Students for a Free Cooper Union just officially declined mediation, as proposed by the college’s administration. The official statement is here, my own thoughts follow:
Students attend a public presentation by mediators Bathabile Mthombeni and Carol Liebman.
How do you sit at a table with someone whose authority you do not recognize? This question remained unanswered by the end of a nearly three-hour long presentation on mediation at the Free Cooper Union Salon. The authority in question is Cooper Union’s administration and Board of Trustees. Those invited — daresay coaxed — to the table (this time a literal, not proverbial, conference room table) are the Students for a Free Cooper Union. In response to our indefatigable occupation of the college president’s office, begun over a month ago on May 8th, the college’s president, vice presidents, and deans solicited the services of professional mediators. At a rate of $225 an hour, to be paid by the administration, this team was charged with bringing clarity to the protest and perhaps uncovering shared interests between the parties.
Yet the proposed mediation was fraught from the very start with problems:
According to the mediators, the administration initiated this proposed mediation by shopping around within the mediation community for somebody to work with us. The administration chose two mediators and met with them at least twice before anybody involved consulted the students. This goes against the mediators’ own principle of keeping their communications with both parties symmetrical, e.g. after speaking with one party always speak with the other. As the administration has agreed to foot the bill for the proceedings, the administration would also effectively be hiring the mediators. With no insult intended to the mediators’ professionalism, these factors call into question claims of “impartiality”.
The Cooper community wants to be the administration, not interface with it. Why should it cost $225 for students to speak with already overcompensated administrators? The need for a high-priced translator between “dissidents” and “bureaucrats” supports the students’ own argument that the administration’s idea of how to communicate with the community is dysfunctional. Hiring mediators follows the eerie pattern of administrators attempting to solve problems by throwing money at them.
In response to a question about student representation on the Board, Chairman Mark Epstein once told a student they’d, “have to learn to accept a no”. Now suddenly, during the occupation, this same administration wants to talk? The appointed delegates — Trustee Richard Lincer, Board Secretary Lawrence Cacciatore, and Architecture Dean Elizabeth O’Donnell — represent a small grouping of individuals who lack the power to effect real change. Even more troublesome than the lack of agency of these individuals is that there would never have been a real discussion, let alone a proposal for mediation, had students not occupied the president’s office. To pretend, in initiating mediation, that we are suddenly at a point where we can sit across a table and work things out is to ignore the chasm between administrators and community members which grows with every day that the administration chooses to respond to the community in silence. Students are well aware of the fact that if we let up now without securing real seats on the Board for students, faculty, and staff — or changing the structure of Cooper’s governance completely — the community will not continue to have a say outside of spaces opened as a result of our direct-action tactics for a short period of time. The changes we ultimately seek are structural.
Despite the appointed mediators’ insistence that a good mediation is driven by both parties in mutual agreement to mediate, we have been given a “hard sell” on multiple occasions and pressed to act fast by Dean O’Donnell and the mediators themselves. Yet the mediators don’t actually seem to have the time to devote to our mediation. One of the two proposed mediators would have to drop out after a week, leaving one mediator to contend with our case herself. Further, the remaining mediator told us that her schedule would start to get difficult if we could not agree to start in the several days after we met her. Students too are busy doing everything it takes to maintain the occupation and push forward projects designed to go over the heads of Cooper’s current administration, making the time commitment unrealistic for us.
Students for a Free Cooper Union is a fluid, horizontally-organized group. We’re attempting to preach alternative forms of governance by practicing them ourselves. To elect a small number of students to “represent” our group at a table with the administration’s delegates potentially undermines this intentional paradigm shift. The mediators admitted that engaging in their process without a small, fixed group of representatives would be difficult.
In a mass-email sent to all students, alumni, faculty, and even parents several weeks ago, the administration called the occupation “poisonous and dangerous” and attempted to state incorrectly that students had declined mediation which had not yet been proposed. So why circle back for mediation now? And why mediate specifically between the occupying students and three administrators? If a mediation is needed, it is not between the administration and the occupation, but between the administration and the community at large — students, faculty, staff, alumni, neighbors, and friends — whom they continue to ostracize. The parties proposed to sit at this table imply that this discussion is about the occupation. The occupation should be a catalyst for a larger conversation, not the subject of conversation itself. The conversation that truly needs to happen is one amongst our community about issues larger than this protest, and larger even than Cooper Union, about the crisis of higher education and student debt.
Finally, we’re hard pressed to believe that this mediation could bring any more clarity to our demands, which have been republished and restated countless times since December of last year.
1) President Bharucha steps down.
2) The Board of Trustees must immediately implement structural changes with the goal of creating open flows of information and democratic decision-making structures. The administration’s gross mismanagement of the school cannot be reversed within the same systems which allowed the crisis to occur. To this end, we have outlined actions that the board must take:
- Record board meetings and make minutes publicly available.
- Appoint a student and faculty member from each school as voting members of the board.
- Implement a process by which board members may be removed through a vote from the Cooper Union community, comprised of students, faculty, alumni, and administrators.
3) The administration must publicly affirm the college’s commitment to free education. They will stop pursuing new tuition-based educational programs and eliminate other ways in which students are charged for education.
Clarity is not the question.
What is questionable, however, is Bharucha’s silence throughout the past two years and recent events including: a community revolt against his leadership, safety violations endangering students such as blocked fire stairs and armed security on campus, the leak of an indefensible closed-door meeting transcript, and the ongoing occupation. This mediation reads as more silence from Bharucha.
Silence is golden. In a transcript of a September 2012 board meeting leaked by the Village Voice, former trustee Vikas Kapoor advocates “not saying anything” as a board policy.
For the Board, talking their way out of tricky situations has proven to be a successful strategy in the past, such as in September 2012 when students blocking a hallway to the boardroom were invited in to speak with trustees following a closed-door meeting. The conversation proved fruitless for the students but successful for the trustees, who de-escalated a tricky exit.
Diffusion by discussion. Jamshed Bharucha speaks to students, one of whom is lying on the ground wearing a shirt which reads “TUITION AT COOPER — OVER MY DEAD BODY”, outside of a closed-door board meeting in September 2012.
Unable to remove the protesters this time around without decimating their reputation, the administration has proposed a flawed, irrelevant mediation process as a misguided next move. If the administration cannot start talking openly to the entire the community, nor address our demands, what are they still doing here?
Shared interests? In a transcript of a September 2012 board meeting leaked by the Village Voice, trustee Tom Driscoll discusses how the Board plans to deflect questions in a meeting scheduled with Friends of Cooper Union.
On Tuesday, the Board met at an undisclosed location (for the second consecutive time) to have yet-another closed-door meeting. Meanwhile in the Occupied Office of the Presidents an alumnus led a session not on mediation but on meditation. The students were joined by alumni and friends from New Jersey to California to Mexico in a simultaneous “channeling of elevated thoughts towards the board,” reconceptualizing the trustees in our mind’s eyes’ as, “a group of small children who need to be reminded sternly yet lovingly that they need to clean up their mess, pack up their toys and share with others.”
Today, the students, faculty, alumni, and friends will congregate for a 24 hour straight marathon of researching, writing, dreaming, doodling, and synthesizing ideas about what an administration that is more functional than the one we’re dealing with right now might look like. How might we run the school?, as some say we have been doing since December’s lock-in which reclaimed the media narrative and caused the entire PR department to jump ship.
“This occupation,” remarked one alumnus who recently visited us, “is a tuning fork for the Cooper community.” In declining the administration’s request to engage in a formal mediation process between themselves and the occupying students, we hope to sound a tone that is meditative, agitating, and most importantly unrelenting.
In power, but not popular. An online petition created by Cooper’s administration demanding that the “students engaged in [the] sit-in…vacate the office immediately” failed to break 600 signatures, while a similar online petition launched by community group Friends of Cooper Union supporting a statement of “No confidence in President Bharucha and Chairman Epstein” has garnered nearly 2,400 signatures.
I’ve been feeling totally lethargic and procrastinate-y for the past two weeks, even when sleeping a lot. Think I might be sick with something subtle but pretty debilitating.
On Wednesday stopped by the library to see if they had any more versions of Cooper’s Bylaws. The versions that I got by hounding the Board’s secretary only go back to 1992, and they’re all amending a 1972 version which I still can’t find. I had also gotten two older versions from Julie a few weeks ago because she stumbled across them. I was directed to thumb through the CARD CATALOG, where I photographed a bunch of records like this:
Then emailed them to Carol, the archivist, to set up an appointment. She told me she could pull everything they had by Monday.
n+1 Magazine published a super smart, thorough essay by Sangu on everything that’s happened so far at Cooper, with a lot of historical context. Sangu also spends lots of time in the archives. When I was picking up my things I saw a folder with her name on it. I like this quote that she dug up:
”The dealers in money have always been the dangerous class,” Cooper wrote in the last year of his life. “There may, at some future day, be a whirlwind precipitated upon the moneyed men of this country.” In his unpublished autobiography, Cooper recounts his frustrations with the bankers who controlled Congress and were creating a national debt. They had the power to control the volume of currency, issue credit, and charge unfairly high interest rates. In the spirit of Cooper’s beliefs, the original Cooper Union charter stated that the trustees should never mortgage the property or go into debt for more than $5,000 a year (except in anticipation of rents and revenues), and that they would be held personally liable for any deficit. In his turn-of-the century biography, Rossiter Raymond notes that Cooper claimed to pay all his debts every Saturday night, tracing “that horror of debt” to the time of debtors’ prisons.
I didn’t even know what a badass place I was walking into when I came here. As far as I can tell, it was somewhere between 1996 and 2006 that the Bylaws gained a section stating that officers or Trustees shall not be held liable. That recent.
I don’t remember Niki’s class.
Seth’s class was cancelled. Wanted to stay at home anyway.
Metahaven came out with an essay, published by Strelka, called Can Jokes Bring Down Governments?:
> These are serious times, or so our governments keep telling us. Strangling economies with their austerity policies, they assure us that they have no choice. In a world where “there is no alternative”, how do you dissent? Once upon a time, graphic designers would have made political posters and typeset manifestos. Today, protest has new strategies. Enter the internet meme. With its Darwinian survival skills and its viral potential, the meme is a way of scaling up protest. Hackers and activists have learned to unleash the destructive force of a Rick Astley video. They have let slip the Lolcats of war. Pranks have become a resistance strategy. As the rise of Beppe Grillo in Italy testifies, this may be the hour to fight nonsense with nonsense. Jokes are an open-source weapon of politics, and it is time to tap their power.
Since the title is a question, Betteridge’s law dictates that the answer is actually just: “No.” I had like $10 in my bank account, but I bought it anyway because I wanted to find out. Read it all in one sitting and liked it. Reminded me a lot of the way we’ve done things with Free Cooper.
“The politics of capitalist realism can only be countered by a strategy that removes itself from its political-discursive frame. Instead of being heard and listened to, people are continuously being told they have no idea of the magnitude of the threat that is underway – which is a manner of silencing them and enforcing a frame of reference”
“Responding to a sensical question with a meaningless answer is an effective tool to negate the politics of the frame in which the question was posed. And politics has become so dispiriting that it inspires a Dadaist troll mentality. The question, “do you condone or condemn,” is a trap, a gotcha, intended to force all opposition to accord to a neoliberal frame – in other words, it is an exercise in sense-making. The absurd response refuses to participate in this exercise. It removes itself from the frame”
I concur. One of our sort of mantras is: keep Cooper weird.
Went crazy on Facebook, dumping every quote that had been banging around in my head into statues and sorting them into related comment piles.
I get really concerned when I can’t remember any of my classes, but, um, don’t remember Dennis. And Bio was boring.
Biked a way that I had never gone before: up through Greenpoint, into Long Island City, and over the Queensborough into Manhattan. Looked at an apartment in midtown with Mom, who’s thinking of fleeing the suburbs now that Niki is headed off to California. Ate Indian food and then I biked down to Cooper. Dragged my pillows and some books downstairs to hang out in the Colonnade, where Jenny was starting to install her show. Read a little bit of The Arcades Project, which felt meta. I want to play around in the space but it’s a little hard because it’s constantly booked.
Biked back to Brooklyn with Tyler, Ryan, and Emma. Markitect had a bonfire. When you sit at a bonfire with a bunch of architects you will inevitably end up making Modernist can structures.
Think I left my laptop there. Haven’t seen it since.
