Tag Archives: Profiles

Introducing Mario A. Caro, Draper’s New Faculty Fellow in Art Worlds

Draper is delighted to introduce Mario A. Caro as our new faculty fellow in Art Worlds. Dr. Caro will be teaching two courses for Draper in the fall–Introduction to Art Worlds I and Topics in Art Worlds–and more information on those classes will be available shortly. His bio is below; please join us in welcoming him to the program.

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Mario A. Caro is a researcher, curator, and instructor of contemporary Indigenous art. His research topics include the representation of Indigenous cultures within the museum; the visual production of an “aesthetics of nostalgia” within photographic practices; art historical methodologies and the production of colonial discourses; and, most recently, essentialism and Native art practices. He has also curated various national and international exhibitions and was the curator of exhibitions at Alaska House, New York in Soho.

Dr. Caro completed his doctorate at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam, and has taught at various institutions, including The Evergreen State College, Otis School of Art and Design, and Indiana University, where he held the post of Public Scholar for Civic Engagement. He has published widely on the history, theory, and criticism of contemporary art, and is the founding editor of Invisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture.

His work within the academy complements his endeavors to further global cultural exchange. He serves on the boards of various organizations focused on art residencies and is the current president of Res Artis, an international network of art residencies focused on promoting the worldwide mobility of artists. Dr. Caro is committed to combining his interdisciplinary scholarship with his community-oriented organizing and curating activities.

Student Profile: Scott Kaplan on Organizing the "Bodies on the Line" Symposium with Anna Deavere Smith

A second year Draper student, Scott Kaplan is also a diversity educator, reading teacher, and playwright. He has written two full length plays–one of which had a reading at the off-Broadway theater company Primary Stages–and was recently awarded an Emerging Jewish Artist Fellowship by the Bronfman Center at NYU.

Scott has also worked with the actress Anna Deavere Smith since last year. A MacArthur fellow who is renowned for her “documentary theater” pieces which chronicle episodes of violence, struggle, and healing in contemporary American history and life, Anna is also a professor at NYU who seeks to involve graduate students in greater scholarly and artistic dialogs. As Anna’s research assistant, Scott helped organize a nine-day symposium called Bodies on the Line last semester. He sat down with us recently to talk about his research and work with Smith as well as this unique symposium.

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Sitting around a table with Anna Deavere Smith and nine other artists last November, Draper student Scott Kaplan had to ask himself, “What am I doing here?”

Anna had gathered a diverse group of international artists and writers to participate in a nine day symposium called Bodies on the Line. Taking the complex idea of “borders” as a point of departure, Bodies on the Line sought to “explore…artistic representations and investigations of immigration, statelessness, and identity in the contemporary world.” The symposium paired nine fellows–including a Brooklyn-based professor, a French-Algerian rapper, an Argentinian printmaker, and a Vietnamese photographer–with locals artists for nine days of events. In one event, cellist Michael Fitzpatrick was paired with Rabbi Irwin Kula to “discus[s] the power of good vibrations” in promoting peace and compassion. In another, South African playwright Yael Farber’s play, “He Left Quietly,” which originally cast real people telling their own stories on stage, was reinterpreted by a cast of New York actors.

As Anna’s research assistant, Scott was glad to have a part in the preparation of Bodies on the Line. He had already been eager to develop practical experience organizing arts symposia, and found that this one afforded a unique opportunity to do so, since it pushed participants to consider the process of developing and participating in academic conferences just as much as the actual content of the symposium itself. Only half of Bodies on the Line was composed of public events; the other half was made up of working groups of invited fellows, local artists, and the symposium organizers. The dual principal, Scott explained, was for the participants to consider artists as objects of analysis while also reflecting on the methodology of the conference organizers.

These themes were particularly resonant with Scott because they formed some of the core issues that he and his fellow classmates explored in a course that he took with Anna in spring 2011: “The Aesthetics of You.” It was a selective class—Anna conducted interviews with students before admitting them—and Scott was the only non-actor to apply. Seeing a great potential for dialog in bringing together students with differing disciplinary background and artistic processes, Anna was “intrigued” by Scott’s application, and admitted him to the course.

