Art Practices: ‘Making’ in the Macy 55 Studio
by Sohee Koo
One of the best things about working in the Macy 55 studio was that I was able to continue my art practice along with my research. In my body of artwork, I’ve tried to bring attention to the details of everyday life to destabilize our surroundings and unfold layers of awareness. The works require new attention to the familiar, elevating mundane found objects, such as bubble wrap from mail packages and acetate sheets from dry cleaning, into unconventional mixed media sculpture and installations. Space, time, and light all become the materials for this exploration.
However, the new changes in the Macy 55 studio allow this exploration of materiality and the process of making to be deeper and more meaningful in many ways. For instance, I was able to bring the digital fabrication processes into the existing traditional sculpture-making process. Specifically, I would design the blueprint of a 3D object using software and print it in plastic filament using a 3D printer. Then, I would take the digitally printed 3D object through traditional molding and casting procedures using plaster, rubber, silicone, and wax. I was drawn to the different tactility of materials, whether they are digitally printed or traditionally fabricated.
Ultimately, the new changes in the Macy 55 studio, which brought various kinds of digital fabrication tools into the existing traditional woodworking and metalworking processes, enabled me to go beyond my comfort zone of art practices in a playful and creative way. These works share sensitivity to art making and materiality, softening the exchange between cerebral intellect and a visceral, physical experience. I hope to continue this exploration of combining traditional and digital fabrication.
Similarly, I would like to bring the ability to explore and play with both traditional and digital fabrications and materials into my teaching for the summer course, “Intro to Sculpture/Mixed Media.” The course will be the first class to take place in the newly renovated and equipped Fab lab in the Macy 55 studio, which is composed of both traditional and digital fabrication tools, such as various woodworking tools, welding tools, laser cutters, 3D printers, CNC routers, and digital embroidery machines with various media such as wood, metal, fabric, plaster, silicone, rubber, resin, and wax. The new change also challenged me to develop approaches to teaching that address the integration of technology into traditional studio classes.
My philosophy and rationale for this course comes from my curiosity and effort to make a significant connection between the 1900s-era manual training and industrial arts movements at Teachers College and today’s “maker movement” within the context of sculpture and making. In this connection, Resnick (2006) and Blikstein (2013) argued that “making” by using digital fabrication could be the vehicle for inspiring innovative ideas and literacies in today’s fast-growing significance of technology in the classroom. I believe that the digital making process of prototyping could be the 21st-century version of manual training processes that existed more than a century ago, although the actual materials and machines have evolved. This being said, it is important to allow any students (regardless of their major and experience in art) to explore and engage in the making processes using both traditional and digital tools and media.
Furthermore, I would like this course to give students an opportunity not only creatively to implement the elements of making into their teaching practices and workplaces but also to experience a continuum in their lives. In a sense, students will develop their definition of sculpture through hands-on experiences with different materials, tools, and techniques. I also argue that it is vital to develop creative ways for the effective implementation of both traditional and technology tools in studio classrooms in higher education in order to promote the importance of art production as well as possibilities to develop students’ artistic ways of seeing and thinking.
The new change in Macy 55 will continuously inspire current students, educators, artists, and researchers to have new perspectives and experiences, which ultimately encourages artistic ways of seeing, thinking, and making. Furthermore, I believe that the Macy 55 studio will be a great communal making space for the new and innovative ideas of everyone at Teachers College.
Sohee Koo is an artist, art educator, and a doctoral student in the Art & Art Education program at Teachers College. She holds a BFA and MFA in Studio Arts from the School of Visual Arts, New York. While teaching sculpture classes, she has worked as the 3D fellow at Macy 55 studio, which is now renovated into the new fablab space. She is also a mixed media artist who currently works in hybrid art forms, merging traditional and digital fabrication methods. Her research interest lies in sculpture and teaching art to non-art majors. Sohee explores the interdisciplinary, collaborative, and cross-media approaches within the art classrooms in higher education.
Blikstein, P. (2013). Digital Fabrication and “Making” in Education: The Democratization of Invention. In J. W.-H. C. Büching (Ed.), FabLabs: Of Machines, Makers and Inventors. Bielefeld: Transcript Publishers.
Resnick, M. (2006). Computer as paintbrush: Technology, play, and the creative society. Oxford University Press.