Got my copy of Jack’s book These Days, which I helped fund in part on Kickstarter. Really cool to see that result in a real book. I love the section separators, little loading indicators shown in a different frame of their animation at each section:
Did laundry. Also someone else’s laundry. That kind of day.
Spaced the fuck out and did somebody else’s laundry, one machine over.
— Casey A. Gollan (@CaseyG)
Biked into school for a “student convergence” meeting in the park, trying to coordinate student participation in, or in relation to, the big labor march on May Day. Cool to see students from all different New York schools coming together to get shit done. Hopefully that’ll be a longer-term organization and the start of more networked New York student activism.
Took down the papers I’d been testing in the Colonnade so that Jenny can actually finish her install.
Went home early and watched The Net. Turns out that I have the same Histomap as Stewart Brand! Pretty interesting documentary. Like a weirder Adam Curtis. I liked how instead of title cards the filmmaker panned over a mindmap to connect sections. Reminded me…of…me. It was also just strange how the filmmaker’s iBook is the main character in the movie, appearing in the periphery of almost every shot. That was all probably pretty scary at the time, but I found it almost hilarious when I realized that the Unabomber had to ransom newspapers to publish his manifesto. Today it’d probably be published via Kickstarter.
Had art history. There was one short presentation and then we had a rambling discussion for a while.
Headed to the library and scanned in seven new-to-me versions of the Bylaws for my archive.
1859, it turns out, is far crumblier than 1881.
— Casey A. Gollan (@CaseyG)
Missed student council, oops.
Had a meeting with Dbilly and everyone else whose show is on May 7th. It’ll be me Keagoe, Micah, Zoe, Fern and Jenny. Ran over what we know of our logistics together.
Went to the library to fix the PDFs I’d made yesterday because they somehow accidentally got passwords on them. Thumbed through a Library of Congress Taxonomy guide while I was re-running the files through Abbyy.
It’s reminded me of this Stephen Jay Gould quote that’s been banging around in my head about taxonomy:
Some people dismiss taxonomies and their revisions as mere exercises in abstract ordering, a kind of glorified stamp collecting of no scientific merit and fit only for small minds that need to categorize their results. No view could be more false and more inappropriately arrogant. Taxonomies are reflections of human thought; they express our most fundamental concepts about the objects of our universe.
Had Projects. Mauricio showed an amazing video where he was basically tripping out in Walmart with his girlfriend. I showed in the last 20 minutes but was in a really bad mood so basically had a mental breakdown and started whimpering about how I haven’t done that much work and it’s all really boring and stupid and I don’t know why I’m doing it. I get the sense that it was awkward to watch. Walid took me into his office and we looked up the etymology of boring and stupid and it was…stupid…but I felt slightly better. Went to openings and then out drinking with Al and Jo.
Worked on things like Bylaws, shred beanbags, and weeknotes but didn’t make too much progress. Had weird sculpture class where Niki was, despite being funny, mostly belligerent and mean.
Met at Bruce for Seth’s class. Some rando had been invited to talk to us about the economics of being an artist, but it turned out that Seth hadn’t really screened him and the talk was mostly sad and unhelpful. It touched on a lot of things I think about in a kinda incompetent way.
Went to an internet art opening with Aaron which was kind of terrible.
Slept from 8pm to midnight. When I woke up the Boston bombers were on the loose and I complained to my roommates about the newscycle blah blah and then accidentally got totally sucked into Twitter until literally 5am when they caught him.
Woke up at 3pm, having slept through sculpture and bio, exhausted and a little frayed and feeling weird for knowing better but still having followed the news drama like an action movie. Did dishes.
Read the _why spool. A really good read.
And it occurred to me that I’ve been basically working on my own printer spools.
Had thai food with Hannah, who I haven’t seen in years(!), and showed her around Cooper. Hung out with Niki for a little which was nice.
Read the Julian Assange/Eric Schmidt transcript, which was long but super interesting:
I believe the most effective activists are those that fight and run away. Not those who fight and martyr themselves, but those who fight and run away to fight another day. So that’s about judgement, when to engage in the fight and when to withdraw so as to preserve your resources for the next fight.
why do powerful organizations engage in secrecy? Well, usually because the plans that they have if made public would be opposed by the public. And plans that are opposed before implementation often don’t get implemented. So you want to wait as long as possible. And then implementation eventually makes them public by the very fact that they are being implemented but it is too late by then to alter the course effectively. So an organization on the other hand that is engaged in planning behaviour that if revealed is not opposed by the public doesn’t have that burden. It doesn’t have that planning burden where it is forced to take things off paper.
If you have perfect anonymity you can fight forever, yeah. You don’t have to run away.
you can change the behaviour of many people with a small amount of information. So the question then arises as to what kinds of information will produce behaviour which is just? And disincentivise behaviour which is unjust?
Shredded a ton of old papers and notebooks, reading through as I pulverized.
Printed off every draft in the last couple of years really and spread them out in a long hallway to jump around and edit. Did that for a bit.
Went to a fun potluck at Liz’s.
Got to Dore and it was cancelled. Handed in the forms and deposit for my show. Slogged through logging these last two weeks.
Forgot to mention last week that on Tuesday evening I went to a meeting about a meeting with some people from the Alumni Association about how to get seniors to continue being involved in Cooper stuff after graduating.
On Wednesday, spent the whole day doing n o t h i n g with Alex. I read some of Don’t Go Back to School. We ordered sloppy joes from around the corner, which is just an insane thing to do, And listened to online radio, which played the same fucking ad over and over again about 100 times until we went crazy. Both skipped classes. Roommates arrived home to find us both loopy. It doesn’t always feel amazing to do nothing for an entire day, but this was a success.
On Thursday, got bitchy iced coffee (it’s finally nice outside!!!!!!!!), walked across the bridge with Al, got breakfast burritos. Had a studio visit with Seth and it was really good. All my stuff was still up from Walid’s on Tuesday (oops), so we sat on a bag of shreds and I talked about that and it made sense. But we mostly talked about ideas instead of objects. Felt like we could’ve talked for hours.
Walked down Broadway with Tyler to get some vinyl so that I could make a proper shred cushion. Lukas was working at Jem, nice to see him. But they didn’t have what I needed so we went next door. Got two-and-a-half yards of yellow translucent vinyl, some thread, and a zipper from P&S.
Got back to school just in time for a No Questions lecture with Brandon, Achva, and Aki Sasamoto. Brandon and Achva were good. I like their work, and hearing how people talk about what they do.
Aki’s lecture was insane. She talked us through some kind of theory about the words diagrammed in the picture below, which I still don’t fully understand but made a lot of sense in a way I can no longer explain.
Then, in the last two minutes, she wanted to “show us some of her work” so she opened 10 different videos at once and a textedit window and in between giggles started typing out things like: I want my work to be 100% performance and 100% installation, none of that 50% + 50% = 100% bullshit.
So that was awesome.
Sat in the 5th floor lobby and made a paper pattern for a bench cushion, cut down the vinyl, and sewed it up on three sides.
Got a really nice dinner with Alex and went home and blacked the fuck out.
Friday, had Dennis. A fine class but I don’t remember too much about it, except talking about Godard and Dennis said something to the effect of: some people think Godard is boring…of course it’s boring! He’s breaking your fucking head open!
That made sense.
Emptied all the shreds I had into the new cushion, which, as it turns out is huge, so it was only half full.
Bio basically didn’t exist. Was on my laptop. REALLY not sure how I am going to pass that class. He’s really willing to help but I can’t sustain attention on biological intricacies.
Got silly pink margaritas and then went to Slideshow Club. A bunch of good presentations ending in an insane drag show.
Saturday I cleaned my room, turning up things like:
A bag of shredded money:
And a bunch of papers:
Went to school and attempted to fill my new cushion. Had to just say fuck it and shred everything else in my studio. It went slow, though, because I read through every single comment of hundreds in the Save Cooper petition. I like this one the most:
Kind of intense to read through all of that.
Went to a screening of the documentary Insurgence at Cooper. It’s about the strike and student actions in Quebec. It actually made me nauseous and confused, though, because I’ve always held their work in high esteem, but this was basically just two and a half hours of watching protestors and police clash — sometimes violently — without any narration or narrative. Heavy. It felt pornographic.
Put me in a weird mood. But went home and watched an episode of Ruby with Tyler and felt better/fell asleep.
Sunday morning I went to a coffee shop and wrote a little bit of a Reinventing post where Margaret Edson, John Seely Brown, and Clay Shirky all sit around a fictitious table and talk about education. Didn’t get very far but it’s fun to write something so weird.
Finished sewing the cushion, which was tedious and difficult and looks sloppy and like I didn’t even get enough shreds but whatever. Kristi asked me if I feel awesome for having made something and I told her basically no it feels totally horrible.Mon 8
Gave a half-assed presentation to Dore’s class on a paper I wrote last time I took her class a year ago. But it’s actually a kind of interesting thought that I never published online and I’ve progressed in my thinking about it, so I might try to edit it a bit and re-push it out soon.
This is the current state of my studio.
Went to the store and bought some spray mount and window markers so I could test a giant bylaws diff in the colonnade.
The glass between the library and the colonnade is unexpectedly thick, so it’s a little bit confusing to view marks on the glass against the paper on the other side. Will have to keep figuring out the logistics of this.
Awesome bikeride to P&S where I bought another cushion’s-worth of yellow and clear vinyl, and a yard of green vinyl. By the time I got back I felt so over it though ugh. Did circles tricks on my bike for a while outside.
Tuesday was the most awesome weather ever. Sat outside all morning tanning and reading through a good portion of Systemantics: How Systems Work and Especially How They Fail, which, after saying the title, I keep trying to tell people is HILARIOUS! and they give me a funny look. It really is so smart and funny, can’t put it down.
Walid’s class was good. Looked at some fun things by Joe like a surveillance dartboard and cellphone jammer, and cool to see Brandon’s work moving along too.
Christine grabbed Tyler, Kristi, Aaron, and I for quick portraits in the Rose Auditorium for some series she’s working on.
Went to openings and then came back here to write this.
On Monday had a boring art history class, had lunch with Shawn, went to Rye to pick up all the crap I had brought home for spring break: books, clothes, etc. I freaked out for a second when I walked in because I thought we’d been robbed or something. All the lights were on, a shelf had been toppled right by the door, and there was general upheaval. But that’s just how Niki packs for vacation. Tried to write because it was quiet there but didn’t get anything done at all. Ordered a 23andMe DNA kit, despite the fact that I’d legally have to send it from out of state, mostly hoping that it’ll solve my “final project” for Biology. Nabbed the printer to take back to school. Showed up 90% late to a Student Council meeting.
I was *this* close to getting my DNA done by 23andMe…maybe this is for the best? twitter.com/CaseyG/status/…
Projects was cancelled on Tuesday. I lugged the printer to the colonnade, where I am supposed to have a show in May. There’s a super high up ledge that I somehow decided I wanted to print off of, but haven’t figured out the logistics of yet, so I put the printer on a decently high up beam and played around with that for a while.
High-altitude printing vine.co/v/bjZFIZMv6p5
Sarah and Marco stopped by and we printed a selfie.
Rogre, having read what there is to read of the (still unfinished omg) month note sent me the link to an essay called Deconstructing the Experience of the Local: Toward a Radical Pedagogy of Place by Claudia Ruitenberg, which I was perfectly situated to read. It was a good essay. Sort of affirmed some things that I feel vague and out of place about.
Drank a lot at openings and beyond but I think it was kind of boring or at least not memorable. It’ll probably be smart to not keep doing that. A waste of 6 harness-able hours! On a Tuesday!
Despite that, woke up really, really early with no alarm.
Don’t remember what I tried to do but I remember that I tried to do something on the computer and it was not productive. Went out into the world to get coffee but forgot to wash the Pen15 Club membership tattoo off of my wrist from the previous night.
I thought I had conducted a pretty comprehensive bridge-burning when I bitched out that curator Simon who I’d been in contact with a few months ago:
But an email arrived as I was sitting at my computer not-working that him and Hans Ulrich Obrist would like to talk on the phone today. Crazy. I told them that I wouldn’t have called me. But they basically apologized for the DLD panel being weird. Hans Ulrich asked me about Hans Haacke in relation to what I’d sent him, and I actually hadn’t really ever seen his work (though he’s usually hanging out around Cooper so I’ve seen the guy a bunch). I’d put together a PDF a few months ago, but they asked if I could upload some images to their private database they’re collecting people in… I’m somewhere between star-struck-ed-ness and still kinda stressed about their project seeming like a big-name curator blatantly preying on and assimilating recent grads en masse. They said they’d connect me with a student activist in China who seems rad. It’s not like there’s any point in being too much of an asshole and playing hard to get when I am going to graduate into the void and somebody has called me out of curiosity about my work. I think we’ll meet in May.
