Monday, June 08, 2009


Here is a really interesting talk by John Maeda, the new president of my alma mater, RISD (well, not so new). He talks about simplicity vis-a-vis complexity, mentorship, and the relationship between technology and design. Pretty engrossing stuff, a really interesting ride. He totally confirms my theory that one can change the way things look by changing the way you look at things.

I wish that he was our president when I was in RISD back in the mid-nineties. Perhaps my work would have a much less organic feel and be more technology savvy (two attributes of my work that I still have issues about). But I had no choice, I was a product of my zeitgeist and that zeitgeist made fun of people who used Photoshop and Illustrator. It was a completely different world back then. Multi-media was a bad word. Saying that you were taking "interdisciplinary studies" was tantamount to claiming you were taking a major in Voodoo. The pursuit of "pure art" was the most important thing to learn. Painting should be painting, sculpture should be sculpture, industrial design should remain exclusively in the realm of industrial design. Never should the worlds meet.

During those days, I had to create the spaces for my art since it wasn't really being taken seriously by my professors in the painting department (except for my mentor Al Wunderlich and his friend, MIT artist in residence Joe Davis). I would hold performances in empty lots (above in the garden with the hanging blue cloth) and sneakily "move" into an abandoned church choir loft/bar called The Tap room to build installations and hold performances within them (shots of my thesis performance above, "Walang Pamagat"). I really felt like my collaborators and I were at war with a conservative establishment. We had to really fight to be taken seriously when integrating the visual arts with any other medium like performance, installation, and technology. I'm so glad to see things are changing in an extreme way in RISD with the coming of John Maeda. I'm glad to see the cross-pollination of artistic media finally being given support.

Just a week ago, I met up with some old friends from RISD in Montreal (above, Vanessa Yanow, owner and co-director of The Long Haul art space and studios in Montreal and Ben Graham, who runs sustainable architecture firm, Nature Design Build in Vermont,) and we discussed what a different world it is for artists today. Right now, multi-media is not only one of the most common methods of artistic expression but it actually is fast becoming the norm. Fashion designers are working with computers, scientists are becoming sculptors, former med students are taking photographs. It's all about blurring the lines between art and science and between art and art. It seems to be a brave new world nowadays. I wonder what RISD kids in the post John Maeda world will create.

Oh and if you are wondering about the strange poses, we're mimicking the paintings behind us. Such art dorks.