Graduate Studies Electives


The division of Graduate Studies offers studios and seminars designed to provide students with opportunities for interdisciplinary study and the exploration of issues and practices of interest to advanced-level students in all disciplines. The courses provide opportunities to:

  • explore areas of interest beyond program requirements
  • collaborate on projects with students from diverse backgrounds
  • connect with the larger graduate student population
  • ground your own studio explorations in the context of contemporary theory and practice

Not all of the following courses are offered every year, but this list gives a sense of the kinds of questions and conversations supported by the Graduate Studies curriculum. All GS electives are open to any graduate student, without prerequisites.


  • GRAD-046G


    Faculty: David Gersten

    The lecture series "A Material Imagination of The Social Contract" is grounded in the idea that the poetic and material imagination, inherent to the arts, affords us unique means of engaging the world and making a contribution. Working from the principle that our capacity to act in the world is grounded in our capacity to recognize and comprehend transformation, the course covers a large arc of content, asking questions of our world, our disciplines and our humanity. The discussion begins with a series of talks called 'the time promises of capital.' These focus on the mechanisms and instruments of capital exchange including: debt, equity and compound interest, as well as incorporation and insurance. This 'time promise' series also develops a basic knowledge of certain market exchange concepts such as 'bid' and 'ask,' 'market depth,' 'price discovery,' 'trading' versus 'investing' as well as the latest technological innovations in the global markets such as 'algorithmic' or 'black box' trading. These concepts are approached with careful attention to both the ontological impact of these instruments on our perception of time and space as well as the broader social issues of the capital markets as modes of resource distribution. Following the 'time promises' is a series of discussions on words, looking at the role of language in both our individual imagination and our collective participation in culture. These lectures begin with the enigmatic fact that words at once require a consensus of the many and seek to express individual thought. Here we explore the many links between language, individual agency and collective judgment. Following the discussion on words we move to a series of talks focused on space. These look at the many forms of exchange occurring between our spaces and us with a focus on the capacity of our interior thoughts to construct literate spaces, spaces of participation inseparable from our memory and imagination. Much of this discussion focuses on embodied knowledge and our 'situated' condition in space as we look at questions of: experience, cognition, perception and memory. The final series of lectures builds from all of the previous questions and content as we look at the many links between: the time promises, words, space, empathy, ethics, the creative disciplines and their social contracts. With examples from 20th century: art, architecture, poetry, film and theater, we move through a close examination of disciplinary structures. We examine the nature of disciplinary geography and search for moments of amplification within the creative disciplines. Ultimately, the lecture series explores the precisions of the poetic / material imagination as the most pragmatic means of addressing our social and political lives; it offers inverse perspectives from which to imagine; new modes of concern for the other, new promises for distributing risk and resources, new words for rebinding freedom, new spaces of empathy and ethics.
    Graduate elective
  • GRAD-050G


    Faculty: Yuriko Saito

    Often defined as philosophy of the arts, the discipline of aesthetics - particularly in its modern Western development - has been concerned primarily with analyzing our experience of art. Outside the realm of art, aesthetics has been neglected in comparison with the more 'pressing' practical, economical, scientific, or social concerns. When we do attend to aesthetics in daily life, it is often dismissed as superficial fluff concerned with beautification and decoration.

    This seminar starts with the premise that the realm of the aesthetic is not limited to art museums, concert halls, and theaters, and that the aesthetic is, indeed, an important aspect of our everyday life, both reflecting and shaping our world-view, cultural values, and social relationships. We intend to overcome this relative neglect of the aesthetic of the everyday life by exploring the various aesthetic issues involved in daily activities and objects: cooking and eating, making and using functional objects, taking care of ourselves and our possessions by cleaning, decorating, repairing, and renewing, as well as experiencing meteorological phenomena and environment, to name only a few examples. While the subject matters may appear non-academic, our analysis and discussion of them is theory-based and conceptually-oriented. In particular, we pursue some of the serious consequences, such as moral, social, political and environmental, of our seemingly trivial and innocuous everyday aesthetic tastes, judgments, and decisions.

    The purpose of this seminar is to explore this familiar (because it's our everyday life), yet unfamiliar (because it has not been explored), territory. As such, this seminar is open-ended, raising more questions and avenues for reflection, rather than providing a set of definitive conclusions. At the same time, we collectively think about how we can improve the quality of our everyday life and society, as well as the state of the world, through aesthetic strategies, something all of you will be engaged in your profession.