“The Aesthetics of You” pushed students to grapple with the process of self-examination and artistic representation. One of the most memorable exercises the students undertook was to create a filmed presentation of themselves: an eight minute video where they said anything they wanted about who they were as individuals. Then, Anna assigned each student to replicate verbatim—in gesture and words—one of their classmate’s presentations. In pushing students to embody the physicality and language of their peers, Anna helped to exemplify what Scott refers to as one of her “credos.” Namely, “if you say a word long enough, it becomes you.”

This practice of empathy is an underlying theme in a talk that Anna invited Scott to give during her provostial lecture (called “The Mighty and the Vulnerable”) in October 2010, and again to the assembled artists and writers during Bodies on the Line. Scott’s talk discussed the recent suicide of Rutgers undergraduate Tyler Clementi. In this age of internet anonymity, when one’s words have such a large outlet and are so much easier to produce without worry of authorial identification, Scott used his talk to advocate for a greater sense of communal responsibility and awareness.

The importance of taking responsibility for what one says, writes, creates, and makes public resonated strongly with many of the artists attending the symposium. Many of these artists—such as photographer David Taylor, whose most recent project documented activity on the Arizona border—implicate others in their work, and as such “are very conscious of how their work is presented,” Scott says. “Of what is said, and what is left out.”

It didn’t take long for Scott to understand his role at the conference and answer his “Why am I here?” question. During a private meeting of one of the symposium’s working groups, he was the only person at the table who was a new organizer and a current graduate student. And it was precisely that combination that made his perspective and experience so valuable.

While Bodies on the Line—with its many different goals, complex structure, and the diverse perspectives of its participants—was already ambitious in scope, it was only ever intended to be a point of departure for those involved. During the nine days of the symposium, Anna and her fellow participants hoped “…to create new artistic partnerships, to inspire future projects, and to use artistic practice as a way of investigating new and historical ideas.” The next phase of the conference, for Scott, will be to co-write a piece with Anna about the symposium, reflecting on that experience and how to apply it in his future scholarship.

-Larissa Kyzer & Georgia Jelatis-Hoke-

Addictive Fiction: April Bacon on Fiction Fix

Although Draper alumna April Bacon calls New York City home, that hasn’t prevented her from becoming the editor-in-chief of Fiction Fix, an online literary journal founded on the “premise of fiction as an addictive experience,” which is produced by faculty, current students, and alumni of the University of North Florida (UNF). An alumna of UNF herself, April moved to New York in 2008, with the intention of enrolling in NYU’s Creative Writing Program. Instead, she was accepted to Draper, where she spent the next few years investigating intersections of science and literature.

It was during her time at Draper that April got involved with her alma mater’s literary journal, an entirely volunteer-maintained collaboration. “Everything is done online,” April explains. “It seems like it would be restrictive, but it really isn’t.” Fiction Fix, she says, has cultivated a strong community for people who want to “talk about stories.” The journal has gone through some major changes since April’s arrival as editor, most notably its transition from being a print magazine to an entirely online publication. But although April would like the journal to be published in print format once again, she sees this development as being a very positive one for Fiction Fix. “It’s always been our goal to have a strong online presence,” she says, explaining that this shift has vastly increased the journal’s readership, not to mention the number of subscriptions that it receives each cycle. “We receive five times as many submissions as we did before.” And where Fiction Fix used to only receive submissions from writers in Florida, it now attracts submissions from all over the United States and even other countries.

