Sep '09 - Aug '10
All of the AA graduate programs had a half hour orientation back-to-back and open to all. It became blatantly obvious that even within the AA the DRL is a unique program. The orientations unfolded as follows:
[TYPICAL] Each set of faculty gave a brief description of the agenda of the course, detailed the course structure and introduced professors. These professors then talked about their courses and teaching methods and showed previous work to illustrate what the students would be creating. They ended by handing out course schedules and syllabi and announcing where and when to show up for the first day of class. Pretty standard and informative.
[DRL] The DRL stands up and presents the history of how the program evolved and where it is directed in the future. The presentation was graphically exciting, verbally intriguing and for the benefit of all the other graduate programs. The DRL sat down.
[TYPICAL] Orientations now finished, all graduate programs file downstairs for drinks.
[DRL] The DRL students are held back for a second orientation while everyone else is drinking. This time there is a thorough explanation of the courses with introductions of each of the faculty members. The teaching methods are described and syllabi are handed out. The presentation finishes and the floor is open for questions. A paraphrased version goes as follows:
Student: So… where and when do we start?
Tutor: Good question.
Tutor: Monday at 10am in studio.
Student: Is there a course schedule?
Tutor: Good question. We expect all of you to be in studio from the time it opens
to the time it closes.
DRL adjourns the orientation and migrates down to begin drinking.
Analysis: We had two orientations and neither answered the most basic questions of what day, what time and where do we begin class.
Conclusion: organization is a very curious element of the DRL. The course director actually spent some time presenting the fact that the program isn't very interested in working in a highly scheduled environment. He explained how the program is team based at all levels and therefore much is open to negotiation and improvisation based upon the circumstances of the moment and the people involved. It’s a messy, spontaneous and frustrating process he admitted but it where the unexpected results come from.
From the outside, before coming here, I could only see the briefs that start the projects and the work that culminated it. Both ends of the process were marvelously articulated and beautifully resolved. In between those two points, however, seems to lay an extremely organic process that thrives in a studio culture that embraces the unresolved experiment. Our brief glimpse into the working process of the studio took myself and many of my classmates by surprise during these orientations. Instead of organizing to maximize efficiency it seemed a little bit like disorganizing consciously to facilitate independence. For me personally, it was disappointingly frustrating to have two orientations and still have to ask the basic questions. Upon reflection though, it was also an incredibly valuable lesson in the degree of independence and flexibility required to operate here. This is not the traditional environment where the teacher disseminates information and the student absorbs and regurgitates. I am beginning to realize now how much unlearning one’s preconceptions will be part of my educational experience here at the DRL. And this I think is the real point of my story.