THESISCRAZY 2018 (Part 3): Artsy Theses

Welcome back to Thesis Crazy 2018! It’s been a little slow, but we have about 40 interviews left for you all to see, so these next few days are gonna be mad busy. You know who else is mad busy this weekend? Thesis writers. Don’t forget to block out time to PRINT OUT YOUR THESES. I just learned that’s a thing. It’s 2017, but I’m all for analog theses.

Check out Part 2 here and the archive here!

Come w/ me and get your thesis

Josh Davidoff ‘18, MUSIC, SOC; Thesis in MUSIC

Working title: “Unfolding the Object: something. The ‘Unfolding the Object” part is important. It was the first thing I knew before I even really know what the topic was because it’s like this random phrase and like a random book about the theory of the avant garde. And my paper doesn’t even use that book anymore but I just think it’s a great phrase.”

On his topic: “I’m writing about humans playing music that was never meant for humans to play. So, playing a piece that was composed entirely in the studio live or playing a piece that was originally written for player piano. I’m writing the paper about that and it’s supposed to be about the societal implications of doing that [kind of music]. At this point, I’m just worried about the mechanics of it. I’m arranging this piece that was originally for player piano for 12 people to play. Although really is more like 10 people now. Plus some dancers and projections. It’s going to be weird.”

On how he came up with his topic: “I studied abroad in Havana the fall of junior year. I did this research project there about Cuban classical music and the aesthetics of classical music under a socialist regime. What kinds of you know sort of like semiotic like ness people got into but really there wasn’t that much controversy about it and so I kind of wrapped that up there and there wasn’t really enough for a thesis. And also I just didn’t want to write about it anymore. I went through a bunch of different stuff. Honestly I didn’t really pick my topic until October or November. And here we are.”

On his progress: “It’s good. I met with my professor today after I sent him like a solid working draft that was fine. I mean all the content is there. It’s just not easy to read.”

On his current mental state: “I’m feeling good. I’m nervous about the recital. There’s like a lot to do, but I’m also really excited about it because it’s allowing me to do some interesting music computer programming stuff that I had never done before and I’m really enjoying it. I feel like that’s something that I’m going to be able to use in the future also. Doing a music recital at Wesleyan is cool because you get all these resources and all this time and all these people who are willing to help. In the real world like all those endeavors take space and they take people taking time away [in which] they could be making money elsewhere for taking a risk on your project that otherwise they wouldn’t. I really relish the opportunity to do something that’s kind of far out before the real world happens.”

On his most upsetting thesis experience: “Oh yeah, when my hard drive crashed. I thought everything was backed up, but I didn’t check. I brought the hard drive to Exley and I was just like ‘please fix this.’ I didn’t think about it it worked on something else. And so they got it back to me. So I never actually realized if I lost anything. That was pretty terrifying.”

Favorite form of procrastination: I really like to go on Craigslist and try to figure out how much apartments cost in New York City.”

Plans for April 17th: “Hopefully I’ll be done with my paper before my recital. What time is a due? Like 4:00 p.m.? I’ll probably get up at like 3:30 and then go to the steps. I think that’s my plan.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Don’t stress about choosing a topic so early. I thought I knew what I was going to write about and then I was like ‘nah’. And then I took all summer to think about it and I still really didn’t have something by the time I got back. But I was still writing the thesis. And there was something kind of nice about just trying to figure out what it was that I was into and allowing myself the space not to just look immediately, pick something, and go with it. And to really probe what it was about the topics that I was considering I cared about.”

On his favorite part of his thesis: I mean I made a graph the other day. I made it in the Mac equivalent of [MS] Paint. It’s fun. It takes up some space which is helpful *laughs*”

Most used word/phrase: “Polytemporal.”

On his theses feces: “I recently discovered that I’m lactose intolerant or at least somewhat. Giorgia says that it might have to do with stress. So you know they’ve been erratic.”

Charlotte Pitts ‘18, she/her, Art History Major concentrating in Architectural History

Working Title: Reconstructing Sites, Reclaiming Narratives: The Architecture of Weiss/Manfredi as Critical Practice

On her topic: I’m writing about Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi who are Co-principals of the firm Weiss/Manfredi based in New York City. Specifically I’m looking at their work as advancing a form of critical practice that relates to deconstructive theory and deconstructive architecture as it came about in the 1980’s, and derives from Jacques Derrida’s post-structuralist theory. But unlike the architects like Peter Eisenman and Bernard Tschumi who pioneered deconstructive theory and deconstruction in architecture, I’m really interested in how Weiss/Manfredi advance a political and social agenda that those other architects failed to advance in their own practice. So I’m looking it three different projects of theirs–three different chapters–looking at how their architecture probes underneath the preexisting conditions of the site to reveal latent or often neglected narratives of histories of a site.  

On how she thought of her topic: It’s been a long process. My project has evolved a lot since the fall. At the beginning of the year I was really interested in writing about marginalized architects and activist architecture and what that looks like, but my topic was so broad, and it’s really hard to write about such a broad topic when you really only have 8 or 9 months to work on this project. So it’s evolved a lot, and I am still dealing with issues of political, social, and environmental activism but in a more nuanced way within this larger practice. It’s served to be really informative for me in both my own architecture and the built environment.

On her progress: My progress is fine. I’m revising a lot and I still have to write my conclusion so I have a lot to do this week, but it’s all slowly coming together. It’s more cohesive than it was two weeks ago, it’s pretty crazy how much I have learned in such a short period of time. Procrastination really is the nature of the thesis.

On her current mental state: Stressed, but content. I try to spend at least 30 mins outside every day. I like to run so that’s how I deal with stress–just run off my day and any ills I face in my writing process.

