by Paul D'Agostino
From singularly personal to potentially global, from individually exploratory to broadly sociocultural, from profoundly interiorizing to boundlessly concerned for others and society at large, the variably mediated final projects produced by this graduating class of Integrated Design students evidence poles of inspiration and interests that might now be described as intimate, now as ostensibly infinite.
Ceramics, books, music booths, movie trailers, garments, collages, prints, videos, poetry, prose, lexicons, seed bombs, furniture, coloring books, undergarments, jewelry, reconfigured pasts, curiously foreseen futures, critiques of the present, admonishments for what is to come: the physical and conceptual yields of these young creatives’ hard work are as associatively absorbing to describe and discuss—please note that this is hardly an exhaustive list—as they are keenly imagined and instructive to engage with. Indeed, this latter point, that of engagement, is of particular importance, as even the most individualized or autobiographical projects furnish viewers with something to actively use, experience, contribute to or take away. This is how a project whose impetus is something intimate extends outwards into the world at large. In turn, this is also how a project whose initial concern is the world at large brings the individual’s role therein into focus.
A number of students activate their projects by narrating personal or familial histories of discrimination, disappointment or inequality not merely to tell or retell a story, but also to provide functional lessons and suggestions for overcoming, along with transporting or transportable products aimed at further diffusing such narratives and prescriptions. Other students, meanwhile, take cues from broader if not truly global concerns—urban blight, poverty, endangered ecosystems, scarcity of resources—to catalyze and contextualize their works. Thus are the folk traditions of a remote village, for instance, incorporated into solutions for more sustainable forms of production that could also improve villagers’ lives; thus is the relative ease with which every single one of us can become an agent of positive change emphatically expressed, underscoring how crucial it is for everyone to collectively disseminate such knowledge far and wide. From one group of projects to the next, that which is personal is cast out into greater spheres of awareness and utility, and that which is far-reaching or global is compartmentalized into operative modes of individual activity and enterprise.
I have greatly enjoyed working with this group of inspired, enthusiastic design students. It has been a pleasure to become acquainted with them as fellow creatives, with their extensive range of skill sets and intellectual interests, and with their backgrounds and professional ambitions, all of which has taught me a great deal in return. No matter where their individual points of departure are now located on my proposed spectrum of ‘intimate to infinite,’ I am certain that they are all on the right track—and that the paths they’re already carving are well worth following.
The above text is my curatorial essay for Intimate to Infinite, an exhibition I curated at Parsons The New School for Design, as the Capstone Exhibition for the BFA program in Integrated Design. It was on view from May 8th-18th, 2017. It featured thesis projects by three dozen graduating seniors studying with Caroline Woolard, Gabi Asfour, Jody Wood, and Program Director Adam Brent.
Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More information about him is available here, and you can find him as @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.