In my senior year at RISD, I reflected back at the events that I had done. They had all been relatively high-effort, and low-cost. This was great for a small scrappy organization, but by my senior year the STEAM budget had a large budget, and interest in the campus community for STEAM was strong, I thought I would try something on the opposite end of the spectrum. Having a bigger budget meant that I could try to bring in someone, well... famous. One of the most successful programs RISD STEAM put on was a lecture from GZA of the Wu Tang Clan who was interested in STEAM. I thought of all of the artists and technologists I had come across and there was one that stood out - Theo Jansen.
I thought that Jansen's work would be perfect for RISD because it's work obsessed with research and making, something that unites all of the departments at RISD. This element of his work lead it to be deeply meaningful to any artist and designer, regardless of their interest in the technological insight that Jansen's work led to. All of the technology that Jansen discovered in his process was merely a result of the artistic inquiry he underwent.
In an event to connect the campus community in both concentrated and distributed ways, I partnered with Minsoo Thigpen (she did all the work!) to host a series of workshops wherein students would make their own strandbeest out of PVC pipe and cardboard. Although the beest only took a few steps, it granted a smaller number of students to engage with Jansen on highly personal and meaningful terms. You might think of it like two jockeys talking about their love of horses together.
During his visit to RISD, Jansen was able to tour a few studios, and meet some bigwigs at the Presidents house (both important for different reasons). I was really impressed with his endurance! He had a really terrible cold but persisted through all of my jaywalking (sorry!) and hill climbing (RISD's fault!)
Jansen delivered his talk to a sold-out audience (the tickets were free), and dozens of students told me how inspired they were by the talk. It brings me a great deal of joy to imagine that somewhere in the audience were a few freshmen whose student work for the next three years would be inspired by what they saw that day. I'm also so grateful to be able to spend time with Jansen himself and understand a bit more about what motivates him and his research.