On her plans for April 17th: Probably just CHILL OUT. There hasn’t been a lot of me time or self care in the past few weeks, and I’m owning that, I’m owning the fact that I’m not being good with my self care. I’m excited to see people that I haven’t seen in a while, and spend more time outside. Just laying horizontal on Foss. I also want to draw and make more art with my hands because this thesis has really opened my eyes to the complex process of architecture, landscape and urban design, and post thesis I would like to engage in more hands-on making, creating and constructing.

On her favorite form of procrastination: Honestly going back to the running thing, whenever I’m like “I just don’t want to do this” I run. Running is productive in that it clears my mind and allows me to come back to my writing with a fresh outlook. It’s also a way for my to literally escape the library.

On her most upsetting thesis experience: The first time I presented in front of my department was before spring break in February… and it was ROUGH. That was when I didn’t have any of my ideas together, I was still very much in the beginning stages of my thesis, and it was horrible. I almost dropped it because I was so discouraged, but thankfully my fellow art history majors are so incredibly supportive and amazing. They convinced me to stay with it and I’m really glad I did. That was really really rough, and that was the first time I had ever received that kind of feedback/criticism. So learning to really take criticism has been a huge part of this whole experience for me.

Most used word/phrase: I say critical practice and I say deconstruction a lot. I also say however quite a bit *laughs* but that’s an editing issue. Also infrastructure, I use that word a lot.

On her theses feces: This is such an interesting question because the stress that I have experience over the past three-ish weeks has manifested in incredible ways in my body. If anything this process has made me realize more how connected my mind and body are, and how my mental state just wreaks havoc on my body. I ate like only cheerios for four days last week. So i’m not directly answering that question, but I am  answering that question if you know what I mean.

Zenzele Price ’18 American Studies and Film Major, with her thesis in Film

Working title: Blame

On her topic: So I’m writing a pilot. They way it works is that you write the first episode of a series, but you also have to conceptualize the entire series. So the actual pilot is about 60 to 70 pages long if you’re doing a drama—which I am—but there’s also the series bible. You have to do an outline or a beat sheet of every episode of the season, which is basically blow by blow everything that happens. So my pilot takes place in a fictional small town in Idaho, and it’s about the Shore family, who just moved back to try to get a fresh start, but all of those plans are ruined when the oldest son in the family commits a crime that is caught on camera. And that crime catches the attention of the media and ignites the indignation of the entire community, and in the wake of that crime, the family is left to scramble and try to pick up the pieces, but also they try to figure out why he did it in the first place.

On how she came up with her topic: This summer I was working in LA and I took a road trip, and I was driving through all of these tiny, tiny towns in the Midwest, and they were so insular and so isolated. At the same time, I was listening to a lot of podcasts, and I listened to this one podcast called Embedded, which takes like a story from the news and goes deeper. One of the stories was about this young man who had shot a police officer and then shot himself, and everyone was just so perplexed about why he did it. It was caught on camera and this video just went everywhere; it was being show to teach police officers how to deal with these situations. The people on the podcast talked to the family and asked, “How to you feel about the circulation of this vide? How do you feel about the narrative that is being created about your brother?” and it uncovered a lot of confusion, and the difficulty of mourning someone who is now being portrayed as a monster. And also it showed the complexity of an issue that can very easily be flattened into a sound bite. So that’s really what drew me in. There was an interview with his sister, and she was just utterly perplexed saying “that’s not the brother I had, that’s not the brother I knew, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to process the two different people I am being confronted with—the one that I knew and then the one that I see on screen.”

On her progress: I was extremely on fire last week. So, I wrote the pilot over winter break and I was like “oh my god, I’m done!”—I didn’t even think about the series bible as being a real thing. I thought it was 90% pilot and like 10% series bible. In reality, it’s like 50% or 40% pilot and 60% series bible. I had powered through winter break, I was way ahead and then I promptly forgot about my thesis for a while. So last week I was in a position where—what I’m writing is essentially a mystery—and I had not written or outlined the last two episodes of the season, and that’s because I didn’t know what was going to happen… like whatsoever in those episodes, and I didn’t know how to wrap up all of the threads that I had woven and kind of haphazardly thrown in. So last week was rough, trying to bang out those pages, but now things are a lot calmer and I have a full draft of everything and I’m finally in a place where I can just refine it, which is nice.

On her thesis playlist: I have a Spotify playlist that’s called Thesis Fuck Me Up: Soundtrack to Suffering. I listened to a lot of Vulfpeck while I was writing this, which is nice because it was upbeat enough to keep me going. Some Elvis Costello, and then some Radiohead, because this is not happy story. It’s pretty angsty.

On her favorite form of procrastination: The one that has definitely taken up the most time is me texting my friends and being like “oh lets go work on our theses together!” and then not even opening my laptop. But my primary form of procrastination is reading Modern Love articles—I’ve read through almost all of them so I just end up re-reading them. There’s also a Modern Love podcast that I listen to a lot. Also I have gotten really into Twitter—even though I don’t have a twitter—I’ve gotten into some astrology Twitters and some astro-poets. Basically just wasting time on the internet. Also earlier in the year, mock trial was what I did instead of my actual thesis or my homework.

On her thoughts about Thesis Crazy: As a prefrosh I discovered Wesleying, and when I get into something, I get REALLY into it. So I just went through pages and pages and pages of Wesleying and thought “oh my god, this is college, look at all of the things that are happening on a college campus on any given day. Everyone is so cool and passionate and funny.” And then I found Thesis Crazy, and it was cool because it was a chance to hear students talking passionately and knowledgeably about something that they were essentially experts on, and I read through every single one. And I was like “wow they’re so passionate and smart! I’m gonna be one of them!”

Theses feces: Unremarkable


interviews by eleanor and wilk.

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