Another change that April brought about when she joined as editor was to adjust each issue’s focus. Fiction Fix now alternates between its usual fiction issues (which feature a wide variety of traditional and experimental pieces) and “special issues,” which highlight a particular literary genre. “We introduced ‘the special issue,’” April explains, “because, unlike the fiction issue, it is entirely malleable based on what connections and fun we might take advantage of at any moment –because of this, for example, we are incredibly grateful that Mark Ari, an author and UNF faculty member, has agreed to guest edit the Spring 2011 special issue—a Creative Nonfiction issue. And issue 7 allowed us to explore the many and potent forms of ‘the short short.’ We also hope that by diversifying this way, we will reach an even greater reader- and author-ship, which is always partially the goal… We hope that writers and readers know that they can count on Fiction Fix not only for an excellent full fiction issue each year, but also for something unexpected.”

While much of April’s creative attention goes toward editing Fiction Fix, she’s also a writer herself. She’s published work in Deadpaper and Outsider Ink, as well as in Draper’s own journal, Anamesa, where her essay “Exquisite Patterns and Sympathies: Anthropomorphism in Darwinian Thought” will be featured in the forthcoming spring issue.

April recently also published a short story entitled “When the Sun is Glorious” in a young literary journal called Prick of the Spindle. The story, which imagines the first hot air balloon flight, draws on her interest in science—and more particularly, technology—in literature, and stems from a reading that she encountered in Daniel Thurs’ “Thinking About Tomorrow” class in 2008. “I have a bit of ‘science envy,’” she admits. “Scientists do such cool, tangible things.”

We asked April to highlight some notable fiction in recent Fiction Fix issues. Below are some of the more remarkable pieces that she thinks you may enjoy (she also mentions that the journal features great original artwork in many of its issues).

From the short short issue (issue 7)

*”Empty” by Harmony Neal describes the irremediable loss one feels on giving up the demon after an exorcism.

*”The Wheelchair Pusher” by Malcolm Murray follows the tale of “Mr. Z” a hospital volunteer who remembers a tragic mistake from his young life.

*”Paper Wait” by Travis Wildes envisions the future post-“ThinkWrite,” an AppleSoft word processing program that taps into the minds of humans to write stories better than they ever knew they could.

Forthcoming in issue 8:

*”[ ]” by Thomas Karst. Imagines a boy in the age of cave paintings, making his mark in a timeless space. [ ] is an experimental piece of fiction. On one page, words are worked into the shape of a hand-print — a pictorial reference to what was, the words seem to try to squeeze out of that tiny space in the same way human beings try desperately to make a permanent voice across ages.

*”Death of a Fat Man” by Scott Neuffer chronicles the last days of a young and morbidly obese man, and the reactions of his wispy and shrinking girlfriend.

*Through the eyes of a writer, “His Malaise” by Anthony Bell scrutinizes the all-too-familiar “Process of Rejection.” A notable metaphorical moment: the narrator gets “mooned” by a literary journal.

Fiction Fix’s forthcoming fiction issue will be available on the website in early December.

Draper Student Profile: Ji Hyuck Moon

A writer since the age of 12 (a “serious writer” since the age of 20), Draper student Ji Hyuck Moon has been relentlessly pursuing his ambition to become a successful fiction author for much of his life. This past year, he published a Science Fiction short story entitled “Chaser” on a prominent Korean website, and the story will be published as part of a larger print anthology this summer. He has also translated seven books from English into Korean. But while he has achieved a great measure of success in both the realms of fiction and translation, Ji Hyuck continues to set new goals for himself. Ultimately, he wants to write in English—to be an authentic Korean voice in American letters.

Choosing not to write fiction in one’s native language is a formidable objective, but Ji Hyuck points to one to one of his favorite authors, the Chinese-American novelist Ha Jin, as an example. (Jin began to learn English at the age of twenty, and now writes exclusively in English.) Ji Hyuck sees the switch to English composition as a creative choice as well as a practical way to break into the American literary community. “Writing in English, I can use language more as a tool,” he says. “Korean is too comfortable for me.” He favors simplicity in his work, and hopes to reduce any “surplus in [his] writing.” This, he says, will be easier to accomplish by writing in English.