    As a graduate-level course, this seminar is based upon each member's contribution to the class meetings in which the instructor participates as one of the contributors rather than as a lecturer. Each member is responsible for leading class discussion at least twice during the semester. In addition, a substantial amount of independent research and individual work toward a final paper and presentation are expected.
    Graduate elective
  • GRAD-130G


    Faculty: Patricia Phillips

    Some of the most exciting and urgent works of the past 20 years have occurred in the public sphere, beyond the traditional parameters, conditions, and conventions of the gallery or the museum. Terms including social or relational aesthetics, new genre public art, dialogic art, participatory art, and tactical media have been used to define a wide, often unruly range of divergent practices and projects. That a relatively small number of these significant projects is known at is the consequence of an art media and art criticism that generally is fixated on the gallery as a site of display and potential commerce. While the public sphere has its own connection to contemporary cultural capitalism, it remains a more open and dynamic realm. It is broadly defined as "anyplace" and "anytime" between the street and the Internet and has become a critical site for artists motivated by a sense of political or social urgency, a desire to be "resistively creative", an interest in exploring new forms of collaboration, artist-initiated or non-sanctioned work, the desire to work ephemerally, or, simply and directly, a need to communicate with a less insular, more diverse audience - the accidental public.

    Agents of the Now is an active, peripatetic course designed for graduate students from a range of fields and disciplines who are interested in extending their practice beyond the studio or other conventions of production to engage and work within the public realm. During the semester, we will attempt to answer questions such as:
    What are the privileges and pitfalls that face artists when they make use of their independent "cultural capital"? How does the need for legibility change when artists work outside of the rarified walls of the white cube or a particular discipline? How do artists prepare to engage significant political issues to ensure that their work achieves the depth and complexity of the problems addressed? What does it mean to seek to communicate with both intentional and inadvertent (accidental) audiences?

    The course will be structured around topical or thematic clusters. Students' projects (and the sites and situations they choose) will evolve out of assigned readings, class discussion, and tactical planning -- both individually and collaboratively. Readings of texts by Claire Bishop, William Pope.L, Nicholas Bourriaud, Miwon Kwon, Rem Koolhaas, Hakim Bey, Thomas Hirschhorn, Marjetica Potrc, Brian Holmes, Gregory Sholette, Suzanne Lacy, Rosalyn Deutsche, Hans Haacke, and others will provide a rich, diverse theoretical context for students' independent proposals and projects. Given that the objective of this class is to extend the artist's and designer's work beyond the conventions of the studio, class participation and collaborative projects will be encouraged. Visiting artists and critics, as well as field trips to New York and Boston, will supplement the course.
    Graduate elective
  • GRAD-100G


    Faculty: Brian Goldberg

    The history of architecture and urbanism has conventionally understood the modern city as an accumulation of architectures: buildings, public spaces, monuments, institutions, and infrastructures. The seminar will reconsider the modern city by developing another version of this history, not of the city's construction, but of its annihilation (both real and imaginary). A desire to start anew (on cleared ground, at year zero) informs a range of urbanistic practices - from the more or less spontaneous acts of vengeful mobs, to the carefully modulated destructions carried out by the state and its agents; from ecstatic, revolutionary violence to the most elaborately detailed utopian visions. Through this investigation the seminar will address a number of questions about the status of the architectural sign, its relationship to networks of power, its mutability and relative permanence.
    Restricted to Graduate Level students
    Graduate elective
  • GRAD-091G


    Faculty: Elizabeth Dean Hermann

    This seminar/travel course focuses on the artist/designer/environmentalist/engineer as an entrepreneur and activist within the Developing World. Specifically, it offers an opportunity for guided interdisciplinary collaboration in exploring the many ways in which those privileged with a RISD education can play a significant role in making the world around them a better and more just place for all.
    Graduate elective

    2010 is the fourth year this seminar will be offered through Graduate Studies. At the same time, 2010 will be the first year Design for Development (D4D) will be offered in the field where students spend two weeks of their term working directly with one of several NGOs whose work focuses on issues of poverty alleviation, improved living environments, entrepreneurship and micro-finance, craft cooperatives, education, water and waste management, urban farming, etc.

    During the first few days in country - and in the evenings over group dinner and discussions of the day's experiences and assigned readings - students will begin to identify the issues they will address as teams in project proposals created in direct response to situations and concerns they have been exposed to through their internships (see 2009 syllabus for further details on team projects).

    Following the two-week internships there will be a week of travel to various sites and organizations in West Bengal and the neighboring state of Orissa.

    The last week and a half will be spent in Providence pulling together the team proposals and business plan for carrying the projects forward in the future.
  • GRAD-059G


