2021 Senior Theses
Spiral is a film which uses animation to discuss topics centering around the empathetic process. In the film, two characters are challenged with the emotional process as one of them is overcome with melancholy and the second offers support. The sad character first tries to suppress their emotions, but is only ever able to actually feel peace when the other character shows them how to embrace their emotions instead. They do this by expressing empathy, a form of emotional understanding in which the body feels into another being’s emotional experience and offers a listening ear, a hug, or whatever form love is needed in. The most essential aspect of empathy is that it does not try to change what is happening. It is not trying to make someone feel better or to change anything; this is what I would call compassion, passionate action to create positive change. Empathy is not about positivity and it’s not about change, at least not explicitly. It is about existing within the body, being present in emotions, listening to them, asking what they need, and offering them love.
Walking Gardens: An Exploration of Land, Food, and Magic in a Concrete World
This thesis is the fruit of a year-long experiment in vacant land occupation, replanting hardscapes, and finding low-cost ways to make food production and land-working accessible and meaningful within the city. It begins with a dive into internet-borne “cottagecore” aesthetics and the myth of pastoralism as an escape from capitalism, then moves into the flaws in post-Green Revolution, Western-colonial farming practices, providing evidence supporting permaculture techniques and small-scale farming. The thesis then addresses examples of anti- or extra-capitalist structures which provide food, shelter, and options to marginalized and/or oppressed people within communal structures of care and mutual aid.
To Speak of Forms Changed: Telling the Story of a Completely Unglamorous Transition
My comics Studio Art thesis is the first chapter of a longer work to be completed this summer, telling the story of my gender transition. My work consists of forty comics pages that draw on nonfiction comics and stand-up comedy to relate the areas where nerdy, socially isolated transgender people first discover the possibility that gender is malleable – namely mythology and pornography. In the written component of this thesis, I discuss the process of making the work and the broader social and personal climate in which it was made, and outline my methodology for studying art by sharing conversations I have had about the thesis process. Rather than discuss inspirations and theory in depth with regard to the completed studio work, I have elected to discuss my work in terms of the reactions it elicits; to that end, I have stated my goals with the artwork, collected reactions from my queer peers, and will let the reader determine whether the goals of the artwork have been met.
I Hold Myself In My Arms: The Book Figured as an Object of Comfort
In this written portion of my thesis I argue through material explorations of both textiles and the book form that an object’s mortal qualities, that is, the ways in which it degrades, warps, and disintegrates against the contact of a body over time, are central to its ability to evoke memory and signify meaning. The work I have created, an artist book entitled I Hold Myself In My Arms, expands upon and makes use of this relationship in the form of a soft fabric book. Through the material and writing contained in this artwork, I Hold Myself In My Arms explores the physicality of memory and comfort and how they are provoked through tactile engagement.
The Pond: On the Loop and Infinity in Experimental Animation
This thesis explores the usage of loops both technically and conceptually in experimental animations. I focus on two dimensions of loops, in the first chapter, through space, and in the second, through time. In each chapter, I formally analyze two films and how they use loops in order to achieve various conceptual, emotional, and aesthetic effects. In chapter one, I discuss Jordan Belson’s “Allures” and Boris Labbé’s “Rhizome,” and in chapter two I discuss Stig Bergqvist, Jonas Odell, Martti Ekstrand and Lars Ohlson’s “Revolver” and Matt Reynold’s “Bottom Feeders.” I emphasize the relative obscurity of these films, and experimental animation generally, in order to communicate their obsessive and highly personal viewership and the transfer of feelings, secrets, ideas, and magic that occurs between artist and viewer. I focus mostly on the range of effects that loops have on the viewers of films that employ them and discuss some possible philosophical implications of loops, focusing on eternal return and a fear of entropy. In the final chapter I discuss my own work, a short film made up mostly of looping sequences. I discuss my own philosophical beliefs surrounding the ocean and eternal return and the experiences and thought processes that got me there.
