In the 2013-2014 academic year, ADHT launched the Integrative Seminar and Studio as a cornerstone of the foundational first-year of Parsons’ innovative new curriculum. Dynamically bridging theory and practice, Integratives explores methods of collaboration and interdisciplinarity as a means to catalyze productive dialogues between studio and seminar practice. In these courses, students investigate the myriad ways that reading, writing, research, and making come together to form the fertile ground of creative and critical inquiry in art and design. Drawing together—and blurring the boundaries between—intellectual and material practices, Integratives instills a rigorous and generative mode of thinking and making that all students carry with them across their four years at Parsons.
Rory O’Dea is the Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art and Design and the Course Coordinator for Integrative Seminar and Advanced Research Seminar. His scholarship explores the intersection of visual and verbal languages in post-war and contemporary art, with a particular interest in the ways that artists and designers draw upon the discourses of research, history, and fiction in order to shift our understanding of the past and the conditions of possibility for the present and future.
In the Spring of 2017, Parsons graduated the first class to complete the new curriculum, and on the occasion of this extraordinary achievement, ADHT would like to recognize and celebrate the exceptional creative, scholarly and pedagogical practices of our Integratives faculty in our Integrative Seminar & Studio Faculty Spotlight Series.
In this feature, we catch up with Integratives faculty member Eric Anthamatten, borrowing some questions from the Proust Questionnaire in the spirit of true collaboration.
Please tell us a little bit about your background: what is your primary scholarly and/or creative practice?
My primary work focuses on issues involving punishment and incarceration. I have taught philosophy in prisons in Texas, New York, and Connecticut for ten years. It is this experience that has served as the “ground” that informs my various scholarly and creative endeavors. My dissertation was titled “Pedagogy of the Condemned,” and I hope to develop this into a book that continues to explore the intersections between education, formations of the identity “criminal,” and the many (problematic) philosophies and practices of punishment.
But when the sun sets, I perform under different “heteronyms” in a variety of mediums: poetry, music, and performance art. Some of this work is conceptual and avant-garde (for example, on Inauguration Day, I painted myself orange, wore a diaper and a blonde wig, and crawled like a baby the 5 miles from the Wall St. “charging bull” all the way up Broadway to Trump Tower), but much of it is also connected to my care, concern, and critique for social justice and emancipatory politics.
What would you say is your pedagogical approach to the Integrative seminar that you teach?
I try to make the classroom as dialogical and embodied as possible. By “dialogical” I mean a sort of Socratic scene of speaking and listening directed at some question or issue. By “embodied” I mean incorporating practices that do not render the student to be a passive receiver of mere information, sitting quietly in their desk only using eyes and ears, but an active co-participant and co-creator, working to engage with and transform information into knowledge, not only through “mind”, but with their entire being, something that not only involves hands, but the physical encounter with the world of things and the world of others. While I think that there is a time and place for more traditional “lectures,” as a teacher, my point of departure is always the question, not the answer, the process, not the product, the activity.
Has leading this course in any way informed an evolutionary change in your academic pedagogy? In your scholarly/creative practice?
I am “trained” as a philosopher and do most of my scholarly work around social justice issues. But, I have always been involved with many creative endeavors, having been a musician and performance artist for some years. Teaching art and design students (mostly international students) most certainly has forced me to (positively, I think) figure out different ways to convey important ideas about self, meaning, and engagement. I am constantly surprised by the ways in which some of my students approach some of the artistic and social problems that I introduce in the course. Their creativity and enthusiasm often keeps me engaged, invigorated, and somewhat hopeful that the work that I do as an educator has some small effect in making the world a bit more humane, just, and beautiful.
Which living person do you most admire?
Anyone who is living and not merely existing.
What is your current state of mind?
“Mind” does not exist as a “state,” but is a dynamic fluctuating collision of electricity and blood, something that can never really be grasped, much less articulated.
When and where were you happiest?
If the question is “When did you feel most content?” or “When did you experience the most joy?”, then probably I would reference some moment in my childhood, maybe the serious engagement with my imaginative world of play (Star Wars, G.I. Joe, toys that involved building…Is it strange that I always was drawn to the characters that wore masks?).
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I am a professional snoozer. I can hit the snooze button four times and exist in that somnambulant limbo for hours. I get up when I have to, and I am punctual and reliable to a fault, but I love sleep. It’s perhaps my favorite “desire.”
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
If you ask some of my family, they would say that my role in The Dark Knight Returns as a member of Bane’s team of anarchic revolutionaries is my most notable accomplishment.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
The wisdom of Silenius: “Best to never be born. But second best to die young.” But if I had to choose, probably a tardigrade.
Who are your favorite writers?
I have never read anything like Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. Always Whitman. Lately, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ and Roxanne Gay’s comic book run of Black Panther.
Find Eric online at www.ericanthamatten.com and @eAnthamatten