    Faculty: Brooks Hagan

    This is a studio-based course that calls upon graduate students from different disciplines to collaborate, conceive, make studio projects, and prepare a fully realized strategy for their appearance in the world. Students are given a rigorous series of tasks designed to spur collaborative work. Examples include an assignment that challenges students to pursue failure, rather than resolution, in their work; another asks students to develop an individual concept - then merge their ideas into a single, unified proposition.
    Visits to New York City and elsewhere introduce students to practitioners collaborating as well as creating, distributing, and writing about work that falls between disciplines. Substantial readings, ranging from the Frankfurt School to contemporary theorists such as Nicolas Bourriaud, supplement our visits and provide focus for in-class discussion.
    As at most art schools, Rhode Island School of Design's individual departments, and particularly its art and design wings, traditionally are kept at arm's length from each other. While the focus on a single discipline is highly effective at creating specialists within each field, the complexities of contemporary cultural practice - people working in fluid groups, jumping from one field to another, dealing with projects that involve multiple disciplines - creates a great demand for cross-disciplinary training. This is particularly true among graduate students, many of who are returning to school from working precisely in these kinds of complex situations. Working across fields allows students not only to work across skill-sets, but also to become accustom to the different ways of thinking that accompany different disciplines. For designers, the possibility of looking for questions, so typical of art practice, opens up new exploratory pursuits; while for artists, the challenge of working towards solving specific problems is often surprisingly fruitful.
    Course website link:
    Graduate elective
  • GRAD-651G


    Faculty: Debra Balken

    This seminar explores the various ways that modern and contemporary artists have written on their own work from the 1950s through to the present. By examining statements, journals, notes, interviews, diaries, essays and critical texts by a variety of artists spanning Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman and Jack Tworkov through to Andy Warhol, Donald Judd and Eva Hesse, as well as more recent figures such as Jenny Holzer, Kara Walker, Fred Wilson and the Critical Art Ensemble, the differing genres that artists' used to describe their work, and that of others, begins to emerge. Specific consideration is given to the ways in which these literary forms structure the content and meanings of artists' work. The course is constructed around in-class discussion of assigned texts, slide lectures, student presentations, and visits to each student's studio. This seminar aims to extend the range of texts currently read by students, additionally serving as a springboard for the development of the graduate thesis.
    Graduate elective
  • GRAD-044G


    Faculty: Nancy Friese

    How can we add to the future enrichment of our disciplines? How do we make our future teaching a more meaningful practice? This semester-long professional practice course is for artists, designers, architects, and educators and is designed for students who will be teaching during their course of study at RISD and or who plan to teach in higher education after graduation. The course draws upon the varying expertise and pedagogical practices of RISD faculty and guests from all disciplines to provide graduate students with models of teaching that can inform their development as future faculty. The goal of this seminar is to introduce graduate students to reflective teaching principles and to provide an orientation to the collegiate teaching and learning experience. The course is composed of readings, reviews, discussions and Individual Teaching Consultations (ITCs), where students engage in microteaching sessions and receive feedback from faculty and peer observers. The major products resulting from the course include a personal statement of teaching philosophy and a proposal for a course description and course syllabus.
    Also offered as ARTE-044G.
  • GRAD-055G


    Faculty: Nancy Friese

    Using RISD as a site for the exploration of strategies for studio-based teaching and learning is the goal of the course. It is designed for students who will be teaching during the course of study at RISD or who plan to teach after graduation. The course draws upon the varying expertise and teaching methodologies of RISD faculty and visiting faculty from other institutions to provide graduate students with models of practice. Learning to teach in a generative and attentive manner can bring teaching closer to one's studio practice. The course is composed of readings, reviews, discussion, project assignments, lectures, and peer presentations. The final outcome will be formation of a condensed teaching portfolio including a teaching philosophy, course proposals, a detailed syllabus, sample class assignments and assessment guides.
    Graduate elective
    Also offered as ARTE 055G. Register into the course for which credit is desired.
  • GRAD-032G


    Faculty: Debra Balken

    This seminar draws on a number of critical texts from the past three decades by writers such as Rosalind Krauss, Douglas Crimp, bell hooks, Dave Hickey, and Arthur C. Danto while probing their linkages to key debates in contemporary culture. By considering issues that relate to the viability of the expression of the artist025s subjectivity in the post-modern era as well topics pertaining to race, gender, sexuality, the marketplace, mass media and popular culture, a broad view of the subjects, themes and discourses of contemporary art emerges. The course is structured around in-class discussion of assigned articles, slide lectures, and presentations. The seminar aims to extend the range of critical texts currently read by each student especially as they develop their graduate thesis. Each student is responsible for one 30-minute class presentation with a follow-up paper of 10-12 pages due the last day of class, or before. Participation in class discussion is a requirement of the course, constituting a part of the final grade.
    Graduate elective
  • GRAD-129G


    Faculty: Jennifer Joy

    Critical Labors: Performance and Value looks to performance as a site to address the complex relationships between different forms of labor, artistic work, and value, attending to specific artists' strategies and affiliations as a material critique of theoretical concepts of labor and value.