rez nullius: Indigenous Identity-Creation in Contemporary Art
The concepts of Indigeneity and of Indigenous existence have been constructed through settler-colonial frames of analysis and interpretation that often lack recognition of the complexities inherent in identity, and the results have reduced Native Americans to a singular caricaturized identity that is fixed in an imagined “perpetual past”. Beginning with an analysis of the institutions, such as the museum and the archive, that have created this identity, this thesis explores the work of specific contemporary artists and Indigenous artists to propose not only new methods of theorizing Native American identity in art but the possibilities of art in creating and (re)presenting Native American identity as a complex, multi-dimensional mode of being. Rather than seeking one singular answer to one specific problem, this thesis posits that such reduction prevents any answers from being discovered and that the most effective method of Indigenous artistic (re)presentation results from an acknowledgement of such complexity, allowing Indigenous creators to construct and convey their own unique identity on their own terms.
Framing Heroes In Crisis: Approaches to Identity in Superhero Comics
Comic books are a subset of the greater medium of comics and therefore share in the limitless potential of what comics can depict. Their only limitation being what the artist or writer chooses to render on the page. However, comic books that belong to the superhero genre (and are produced by large publishing houses like DC and Marvel) are surprisingly restrained in their approach to representation. Not until recently have we begun to see more superheroes whose identities deviate from the standard straight white male template and whose powers have the potential to make them the new vanguard of their respective comic book universes. This thesis begins by looking at the origins of the superhero genre starting with Superman’s debut issue in the 1930’s. From there the Man of Steel is divided into two parts, the American icon and the alien immigrant. The character of America Chavez is introduced to compare her origins to that of Superman, highlight the restraints placed on superhero stories (that are a part of the DC or Marvel universes), and ultimately acknowledge the lost potential in not exploring the topic of identity explicitly in superhero comics. The latter part of my thesis pivots to discuss the development of my superhero comic titled MOTH Issue #1.
“Atmospheric” Films: What It Means and How To Make It
In this thesis I will be focusing on the concept of atmosphere, a concept far too often forgotten about in film studies. I will specifically be exploring the visual phenomenon of atmosphere within narrative film and why all of its elements are important in the art of filmmaking. I will first define the vague concept within my own understanding of the term based on research of both film theorists and filmmakers. I will then be highlighting its relationship with the filmic elements and proving the visual power of atmosphere by using this framework to analyze a modern example of an “atmospheric” film: Robert Egger’s The Lighthouse (2019). I will conclude with a discussion of my own process for creating an “atmospheric” short film titled The Fourth Door. Using my understanding of the term, I will describe how atmosphere was created through each individual cinematic step. For pre-production I will particularly talk about the creation of the narrative, set, and costume design, as well as the importance of mood boards for building atmosphere early on in a project. In terms of production, I will discuss my own particular process for shooting and the film’s format. To conclude, I will discuss the post-production process, focusing particularly on the aspects of editing and animation and their importance for this project.
Connor Stockton Seymour
iMage Quest: QAnon, Network Aesthetics, and Speculative Fictions
iMage Quest is a 3D game made with the Unity Engine, inspired by games like LSD Dream Emulator. The game deals with conspiracy, reproduction, the persistence of icons, and the concept of the poor image. The first chapter explores how we represent networks traditionally, and the problematics of these modes of representation. The poor image is theorized as an alternative to the corporate network map -- the poor man's network map carries with it aspects of digital material culture. The poor image and social media together worked to make QAnon catch on with people. The poor image carries with it notions of authenticity, honesty, and quality. Poor images come to be more trustworthy than high-quality ones in an always-on digitally focused attention economy. Alternate reality games exploited this lack of trust in American institutions post-911 and post-Snowden, often using poor images to tell stories about real-world events or conspiracies. iMage Quest proposes an alternative model whereby conspiracy theory is channeled into modern myth-making through fantasy.