Got a super fucking corporate salad with Aaron and ate it in Washington Square Park, which was nice. It’s spring. Except that I like threw up in my mouth halfway through and kept eating. Such is life!
Bought a shredder at Staples. Shredded things.
DESTROYING EVERYTHING is the new “doing nothing” vine.co/v/bjiwQAj6VAB
Thank you for the invitations, I am sending my regrets. vine.co/v/bj5TnK77tZx
Dan and Joe sent me this:
Showed the printer and shredder in Niki’s class. The first time I’ve shown in that class. She told me I should get an intern to change the paper, which made sense.
Woke up early again on Thursday and wrote a post announcing that I’m going to serialize my drafts of the essay I never finished called Reinventing Administration.
Which felt like, bam! bam! bam! But…have yet to make progress on that oops.
Took a Hans Haacke book out of the library and read it on a pile of paper shreds in my studio, which turned into some kind of ridiculous rat nest.
Did some experiments with pre-printing big page number watermarks and then running those sheets through the aerial printer.
Had Seth’s class. I could’ve showed the printer again…I had it all set up — and he had made fun of me for not having shown and not ever intending to — but we basically ran out of time and I was okay with it. Got a slurpee halfway through. Normally I like that class but it was boring. Apparently talking about paintings isn’t always boring, our class is just bad at it.
Spent the evening doing a thing that was fun but which I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement about before leaving the premises. Not even joking.
So I guess that’s that.
Showed the printer on the column again in Dennis’s class. He’s really good, the whole class was really good. We talked a lot about flyer drops and office work. I shared my fear that I am turning into Ann Hamilton, who Audrey had mentioned as an artist that is like sooo into the beauty of falling paper, and he was like: you worry about you, her stupid Canadian aesthetic will take care of itself. Lol.
Went to bio, it was boring, zoned out on my laptop. Bought a laser printer. Sat around in my nest.
current status: twitter.com/CaseyG/status/…
Biked to Brooklyn with Joe and Audrey and they made dinner, that was nice.
Hung out with Joe again on Saturday. Hung out in the yard, talked about Cooper stuff, played with the bunny, ate enchiladas. Good day.
And! Arrived home to find my 23andMe Spit Kit.
Slept in on Sunday then headed to Rye to see Katie, who was home from Boston. Was basically home exactly long enough to convince Niki to drive to Connecticut, spit into a tube for 2 minutes, mail it off, eat crepes, and watch one episode of SVU together.
Here I am mailing my saliva to California, where they will turn it into code and store it for ten years.
Pretty sure I will remember my youth as a time where I made reckless choices about information.
Then headed back into the city to have dinner at Day’s with Free Cooper people. She made gumbo, which was yummy, and we all lounged around and talked mostly not about school, which was nice. I fell asleep on her couch for, like, a minute. Total comfort.
I was supposed to put together a presentation for Dore and I never got around to it and couldn’t figure it out, despite it not being important and having had several hours in the morning to bang it out, so I just skipped. Sort of a stupid decision, but I went to Kmart and got a vinyl cushion type thing to throw all my paper shreds into. Felt cheezy about that.
This piece of paper fell off the wall and there were some scary old notes on the back!
Forked newsdiffs (which I stumbled across, but Ethan also sent to me!) to cooperdiffs, so I can spend less time collating document versions hopefully, but failed to write a working parser. Beautifulsoup is kind of a shitshow.
Ate BBQ. Read a little bit of Systemantics.
All the while, up at Bard, I was being appropriated. Saskia gave a lecture and she had asked, a few weeks ago, for the link to my video. Ughhh. Bleghh. Nrrrrr. What a turnaround time from protest to curatorial symposium, now that it’s politically safe or whatever for her to endorse.
I have issues with curators.
Tried to mechanicalturk some audio transcription but it turned out to be wildly inefficient because I sat there refreshing the page and no turkers actually took the job.
Had a short, boring student council meeting. Got a burger with Alex. Fell asleep on the couch the second we got home.
Tuesday morning I pinned up all the existing versions of the bylaws. Ideally I will paste them to the windows in the colonnade and be able to do a big diff in marker on the other side of the glass, but I wanted to get a sense of the scale. I had previously done the diff where I put the plain-texts next to each other in indesign and plotted it. But I’ve come to want the formatting, actually. I’m bored by it but it also feels important and easy to execute. I need more mindless tasks.
The dynamic in Projects kinda sucks but I have a feeling the work is getting interesting. Or at least it was more full-formed all around today. I showed too. Configured my new laser printer so it’s wireless! And propped it up on a ladder, then printed some stuff. The colonnade has shows so it’ll be hard to keep playing there.
Apparently I’m a cheap rip off of Hans Haacke, whose work I hadn’t seen until…yesterday. And I actually am wary of how boring he is, while acknowledging the boringness of my own personal interests.
Aaron said some good stuff, he knows where I’m coming from well at this point but it all still reads wrong. Walid told me not to make things if I’m just making them to show them. To reject the idea of a show!
When I don’t make things it’s like: MAKE THINGS. And when I do it’s like: DON’T MAKE THINGS JUST FOR US! So, there’s that. It’s fun.
Went to openings. Food was better than normal this week!! It’s all about the food. Wrote this thing. School closes at 2 and they told me to leave but I’m still here. I could probably slip into my sleeping bag aaahhh but will bike home now.
For months-and-months I’ve been sitting on a slowly-changing monster of an essay draft titled Reinventing Administration, borne out of my experiences in the last couple of years working with and fighting against the people in charge of Cooper Union. Inspired by Heather Marsh’s awesome serialized blog posts on collaboration, today I’m going to start noodling-in-public on different thoughts until this topic is out of my system and my drafts folder. While Cooper is the subject of these writings, it’s kind of interchangeable: an object through which I hope to address the challenge of reforming institutions who seem to have…gotten away from themselves. The problems here are not unique, and the questions we (the community of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and neighbors) have had to ask form a kind of rubric against which to check out-of-whack leadership at schools everywhere.
Here are some topics that come to mind, which I’ll link up like a table of contents if they come into existence, and add to as I go:
- How did Cooper Union get into a death spiral?
- Is all money dirty? Or, how can anybody sleep at night knowing that an egalitarian institution is funded by businessmen who’re widening inequalities elsewhere?
- Legacy, as in cobwebs.
- Preservation vs. building a new city.
- Transparency, accountability, and other cans of worms.
- Asynchronous collaboration walks into a meeting an falls over laughing.
- Community theater (as in appeasement and “fake consensus” not showtunes. Okay, well, maybe showtunes.)
- Bottlenecks. (Hierarchies vs. networks)
- Who are administrators? Where did they come from? And could we do this without them?
- Who does a bland Public Relations department serve?
- A look at work by others on “Open Government” and “Open Society”
- Git and Github as a metaphor and possibly a working toolkit for Open Government
- Where to stop the technological steamroller
- Pushing the right leverage point — growth — in the wrong direction. Or, growing down and replicating as an alternative to fattening up.
- Does everything inevitably get away from you in the worst possible way, Peter Cooper? Or can you design a non-stifling system that supports its original intention.
- Do we need classroom teaching? An imagined debate between John Taylor Gatto, who learned everything he needed to know smoking cigarettes by the river, and Margaret Edson, whose experiences with schooling are heartwarming rather than traumatic.
- Can classroom teaching be saved? (Picking IRL education up where Clay Shirky left off…and kicked it while it’s down.)
Well, this is officially a Monthnote. And I am doomed to write a blog entirely consisting of apologies for not blogging.
Each week since a month ago I’ve read over my draft, made finicky edits, written a new [apologetic|explanatory|defensive|synthesizing] preamble, deleted the goddamn preamble, pressed unproductively against the idea of WRITING as if I’m smashing together opposing magnets, and then drifted off — beat. — onto something or somewhere else. Puhhh. Last time I wrote one of these it took too long and didn’t feel magic. So, basically, I forgot that 1) that’s not that point and 2) by taking longer than one sitting I was doing it wrong.
I’m going to hit POST at midnight. Beware jagged sentences. And as if the writing wasn’t scary enough my CSS has gone to shit TOO as I move things around on my website. HAHA I’m posting it right now and it’s so not done. Stay tuned?Board Chair Meeting
Spent Monday evening preparing for Tuesday’s Board Chair meeting: coming up with an agenda, printing out relevant petitions and letters, and wrangling some actual hometests to show-and-tell the trustees. Almost didn’t end up going to any of the events going on but then I got a text from Ryan that he was AT the subway going to MoMA. Scooped up my papers and literally sprinted down from the 7th floor of school to the subway. Miraculously made it onto the same car just as the doors were closing.The Radiant
I had missed The Otolith Group when they came to Cooper because I was busy doing my stupid “Scholar Caller” telemarketing training (a.k.a. a reconnaissance mission into the Development Department at Cooper…which turned out to be depressing and fruitless) but everyone I know had raved about them. And of course no Artists let you watch their work online for stupid reasons, so I was excited to see what it was about. The movie, The Radiant, turned out to be a sort of artsy documentary—errr, “essay” according to the filmmakers—on the Fukushima power plant explosion. The sound was amazing. I only vaguely realized it while I was watching it, but they also used this crescendoing “non-linear” structure, that looking back makes a lot of sense.
There was a Q&A immediately following the screening with a bunch of stupid questions and contrived answers that expanded my lexicon of International Art English. Things got interesting when two Japanese audience members got the chance to ask questions. One was: how could you talk about this while only briefly touching on The Bomb? Their answer was basically that they’re artists not documentarians and wanted to explore sound and images in a video essay through this topic. The other question was essentially: how can you sleep at night, having made an art project about something so real and horrifying? Why are you trying to make something weird out of our crisis?? The guy got really mad and held the mic for a long time then started shouting after it got taken away. Maybe rightfully so. Their answer was similar to the other question, dismissive even. I found myself mad along with the asker but also wanting to be the artists. It’s anxious to straddle self-indulgent formal-ish play and doing real things about real world-issues. It’s kind of a false dichotomy, but lately I’ve been way on the real-world-is-real side of things.Projects
In Walid’s class I had to show and so I just sat down and talked about how Cooper Politics is just about all I have brainspace for these days and it doesn’t make sense to show in class because it’s not art…but it’s related in my mind(!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!)…like maybe there’s something formal to the way I think about information…and it is a kind of long-term project. People asked weird questions and Walid reminded me that it’s practically the status quo for artists to not make art or do something corporate or humanitarian. Hrmph. I get the feeling that people who work in offices think I’m a zany artist and people who go to art school think I work in an office. Hrmph.
There was, however, no time to resolve that paradox because I had to leave early to get to the Board Chair meeting (a.k.a. My regularly scheduled shouting match with Mark Epstein, Chairman of the Board of Trustees). I forked(!) Art Student Council’s website for Architecture Student Council so Oliver was able to post what is basically a word-by-word transcript, cutting out only at points of total [hubbub]. Reading back through it kinda makes my heart race:
CASEY: The Board Report was introduced in September and it’s been 83 days since December 5, and we have no Board Report. I don’t understand how, even this highly mediated form that I’m not trustful of, honestly –
CACCIATORE: Something we started last semester where, in concert with the Newsletter, we report back on Board activities. Part of the challenge, Casey, is that there’s only been one Board meeting since then, in December, which was, you know, a bit of a challenge, and it was also pretty public, so I think putting out a board report beyond what came out in the form of a memorandum from the President on the status of our process and planning –
CASEY: I would argue that it’s totally unacceptable that just because someone breaks and enters with a camera means that you don’t have to stick to the process of reporting on your own activities.
CACCIATORE: Oh we did, and we reported in the President’s report –
CASEY: No board report has been issued 83 days after the meeting and the President sending an e-mail is not a board report. I also met with Lawrence on the 24th and he told me the timeline had vaguely shifted but that he can’t disclose any board meeting times, dates, or locations, and that they were never intentionally public. And there is no list of what board members are on what committees, so when I hear that the Executive Committee pulled the Early Decision applicants, I know that is a subgroup of the Board but I am not allowed to know who is in it, not only what they talk about, but who it is.