Although he’s always wanted to be a fiction writer, he’s found himself involved with many other endeavors during his life. For one, there’s his involvement in translation. The process to publish fiction in Korea, he explains, is rather convoluted. It’s expected that authors will win an award from a literary journal or newspaper competition before they can expect to be published in most venues. But although he was frequently a finalist in these competitions, he never won. It was dispiriting, he explains, having “no results” to show for ten years of dedicated work. So he jumped at an opportunity to translate a book from English, when a publishing agency contacted him with an offer.

After completing his BA in Korea, Ji Hyuck applied to MFA programs in the United States, but was not offered admission to any of them. He took a copy-writing job with an advertisement agency, thinking that doing any writing for a living would be better than nothing, but found the work dissatisfying. “You spend all day writing small, trivial ads which no one even looks at in the newspaper,” he explains. And so he turned back to academia, and eventually, found himself at Draper.

Although balancing his creative and scholarly work at the same time has been difficult, Ji Hyuck is now invested in both worlds. He is considering the possibility of pursuing a Ph.D. in the future, but is also continuing to write fiction. He’s recently completed another short story which will be published in a Korean mystery anthology, and is working on a novel. And while sometimes it seems like there’s too much to juggle, he always finds the time to write.

Ji Hyuck Responds to The Draper Dozen:

1. When did you start at Draper?

This is my first semester at Draper. I was admitted to Fall 2009, but I deferred one semester to graduate from my former graduate school, Korea National University of Arts.

2. Are you a full or part-time student?

Full time. Every international has to be full time student.

3. Where are you from?

Seoul, South Korea.

4. What are your primary research interests?

Asian American literature and Asian immigrant writers – Ha Jin and Chang-rae Lee would be ideal examples. Although the Asian population in the United States is increasing rapidly, their presence in literature is hardly visible. Where are they and who is speaking for them? I am curious to know what their voice is and how their voice resonates in this multi-cultural society.

5. Why did you choose to pursue an interdisciplinary degree at Draper?

After I was rejected from an NYU Ph.D program, I received a letter suggesting I consider Draper. At that time, I was totally exhausted from all the application process, so I thought it was spam mail at first. (Actually, it was in the spam mailbox.) A few days later, I read it again before emptying my spam mailbox and found it worth thinking about. I couldn’t decide what I should do, though I knew this might be the last chance for me. I hesitated for two reasons: First, Draper is Master’s program but I was already getting an MFA degree from Korea National University of Arts (KNUA). Second, I had come to mistrust the term “interdisciplinary” because my graduate major, creative writing, was also an interdisciplinary program. At KNUA it is said that students in the interdisciplinary program are “everyone’s children,” But this also means the opposite: Everyone’s children are no one’s children.

After careful consideration, I finally decided to apply to Draper. New York is a place where young writers should go and, above all, NYU was the only school that gave me a second chance. As mentioned above, I deferred one semester to graduate from KNUA, and to get married in that summer. I am still not sure that I made a right decision, but so far, I am satisfied with the courses I am taking and the atmosphere of Draper. Maybe it’s only after everything is finished that I’ll know if I made the right choice.

6. What do you plan to do after Draper?

Basically, I plan to apply another Ph.D. program in literature. If I can call that my short-term plan, my long-term plan is becoming an immigrant writer. I don’t know whether it is possible or not for now, but I’ll try and see what is next. Writing fiction and teaching students (which also means learning, of course) – that’s what I want to do not only after Draper, but also for the rest of my life.

7. Do you have any special activities or projects outside of your academic work?

I write fiction, including short stories and novels. As announced in Draper’s blog, I published a Science Fiction short story entitled Chaser on naver.com in this February and it will be published later by Minumsa in this coming fall. I also have a contract with Woongjin, a leading publishing group in Korea, to publish a collection of my short stories later this year. Currently, I am working on a novel entitled Wednesday, which is a story about Jesus’ last (and lost) Wednesday before he died.

I also translate books into Korean. The most recent translation is Elephant Faith, by Cynthia Boykin, which was published in Korea in January. So far, I have translated 6 books and my 7th book, In Quiet Light: Poems on Vermeer’s Women by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, will be published later this year.

