Se Habla Español, an Experimental and Foundation Studies studio at RISD


(inspirational music) – In EFS, there are lots of different ways that faculty approach the assignments that they give to the students. The thing that Paula
does so amazingly well is that she brings a lot of
theory and ideas to students about big issues such as
work, power, education. Rather than illustrating
the idea, they’re living it through the way she
structures her assignments. – The assignment is
called Se Habla Espanol that I developed throughout
the first year Design Studios. And it was a class that was
taught in my native language, which is Spanish. So I gave them the first day of class a Spanish-English dictionary, and this manual of
instruction, this handout with 50 assignments, and they
have to develop the work. None of my students were Spanish speakers. So it was not really about the Spanish, but about what that entitled. – When it’s in Spanish,
not only does it convert what the prompt is asking, but you’re able to use certain aspects
and different translations of the instruction to make
it into your own piece and kind of bend the rules. – Every week, you’d have to translate like four or five assignments and figure out how you’re going to do them. And when you get to the
50th one, it tells you that you have to go back to the beginning and do them all again. So it becomes this kind of investigation, and it was making us question the meaning of everything we were doing. – And we also have another
part of the entire assignment that’s essays and readings
that help you self-reflect. It influenced me as a person. – There’s a really vast
range of assignments. Things that were from drawing, to video, to net artwork, translating
a Zapatista speech from Subcomandante Marcos, to tying themselves to a rope
and an object to seven days, to walking in the museum
and observing one piece for 35 minutes without moving. Well you can call it experimental just because we’re testing things, but it’s more because it’s experiential. There’s assignments about social practice and volunteering work for weeks. There’s other assignments that ask them to follow a stranger for 24 hours and document all their actions. And those are things that doesn’t exist. They’re immaterial sort of work. And so they start finding
knowledge in everyday life. – My favorite assignment
was probably Ode to Light. I loved making those videos. Just paying attention
to super small things and the idea of making a
tribute to those things. – My favorite one was the dictionary one. We had to create a
piece with a dictionary, so I engraved a quote
from the first reading. “This is the oppressor’s language, yet I need it to talk to you.” It helped me explore my
postcolonial identity. – The reading around the
kind of historical narrative, or the theoretical narrative,
or the pedagogical narrative, it comes about as part of the exercise. It doesn’t lead the exercise. – Going through each individual prompt, we start to discuss a lot about forgotten, like indigenous peoples, and start to move into a discussion of postcolonialism and leaving behind the
traces of other cultures without going back to reflect on them, not only in societal terms,
but also in the art world. A lot of the overall
process was learning about these other cultures, learning
about other techniques and art movements, and then fostering it into your own techniques. – I have more freedom in the way I create, because you have to move on
and go to the next assignments. There’s a rhythm to it. So you get a lot of bold decisions. All my assumptions of good
or proper artistic process washed away. – What I love about
Paula’s course is the way it really functions in
a kind of meta level and getting students to question some of the assumptions they bring, not only to the
teacher-student relationship, but also how they’re made
to be active participants, to become responsible
for their own learning, constantly thinking
about, thinking and making and the intersection of the two. – Every assignment is like a wild card. You never know what you’re gonna get. I just started coming up with ideas faster instead of mulling them over
and thinking, “Is this good? “Is this bad? “Will my teacher like it?” I just try it and see what becomes of it and just not staying in what I’m good at. And I feel like that’s at
the core of foundations year. We’re really supposed to experiment. And this class gave us so
many chances to experiment. – We had occasional crits
about every two weeks. I took the comparison aspect of the crit as a chance to look at other
approaches to the same prompt. It’s a lot of helping each other out. – Learning to drive yourself
as an artist is hard to obtain when you hit a roadblock,
and having to go to 50 teaches you how to
maintain a creative level throughout the entire thing. I think that’s important for any artist, how to continue creating and make it work. – I was really scared. (laughing) Yeah, I called
my mom, and I was like, “I don’t know what I’m gonna do.” “I’m gonna fail this class.” But then I got really excited. So I just started thinking, “How am I gonna approach this problem?” “How am I going to navigate this barrier that’s been put in front of me?” And then it became really exciting. – At the first day, I was so confused, why she is speaking in Spanish, making us do these very meaningless and absurd assignments. So I thought like, “How
is that gonna help me grow as an artist?” But it actually helped me a lot, because this is more self-driven. In our future career, we have to find out what we are gonna do by ourself, and maybe it’s inspired by one statement. And we have to make it
into a presentable artwork. – And there were no deadlines, which further deconstructs the idea of traditional schooling. That was pretty different. You have to balance quality and quantity to find your pace of working. It’s about time management for sure. – And so that moment of
translating and slowing down was for me also a moment for
them to free themselves. I already came in with
breaking the basic assumption, that this class will be in English. So if you break the sort
of basic assumption, then all the assumptions can be broken. In a way we were asking
at the very end, you know, the ways that we know,
the ways that we learn. It was sort of a very
self-reflective process about what is art, what is design, and also what is education. (inspirational music)

2 Comments

  1. Paloma Gómez

    October 7, 2019 at 9:09 pm

    PUES SI HABLAIS ESPAÑOL…QUE SE NOTE, !HACED EL VIDEO TAMBIEN EN ESPAÑOL!.

  2. Paloma Gómez

    October 8, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    !!!!!!!El español es el idioma más bonitoooo del mundo entero!!!!!!

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