meaning


2014 Parsons Festival: Making/Meaning

Over 100 exciting student works from across all disciplines, curated for the first time by graduate students

by Nara Shin
on 28 April 2014

The Parsons Festival is an annual showcase of inventive student work shared with the Parsons community and the public. One of the most exciting factors this year is that for the first time, graduate students (rather than outside guest curators or a professor) have selected the work of their peers for "Making/Meaning"—an exhibition that reveals the creative process of young, gifted undergraduates and associate's degree students. An open call resulted in over 560 submissions, which the group of graduate students narrowed down. The presented works not only represent the diverse mediums and disciplines of Parsons students are exploring, but also show the ideas and current issues (political, cultural, etc) that sparked these students to create.


Graduate students in the School of Art and Design History and Theory and the School of Design Strategies who wanted to have this first-hand curating experience enrolled in a new course this semester called "Curating Art and Design," co-taught by a trio of faculty: John Jerard, Carin Kuoni and Andrew Cornell Robinson. The course explored what it means to be a curator, their ethical positions, history of curatorship and more. It started with visiting exhibitions all over the city—from Soho galleries to the New York Historical Society—to learn how different institutions are using their spaces. The students were the ones who determined the theme, Making/Meaning—and selected submissions that exemplified how Parsons students think and approach making.


Interestingly, the top definition for "curate" refers to a "clergyman," and the first use of its verb form was recorded in 1909 (according to Merriam-Webster); the graduate students remark that Spell Check still doesn't recognize the word "curating." While throughout the history of art, focus was on the roles of the artist and patron, the rise of the curator has become a more recent phenomenon that reflects the needs of our contemporary culture. "As a society, we are much more involved in public representation of what we do and what other people do," says Kuoni. "So the opportunities to have public exchanges about our activities are multi-fold and extend way beyond exhibitions, institutions or museums. You now curate menus in restaurants or fashion shows; there are more opportunities for people to be active in a public realm. I also think that there's so much information that we all need to understand and be able to relate to and they are the intermediary—or interpreter—of a creative person's output."


Robinson points out the "tug-of-war" that happens today between being conceptually-based versus craft-orientated; yet the exhibition has become a learning experience that shows the two can co-exist—and to some degree, how the Parsons faculty is supporting that. "They're looking at approaching their discipline in a multi-disciplinary way," says Robinson. Noting that fashion is a very craft-oriented field, Robinson continues, "What's interesting that I see is that when we've been looking at a lot of the fashion work that was submitted, there's a highly conceptual basis to the way that students are working and being taught here. They're not just being asked to do a redux of something that happened 100 or 50 years ago; they're asked to bring to bear their own ideas, their own life experiences and how that informs a piece. That's that whole tie between how the making of an object, and the meaning that's generated from it, seems to manifest within some of the student work."


The result is a takeover of the ground floor at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, where student work has filled every nook and cranny. Rather than organize the exhibition by discipline (as is traditionally done), works from different mediums, disciplines and class years are arranged side by side. Some of the works not only show the final product, but also reveal physical evidence of the creative process, such as a sampling of mock-ups and treatments used to create a book.


There are moments that viewers can see the fingerprints left by the student curators. Kuoni encouraged them to expose the eye-level line (the 57" line that most artwork is hung on) in museums, creating a visual mnemonic device that could tie all of the different works together. You can see it as a silver line made of reflective material that travels along the walls, throughout the entire space. "It's also the idea of this event horizon; we are always gauging what we see against something else," says Kuoni. Also, 45 of the works have a URL written under their description; they link to an audio interview with the specific student, giving the student a rare opportunity speak more personally on their work. And, to facilitate a dialogue—after all, Parsons is an educational institution—viewers are encouraged to respond to the work by drawing or writing their thoughts on a Post-it note and sticking it on the wall, under the artist statement. Future viewers will read those Post-its and contribute their ideas to the growing conversation.


Some highlights from the exhibition include "Am I," a conceptual project by Sarah Marshall (BFA Fine Arts) for which she alphabetically ordered Google search suggestions for the phrase "Am I..." Showing results that pop up for "Am I a...," "Am I ab...," "Am I ac...," and so forth, Marshall portrays the search engine as a modern-day oracle. "Humpback Whale Inspired Surf Fins" by Grant Goldner (BFA Product Design) is quite self-explanatory—he created a surfboard with irregular bumps on the fins, mimicking those of the humpback whale, to make the surfboard go faster. Phuong Nguyen's (BFA Design and Technology) "Speech/Contact" has handmade soaps embedded with Vietnamese and English proverbs; the message decays and changes with each use—but also shows how they're consumed and absorbed by the body after a "wash." There are site-specific installations, a stop-motion animation made from cut-paper figures, a bicycle outpost that has a gumball machine that spews out patch kits for 50 cents, and much, much more—thought-provoking works that will take you out of any creative rut you're currently in yourself.

Walking through "Making/Meaning" is like viewing a snapshot of the future—these students, some of who will be graduating in just a few weeks, will form the next generation of designers and artists.


"Making/Meaning" opens today, 28 April 2014 and will be on view until 25 May, as a part of the 2014 Parsons Festival. Located at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center on 2 West 13th Street, the exhibition is free and open to the public. For those not in the NYC area, visit the Parsons Festival website to view student projects online and keep an eye out as the curators will be blogging over the course of the exhibition and showing the "Object of the Day."

Photos by Nara Shin

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms
Loading More...