EPSTEIN: First of all, no secrets –
CASEY: There are secrets; it’s not fair to say there are no secrets.
EPSTEIN: Just because we don’t advertise every little step doesn’t mean it’s a secret. There’s only so much information – until this situation arose, nobody cared what the Board was doing.
CASEY: It doesn’t matter!
EPSTEIN: It does matter! It does matter, because nobody cared! It – Can I finish? It does matter, because nobody cared, because everything was status quo, nobody cared what the board was doing, nobody cared about these committee things.
The most frustrating part was feeling like I should correct Mark’s consistent misinterpretations of things I or other people had said…over-and-over-and-over. I tried, but the back-and-forth made the conversation too heated. By the meeting’s abrupt end, most of my questions were unanswered, or non-answered, as in: ” BUT nobody used to care about what the Board was doing”. Sigh. Kristi put it well when she said to me after the meeting that it reminded her of the futility of diplomacy. These people can engage you in non-conversation until everyone involved turns blue.
Talked with Aaron for a long time later about how maybe it’s stupid to be totally pushing aside the weird things I was doing last semester like reading random lists of words and humping the building. But also how the Cooper stuff is pretty exciting.
The next day I felt actually emotionally hungover from being yelled at by Mark. Sometimes these people just totally drain my lifeforce. I re-read the Donella Meadows page on my door about leverage points and wondered what bullshit paradigm I was STRATEGICALLY, PROFOUNDLY, MADLY TRYING TO LET GO OF when I taped it there.
My favorite thing so far about the public Student Council notes has been that people who are only involved in Cooper Politics insofar as being my Facebook friend chime in from time-to-time. DY had read Oliver’s notes and, observing the butting of heads, linked me to Getting to YES, a book on negotiating. The goal, he assures me, is to get wiser, not, as I fear, tamer.
As much as I hate business books, this one is useful. The premise is that people tend to approach negotiations in ways that end up hurting both parties, and that whether you are setting a fair price with your babysitter (lol) or trading arms between nations (aaahhhh!?!?!?!?!?), you should use a technique called Principled Negotiation developed by a group called the Harvard Negotiation Project. So I’ve been trying a diplomatic mindset: making lists of Shared Interests and BATNAs (Best Alternatives To Negotiated Agreement), etc. an so on. It’s been interesting to think about protest as part of a wider rubric of negotiation. It’s helped diffuse some stupid anger I have towards people (as opposed to problems) and what is maybe a premature desire to just get my way (rather than reach an agreement). I still, however, get the feeling that we’re past negotiation with the board.
The past three Sundays our little Facilitation group met at Stefan’s house again for more training. The focus of the second meeting was “anti-oppression”, which meant talking about different kinds of privilege, reading over worksheets on how it manifests itself, and learning techniques for dealing with oppressiveness as somebody running a meeting.
There is a huge amount of overlap between the synergistic corporate culture-building directives and the hippy-dippy strategies of activist organizing that kinda makes my brain hurt. Facilitations is almost exactly like when I was working with a project manager at my old job, except the goal of meetings is like the complete opposite: building community vs. meeting business goals. Business is like the ends justifying the means, and facilitation is all about dwelling in the means while making everyone’s roads to the end more clear. That means doing things like stretches and a go-around of everyone’s mental and physical states at the beginning of each meeting. It is awesome to begin the class by stating to the group: “I feel crappy physically, mentally, and emotionally. Soooo…yup.” (It was the truth, that day.)
I left the second class feeling cynical about the heavy-handed-ness of Facilitation. I think I’m just wary of cribbing the techniques without Stefan’s effortlessness at using them, and I can get impatient about spending so much time on process, inclusiveness, and feelings. But that stuff is all super-important and neglected everywhere else in the world. And Stefan encourages us to adapt the tools and use anything in whatever way is useful to us and the groups we work with. The third and fourth classes were great, and so the four-week course was a wrap.Trustee Forum
An email arrived 24 hours before the event that there would be no posters, flyers, or balloons (lol) allowed, security would be on red alert, and any raucousness would lead to the event being shut down. OH WELL, ADMIN, we’d been printing shit all week.
Happy Hour put together a Way Forward addendum, which Sam turned into a double-sided flyer with a Mission Means Union poster on the back. Got 300 of those printed on neon paper to sneak in. Joe and I printed a bunch of letterpress posters to hand out too.
I’d gone home early the night before the Forum when Aaron called me to say that he was walking with a bunch of faculty into the dorm to Jakob’s dance party, and had some weird news: the faculty had all voted to revoke their letter blocking tuition.
So. It’s over.
Was all I could think. Or I thought maybe he was joking or pranking me. Details were sketchy. They were going to a dance party?? I had been clipping my nails when he called, and after the phone call I couldn’t find the nail clippers anymore. I spent the next 20 minutes crawling around silently, laser-focused on finding the nail clippers. They never turned up. I talked to Alex who was asking me things like: …are you okay? And all I could think was…I think so…where the fuck are those nail clippers…am I crazy?…is this happening? I’m sorry to say that: 1) my reaction to a metal near-death experience was to draw a complete blank, and 2) I realized that my ego felt on the line, having just told my class that Cooper Politics is my long-term project, having changed my avatar to a picture of me waving around a sign in protest. Oh god.
I took a shower and raced into the city where faculty were at a bar. I thought about not going, but also thought: if this is the end, I probably want to drink with faculty about it. Day bought me a beer. Nobody — even those who were part of whatever decision had just been made — had clear answers or was able to say what was going on, and it also didn’t feel like the time to ask. The worst part, it felt like, was the TIMING. Surrender? The NIGHT BEFORE the Trustee forum?? What???
The next day I skipped Drawing to help Joe print the last of the posters. Then came the Forum. In short: totally canned — almost nothing of substance was said — and the moderator (who was a trustee. Conflicts of interest, anybody?) cut questions off EXACTLY at the two-hour mark, despite boos and hollers from the audience. Fuck. Them.
Afterwards: a mass exodus to the bars for more defeated drinking.Faculty Meeting
On Monday was a meeting where the faculty were to finalize the vote that had apparently been initiated the day before the forum in a panic. It was probably the most intense meeting I’ve ever been in. Like, people burst out crying intense.
A decision couldn’t be reached on Monday, although it almost rashly was, so the group reconvened on Tuesday to make the final call. The result was that the faculty would indeed submit their previously withheld and condemned plans for tuition-based revenue-generating academic programs. Which looks a lot like giving up. The vote even passed almost unanimously, save for me and Kristi, which I came to understand as both a sign of problematic governance structures and a weak yet tactical move on the part of the full-timers to buy another incoming class. Within an hour of the meeting concluding, Jamshed had emailed around that he was PLEASED that the Art Faculty were now cooperating (though they always were, just not agreeing). Fuckers. “Let them have their moment”, is what somebody said to me. And I think that somebody is right.
Nevertheless, SFAFCU cobbled together an explanation of the coercion, etc. for the CUSOS blog.
I have a theory that the meeting transcripts and accounts of brinksmanship taking place here right now are going to make a great book one day. But the faculty requested that this, right now be off the public record in all its detail. I was happy to oblige.
In lieu of posting notes I worked on the Statement on Transparency on the ASC website. It’s getting good.Goose Chase and Staircase Hey Bruce Seth Practice Happy Hour Legal
We met at theFlorida Reading
- Seeing Like a State
- Understanding Power
- Open Government
- Tenth of December
- Uncreative Writing
- Getting to Yes
Went to a show in a deli. By the time we arrived our friend’s band had already played and left, so we bought lotto tickets from a vending machine and sat around for a while listening to random music.
Had brunch with Alex. Did laundry and shuffled around Brooklyn all day. Ate whatever Korean food and watched Battle Royale. That was a day.
Got to school to find art history was cancelled (again). Tried to organize my head and stratify out various projects and it was productive.
Went to the first of a six-part lecture series in the Great Hall by Steward Pickett called Cities in Crisis. Really good boringinteresting environmentalism systems thinking. Incredibly well-researched. Drew a lot of parallels to the thing I was writing forever but waited too long to push out about new forms of administration and now will never finish. Specifically: He views cities not just as the way things are, but as the epitome of a certain period in time and one point along a trajectory or sequence. One piece of evidence to support this is that the UN taxonomies for cities (did you know they do that? I did not.) keep getting outgrown, leading to ever more ridiculous naming schemes: hypercities < megacities < supercities. Another interesting part was the difference between designing new cities (which reminds me of my time in Suurpelto this summer) and retrofitting existing ones. New cities are unburdened but sometimes lack resources. Old cities remind me of what we’re doing with Cooper. Holland Cotter surprised me when he called it a “forceful preservationist gesture”. I hadn’t really realized. I sometimes think it’d be more realistic to start over, but it was interesting to see the two contrasted.
Between having juggled all my potential projects and tasks in my head and sitting through the long boringinteresting lecture my head felt really full. Got drinks with Jo and Alex, then very efficiently went to Student Council, where I showed off lots of website updates AND another meeting about creatively fucking with the administration’s boring Peter Cooper birthday party the next day, before meeting back up with them for burgers in Brooklyn.
Woke up really early without an alarm or anything. Biked to school to get ready. Lots of ideas which seemed unrealistic had been tossed around the previous night but most of the good ones were actually coming into existence. Sprayed a lock-in clock on my shirt, painted a hastily-lettered sign, and headed downstairs with bushels of stenciled heart balloons and a Happy Resignation Jamshed cake hidden beneath a cloth. A couple people hoisted the giant Free Education To All banner up between two trees in the park just as the ceremony began.
Then we all waited, balloons in hand, for their stupid ceremonies to conclude. At which point Pete began to LOUDLY mic-check a Peter Cooper quote about trustees not being allowed to amass debt…back in the day. Our people managed to toss a red wreath on top of the administration’s, then we followed the procession into the colonnade while mic-checking the Art Faculty’s letter. There was a little bit of an intense moment of slowly marching towards administrators eating birthday cake while shouting the faculty letter at the top of our lungs. Joe presented Jamshed with the cake as, finally, the SFAFCU demands were mic-checked, ending with “3) Jamshed Bharucha steps down.”
A long, quiet pause. The air was charged.
Then, singing: “Happy resignation to youuuuuu, happy res-ig-nationnnn to youuuu, happy resig-NA-tion dear Jamshed—”
Which is when Jamshed raised his hand like Britney shielding herself from paparazzi or something and walked out — mid-song! — to the elevator. When the song was over it was dead silent and NOT SO FUN ANYMORE and everybody looked around like DID THAT HAPPEN. The balloon holders went outside for a second before determining that we’d cut the cake in the lobby outside Jamshed’s office and release the balloons there. So, basically, everything went off without a hitch.
Blogged about it later.
I was a few minutes late to projects. I kept falling asleep. It was boring and frustrating. Left early because I thought I was gonna black out…and then I did on the sleeping bag on the floor of my studio. Biked back to Brooklyn, and went to the new Greenpoint X’ian which feels like an inside joke because it’s so small and close to nothing except home.
We had a long weekend, so Wednesday became a Friday. “Friday” the 13th.
Went to Dennis’s class in the morning. Still felt shitty. Couldn’t focus on art.
Slept on the floor of my studio again.
Talked to the advisement office about getting out of my Bio class and Joyce said basically no, I won’t get a diploma. I’m indifferent about that anyway after having assessed the risk of getting my diploma yanked for the lock-in and concluding that it actually is just a piece of paper.
Got to Bio late and it was as insufferable as I expected. Haven’t felt like I’m just sitting in a room watching the clock since high school. It’s slightly better than high school because I can be on my laptop. Emailed Day from inside the class that I NEED TO GET OUT OF THIS CLASS. Scheduled to meet her on Tuesday.
Then, up popped an email from Jamshed, explaining that the Executive Committee of the Board has decided to withdraw all early admissions for the School of Art.
What the fuck.
Immediately started pinging back and forth with Free Cooper people.
Having felt shitty for a couple days in a row, I’d planned to head to the suburbs to recuperate. But suddenly was organizing an emergency meeting about responding to this newsbomb.