8. What do you like best about New York City?

People. Comparing with my soul city, Seoul, New York has much more diversity. You can encounter any kind of people around the corner. I like that I can’t predict who I will meet in the street at all. The same thing happens in class. The big picture made by the students who have different background and culture is fascinating.

9. What do you like least about New York City?

The smell. I have to take subway to get to NYU, but the smell of the subway stations is always hard to stand. Especially the smell after the rain – which is really unbearable. Compared to New York, the subway stations of Seoul are just like hotels.

10. If you were not in academia, what would you be doing?

In Korea, my first job was a copywriter at the J. Walter Thompson ad agency. Every day I used to write short copy for advertisements. If I hadn’t quit the job to attend graduate school, I would be a workaholic copywriter. Maybe I would have a lot more things than I do now. Maybe I would have a fancy car or expensive gadgets. But would I be happier? No. I still remember the interview with Ha Jin, which made me decide to quit my job: “In life as a human being, nothing is secure. Just follow your heart.”

11. What was the last book you read for fun (not for class or research)?

Currently I am reading Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Oland, Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, and The Bridegroom by Ha Jin. These books are so great that I don’t want to finish them too fast.

12. If you could change anything about ______ [fill in the blank: New York City, the world, the economy, your hair…] what would it be and why?

My name. Ji Hyuck is my first name though there’s a space between Ji and Hyuck, but people tend to call me Ji. (Hyuck is not my middle name!) I think the space confuses them. Also, Ji Hyuck is hard to pronounce. If you want to torture or train your tongue, practice pronouncing my name repeatedly. Plus, my family name, Moon, is too weird to be a last name. When I say and spell it, most are surprising with widening their eyes and ask, “You mean the moon in the sky?” What should I do then? Mostly I reply with an awkward smile, “Yes.”

13. How do you feel about social media and which, if any, do you use most?

Social media on the internet is not very attractive to me. In my twenties, I was a big fan of cyworld.com, the leading Social Network Service in Korea, which is similar to Facebook. I was a heavy uploader and would write something on my mini-homepage every day – but now I don’t use as much. It’s okay for keeping in touch with old friends long distance, but definitely not good for making new friends.

Draper Alumna Profile: Mary Snauffer

When Draper alumna Mary Snauffer looks at the trajectory her life has taken in recent years, she describes it as the product of “a lot of happy accidents.” From her decision to join the Peace Corps after completing her undergraduate degree (in English and Art History), to the significant change of direction her academic interests took while at Draper (see question five, below), to her current employment with Reprise Media as a social media coordinator—Mary has found herself in a variety of unexpected places. And yet, each of these developments fit together as if they were planned from the start. Of course, as “That Draper Kid,” Mary always felt like she was “putting together a puzzle” and making the subject matter in her courses “relevant in a much different sort of way than other students in class.” So for her, bringing together disparate interests and skills is habit by now.

As a social media coordinator, Mary “creates online strategies for major brands through Facebook, Twitter, and other online social platforms.” This work, as Mary points out, “is tightly entwined with the work I did on my thesis,” which was entitled “The Presentation of Self Online: A Study of People’s Relationships to Online Social Network Publics.” Her interest in social media began during her first year at Draper, when a Steinhardt class on media culture and youth inspired her to begin thinking more about identity creation—about “online lives versus ‘real’ lives.” A former roommate who worked with social media and search engine optimization led Mary to think about her academic interests in a more “career-oriented” light. She was amazed, she said, that someone “has an actual job at this.”

As more and more brands and corporations look to expand their advertising presence in social media settings, Mary believes that the dynamic between consumers and advertisers are changing for the better.“It’s an exciting opportunity,” she says. People can be “directly engaged with brands…it’s more of a democracy, and less like being broadcast at.” She cites an example where a cosmetics company paid for a Facebook advertisement and overnight, had 2,000 fans. However, at the same time, they were identified on PETA’s Facebook page as a brand which tests its products on animals. As Mary points out, this sort of interaction dramatically “changes the dialog that brands are used to having with consumers.”