    In critical labor theory, performance - or more specifically dance, becomes a model of escape or resistance, a kind emancipatory or metaphoric immaterial labor. These kinds of provocations as witnessed in the writings of Paulo Virno, Jacques Ranciere, Alain Badiou leave many questions unanswered as they often fail to attend to the specifics of dance or performance itself. Through our readings, discussions, and writings, we ask what the aesthetic, social, political and theoretical work of performance might produce.
    In dialogue with theoretical texts, the course traces a historical arc considering Guy Debord and the Situationists rejection of work, Fluxus artists seriously playful subversion of commodity, multiple feminist interventions by Mierle Laderman Ukeles or Lucy Lippard or Sheila Pepe (as a few examples), minimalist associations with Art Workers' Coalition, itinerant strategies deployed by Francis Alys, Mika Rottenberg's complex meditation on intertwined conditions of beauty, quotidian labor and global exchange, and collaborative pedagogical projects of Red76 or Dexter Sinister, as examples.,br> Readings include: Karl Max, Raymond Williams, Guy Debord, Paulo Virno, Miwon Kwon, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Mark Franko, Randy Martin, Hannah Higgins, Jacques Ranciere, Fred Moten, Lauren Berlant, Paul Chan, Hans Haacke, Sam Gould, Seth Price, Marten Spangberg as examples.
    Graduate elective
  • GRAD-658G


    Faculty: Nancy Friese

    Drawing has been called the distillation of an idea. Drawing sensibilities pervade all visual media yet drawing can be independent of all other media. Can we make our drawing ventures have resonance? The goal is to understand drawing in a multivalent way through paced experiences and investigations via short research projects, three generative series and development of a sited-drawing plan. Methods will include teamed technical presentations of expertise or interest as well as examples of ancient and historical means of silverpoint, transfer drawings, panoramas and dioramas. Drawing epochs represented in the RISD Museum of Art, collection will be examined (through works by artists such as Wilfredo Lam, Gego, or the Rimpa period Korin Gafu.) Focused critiques, readings and guided and self-directed independent studio production are components. This seminar could be paired with the grad course Object Lessons.
    Graduate elective
    Also offered as a requirement for MA, ARTE 658G. Register into the course for which credit is desired.
  • GRAD-2312


    Faculty: Tucker Houlihan

    This course provides students with the skill to fully transform their 2D drafting skills into effective 3D forms. Through the use of large stationary machines, power tools, and hand tools, individuals will develop the ability to communicate their design skills into highly involved, tangible forms. Numerous hardware, fasteners, surface treatments, and finishes will be thoroughly covered throughout the semester.
    Open to senior and above
  • GRAD-078G


    Faculty: Tucker Houlihan

    This course is an inquiry of wood and metal construction techniques at the graduate level. Graduate students will develop a multi-lateral skill set applicable to their area of study. Thesis concepts are often explored and enhanced within this class. Students concentrate, in sequence, six weeks of production woodworking techniques in the Center for Integrative Technologies wood facility, and six weeks of metal fabrication methods in the Metcalf Building facilities. The woodworking section includes contemporary and traditional: joinery, shaping, and construction techniques. The second half of the semester is devoted to the skills required for metal fabrication. In the Metcalf Foundry, students will develop the essential skills for cutting, bending, forming, and welding metal. Surface treatments and finishing methods for wood and metal will also be covered throughout this class.
    Graduate elective
  • GRAD-500G


    Faculty: Mimi Leveque

    Each section of this course covers a different topic in Art History, and the topics may change each term. For course descriptions and instructor names, refer to the course listing in the Liberal Arts section. Limited seats in each section are available to graduate students.
    This course satisfies the Graduate Seminar degree requirement. It may be repeated for credit as long as a different topic is chosen.
    Graduate elective
  • GRAD-200G


    Faculty: Erik Nelson

    This class is designed for students of RISD and Brown who want a broader understanding of structural behavior and material science without the mathematical complexity of an engineering course. What types of geometry, structural systems, or materials shall we consider for a certain design problem and why? Where does innovation lie in building materials and structural forms? How can we optimize forms to create elegant, efficient and economical architecture? We will review geometry, environmental forces, and material mechanics to understand the design of towers, long-span roofs, bridges, cable and fabric structures, tensegrity sculptures, arches, hypars, and domes. We will investigate innovation in traditional building materials (wood, steel, concrete) as well as introduce new materials (micromechanics of nanotubes, FRPs, and biomaterials). Guest lectures, drawn from both research and professional practice will discuss applied and conceptual design ideas of high performance systems.
    Graduate elective
  • GRAD-151G


    Faculty: Thomas Zummer

    The distinct is at a distance, it is the opposite of what is near. What is not near can be set apart in two ways: separated from contact or from identity. The distinct is distinct according to these two modes: it does not touch, and it is dissimilar. Such is the image: it must be detached, placed outside and before one's eyes (it is therefore inseparable from a hidden surface, from which it cannot, as it were, be peeled away: the dark side of the picture, its underside or backside, or even its weave or its subjectile), and it must be different from the thing. The image is a thing that is not the thing: it distinguishes itself from it, essentially.

