Studio JOY draws upon interventionist art practices and psychologist Victor Frankl’s logotherapy as a form of activism, meaning-making, and critical engagement. Interventionist art practices are in the spirit of culture jamming. Culture Jamming is a form of protest used by anti-consumerist artists to disrupt or subvert media. Cultural critic Mark Dery gives an even better description: “Groucho Marxists, ever mindful of the fun to be had in the joyful demolition of oppressive ideologies.” Studio JOY will engage in making practices that may include the construction of superhero or mascot costumes, public hijinks and/or signage, and/or screenplays.
Logotherapy is the practice, as defined by Frankl, that we find ultimate freedom in independence of the mind. Frankl practiced this himself in a WW2 German death camp. As he limped along in line from the camp to the work site, appalled that his thoughts — and therefore his self and his inner being — were consumed by “trivial things” such as the cold, the lack of food, and the brutality of the foreman, he chose to analyze his situation:
“Suddenly I saw myself standing on the platform of a well-lit, warm and pleasant lecture room. In front of me sat an attentive audience on comfortable upholstered seats. I was giving a lecture on the psychology of the concentration camp! All that oppressed me at that moment became objective, seen and described from the remote viewpoint of science. By this method I succeeded somehow in rising above the situation, above the sufferings of the moment, and I observed them as if they were already of the past.”
Rather than perceiving the self as passively at the mercy of oppressive systems (or consumerism), the joining of logotherapy with culture jamming has the capacity to empower individuals in reframing narratives using humor and imagination. Students in Studio JOY will work on a range of actions. To illustrate the possibilities, consider previous actions, such as the renaming of Weiser Hall. In response to Ronald Weiser’s comments that three women elected officials are “witches” to be “burned at the stake” and that those (few) Republicans who refused to support the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 should be “assassinated,” we renamed Weiser Hall, the “Weiser Center for Voter Suppression, Political Assassination, and Witch Burning.” The capacity to think and respond as a creative interventionist and to analyze culture and trauma to discern meaning are significant life skills that transfer across all professional and personal spaces.
If you’re someone who would love campus to be filled with considered absurdity and playful disruptions to our conventions, with the goal of philosophical and social questioning, Studio JOY may be the right fit for you. Making practices may include, but are not limited to: costume design and construction, sculpture, graphic design, acting, and screenwriting. Conceptual and disciplinary approaches include psychology and institutional critique.
Costume Designer/Fabricator (2 Students)
Preferred Skills: Ability to render drawings or collages of imagined garments. Imagination to help translate ideas into imaginative wearable elements. Construction abilities (sewing, taping, laminating, etc.) to create garments that fit particular body, crafted with traditional and non-traditional materials.
Likely Majors/Minors: ARCH, ARTDES, DANCE, MSE, THTREMUS
Graphic Designer (2 Students)
Preferred Skills: Knowledge about and experience with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Capacity to mimic existing design while inventively interjecting critique into the messaging.
Likely Majors/Minors: ARTDES, PAT, SI
Screenwriter (2 Students)
Preferred Skills: Experience with screen-writing processes and techniques to translate dialogue into a narrative.
Likely Majors/Minors: COMM, ENGLISH, FTVM, THTREMUS
Social Media Specialist (1 Student)
Preferred Skills: Ability to design effective content strategy to engage the audience, increase traffic and encourage conversions.
Likely Majors/Minors: ARTDES, BBA, COMM, SI
Sculpture / Architecture (1 Student)
Preferred Skills: Experimental approach and attitude to building three-dimensional forms. Capacity to learn how to work with alternative construction materials. Interest in the ways that sculptural objects can respond to conceptual problems.
Likely Majors/Minors: ARTDES, ARCH, ENG
Actor (2 Students)
Preferred Skills: Ability to engage in performance through acting, costume, literature, and non-traditional staging.
Likely Majors/Minors: DANCE, ENGLISH, FTVM, THTREMUS
Videographer (1 Student)
Preferred Skills: Skilled in framing, composition, lighting, camera control and post-editing production.
Likely Majors/Minors: FTVM, ARTDES
Faculty Project Lead
Rebekah Modrak is an artist and writer whose practice is at the intersections of art, activism, critical design, and creative resistance to consumer culture. Her web-based artworks critique brand messaging. Re Made Co. (remadeco.org) takes the form of an online “company” selling artisanal toilet plungers to parody actual company Best Made Co.’s hand-painted axes and their appropriation of working class symbols. RETHINK SHINOLA (rethinkshinola.com) analyzes and exposes a complex and patronizing agenda of marketing the White savior myth in Detroit. Modrak is Professor at Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan where she teaches courses related to culture jamming, interventionist tactics, and wearable art, such as Shopdropping, Interventions in Commerce, Dressing Up + Down, and All Work.
Likely Majors/Minors: ARCH, ARTDES, BBA, COMM, CS, DANCE, ENG, ENGLISH, FTVM, MSE, PAT, SI, THTREMUS
Meeting Details: Friday mornings (10am)
Application: Consider including a link to your portfolio or other websites in the personal statement portion of your application to share work you would like considered as part of your submission. Video applications are encouraged!
Summer Opportunity: Summer research fellowships may be available for qualifying students.
Citizenship Requirements: This project is open to all students on campus.
IP/NDA: Students who successfully match to this project team will be required to sign an Intellectual Property (IP) Agreement prior to participation.
Course Substitutions: CoE Honors