The Self in Relation to the Other: Prints between Istanbul and Rochester
This print portfolio is the result of an exchange project between the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, Rochester Institute of Technology (USA) and Koc University, College of Social Sciences and Humanities, Media and Visual Arts Department in Turkey during the fall semester of 2013. While students enrolled in the “Art of the Book” course at Koç University utilized more traditional techniques such as intaglio, RIT students worked with photographic process in the course “Contemporary Issues: Photo Print Processes: Graphic possibilities on paper and glass.” The objectives of the project included the participation in an international dialogue, a focus on innovative ways of building a narrative through interactive learning, the facilitation of an international dialogue and the generation of empathy between participants and the work. Under the overarching goal of engaging in practice-based research, students also participated in academic and experiential learning.
International Exchange and Artistic Research
Total of 16 undergraduate and graduate students took part in the project, with each participant receiving an edition of prints housed within a portfolio folder. The format for the work was broad, allowing for images to be “bleed” prints with no margins, or more traditional images with margins. The project was open to all printmaking techniques both traditional and new, and afforded the opportunity for the production of either a consistent edition or a variable edition utilizing monoprints, on paper. The finished portfolio served not only to inform students in terms of different techniques and diverse narratives on the same subject, but also to become a memorable souvenir of the experience. The time used by the exchange surpassed that of the semester due to production and scheduling differences between programs. The work was also exhibited in both Turkey and USA.
The idea of exchange was embedded in the process. Student built their ideas on how they experienced their being/body/self in relation to the world as well as the other, while simultaneously communicating with students from another country. Messages and photographs sent via e-mail, offered the opportunity for participants to face each other and visually and verbally reevaluate themselves in terms of the literal other. The capacity of this process to generate both parallel thinking and an visual exchange produced a fertile cross pollination of ideas as students in both schools grappled with the unknowns of geography and lifestyle within an international sphere.
The conceptual underpinnings for the project inspired by the texts of Derrida. Derrida was strategic since he questions oppositions such as inside and outside (reference here). The removal of the center or the self as a point of reference encouraged the shift of perception. (reference)
Classical thought concerning structure could say that the center is, paradoxically, within the structure and outside it. The center is at the center of the totality, and yet, since the center does not belong to the totality (is not part of the totality), the totality has its center elsewhere. The center is not the center.(Derrida, 1117)
This project involved a debate – via prints – on the concept of the body and the other. The specific references for this debate comprised Jacques Derrida’s concept of Intertwining Embodiment as well as Merleau-Ponty’s concept of Alterity ((otherness; specifically: the quality or state of being radically alien to the conscious self or a particular cultural orientation)
As a starting point, students read some of the texts of these philosophers, connected via other group via email. The work as a result could be a self-portrait centralized on the self, but the focus on the outside and the inside asked to be debated visually.
Impact on Students
At the beginning of the project, 3 questions were handed down to students:
1.How would you describe the relation of your body to the world? 2. Can you make a sketch of it? 3. What is the ‘other’ for you?