    -Jean-Luc Nancy

    Often, when we pose our gaze to an art image, we have a forthright sensation of paradox. What reaches us immediately and straightaway is marked with trouble, like a self-evidence that is somehow obscure. Whereas what initially seemed clear and distinct is, we soon realize, the result of a long detour-a mediation, a usage of words. Perfectly banal, in the end, this paradox. We can embrace it, let ourselves be carried away by it; we can even experience a kind of jouissance upon feeling ourselves alternately enslaved and liberated by this braid of knowledge and not-knowledge, of universality and singularity, of things that elicit naming and things that leave us gaping. . . . All this on one and the same surface of a picture or sculpture, where nothing has been hidden, where everything before us has been, simply, presented.

    -Georges Didi-Huberman

    What is an "image"? A picture? An artwork? A representation or reproduction, technical or otherwise? This seminar investigates the philosophical, as well as the commonplace, determinations that serve as a "ground" or principle supporting and granting legitimacy or illegitimacy to an image. Images are not necessarily what we might think they are, and there is a tacit archaeology in our apprehension of images. Photography, inasmuch as it was phrased (by Henry Fox Talbot) as 'the pencil of nature,' was a problematic and contentious competitor with other forms of illustration with regard to accuracy, verity, and as an evidentiary index. In a sense, this is a seminar on the history and genealogy of the image, how it has been thought, and what it has been thought to be, from the earliest accounts to the ubiquity of images that surround and saturate us today.
    Graduate Elective
  • GRAD-102G


    Faculty: Peter Hocking

    Discursive, relational and community-based art practices invite a dialogue between those making meaning and their context. They require an investigation into the nature of place and question traditional notions of audience-pushing the boundaries of what art might be in the public sphere and establishing a new relationship between the makers and consumers of meaning. Using our local context-geographically and relationally--as a site for investigation and collaboration, this course provides insight into the research methods, collaborative processes, modes of documentation, ethics and implementation of such work. Over the course of the semester, each student (either individually or as part of a team) develops one site-specific project or body of work. This course is designed to support students engaged in exploration of practice as well as those developing their thesis work. Graduate elective
  • GRAD-097G


    Faculty: Anne West

    The unknown gap of the 'betwixt and between' is a space of great curiosity and charge. It is a space that has captured the imagination of many artists, designers and writers throughout time. The main interest in this course is to investigate the nature of this space, how it is experienced, understood and given meaning from multiple viewpoints in art, design and literature, and ways in which it can become a space of significance for our practice as artists and designers. As background to our own research, we examine features of the betwixt and between as it is evoked in the writings of the pre-Socratic thinkers, the theories of anthropologist Victor Turner, the lectures of composer John Cage, William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin's book titled The Third Mind, and philosopher Gaston Bachelard's view of spatial poetics. Artists also walk us to that space, as is the case with Eva Hesse's threshold Works on Paper, Anselm Kiefer's preoccupation with ambivalence, and Anish Kapoor's sublime voids. Most important, we will make and write as a way to see and understand the various forms and ways the betwixt and between presents itself in our own work.
    Graduate elective
  • GRAD-116G


    Faculty: David Gersten

    The fall seminar "A Material Imagination of the Social Contract" covers a large arc of content, asking questions of how disciplines transform and are transformed by the world, and specifically, the role of the creative imagination as a cultural and intellectual force in these transformations. The pursuit is grounded in the idea that the poetic and material imagination, inherent to the arts, affords us unique means of comprehending the world and acting in it. In this multi-discipline seminar, the dialogue is expanded into the creative works themselves and the potential of the creative disciplines to manifest works of empathy and difference that include our nuanced fragilities in our shared stories. Each of the creative disciplines affords us distinct modes of thinking and acting, of articulating: light, substance, space, voice and thought - they provide structures of: perception, representation, comprehension and engagement. While each discipline presents unique means of comprehending our world, they have a shared capacity to, at once, provide the instruments to create transformation and the principles: to measure and withstand its consequences. This dual capacity positions the creative disciplines as central to the navigation and re-articulation of a given period.

    All of the disciplines are implicated in each other's hopes; they have a shared capacity to ask questions and mediate an exchange between our lives and our works. These exchanges may speak loud or in whispers, heard in their own beat and measure, the works themselves empathetically call us close, offering a deeply human sonnet. Amartya Sen has said that the aspiration of collective judgments should be individual agency. "Listening Critique" is a space for individuals and their works to engage in a collective dialogue.
    Graduate elective
  • GRAD-028G


