It’s a pleasure to welcome all of you tonight — our students, faculty and guests — to this year’s MFA Thesis Reading. I teach the thesis component of the MFA curriculum along with my colleague Frances Richard. I will offer a brief introduction, and Frances will offer some concluding remarks and moderate a brief Q & A with our writers and attendees after the readings.
I have taught at CCA for quite a long time and feel that this year’s graduating cohort is a particularly special and resilient one. They have experienced a number of unexpected transitions these past two years, only then to have our current global pandemic upend the traditional public events and showcases we have all come to expect and look forward to at the end of the academic year.
They have overcome these challenges one after the other, with fortitude, creativity, and solidarity. I really admire them for the resiliency they have shown. It bodes well for their respective futures as they navigate what will inevitably be a different kind of art world, and more broadly, a new reality for all of us.
Tonight we have the distinct pleasure of hearing nine students from this year’s cohort read excerpts from their thesis projects. The written thesis is one of the unique aspects of the MFA program at CCA. It is a cauldron that uniquely brings together the myriad facets of each artist’s practice, critical inquiry, personal exploration and commitment. It is a chance to dig deeply into the nature of their creative work and produce a substantial and sustained piece of writing, whose backbone is research and an inquisitive methodology. As a professor, what I hope students will discover along the way, is just how exciting and productive it is to have a constant dialogue and cycle of exchange between reading, writing, looking, and making in developing one’s own critical voice. It is truly special when a student writes to me years later just to let me know that ideas and avenues of exploration that began to percolate in their thesis work continue to evolve and function as engines for their visual practice.
The presentations tonight reflect the diversity of artistic visions that exist in this cohort. Their writings questions gender binaries and heteronormative conventions, borders and the definition of “alien,” the blurring of the virtual and the real, and the generative tension between fiction and autobiography. They also share profound concerns about our precarity: what it means to witness climate crisis, vast social inequity, and the erosion of civil rights in an era of increasing surveillance and authoritarian-leaning politics.
Our first speaker will be Jillian Crochet, who was recently awarded the MFA program’s thesis prize. Jillian’s thesis was selected by this year’s judge, Claudia La Rocco, a widely published writer and poet, and frequent interdisciplinary collaborator with composers, choreographers and artists. Claudia’s work has been presented at The Walker Art Center, The Whitney Museum, The Kitchen, among other venues. I wish to thank Claudia on behalf of the MFA program for her time and consideration, and of course we want to take this moment to celebrate Jillian!
Jillian’s thesis, as she describes it, mixes histories of touch and breath. Resisting an ocularcentric hierarchy of the senses, Jillian employs an embodied aesthetic in her creation of “collective grieving organisms.” Her performance work, video, and sculpture allow her to reclaim her time and power, as well as liberate the disabled body from marginalization and oppression.
It is now my pleasure to pass the virtual mike to Jillian, who will start off our evening together. My warmest wishes to you, and congratulations on all of your achievements!