Studio JOY draws upon interventionist art practices and psychologist Victor Frankl’s logotherapy as a form of activism in the face of institutional betrayal. Interventionist art practices are in the spirit of culture jamming, defined by Mark Dery as “Groucho Marxists, ever mindful of the fun to be had in the joyful demolition of oppressive ideologies.” Institutional betrayal is defined as the harm imposed by “a trusted and powerful institution (schools, churches, military, government)” upon those dependent on them for safety and well-being. Studio JOY will engage in making practices that may include the construction of superhero or mascot costumes, public 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 of the self as passively at the mercy of oppressive systems, 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 trauma to discern meaning are significant life skills that transfer across all professional and personal spaces.
Studio JOY will engage with concepts and making. Making practices may include, but are not limited to, costume design and construction, graphic design, and screenwriting. Conceptual and disciplinary approaches include psychology and institutional critique.
In-person (interested in the project but unable to be on campus? Contact us to inquire!)
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
Web Designer (1 Student)
Likely Majors/Minors: ARTDES, CS, SI
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
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, ENGLISH, FTVM, MSE, PAT, SI, THTREMUS
Meeting Details: Friday afternoons
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.
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