Scriptiekunst.org

Scriptiekunst.org A Reward for the best Thesis at the Arts Faculty of Zuyd Maastricht

Jury report thesis prize 2017/2018
TDA/AOK
www.scriptiekunst.org

The jury consisted of:
Jasper Coppes, Anne Geene, Marcel van der Klink, Peter Missotten, Arjan de Nooy, en Ruth Benschop

The thesis prize is founded by the two research centres of the Faculty of Arts (Zuyd Hogeschool) to encourage students to make theses (and/or documentations of artistic processes) that do justice to their own artistic practice. Too often, reflection within arts education falls back on semi scientific ideals of validity and objectivity. This removes critical reflexivity from artistic practice. Sometimes artists fall back on the other extreme: an entirely subjective reflection with the inner world as the only point of reference. In between these unfortunate extremes, the research centres TDA and AOK support a wide diversity of theses, documentations, reflection and research within arts education that are relevant to artistic practice.

The prize winners will receive an iPad with a value of around 550 euro. The two research centres also offer to publish the prize-winning theses as a book. This offers students a valuable experience of the publication process for their written work.

This year, we received 24 submissions for the thesis prize. Some more numbers: This year we received 9 bachelor entries and 16 from students in master programs. Strangely enough there were substantially more female authors than male, and we noticed that for the first time we also received entries from the interior architecture curricula, but unfortunately none from the conservatory.

Some general impressions about this year’s entries. Overall, the diversity in form and content of these theses is a real inspiration. Some of them are extremely well designed, some of them are maddeningly thorough, some look deeply at important issues, some are a nice-read or are great to expose on a coffee table. This diversity is what this contest is about. We hope that both our critical remarks as the winning theses are a welcoming inspiration for young artists.


What is a thesis?
The jury found itself again and again posing this question. Is it a personal statement, a travel report, the development of a mood board… a thesis? How thorough should a thesis be? Or how brief and superficial is it allowed to be? How personal can it be, without throwing all critical (self)reflection out of the window? In general, we looked for entries that start from a clear and necessary problem that emerges within the student’s practice. A problem that is positioned in a wider field and that drives both the choice of method and the structure of the thesis. Entries that seem to lack any curiosity for a critical input from the outside world, the jury found often felt quite self-indulgent at best. The aim for the writer and the reader is quite similar: to discover something new. If the author already knows his/her position, why bother to do research?


Less is more (but sometimes it is just less)
The jury was struck by the wordiness of some entries. We found ourselves sometimes irritated by the illusion of depth and substantiation is some theses. Pompous language, difficult words and lots of them do not necessarily make a good thesis. To write well, needs rewriting and editing and we advise students and teachers to take the craft of (re)writing more seriously.

Theory and relevance
Many theses have a part that deals with what is called “theoretical” research. Usually this means summarising one or two written (internet)texts about a chosen topic, and taking these texts for granted as ‘the truth’. The jury was uncomfortable about this practice. First, we would like a more worked out understanding/teaching of what “theory” is – working with written materials is often extremely practical as well as research of a practice. Second, the treatment of written sources requires more than creating a list of summaries. It is the comparing of conflicting sources and the critical reading of sources that can be productive for research.

Trendy Topics
The jury noted a trend in the kinds of issues taken up in theses this year. Romanticism – with poster boy Kaspar David Friedrich (the number one ‘image hit’ when googling ‘Romanticism’) appeared alarmingly often - is making a surprising comeback. As in the past years, many theses question identity and truth-fiction. More alarmingly, this year a substantial number of entries took a trip as starting point for their thesis. Often, these theses flirt with postcolonial theory and diversity issues. While of course welcoming these issues as relevant areas of research, the jury was disturbed that many of these entries were quite limited and superficial, both in “field” research (e.g. ethnography) as well as in theoretical substantiation. Sometimes they reverted to stereotyping and exoticism. The jury wondered whether through the supervision of such theses, a more informed, thorough and nuanced position might be achieved.