It was the biggest turnout at any kind of meeting in a long time. But nobody really knew what to do. There was a little bit of getting on the same page and speculating and it kind of devolved into creative action planning which may or may not be realistic or helpful right now. Like DIG PETER COOPER UP FORM HIS GRAVE AND BRING HIM HERE. I think I kept waving my arms around and saying things like “SELF-ORGANIZE”. Which also may or may not be helpful. Anyway, when that was done I fled directly from school to the suburbs.
Spent the next FIVE days at home. Pounded Zicam and Nyquil, slept, had alone time, and hung out with family until I was better-ish.
I was actually so in need of going home that I didn’t even pack a bag, so on Friday Niki drove me to the store and I bought socks and underwear lol.
That night the New York Times article that had been in the works dropped. The headline: damaging. “Free Tuition at Cooper Union May Be Near End”.
The article: fair. I was happy to see Kerry and Buckley quoted. Also, I can now add to my resume that The New York Times has called me, “a terrible but amusing rapper”. OR just “terrible”. Jesus Christ. They weren’t supposed to see that. But they LINKED TO IT. An even bigger victory was that the NYT linked to Student Council’s meeting notes(!) AND fucking called the Attorney General to verify a vague threat Jamshed had made to faculty about the school being closed down for insolvency.
> At a meeting last month with the art faculty, someone asked Dr. Bharucha what might happen if professors refused to go along with the board’s plans. His response, according to minutes of that meeting: “The attorney general would ask us to close.” (Dr. Bharucha said he did not recall making the statement; a spokesman for the attorney general said it has made no such warnings.)
Sorrrrrry bout it, we got it in writing. I had a hunch that meeting notes would eventually blow up if done right, and these proved to, both internally and in the media. Couldn’t be more psyched.
Made a stupid little thing called Cooper Media Showdown contrasting “our” media attention versus “theirs”. Not only do we have more volume, but all their press is fucking depressing, while ours is generally hopeful in spite of confronting tough issues rather than just bowing to them.
Got a kooky idea about doing sentiment analysis on all of our press.
Cooper media is a decent corpus and it’s something to potentially carry into my own writing and reading projects stuff. Texts spun around by the electric brain.
Well, the electric brain is fucking stupid! Figured out how to extract text using Readability, get Alchemy to spit out ranked entities with sentiment scores, and then render that JSON as a d3.js approval matrix. Buggy and really stupid (because computers REALLY REALLY can’t understand things) but fun to have quickly whipped up. I’m at a frustrating place in terms of code fluency where I can generally get things to work in pieces but not know how to glue them all together. Ideally a computer would scrape all the articles into a database, run sentiment analysis, maybe even MTurk it or collect human input as well, feed that into the D3 graph, and there would be some kind of interface for switching between articles or overlaying their results or understanding the data in different ways. Each of those little parts was its own struggle, so tying them together is intimidating. Basically I was deep in a text editor copying and pasting urls and manually writing JSON and stuff, which is doofy.
Went to the mall with Mom and Niki which was fun and so suburban. Tried on stupid hats.
Answered a few emails, finally, carving away at the looming cloud of tasks I will never get to. Spent the rest of Monday doing nothing and wanting to not return to reality.
Decided I couldn’t do more meetings, so missed Student Council. Got back into Brooklyn late.
Overslept the followup to the explosive faculty meeting oops. But secretly glad to miss another meeting and felt good knowing two other notetakers would be there to corroborate. Stayed in Brooklyn and made some graphics to promote a rally for deferred students that Victoria had almost singlehandedly organized over the weekend.
Kevin wrote an awesome blog post about it:
> It’s possible that Cooper Union has reached the end of the line, and can’t bring in students because it can no longer subsidize the education that Peter Cooper worked to provide. But if that’s the case: say so.
> If it’s not the case, say yes or no. “Deferral” is a bureaucrat’s word. These are students, and at 17, they still speak English; they understand yes and no. None of this could possibly make any sense to them, as it certainly doesn’t make sense to a lot of other people.
Projects was less bad than usual but not great. Feeling very out of the requisite headspace for my classes lately. Made some weird drawings and notes.
Met with Day and told her I promised myself I wouldn’t bullshit after high school, and she told me I could definitely drop the Bio class if I wanted to and just take a summer class to make up for it, I just wouldn’t get a diploma at graduation. Which is hilarious because that happened to me in high school over skipping gym. I decided, weirdly enough because she seemed so whutevs about it, that I’d probably tough it out. I definitely don’t want to pay for some shitty summer class in Bio after I graduate. Also talked Cooper stuff and she lent me a book I’d been eyeing, The Fall of the Faculty and the Rise of the All Administrative University. Good to talk to Day, always.
There was a meeting to prep for the rally but I was feeling bad so I went home.
Woke up and one of my legs was freezing cold and wet. The radiator in the apartment above me had given out and was leaking directly onto my bed…again. I’ve only had my sheets back for a month since coming home from break and finding them completely crusty with radiator water. Hope my tetanus shot covers this.
Come at me shitty brooklyn apartment u are only making my memoir more of a tear-jerker.
Put a bowl on my bed to catch the drips, made a cup of tea, and read the last chapter of Fall of the Faculty, skimming the rest. Its suggestions were consistent with the stuff I’d been writing on forms of administration: get rid of administrators that don’t appear to have a purpose, put faculty on the board, etc. It was interesting to note somebody else’s observation of apathy or frustration with shared governance. For example, some of this guy’s colleagues opted out of all faculty governance meetings and made a point of writing a book during those times. The book did well and everybody was slightly jealous, but if people don’t suck it up and share the responsibility of unsexy administrative work it will get packaged into somebody else’s job, and then you’ll be sorry. (That’s why I’m super interested in how tools can make meetings less frequent and better. I actually have a high tolerance for sharing those responsibilities, but hate to see others opt-out and hate to see myself burn out a little.) Most of all, I didn’t even realize how bad some places have it, with HUNDREDS of “deanlets”. Cooper is smalllll in comparison and should therefore be pliable. But damn it’s hard.
Worked on revising our Art Student Council response to Jamshed’s letter. It was fun to watch it get written by five different people on Github. (IT’S WORKING.) Then committed and emailed it off at the last minute and rushed to school for the rally.
It drew a big crowd and the poorly amplified statements read by and on behalf of applicants were totally moving.
I was excited to see Niki and Rina! Despite cold weather, a big success. Especially in terms of generating press:
- East Village Local: Cooper Union Students Will Protest Latest Turn in Tuition Saga
- Student Activism: Cooper Union
- Art F City: Cooper Union’s Financial Woes Continue, Spilling Into the Art School
- East Village Local: Photos: Cooper Union Students Vow to Stay Free or Die Tryin’
- Free University NYC: “We Will Not Defer to You, Jamshed”: Deferred Applicants Speak out at the Cooper Union
- DNA Info: Cooper Union Students Protest Delayed Early Admissions Amid Tuition Fight
- Hyperallergic: Cooper Union Saga Continues as Administration Refuses Early Art Acceptances
- Village Voice: Deferred Cooper Union Applicants Feel Like Collateral in Board’s Beef With Art School
- Art in America: Amid Ongoing Protests, Bloomberg to Address Cooper Union
Went to a Contemporary Art Issues class taught by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, which was amusing (“I am NOT a curator. I don’t know what contemporary is, I don’t know what art is, and I definitely don’t what issues are. I’ve been researching research for 30 years!”) in a way that will probably just turn boring soon.
Then, unfortunately, a PR blast that was sent out 30 minutes into our rally patronizing the community for allegedly, “taking the high road off a cliff” started to show up in press as an official response. Dashed off a quick line-by-line refutation of their garbage and made it to another weirdly just okay — in terms of where my head is at — class, thirty minutes late.
Saskia wanted to meet in the morning to give me a slap on the wrist for being pictured in the media with this sign.
I guess it’s not smart to undermine all the research and reading I’ve actually done with a guesstimation, but I didn’t make the sign and Jamshed’s salary isn’t actually public information, so I’ll probably issue a Photoshop correction when the 990s come out.
Had a boring Seth class where we critted Aaron and Will.
This blog post by Cindy Milstein, Organizing As If Social Relations Matter, made my day. In fact, it retroactively made my past couple of weeks. Or two years even. I almost cried when I read it because in spite of its hippy-ness it touches on the human side of what we’re doing that isn’t just about a goal. This shit takes too much time and feels like a rollercoaster — in the words of the Carolyn, “it’s hard to live when you’re under siege”…tell me about it. — but it means something.
A boring Dennis class. What is with me? A boring bio class…that’s to be expected.
Then something awesome: Cooper Happy Hour. People from a bunch of different parties who haven’t worked together closely before in a meaningful way coming together to clarify and amplify each others messages and get new shit done. Some people want to remain anonymous, some people want to come out of anonymity. It’s an interesting dynamic, a stellar group, and I think we’re gonna do some crazy shit. I’m not used to non-class meetings with badass adults. Brain, shaken.
That was followed by a fun party on the third floor by the architecture school. Of course they played the video which I will never live down oh my god.
Hung around in the East Village ‘til late.
Woke up just in time to scramble out the door into the crappy weather to catch a series of busses to Victoria and Stefan’s house for a three or four session facilitation training that Stefan is offering. I didn’t take notes but learned a lot. It’s pretty crazy how there is such significant overlap between activist/consensus type people and corporate team-building and structures. I was reminded a lot of when I used to work with a project manager, except when I was working there wasn’t the same sense of purpose in the day-to-day. We started by stretching and breathing and stuff — it can get hokey! — and then tried to answer basic questions like: why do groups of humans ever meet at all? What could the word facilitator mean? Could draw parallels, at some point, to this stuff online in terms of moderation. But it also underscores the importance of breath-based eye-to-eye meeting, even as an end in itself. But, of course, the purpose is to help large unwieldy groups trust each other and accomplish goals. It’s especially hard and important for me because I’ve always been overly loud and aggressive, so going through this with some quieter people is really instructive. I might not, in the end, make a good facilitator because I’m usually pretty impassioned, but knowing this stuff will I think even help be a part of meetings. Not that we even need it here, right now or yet, but I could see this eventually being really useful.
After the meeting, set up some infrastructure for Happy Hour with V and bounced ideas off her about publishing that group’s work on Github. It’s hard-ish compared to traditional methods but I’m determined, for many reasons, to make it work.
Headed to Dad’s and we went from there with Niki to dinner. Don’t think I’ve seen him in a month! He’s been traveling. Thank god sometimes for parents nearby who will buy you dinners otherwise out of your reach. Sometimes it’s boring to be around each other because we’re similar in that we’re both very much in our own heads and worlds that don’t overlap all the much, but we started talking about Cooper and he had a ton of interesting advice. In the Happy Hour meeting it was brought up that we not only have to get our messages out there, but see how they land. So it was interesting to hear which parts resonated with him and what he thinks next steps should be. It’s easy to forget that some of the internal politics and bad governance stuff doesn’t really come across. Also, a tag line that we had all gotten psyched about made no sense to him, which was worrying but I’m glad I figured out.
Returned to Brooklyn all excited from a day, or really a few weeks, of charging forward with lots of different Cooper stuff and juggling it all without dropping the ball. It’s easy to feel like it’s some kind of distraction that I need to compress into smaller amounts of time, but when I take it seriously it feels great.
Did laundry. Hung around and tried to blog. It’s HARD to focus and justify spending a ridiculous amount of time on something so vain and trivial but like commitments-to-self and brain-defragmentation or whatever. Kind of a nothing day. Stayed up late with Aaron and Alex. It was a full moon and we guessed it. Aaron finally pointed out to me that when I was away for five days a week ago they had all flipped the entire contents of my bookshelf so the pages face outward and I hadn’t noticed. Psychopaths! Fell asleep while resting my eyes in the middle of blogging.
Overslept art history. Oops, christ. It’s kind of a nothing class anyway. Scared that I’m SLIGHTLY withdrawn from my classes at the moment, but sometimes it happens. Tectonic brain plates shifting. My fear of political art, on top of my fear of regular art. I was talking to Aaron about how I’m PROBABLY going to make a shitload of ART when I get out of school because I won’t have crits and a 10,000 page invisible book of unwritten rules to abide by. Aspirational.
And on the subject of aspirations, had a beer with Alex AT 11 AM because it’s like well, already fucked this day up I love college lol yolooooo. MOM, it was merely symbolic and we all made it to school shortly after where I have been happily/diligently blogging my heart out/the day away ever since.