    Faculty: Kipp Bradford

    This course gives graduate students an understanding of the foundational principals and practices of entrepreneurship. The focus of the course is the concept of 'value': looking at the questions of "what is value"? and "how is value created"? specifically in the context of individual and small businesses within the design, fine arts, and craft markets. The course material draws from Harvard Business School case studies, mini-case studies of RISD alumni businesses-Ahlers Designs, Turin Design, Ximedica, Designturn, Inc., and others. Students are given the opportunity to take an idea from concept to the marketplace while examining the strengths and weaknesses of various resources like Etsy, Kickstarter, United States Artist, etc. Students also are given a formal framework for managing small-scale production of a creative work. The students' experience is guided by close interaction with RISD's Career Center. Substantial interaction with recent graduates across disciplines also enriches the educational experience. During the course, I will blog the students experiences on the Make Magazine web site, one of the most widely read tech blogs in the world. This class is a 3-hour weekly seminar and finishes with a final project/final presentation.
    Graduate Elective
  • GRAD-031G


    Faculty: Anne West

    This seminar is for graduate students who are preparing their written thesis. Within the context of this writing-intensive course, we examine the thesis form as an expressive opportunity to negotiate a meaningful integration of our visual work, how we think about it, and how we wish to communicate it to others. In support of this exploration, weekly thematic writing sessions are offered to open the imaginative process and to stimulate creative thinking as a means of discovering the underlying intelligence of our work. In addition, we also engage in individual studio visits to identify and form a coherent 'voice' for the thesis, one that parallels our actual art involvement. Literary communications generated out of artists' process are also examined. The outcome of this intensive study is the completion of a draft of the thesis.
    Graduate elective
  • GRAD-139G


    Faculty: Mairead Byrne

    Although there is a writing genre called Nonfiction, there has been no genre called Nonpoetry until now. Just as both fiction and nonfiction share elements, e.g., shades of story, so too do poetry and nonpoetry, e.g., shades of form. Nonpoetry implies a continuum, in a way, it invites poetry to break out of itself.
    Our objective is to develop exemplary forms in an invented genre. In the workshop we focus on the production and critique of small-scale initiatives, which may jumpstart 'or explode the potential of' larger projects in literature, studio, or the graduate thesis. Students are welcome to bring specific problems into the workshop for solution.
    This course is for poets and nonpoets who want to slow down and look closely at writing, giving amplified attention to any of its aspects, e.g., how it looks, how it sounds, what it's made of, what it means, whom it's for, what it can do. Outcomes include individual and collaborative publication and performance. References include texts such as Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, Italo Calvino's Six Memos for the Next Millennium, Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith's Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing; digital archives such as PennSound and UbuWeb; and investigations into applied poetics.
    Graduate elective
  • GRAD-112G


    Faculty: Anne West

    This seminar is for first-year graduates who wish to unearth a direction - an origin point - for their graduate thesis and to jumpstart the writing process for the Master's written document. Organized as a series of intensive writing workshops, this forum will enable you to explore relevant ideas, themes, and core values, and to conduct research in support of the inquiry process. This is essentially an introspective probing of what you have experienced, are interested in and may wish to question, investigate, and make. At the conclusion of the seminar, you will have a conceptual focus for your thesis that is clearly formulated - both visually and verbally. With this in place, the summer months can then be used productively to further the breadth and depth of this initial idea through open-ended exploration and self-generated work.
    Graduate elective; Available to first-year graduate students
  • GRAD-017G


    Faculty: Thomas Gardner

    What is the relationship between pedagogy and practice? How can teaching and pedagogy be implicated within the practice of art, design, and architecture? How do public, community-based, and collaborative practices change the nature of teaching and learning? And how do we proceed?
    This course provides a forum for critical discussion and engagement with pedagogy and contemporary art and design practice that is exploratory and speculative. Through examination and analysis of vital models ? including public art, the community charrette, collectivity and participation ? the course is a pointed examination of teaching, learning, and the making of work as a shared creative practice. Coursework includes readings and discussions, screenings and workshops. The class seeks to expand understanding of the cultural context that informs the production and development of critical interpretations of project, research, and pedagogy, providing a platform to carry the work into the world.
    The course is open to all graduate students from all departments.
  • GRAD-140G


    Faculty: Jennifer Joy

    Precarious Relations considers the precarious as a cultural condition and aesthetic strategy. Looking to the recent turn toward precarious as a term used to narrate a series of distinct social, political, and artistic projects, this seminar asks how these multiple evocations of precarious connect and diverge. Tangled, tenuous, unstable, fragile, provisional, perilous, improvised, ordinary, fraught, exposed, entropic, uncertain-these words describe a form of sculpture, media, and performance practices that deploy promiscuous assemblage or tenuous relation to form as an explicit reworking of cultural events. When asked to name a defining condition of art over the last decade, Hal Foster responded with 'precarious' and pointed to work of Thomas Hirschhorn, Jon Kessler, Isa Genzken, as examples. Extending this assessment to other sculptural and performance works and also to historical precedent we will look at work and writing by artists including Mario Merz, Lygia Clark, Eleonora Fabico, Sharon Hayes, Paul Chan, Cecilia Bengolea & Frangois Chaignaud, DD Dorvillier, Francis Alys.
    These practices are considered alongside theoretical and fictional conceptions of precarious: as a social condition and mode of political address by Judith Butler and Emmanuel Levinas, as a 'biopolitics and a biopoetics' as described by Eleonora Fabico, as staged in distinct and contradictory ways in the writings of Jacques Rancihre, Chantal Mouffe, and Nicolas Bourriaud, conceptualized in terms of the art market by Gregory Sholette, and as performed in the novels of Don DeLillo and Clarice Lispector.
    Graduate elective
  • GRAD-101G


