Marginalia, Graduate Blog

First Year in Review

Justin Botz

Photo Credit: Justin Botz

Tomorrow I will have my final presentation of the year, and with that presentation I will have pretty much completed my first year in the Interdisciplinary Arts and Media M.F.A. program. Below, I thought I would share some of the highlights and ways that my art practice has evolved/improved over the course of the year.

In my first year at Columbia, my art practice improved in a number of ways. My technical proficiency increased, especially in relationship to the use of lighting and projection, and I am moving toward developing a deeper theoretical and conceptual foundation for my work.

Photo Credit: Justin Botz

I really dove into the program this year. I tried to pursue opportunities for collaboration, and if someone wanted help on a project, I tried to help in any way I could. I attended the College Art Association conference in New York. I was involved in the student Organization, Image Unit, and am now the vice president. I also worked, and am working, on a number of projects with artists outside of the Interdisciplinary Arts program.

One of the big lessons I learned this year had to do with learning to work smarter.  After taking the class Code/Language, I was excited to incorporate code as an art material into my practice.  I spent the winter trying to teach myself objective C in order to start building my own iphone applications. I did not succeed in teaching myself Objective C, and realized there were probably better uses of my time.  I discovered that my playing around with this programming language was keeping me from making work.  I needed to learn how to develop a practice that would allow me to make the most work as well and as quickly as possible.  I needed to learn to work smarter not harder.

Before I entered the program, I was doing primarily performance work that incorporated media. One of the biggest changes in my body of work since entering the program has been my incorporation of interactivity. In one of my pieces called Twitter Performance, I allowed twitter users to give commands and instructions to a group of six performers who would act out what the twitter users commanded. Also, in my most recent iteration of It Will All be Over Soon,  cake in the shape of my body was served to the audience and they were invited to “eat me.”

Photo Credit: Justin Botz

My most significant classroom experience was probably in Jenny magnus’ Media Performance class. In that class I began working on two projects that I had wanted to work on for a while. One of the pieces was called Cannibal Cake.  In that class I began to explore a subject I found fascinating but for my initial iteration of the piece my fascination was not very conceptually deep or clear. Jenny and other faculty members encouraged me to think harder about why I made the choices I made in the piece. I needed to really beef up my theory, and further develop the conceptual foundation for my work so I could make more well informed decisions about the art I make. 

My most significant artistic experience of the year came during my critique presentation when I was presenting my piece entitled Cannibal Cake. I presented a number of pieces I had been working on this year but the faculty couldn’t stop asking questions about the piece cannibal cake. Many of the questions I was unprepared to answer, because I had not done as much research on the subject of cannibalism as I should have. Paul Catanese pointed out to me how my feedback time had primarily revolved around this one work of mine because of my use of the word “cannibal” in the title. He reminded me that if I’m going to use such a loaded word in my title, then I’m going to have to be prepared to defend my use of the word. It made me aware of the need for me to become a bit of an expert in whatever subject matter I’m choosing to address.

My short term goals are to continue to work on making further iterations of my two pieces, Cannibal Cake and It Will All Be Over Soon. I will spend the summer doing research on consumption and impermanence. I am also pursuing working with a fashion designer named Dieter Kirkwood on experimenting with a machine that translates brainwave data into knitted patterns in fabric. I am currently writing the music for an upcoming dance performance by Dance, Movement, Therapy and Counseling student Courtney St. Clair. I am also interested in pursuing teaching opportunities to gain experience and increase my chances of employment after graduation.

Photo Credit: Mike LaHood

Photo Credit: Mike LaHood

First Year in Review

Tomorrow I will have my final presentation of the year, and with that presentation I will have pretty much completed my first year in the Interdisciplinary Arts and Media M.F.A. …

Interdisciplinary Arts & Media MFA Justin Botz, justin.botz@loop.colum.edu
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

The Graduate Experience