Tonight, New York is an embarrassment of riches and I will have to choose between: part three of Pickett’s lectures on Cities in Crisis, a guy from NASA talking about the Mars rover, a screening at MoMA of a movie by the Otolith group that I was told I HAVE to see one time when I missed it to infiltrate Cooper’s telemarketing department. Or, you know, doing work. Which is the only thing I actually have to be doing right now. Fuck New York sometimes. I’ll
sleep when I’m dead do my work when I live alone in a corn field. OKAY?
- Briefly saw very crowded openings at school.
- Last time I saw Katie before she moves to Boston 😭.
- Biked over the bridge really fast to drinks with a bunch of old coworkers. It’s been a long time since I quit my job. They’re pretty much all off being CEOs of stealth startups now.
- Woke up late and did nothing all day. Like read Alicia Keys syngergy news.
- Received an email from my pal Lawrence in administration saying, “In order to meet the information dissemination and posting needs of the Cooper Union community, the Posting Policy has been updated.” Followed by an 800-word long set of rules in six sections basically declaring that unapproved posters are banned at Cooper from now on. So I solicited new entries to cooperunion.info/posters and threw together a little poster of my own that I have to plaster up soon. Information dissemination and posting needs? This is what administrative busywork and micromanagement looks like.
- By the time I biked to school just in time for sculpture I heard it had been cancelled.
- Walked around the LES with Aaron and ended up at Mission Chinese which was spicy.
- Biked to the Bruce space for drawing, which is a nice place. There was sort of nothing to do and no work to look at yet so we just talked slowly for a long time about whatever.
- Went to school. Figured out how to pull Markdown into InDesign. Messed around with the Bylaws trying to figure out a continuous horizontal diff of the five versions, but it felt slow, finicky, and kind of like something I should teach a computer to do. But that didn’t seem immediately doable, so I just plotted all the bylaws next to each other on a giant sheet of paper (42 in tall) and started diffing by hand in my studio with markers, using Kaleidoscope as a reference.
- I was Instagramming while I worked and Inka joked that it looked like a conspiracy theory, which reminded me of this awesome bit from Chomsky.
- “It’s just normal institutional analysis, the kind of analysis you do automatically when you’re trying to understand how the world works.” Yup.
- Biked home at 2am when I was done. It’s easier to stay late when I don’t have to think about the subway.
- That’s a thumbnail of the final diff, here is a readable-sized version. It looks all fucked up because I had to cut it into scanner sized pieces for re-digitization.
- Showed the diff (before cutting it up) in Dennis’s class. We talked about the actual content of the document. People had questions. I pointed some things out. Joe seemed disappointed that I hadn’t found a smoking gun and thought that a synthesis would be a more useful form. Probably true. Mark Lombardi was brought up. Which means I am now going to go back in time and kill Mark Lombardi so that he stops showing up in all my crits. I don’t think I was trying to make art but if I wasn’t showing a governance document inside the same institution it might be more aesthetic. Like Lombardi.
- Porter showed some white frame things. Joe showed his show.
- Then we had our Student Judiciary trial for the lock-in. Here we are huddling and looking over documents before going in:
- It was actually really fun to sit with fellow-students and go over the facts and be reminded how in-the-right we were about the actions we took and the degree to which we thought things through.
- Bio was boring. Ate peanuts in the back of the room and spaced out. Got a text from Jakob that our punishment is…a seven day ban from the round elevator. LOL, YES. Students effectively dropped the administration’s case against us while still humoring them. Left class as soon as it was over to retrieve my formal letter:
- That evening the Art Faculty circulated by email the most beautiful fucking letter which they had presented to the President a week earlier, rejecting any tuition based plans at Cooper. I was sitting alone at my computer, but literally started clapping and making weird little involuntary noises. This is a huge milestone on the Free Cooper front. Anybody can scream and you can block them out, but when 1/3 of your faculty mutinies, you listen. Spread it around on social media.
- Went to a party at our Neighbors with Tyler. Walked around our reverse apartment for a while just looking at how differently they’d decorated it.
- Left for karaoke and pizza.
- Pushed the faculty letter out to press. It’s fun having a kind of workflow post-lock-in for getting anything we want to say out there. Feels easier than I would’ve thought before.
- Went to a gross party.
- Biked up to Gramercy for brunch with old friends. Funny hearing about their jobs. JOBS. Made me more ready than ever to go OFF THE GRID.
- In Art History listened to an engineer present about Dali and Surrealism. Which made me wonder what I would sound like talking to engineers about thermodynamics. That should happen more.
- Art in America picked up on the faculty letter. Posted it up around school with Jamshed faces which were quickly removed per the new posting policy.
- Kristi posted notes from the letter presentation meeting with faculty and Bharucha. They were widely shared. Even Village Voice picked up on them. I had a hunch when I got involved with Student Council and convinced everyone to start throwing notes from everything on Github that people would go nuts for real transparency, like meeting notes, however boring that sounds. This confirmed that. Haven’t seen so many people engaged in a while.
- Met Galen for coffee. We first met when he ran up to me at school and said somebody had told him to talk to me and I should read a book by Marvin Minsky. Which I did half-read and still think about. So we’ve stayed in touch. We rambled about a lot about things we’re working on. He said something I don’t hear around here a lot, which is that this place overrates individual geniuses and it might not be so bad to step out of that game for a while.
- Almost walked into traffic for like the fourth time that day.
- Had a nice dinner with Alex and Tyler for no reason, so was perfectly late to Student Council. My secret goal with the notes is to go to less meetings. But the meeting was kinda rad, we basically changed the annoyingly formal mission statement to: “We’re a group of art students. We’re whatever the student body needs their presence within the existing bureaucratic structure at Cooper to be. We go to meetings, take notes which we share, and vote on behalf of students. The school gives us money to throw parties.”
- Ranted a little in my projects wiki.
- Woke up early. Tiptoed into Alex’s room and took his blazer. Dressed a little fancy.
- Stopped to buy a legal pad on the way to school.
- Met Kristi on the 7th floor and we took the stairs up to the Peter Cooper Suite for the follow-up meeting between art faculty, Bharucha, and three trustees(!). The fact that they decided to show up means things are escalating sufficiently. The meeting was exciting but exhausting. Maybe because I was taking notes as fast as I could the entire time.
- Village Voice picked up the faculty letter.
- I showed Walid my wiki and the diff before the meeting on his iPad because we were sitting next to each other. I think he called revisions the saddest thing ever. Like how you always feel you need the palimpsest and have to reduce thresholds for memory to a keystroke. Giving equivalence to everything’s entire history. I was like, hmm yeah I guess…so what?
- Then had his class. I was sleepy and bored. We all talked for a long time in a way that didn’t really make sense to me about my wiki. Which, to be fair, isn’t really anything to talk about yet. And I had no idea what to say, only that in retrospect I am glad I didn’t write a “grant proposal”. We argued about artists’ writing. Which for me is also complicated. When you do things that involve writing, what’s your work and what’s your meta-writing? I have a feeling there’s no distinction for me. Next week he wants bios from everyone. I thought of my graph as my bio. Walid says writing proposals and bios isn’t just being complicit with the system of curators and biennials and whatnot. Probably the biggest mindfuck since MWB.
- Blacked out on the floor of my studio for an hour. I can’t believe, at this point in time, that I was ever really into the idea of studio furniture or the idea of taller ceilings bigger thoughts or this dream of building a house completely along desire lines. Sleeping on the floor for a week during the lock-in crushed any vestigial remnants of my interest in how bourgeois chairs help you think.
- Dan had an extra ticket to a fancy alumni event so I met him there to haunt administrators with my presence and drink martinis.
- Jam: “you know, I make a mean martini. I’ll make you one.” Me: “I’ll come up to your office and we’ll have some martinis” Jam: “no we can’t do that, but you can certainly come over to the house and I’ll make you one, as long as you promise to not occupy my home!” Me: “😇”
- Lawrence: “what are you going to use this photo for?”
- Even my shit smells like martinis.
- Artforum picks up the faculty letter.
- Tyler, Audrey, Aaron showed in Niki’s. She was kind of on fire. Said some really good stuff. Bowed to non-sequiturs.
- Talked about student council’s notes/transparency project with Kristi, who was apprehensive about posting her notes after having been approached all week by students, faculty, and reporters. I’m happy she’s thinking deeply about implications and best practices and misrepresentation and responsibility because my priority has been moving fast. It’s a good combination and I feel like we’re going to come out of this with something like Flickr’s Community Guidelines, but for Institutional Transparency(!).
- Spent a bunch of hours cross-checking Kristi’s notes against my own, which I agreed to do before publicizing them.
- Had Seth in the morning. Dilan and Kristi showed. Couldn’t stop staring out the skylights at the monolith across the street where a lone construction worker was jumping up and down on a sheet of glass facade to slide it into place.
- Released more notes. I’ve heard nothing but concerns about open meeting notes, but in practice have seen only widespread excitement and involvement.
- Worked on making the student council site less barebones, now that we’ve been using it a bunch.
- Watched William Wegman videos with Aaron and Tyler for a bit. They’re great.
- Overslept Dennis. I was TOLD there would be a blizzard, so I stayed home, even though it didn’t start snowing until later, because I was in no mood for my high school-ish bio class. Kinda burned out. Read a chapter from How To Be Idle which is kind of my bible/most important reference book. It’s hard to tell if it’s ruining or making my life. Attempted to blog but couldn’t really get much of anything done. Hung out at home. Watched SVU, Spongebob, and Godard with Alex and Jo. They were all exactly the same. Went to bed at a reasonable hour.
- Jackson Heights for Indian with Aaron and Tyler.
- Aaron and Tyler making fun of me for blogging my life until I lost my will to live, let along blog about it. Pretty good impersonations of me having revelatory moments tho.
- Saw the World’s Fair Globe and gigantic Robert-Moses-commissioned model of NYC. Reminded me of Seeing Like a State.
Weeknotes again. Here we go…!
I got back to Brooklyn on Saturday to find that my ceiling had fallen into my bed.
Presented the laundromat with the most gigantic crusty ambiguous stain ever, preemptively babbling about radiators-and-how-its-like-not-blood-or-body-fluids-I-swear, but then got the weird suspicion that they wouldn’t care if it was and then spent the rest of the day wondering if that’s just like a thing they deal with all the time and if there’s an SVU episode in there for me to write.
Anyway, like the other Casey Gollan always says:
Got the cheap ($5!) shitty bike of my dreams from mom for christmas. Bought a helmet and lock.
Biked to Manhattan and back for a meeting about working for free. Biked home fast.
Realized how much getting a bike is like getting a dog, namely that you hate people who have dogs and bikes for being so annoying about it until you get a bike and suddenly everyone who you used to be able to make fun of bikers with now despises your cooing.
Felt bored so I IM’d every Facebook friend that was online at the same time. This is the best use of Facebook I’ve found since uploading an entire book. You feel like you are FLYING slash trying to man all the phones in a busy call center and then people come over because nobody’s doing anything on Facebook anyway and you just like rip all the paintings off the wall in excitement.
Then it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and I read some of his writing:
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advised the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
And in my head I couldn’t stop thinking about a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.
I was also chewing on this part:
“I hope you can see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law as the rabid segregationist would do. This would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do it, openly, lovingly (not hatefully as the white mothers did in New Orleans when they were seen on television screaming, “nigger, nigger, nigger”), and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust—and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice—is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law.”
I had just read the Guerilla Open Access Cookbook, which has some good parts like:
“We must abandon the image of the lone hacker as the symbol of our movement and recognize that any successful guerilla movement depends on the work of people filling many different roles.
But it also deals a lot, in part through that distribution of roles, with working around a system without getting caught. “It is unwise to be an open voice for radical illegal action and also its agent.” This seems to go against MLK’s public stoic acceptance of penalties and reverence for just laws. I was reading the GOA Cookbook, of course, in the aftermath of Aaron Swartz’s suicide, which I at first observed as cautiously separated-out from his legal troubles…and then saw it definitively smashed together. So it’s confusing, how laws can crush people and if they should stand up or be covert.
Other good MLK things:
This quote about fixing systems, or as he so eloquently puts it: restructuring edifices that produce injustice…in the name of compassion!
“A true revolution of value will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies…True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth”
And, on politicians watering things down, Cornel West Explains Why It Bothers Him That Obama Will Be Taking The Oath With MLK’s Bible:
It’s in the back of my head to read and watch more MLK soon.