While Mary is still very much invested in her work-life, she is still committed to continuing her academic work as well. “The good part of this job is that you’re encouraged to do your own thing. My niche is that I’m the person who’s interested in academic issues. Now I can start…working on articles on archival issues.” She is currently developing parts of her Master’s thesis into more focused articles and is interested in the way in which the preservation of personal artifacts is changing. “People on Facebook are not making scrapbooks,” she says, so how do they pick what to save, and how do they go about saving it?

As for advice for current Draper students, Mary simply suggests that even students like herself who don’t enjoy “networking” should “keep an ear to the ground.” There are so many different opportunities that people can take advantage of, especially in New York City, she says. She thinks that people may be surprised that many “people are willing to help you.”

Mary responds to ‘The Draper Dozen’

1. When did you graduate from Draper?
Summer 2009

2. Did you attend full or part-time student?
Both. Mostly part time (2 courses a semester), except for my first spring semester when I attended full-time with 3 courses.

3. Do you still live in New York?
Yes.

4. What was the topic of your Master’s thesis?
I was interested in studying how social networking sites (SNSs) like Facebook were transforming the ways we think, perceive, and behave. I interviewed over 100 internet-active human subjects (from 30 countries) about their behaviors on SNSs, and incorporated (principally) media theory, sociology, gender studies as well as archival scholarship. I was curious about how people presented their identity to a largely “invisible audience”- the challenge of having to articulate yourself or, as Danah Boyd coined, “write oneself into being,” fascinated me. And whether users assumed their (and their peers’) online identities to be authentic.

5. Why did you choose to pursue an interdisciplinary degree at Draper?
I decided to do [the Draper degree] while I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand. Looking back, I had no real idea what I was doing. My entire application process happened in a pretty dodgy internet café in my village where it was just me and Thai boys playing either violent video games or looking at porn. What appealed to me about Draper was the idea of working closely with a mentor and pulling in different subjects to support your main piece of work—your thesis. Draper was the only graduate program I applied to. My statement of purpose was about studying gender and Muslims, which clearly isn’t the path I stayed on. At all.

6. Are you still in academia? Why or why not?
No, though I like to think I have one big toe still in the pool. I’ve been working on expanding specific chapters of my thesis in order to publish them in journals—the work I did studying the threat and potential of personal artifacts in Facebook-era really interests me and I am looking around at archival journals. Since my job now forces me to constantly consider how people view brands in the Facebook/Twitter/etc. space, working on academic stuff in this area still feels really relevant. The only problem with this area and academia is that the technology changes so quickly it’s really difficult to properly analyze anything. It’s also difficult to write in a way that won’t sound dated in two years, which is frustrating.

7. What special activities or projects do you enjoy outside of your academic work and/or career?
I enjoy running and writing fiction. I also am trying to become a “serious” cook.

8. What do you like best about New York City?
I like that I have so many friends from different areas and periods of my life who have migrated here. And that you don’t have to own a car—I like that a lot.

9. What do you like least about New York City?
That it’s a city. I like to pretend I’m really a person who would rather live in a rural/college town sort of place. I’m not sure if that’s even true anymore, as I’ve gotten pretty used having everything I need in a mile radius from me at all times.

10. What was the last book you read for fun?
I’m currently reading the Raymond Carver biography. Before that it was Lit by Mary Karr.

11. If you could change anything about ______ [fill in the blank: New York City, the world, the economy, your hair…] what would it be and why?
My job: I would get out of work at 3:00 PM and have the summer off.

12. How do you feel about social media and which, if any, do you use most?
Well, I feel quite strongly about social media! At work I am constantly on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Constantly. In my real life, I feel like I’m a registered user of everything there is but actively use Facebook, Gmail, and Twitter, with a dash of YouTube. I’ve been debating committing a “cyber suicide” for a month by cutting myself off and then writing an essay about that experience. I don’t think my boss would like that experiment, though.