This year, four thesis prizes of the Faculty of the Arts, Zuyd, year 2017-2018 are awarded (in alphabetical order):

Irini Birliba – Grafting Memory: The phenomenology of memory between space and individual

Feya Foppen – Het geschreven woord: een wonderbaarlijke onvolmaaktheid.

Sarah Gluschitz – Corpse in the Copse: human taphonomy and disarticulation of the skeleton in 2d and 3d for archaeological applications

Ayisha Siddiqi – Mijn Bollywood droom.



Irini Birliba – Grafting Memory: The phenomenology of memory between space and individual

In this thesis written in the Master Interior Architecture, Irina Birliba does remarkably thorough research into recent academic work on both individual and collective memory. Instead of the obligatory Wikipedia insights, her thesis really delves deep into - sometimes conflicting - theories. The research into the workings of our memory is an ever evolving field. Her texts are accompanied by her own illustrations. What distinguishes the thesis, is the last chapter in which she practically experiments as an architect with her own memory of a façade of a building that she revisits extensively over a period of time. The jury always enjoys work that brings together thought and practice, reflection and making.

Feya Foppen – Het geschreven woord: een wonderbaarlijke onvolmaaktheid.

The jury was taken with the extravagant ambition of this project: How to develop a universal (phonetic) system of writing? Inspired by Kurt Schwitters, Feya Foppen, a bachelor student at the Maastricht Academy for Media Design and Technology, researches communication as well as the specific historical development of writing and letters. She wonders if it would be possible to design a script that can be used for all spoken languages, and turns to phonetic systems to criticize the ways in which written language and scripts function today. Her new script - the quite beautiful Ursonate 2.0 - is thought as a translation device that can help mediate between different languages. By watching the mouth while speaking and recreating a 3D model of it, she designs a quite remarkable new script. This process is very methodically worked out and documented. Will it revolutionise the way we write? Probably not, but at least this utopian ambition is developed into a tempting concept.

Sarah Gluschitz – Corpse in the Copse: human taphonomy and disarticulation of the skeleton in 2d and 3d for archaeological applications

Over the years, the jury has come to appreciate the work of the Master of Scientific Illustration. It distinguishes itself as very thorough and with a high quality of craftsmanship. More and more, the jury recognises and appreciates the attempts here to develop a more personal, artistic and process-oriented way of doing research. This thesis is particularly strong because it takes an important and fascinating problem as a starting point (how to depict a process of decay), it positions this problem not only within archaeological research, but zoomed out to relevant examples in art history (across the globe). Lastly it takes the question how a scientific illustrator ought to position herself vice-a-vice the scientific world as an issue and makes a convincing argument for the importance of the role of the illustrator within academic (in this case archaeological) research.

Ayisha Siddiqi – Mijn Bollywood droom.

The jury spent a lot of time discussing the text that is the basis for a lecture performance of this bachelor student at the Toneelacademie Maastricht. It is extremely personal, sometimes refreshingly naïve and not nearly substantiated enough through external sources. This text, which explores an actress’ dream to become a Bollywood star, through a personal narrative in which love and racism are described, has some acute qualities, aside of being a damn-good read. The problems described, we felt, are relevant beyond the theatre profession and we really appreciated the honest tone of self-exploration. By contacting Indian Bollywood producers, the author confronts her dreams and aspirations to the outside world in a startlingly frank matter. As such, as a reader, you really learn something new about this strange world far away. This text made us debate the requirements of a thesis in such intensity, that it deserves the benefit of the doubt. Without any doubt.
Corpse in the Copse: human taphonomy and disarticulation of the skeleton in 2d and 3d for archaeological applications
Het geschreven woord: een wonderbaarlijke onvolmaaktheid.
Grafting Memory: The phenomenology of memory between space and individual
Mijn Bollywood droom.