But then, a stream of the worst panel I’ve ever seen came on and Aaron and I watched people our age bloviate about their artistic practices. The theme of the panel was: born before 1989. AND YET everyone had founded some sort of Institute legitimizing their practice. More than once, images of NOTHING, like a cardboard box, would appear on screen and the speaker would explain, “This is a project on sustainable networked shelter interventions deployed throughout blah blah blah.” Another panelist explained a group they had founded which releases research reports about technology and commerce, dropping brand names like FIT BIT but apparently using, “imaginary data from our wrist bands that didn’t work”. Or something.
I don’t. Even know.
I could probably argue the flip side of this: that speculative projects are actually really exciting because being young you don’t have resources to like actually do certain kinds of stuff and you don’t need to anyway if you can think about it, render it, and share it, and how it’s both possible and relevant for young artists to pretend to be institutions because on the internet nobody knows you’re a DOG. That’s plausible.
It’s more plausible, however, that International Art English enables anyone who has been through art school to EXPLAIN to a room of people who travel on global conference and art world circuits how a cut up cardboard box is mind-blowingly subversive and provocative. The part that I guess made me sour besides boring work tinted by art-professional-ism, was the youth-exploitation-factor behind curators presenting “the next generation to watch out for”.
I had responded to a vague request from these same people over break, not really knowing what it was about. But watching the stream put in me a mood to SALT THE EARTH. So, in a rage blackout I wrote a few angry tweets and sent this NOT A THREAT I SWEAR email.
Even if I burn all the bridges in the world I will probably still end up on a panel talking about my godforsaken keywords: “system design, software studies, trolling, activism, and idleness.” I cringe now looking at the bio I sent them…
Casey Gollan was born in 1991 in Los Angeles, California. He lives in New York where he is about to finish studying at Cooper Union — if the administration decides to grant him a degree after all the trouble he’s caused them.
His work crosses wires between autobiographical writing, system design, software studies, trolling, activism, and idleness. He has written about software as politics for Rhizome.org and post-internet art for Pooool.info.
SO LIKE why did I write that?! It’s painful to gauge my own amount of hot air (90%?) and think about the lame industries which lay ahead: panel discussions and curators and writers who want to be published.
Other people’s KEYWORDS: liminal identities, the intersection of gender, religion, and technology in the Gulf, Amazonian jungle in relation to the ones that wonder too deep, the pedantic qualities of the Broadcast as a language, class differences, social stratification, cultural capital, class imitation and seduction, hierarchies, power relations, charity, empathy, psychological relationships with globalized phenomena catalyzed by the Internet, the hyper-sexual consumer-driven ego-centric society of the then and now, the dynamics of urban space, gentrification, the artistic act of inserting work into the public domain.
Tyler rewrote my bio for me after I sent him the one above:
Casey was born in LA. After failing as a child star the family packed up and moved to the New York suburbs in hopes that his younger sister Niki could make it on Broadway. After finding himself one night in the East Village, Casey discovered that there is actually more to nothing than most think. Since then Casey has spent most of his time in the void creating PDFs and preaching the gospel of Github. Casey is adept at using the computer and has a lot of thoughts about the internet and administrative bloat. When he isn’t impersonating Lana Del Rey, Casey is most likely found creating the world he wants to live in at the beach. Going from bloat to boat, Casey splits his time between a condo in Boca and a Williamsburg flat. Casey has no children.
Commodify that, bitches.
Tuesday was my last first day of school. Biked there! Tried with Kristi and Jon to put up Hope’s banner again, since all the building’s Free Cooper flair came down over break, but it snapped three separate times. Waiting for more cooperative weather and people who are better at rigging banners.
Art history was cancelled. Ran around a little bit trying to organize for a protest outside a board committee meeting at one. That meeting turned out to not exist. I wrote about the goose chase on the Save Cooper group:
The Case of the Phantom Meeting
In a Nov. 14 email Jamshed Bharucha wrote, “[A] special meeting of the Board of Trustees will be scheduled for late January to decide on our course of action.” On Calcium (events.cooper.edu), the Board Room had been reserved for an “Executive Committee Meeting” today from 12 - 5pm.
Just before noon, students gathered to go stand outside the meeting, while two students planned to go inside to take public minutes and livestream.
Only…there was no meeting. The lights in the Board Room were out and the door was closed.
A student elsewhere in the building said that she heard an older man and woman talking about the meeting, and that they would “Skype in from within the building”.
Four students went up to Jamshed Bharucha’s office and handed a petition for student representation at Board meetings with 434 signatures to Lawrence Cacciatore.
I went up to the office and asked Geoffrey Olsen about the meeting. I’d think he would know, being the one who confirms Student Council’s Board Chair meetings. Geoffrey said there is no meeting today.
Lawrence popped out of Jamshed’s office to shut the door, and ask me if I could come back later because he is “in the middle of three things”. I asked Geoffrey about the March Board Meeting being rescheduled, as Kelly from CUAA had reported below to this group, and he said it has not been rescheduled.
I made an appointment with Geoffrey to meet with Lawrence tomorrow at 11am. I hope to clear up this misunderstanding, get correct meeting dates, get an updated list of who is on what committee, and check-in on the bylaw archive that he refused to let me help with, promising that it would be online by the end of December.
I bumped into David William, who coordinates events in the School of Art, and asked him who reserves rooms on Calcium? He directed me to Brenda Ferebee, the college’s Coordinator of Records and Room Reservations, who I tried calling. She didn’t pick up.
Going into the computer lab across the street, I noticed that all the blinds in Jamshed’s office were down, while him and Lawrence (and maybe others?) were in there.
It’s our first day back at Cooper and students are ready to go(!). But we’re already contending with disappearing meetings and straight answers from nobody.
Who reserved a room for a meeting that isn’t happening? Is this meeting happening now? Did it already happen? Is it happening in the next 8 days, as “late January” comes to a close?
One of our librarians got back to me in the comments and said that the bylaws/archive/git-like administrative workflows project I had been pursuing had actually rolled along a little bit and there were PDFs online now. So I scraped those haphazardly versioned PDFs into Markdown, threw them into a Github repo, and wrote a little screed.
A lot of people have approached me up in arms about shutting up unless I’ve got a financial solution. I’m of the opinion that financial solutions with any integrity at all will only happen in conjunction with other types of more important changes: systemic, rhetorical, technical.
So here is something nerdy:
This repository contains an archive of Cooper Union’s Bylaws from 1996 - 2012. Having done nothing more than pull these documents together into a folder, they already highlight the sloppy and outmoded manner in which Cooper’s administrators create, distribute, and archive information.
Going forward I hope to use these documents as raw-material for experiments outlining best practices for living documents and content management systems that are transparent and accountable.
If this collection doesn’t look particularly interesting that’s because it actually isn’t! But getting access to this ostensibly public document’s history has been an arduous, bottlenecked procedure (it shouldn’t have to be)…and the collection isn’t even complete. Where, for example, are the original 1972 Bylaws which all these revisions amend? Where is the history of every document? If we weren’t keeping it already why aren’t we starting this second?
After a month of heckling the Secretary to the Board of Trustees, a mixed-bag of documents was passed to the college’s Library, whose staff quickly posted them online. The files varied substantially in formatting and accessibility and were therefore hard to compare. I set about standardizing the documents as much as possible so the ways that this governing text has changed over time can begin to surface.
The first step of this is that most of the PDFs have been converted by hand into Markdown, a plain-text writing format that provides for a little bit of structure. If you’re adventurous, you can already download the files in the /markdown directory and plug them into a diff tool like Kaleidoscope.
In my dream-world I use this space to build tools that shoehorn these principles directly into the administrative workflows responsible for creating and distributing this mess, so that ridiculous retroactive unpacking efforts such as this are not necessary.
But this is a start.
The original documents were accessed from the library website on January 23rd, 2013. The six PDF files available on via the library are archived in the /pdf directory of this repository. One version of the bylaws, made available by the library in HTML, is not yet archived here.
┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ)
On Wednesday I realized I had missed a karaoke birthday party the night before because I was, um, busy reformatting governance documents.
Met with Lawrence, Secretary to the Board of Trustees, and I showed him my Bylaws Repo and explained how this accountability could be built into the way things run around here and not have to be some bottlenecked late night rogue archival project. He wrote down the word “stigmergy”, which is the title of the best post in a series of writing on Systems of Mass Collaboration by Heather Marsh that I read over the break. That felt like some abstract kind of progress, although ultimately he told me my expectations for how I want Cooper’s administration to function are too high. Really. He said this. And then went on to confirm the extent to which a kind of purposeless toxic incompetent secrecy and disorganization plague Cooper’s management. For example, he confirmed that it is not public information — not for us to know! — when the board meets, where they meet, what they talk about, and who is on what committee. I get that um, some corporations and institutions are private, but, like, we are being governed completely in secret by a board to whom we have no recourse and who doesn’t have to tell us what they do or who does what. Oh yeah, and my expectation — that they disclose these simple facts and archiving their documents in a way where they don’t just disappear — is too much to ask. Got it.
The real shame is that the board members are the owners but not the stakeholders here. Sure, they are generously volunteering their time to lead this institution and each donating some money, but when it shuts down or turns to shit because the trustees can’t be expected to listen to their constituents or run their proceedings in a legible manner, it’s the students, faculty, staff, and alumni who really lose out. Trustees maybe have their reputation dinged for a little bit or something.
In other governance-ish news, I discovered a majorly stupid security flaw in the multi-million dollar unified database thingy that our shopping-addict Vice President decided to go ahead and buy, so that I or anybody could pretty easily log into most accounts. Which I didn’t. I met with somebody who is going to try to fix it. This system cost millions of dollars and it sucks. There are six “password complexity rules” that end up making me forget my password and having to spend ten minutes figuring out a new one every time I want to log in. There is no justice!
Realized, when I was signing up for sculpture, that my Wednesday class is really small and we are all friends already, so I got a class list and we all got margs beforehand. Niki did her insane sculpture rant and everyone giggled.
Put on Century of the Self in an empty room and watched it in a marathon showing with Alex and and a few other people who walked by. But fell asleep before getting to the end of the last part.
On Thursday I attempted to clear everyone’s lock-in shit out of my studio, which proved unsuccessful.
Wrote a little post about weird spam emails I’ve been getting.
Had a “drawing” class with Seth, who is a visiting artist, and it was fun because he isn’t one of the old-timers who just goes on a tirade. Went around introducing ourselves and it felt butterfly-y like a real first day.
I was handed-off a folder with a few missing pieces for my bylaw archive by the library.
The envelope had been used and reused so at points it had held things from the Vice President and CONFIDENTIAL things from a financial lady and now on the last line it had my name including the fake aristocratic preposition which indicates we-met-on-Facebook.
Anyway, Documents on paper. I felt weirdly like I had…nothing to do with them.
Sherry Turkle gingerly laments how hitting [send] is the most important part of having feelings today. “Technology does not cause but encourages a sensibility in which the validation of a feeling becomes part of establishing it, even part of the feeling itself…things move from ‘I have a feeling, I want to make a call’ to ‘I want to have a feeling, I need to make a call,’ or in her case, send a text. What is not being cultivated here is the ability to be alone and reflect on one’s emotions in private.” I don’t know if she’s right. I mean, I don’t want to think she’s right. I mean I want to think well I read her book therefore I can have an emotion without posting about it see!
But then I was opening and closing the INTER-DEPARTMENT DELIVERY folder’s little red string clasp like an idiot because I never intended to read the words end-to-end, and I didn’t actually reeeead the versions, and I don’t intend to proper. I copied and pasted and refactored and saved and committed and SHAREd a feeling I had about what the words mean and do. It’s so stupid and simple that you have to print something out to get me to read it. BECAUSE “Digital language foregrounds its material aspect in ways that were hidden before…its malleability, language as putty, language to wrap your hands around, to caress, mold, strangle.” And being passed ink-and-paper in the middle of a text-as-in-bits basketball game is like being thrown a brick.
It’s something I thought about the other day when I read what Allen wrote:
Printed publications can be categorized by how they bracket time — dailys, weeklies, monthlies, quarterlies, annuals — and are as much tied to their pace of production as to their worldview of what is the most interesting span of time?
We haven’t yet formed good answers to this online. Streams reflect our ability to instantly put things out there, but what is the right amount of time to talk about an idea? To deep-dive into a subject? To have an argument? To celebrate, or to mourn?