    Faculty: Janet Zweig

    This course offers the opportunity to discover the many creative and career possibilities in the growing interdisciplinary field of public art. It is both a seminar and a studio; the mix of RISD and Brown University graduate students creates a fertile exchange of skills and knowledge. We explore the potential of working in the public realm as an artist and/or arts administrator.

    During the first half of the course, students research and present aspects of each weekly topic, including: pivotal events and artworks that formed the history of public art from the early 20th century to the present; individual artists' work and their approaches to site-specificity; current debates around defining the public, public space, and community; temporary vs. permanent work; controversies in public art; memorials, monuments, and anti-monuments; a case study of design team practice in a public/private development; public art administration models, among others.

    During the second half, students work collaboratively and individually on proposals and projects: a proposal for a memorial; proposals for a specific site in Providence; and temporary artworks sited in Providence.

    A large, on-line database of readings, websites, and other resources is provided. There is a New York trip to meet artists and arts administrators whose work helped define the contemporary field. There are readings, videos, and discussions, as well as class time for research, project development, and group meetings. Students learn "real world" skills in both the administrative and artistic roles.

    Graduate elective
    The course is offered to Brown and RISD graduate students and Brown seniors with permission, sponsored by Brown's Graduate Program in Public Humanities.
    Permission of instructor required:
  • GRAD-098G


    Faculty: Gabriel Feld

    Cities are complex artifacts shaped by powerful forces such as history, geography, culture, building and landscape. In turn, they become a stage for human drama, shaping the very life of people connected with them. This course understands cities as both physical and cultural constructions that can be subject to a variety of readings. Lectures, presentations, assignments and discussions will focus on individual cities--such as Havana, Vienna, Lisbon, Istanbul and Beijing--looking at their physical form and history, as well as some of their major cultural figures, materials, including maps, aerials, historic documents, fiction and non-fiction readings, theatre, film, visual arts, music, dance and food.
    Graduate elective
    ARCH majors must register by the Department of Architecture to satisfy the prerequisite for Degree Project ARCH 2175
  • GRAD-150G


    Faculty: Thomas Zummer

    In this seminar we approach the writing of a dissertation (MFA and/or PhD) along two axes: first, as a pragmatic 'writing-intensive' workshop, where we review the formal, technical and conceptual aspects of writing a thesis or dissertation, attend to the history of this genre/type of text, and address the requisite methods of research, analysis, and explication. In this context we address the specific conditions of a master's thesis here at RISD; second, we read, carefully and precisely, a number of works which began as a required thesis. Among the dissertations that we examine are Michel Foucault's Folie et deraison: Histoire de la folie a l'age classique (1961) [Madness and Civilization (2006)] submitted for the degree of Doctorat; Jean Frangois Lyotard's Discourse, Figure, submitted for a Doctorat es lettres, Jacques Derrida's Le probleme de la genese dans la philosophie de Husserl /The Problem of Genesis in Husserl's Philosophy, submitted as a dissertation for the diplome d'etudes superieures (1953-54, pub. 1990), Georges Canguilhem's Le Normal et le Pathologique/The Normal and the Pathological (1943, pub. 1966), for a Doctorat es medicine. In this way we underscore the intricate and imbricated relationship between philosophy, creativity, pedagogy and scholarship. In addition there is a roundtable discussion with masters and doctoral candidates, recent PhD/MFA/MA recipients, and dissertation advisors. We also attend to recent trends and problems in curriculae for advanced degrees in art/media practice by examining a number of programs such as the European Graduate School, Transmedia programme/Brussels, TransArt Institute/Linz, KASK/Ghent, St. Martin's, Goldsmith's, IDSVA, and similar programs. "A dissertation is not merely a prerequisite for an academic job. It may set the stage for a scholar's life project. So, the doctoral dissertations of Max Weber and Jacques Derrida, never before available in English, may be of more than passing interest. In June, the University of Chicago Press will publish Mr. Derrida's dissertation, The Problem of Genesis in Husserl's Philosophy, which the French philosopher wrote in 1953-54 as a doctoral student, and which did not appear in French until 1990. From the start, Mr. Derrida displayed his inventive linguistic style and flouting of convention."-Danny Postel, Chronicle of Higher Education
  • GRAD-141G