One answer: every possible timespan. Online publications and content are, at their core, databases. In a way that printed things are not. Query your content 10 different ways! Show me a stream! Show me a graph! Show me > 1 year ago next to today and shuffle it every five seconds! Show me them all at the same time each on their own screen!
I know there’s physical hypertext and accordion books and scrolls on paper, but paper is mostly codexes to be r → e → a → d. “Everything on the internet is instantly contemporary.”
Lots of thoughts that don’t make that perfect sense but are banging around:
- “the validation of a Reading becomes part of establishing it”
- “wrap your hands around digital language, to caress, mold, strangle”
- “Print is tied to pace of production and worldview of what is the most interesting span of time”
- “query your content 10 different ways”
- When the tree that made the paper for the booklet fell I think it made a sound. But a tree falls offscreen in a videogame, for efficiency reasons, it usually won’t be rendered for reasons of efficiency so it actually never makes a sound.
Friday morning has sculpture with Dennis. Forgot how good he is at the first day rant thing. So good. Went out and bought Montaigne’s Complete Essays after he talked about it for a while.
Had Biology with Oliver, he runs Genspace, the really cool community genetics lab in Brooklyn that Kevin took us to when I had him. The class is exactly high school, but it’s okay because everything else I’m taking is similar in a way where you just sit around and rant and show and tell. So taking a high school-ish bio class feels kind of exotic and important or something. I have a feeling I’m going to be sad about not dropping it though, with homework, and quizzes, and presentations and stuff.
Aaron started a weekly freeform 15-minute Slideshow Club at school which is a really fun idea. Couldn’t decide between presenting something about genetics or business books or screens or skeuomorphs or something new or a thingy I’d been writing about Cooper. So I printed them all out. Then got REALLY cold feet and was feeling generally terrible about everything I’ve ever done and not done and am going to do. Then went out for drinks beforehand, but like WAY TOO MANY drinks. Like I only vaguely remember Slideshow Club happening and apparently spoke for 40 minutes drinks. Like everything linked to above and the drafty thing about Cooper below drinks.
Look at this list of trades that Cooper whisked students out of in 1859! Amongst the pupils were: a Coachmaker, two Melodeon makers, a Burnisher, four Penmakers, a Telegraph Operator, a Gilder, and eighteen Stone Cutters.
Last year the quarry in Connecticut that provided the Brownstone for the Foundation Building closed because it had been mined until there was nothing left. Did Cooper offer scholarships to those out of work Stone Cutters?
Global capitalism has complicated what it means to be working class in America.
Do any of the other vocations admitted in 1859 still exist today in New York City as working class jobs? Makers of Melodeons? Coaches? Telegraphs? Pens?
Do they exist as jobs at all? Maybe amongst trust-funded Brooklyn artisans capitalizing on the almost charming obsolescence of an identifiable human making factory-lined and outsourced things.
The two pens on my desk, a Sanford and a Paper Mate, are made in Korea and Mexico, respectively. But I’m not writing, I’m typing on a computer etched with the somewhat awkward phrase, “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.” The subtext being that it was assembled in China by an army of anonymous workers employed by a company who’d probably rather not be named, but is actually Foxconn, a subsidiary of Hon Hai Precision Industry, the #10 largest employer in the world (BBC).
Some of the other largest employers in the world today are #1 US Department of Defense, #2 People’s Liberation Army of China, #3 Walmart, and #4 McDonald’s.
Education has continued to grow into a global industry replete with teeth and tentacles. It would appear from this roster that New York City’s working classes in 1859 didn’t go to school, they went to work. I suspect that only a small minority of admitted students at Cooper today were independent, working class laborers before coming here. Today’s incoming classes arrive in orderly masses from the extended adolescence of high school.
In a recent essay Clay Shirky identified a change in higher education from being a mechanism of class mobility into a hostage situation where you either go to college or actually risk falling down the class ladder. And of course, many people’s parents work at Walmart or make lots of money but live just as outside their means as anyone else, so they can’t afford tuition.
Reading this document left me with some questions about how things have changed: When did Cooper switch from admitting the working class to admitting high schoolers on merit, irrespective of class? How has the “working class” changed in the past century-and-a-half? What’s the point of higher education today? Why does college cost so much? Despite these questions, I don’t really want to quibble about history. Cooper obviously isn’t what it was founded to be. (It’s hard to imagine how it could be…maybe by recruiting students from Walmart and Foxconn.)
But with a fair amount of patching, this place stands (precariously) as something unique in the landscape of higher education. We need to think about how to carry forward the idea of using an educational institution to do something about class immobility.
Rewriting history. An hour became 50 minutes. Tuition was never part of this mission.
It doesn’t matter. It’s what it means today. We’re strong.
James C. Scott “while the planner cannot create a functioning community, a functioning community can, within limits, improve its own condition”
Jane Jacobs community
That idea is timeless.
150 years after this institution was founded, those entrusted with its mission need to ask big questions all over again
Peter Cooper declared that this place should, “instruct, elevate, and improve the working classes of New York City without charge”. But Cooper isn’t really about educating workers anymore. It’s not a women’s school. It’s not a night school. They knew this would happen, which is why they wrote: “Of course, defects in the plan and its execution will from time to time appear, for which the remedy will be promptly applied…all suggestions for its improvement will receive a respectful consideration.”
Here’s a suggestions: those for a Free Cooper Union should return not the the historical instantiations, but to the timeless idea behind this place: using an educational institution to do something about class immobility.
Today we’re dealing with a whole different beast.
“[The Trustees] earnestly request that all persons who take an interest in popular education, will visit the institution; and from such, all suggestions for its improvement will receive respectful consideration.”
If everyone is equalized by being a high schooler heading, the hope is, to college: let us not forget that families are of different socioeconomic backgrounds, are sometimes not there or not supportive, and high school educations range in quality from boring to okay. I’ve heard insane stories from classmates and professors about life situations—dead-ends or worse—which Cooper whisked them out of. But I applied to Cooper straight out of high school from a wealthy suburb of the city, having only “worked” an unpaid internship. I knew nothing about
Later, I found out that my great-grandpa had taken classes in the engineering night school. Whoa.
We live in an entirely different world where this institution has, for whatever reason, emerged as a stronghold of free education. This institution has changed. from its stated intent, sometimes to “remedy defects in its plan and execution”, but recently for worse reasons.
We made it h
Bharucha told a journalist that he wants to strengthen “our commitment to access for students who most need it”
It even seems like some of the compelling Cooper Stories I’ve heard draw indirectly on the past
I don’t care about Peter Cooper’s commitment to access in 2013. I’m grateful beyond words for this institution and happy to have Peter Cooper as an icon, but actually, looking back, not every single one of his ideas is still brilliant and relevant.
The Alumni Association has been soliciting stories of where people would be “Without Cooper.” My story feels kind of conflicting.
What it means to be working class has changed.
Before college students even get to be any kind of class they go from High School to College.
„ and higher education has become a lucrative bullet-proof industry.
I’d be curious to see a socioeconomic breakdown of Cooper’s current student body today.
The planet has changed materially, culturally, socioeconomically.
We don’t live in the same world and we don’t go to the same school.
What do the “working classes of this city” which Cooper was founded to “” look like today?
Does Cooper still recruit working class?
I’m grateful to the Library for archiving and posting this amazing documents, but I’m tired of quibbling about history. Look what a different world it was!
Thanks to our librarians—Julie, Carol, and everyone—for archiving the document.
As you can see, that last part isn’t finished at all and there isn’t really a point yet. So I’m not sure how I got through it. In fact, I think I just like knelt over mid-sentence at some point in that and died. Somewhere in there my glasses broke too.
Later somebody told me, “your presentation had a lot of topics.” I was like, thanks.
Somehow made it to a party and there was dancing.
On Saturday went to Jackson Heights with Aaron and Tyler for infinite Indian food yay. Then MoMA. Where if you have a laptop in your backpack you have to carry it around with you. We basically saw it all and nothing did anything did anything for me oh well. In some galleries we were like WTF HOW DO WE GET OUT OF HERE WE’RE TRAPPED because I guess they curate shit all snake-like and infinite-loopy these days.
Tweeted at Susan Powter, who I can’t stop impersonating, and she fugging tweeted back.
Got contacts to replace my glasses, which are probably better suited to my spastic, flailing ways.
Then got ice cream with Aaron and we were next to Katie Holmes and Suri lol.
On Sunday we regrouped as Bread & Cheese aka the Cooper Lock-In to talk about our Student Judiciary hearing coming up on Friday. We will see how that plays out.
Headed straight to a Spokescouncil meeting, which is the Occupy-ish structure full of mediation and painstaking horizontality that was set up for student action on the ground in December. But everyone was tired of talking about talking and lost regarding the fact that there aren’t super clear dates or goals right now and everyone hates meetings so it was hard. Seemed like people could get behind of stigmergy!!!!, a.k.a. just do things and people will help you. Although that doesn’t work for a lot of people who still want to be involved in a capacity that doesn’t involve starting projects all the time and leading them. A non-annoying structure that’s less cumbersome might not hurt but we haven’t found it yet. Really it’s all flailing all the time and always will be, I suspect. Doesn’t get easy. Makes you tired. But it’s important. Things to work on: common ground, creative actions, new shape for spokes council, meeting less often, stigmergy and sudo leadership, bylaws project, dance parties, idea oriented meetings, board meeting actions.
Had a work-related stress dream that’s actually hilarious where I was hired to design a children’s library but it had to have corporate slogans and brand names all over the chairs and stuff and I couldn’t tell if I should do the project or turn it down. One of the chairs had to have the word STOCKINGS on it, as some kind of sponsorship placeholder. Even my dreams want to go off the grid maaaan omg.
On Monday had Dore’s class. Didn’t bike because it was snowing(!). We basically just talked about whatever and she told us that’s how the class will run and she picked a random word as the title “Synartesis” and nobody has ever asked her what it means and it doesn’t matter anyway, and then read aloud to us / told us to read Nietzsche, Valery, Don Quixote, and Coleridge. I got annoyed when a few people started rambling about their ideas of objectivity, an endless discussion. But Dore was pretty insistent that we not worry about pinning things down and instead float two inches off the ground like that, speculating.
In relation to the idea of pinning down, remembered the Barr Chart, which I once almost wrote something about kind of.
And thought about the Inventing Abstraction show we’d run through at the MoMA, where years later they’re still trying to pin down art history. This time, zeitgeist-ily enough, in a graph.
Did a lot of weeknote compiling. Forgot that damn it takes a long time.
Met a client about a project.
Went to mooooore meetings for Student Council and Board Meeting action prep, which were all well and fine. I want to go to less meetings though.
Stayed up late at home discussing who would walk out of school alive if there was a post-apocalyptic hand-to-hand combat battle for survival against each other. Probably all the extra security they’ve hired going to our heads.
Tuesday, today, wrote my weeknote again in the morning. Biked to school in the fog, which made for a beautiful bridge crossing.
Had Walid’s projects class. We listened to everyone’s projects. I recapped my last semester presentations which were: passing out a booklet of my User-Generated Content essay, giving a slideshow on Ted Nelson, doing some of the same readings I drunkenly re-did last week, making weird long boring videos of myself reading lists of words, reading, writing about, and tinkering with the bureaucratic/organizational structures and workflows at Cooper, and then getting sucked into the lock-in and politics here a lot. Then I sort of ranted and raved about how all I want to do, I think, or can figure out how to do, is to rant and rave about systems and technology around me and controlling the world. I want to babble more. Speak and write. Walid said I did that last semester. LOL. I talked about how differently I feel when I’m thinking about art (CYNICAL ALERT! MUST DESTROY.) versus political action (optimistic and inclusive). How I think it’ll actually be easier once I graduate because I’d probably operate well and get some material from inside some organization or corporation or just real life, but art forms usually feel futile to me. He asked why I’m not taking a leave to do that. Um, well, I don’t actually want to get sucked into some bureaucracy. I guess I love the necessary amateur-ness of artists thinking about things they’re not experts in is really exciting to me. But I’m kind of floating without a particular goal right now. What am I showing next week? Um, I don’t know. We argued as a class about artists writing about their work. I think I’ll make a wiki as my proposal.
I’m also slated to show for Dennis’s class on Friday. Hm. Hrmph. AAHAHhhhh!!!