    Faculty: Pancho Liernur

    Globalization (or capitalist expansion) is a crucial factor to explain modern art ("primitivism" and cubism, for example) but this factor is ignored in order to explain modern architecture. The history of modern architecture was written from a very provincial and restrictive North-Atlantic perspective; following Raymond Williams the renovation of this canonical tale needs of a multiplication of the visions from outside the Euro-North American point of view. In "The politics of Modernism" the British scholar revealed the centrality of immigration for the creation of what -referring to early modern art- he called the most creative but today canonized phase of modern culture. With regards to a possible re-invigoration of that creativity he proposed the necessity of new ways of seeing. "It is time to explore (that phase)" -he writes- with something of its own sense of strangeness and distance, rather than with the comfortable and now internally accommodated forms of its incorporation and naturalization. (?) It involves looking from time to time, from outside the metropolis: from the deprived hinterlands, where different forces are moving, and from the poor world which has always been peripheral to the metropolitan systems". Some of the issues we will examine will be: the new (colonial) types of built environment, the territorial systems (railroads system), the discovery of "other"s creativity (primitivism and orientalism), the influence of tropical conditions, the discoveries in the architecture of ancient non western cultures, the aplication of new urban schemes, the lost of roots, the new sense of landscape. This index must be expanded by considering the emergence of "Third World" after WW2 and with it a new state of things that introduced the expansion of shanty towns, the attraction of new exoticisms -since tropicalism to informal urbanism-, the foundation of new capital cities, the formation of new international institutions, the discovery of the boundaries of modernistic "universalism", the experiences of exile.
  • GRAD-133G


    Faculty: Ijlal Muzaffar

    Globalization is often perceived as a process of expansion of modernization. It is the cutting edge of modernity, opening hitherto unaffected areas to its benefits. Yet, when viewed within a slightly larger historical frame, we see that areas deemed to be outside a global modernity - whether called traditional, feudal, or customary - have always had a symbiotic relationship with one wave of "globalization" or another, be it colonization, discourses of Third World development, or contemporary military and financial networks. Globalization could then be seen, not as a process of "arrival" of modernity, but of a "displacement" of one system of control and management onto another.

    This course charts the particular displacements ushered in by political decolonization across the world after the Second World War. In the postwar era, these displacements have been pushed through primarily through architecture, planning, and design. The course explores the continuous displacement of power enabled by design practices proclaimed as the cutting edge of research and theory. Readings include primary texts on the Third World by famous modern architects, planners, and industrial designers, as well as secondary pieces, including theoretical analyses, films, and fiction that help us understand the ideological and economic underpinnings of these shifting terrains. We critically examine such apparently benevolent ideas as Third World development, self-help housing, participatory development, empowerment of women, sustainability and environmentalism, and more recently, finding alternative forms of modernity in slums in Africa.
    Graduate Elective
  • GRAD-132G


    Faculty: Nicole Merola

    This course is a critical theory course in which we carefully read and discuss together theoretical texts centered on "nature," "environment," and relationships between humans and "nature" and "environment." Theories of NatureCulture is in part an investigation into the claims about "nature" and "environment" produced by different theorists and texts - about what "nature" and "environment" are in each text, about how we comprehend and interact with the "nature" and "environment" on offer in each text, and about the material consequences that accrue from particular ways of conceptualizing "nature" and "environment."
    By taking this class, you acquire an understanding of many of the central ideas that undergird work in the environmental humanities, and in environmentalist discourse more generally. The primary activity of this course is close engagement (sometimes dense) with theoretical material. While you need not have experience reading critical theory, you must be willing to confront, question, and wrestle with texts that do not easily yield their meaning. Areas of environmental theory we will likely consider include: romantic aesthetics, Marxism and materialism, phenomenology, science studies, planetarity, animal studies, and queer nature. Thinkers we will likely read include: Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Paul Virilio, Donna Haraway, Andrew Pickering, Lynn Margulis, and Nicole Shukin.
    The aim of this course is twofold: it offers you the chance to read widely within a body of critical theory focused on "nature" and "environment" and it affords you the opportunity to build bridges between this body of theory and your own work. The course requires thorough investigation of the texts under study - careful reading of the texts, lively discussion about them, written responses to them - and the application of salient ideas to your own work.
    Graduate Elective
  • GRAD-131G


    Faculty: Janet Zweig

    RISD and Brown University graduate students collaborate on an extended public project, learning real-world skills for public practice and administration. This work results in a public project sited in Providence.
    There are readings and discussions on ideas about the public and the public sphere from many disciplines including the visual and performing arts, philosophy and theory, urban planning and the built environment. There are guest speakers from these fields. The course is both a seminar and a studio; the mix of RISD and Brown University graduate students creates a fertile exchange of skills and knowledge.
    Graduate elective
    RISD and Brown graduate students by permission of instructor only:
Grad Studies Foreground Image 4
There’s a proper place for every tool in this particular studio workspace.