The School of Making Thinking

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Location: Delhi, New York

Mission: Thoughts: The School of Making Thinking (SMT) is simultaneously an artist/thinker residency program, an experimental college, and a nomadic investigation in intentional living. Our mission is to create a unique environment where participants are able to develop a creative practice that challenges disciplinary conventions of art-making, thinking and living.

Our program asks: How does art deepen thought and provoke questioning? How is thinking enacted through creative mediums? And how can an environment be structured (or resist structuring) in such a way that these questions can not only be asked, but be lived as well?

Reality: SMT is a 501c3 non-profit organization run by an eclectic group of philosophers, poets, writers and performers. Every summer we rent property in The Catskills- a rural and mountainous region a few hours from New York City. We select qualified artists and thinkers (some of which are returning from previous summers) to attend various 2-3 week sessions. These residents include: botanists, dancers, playwrights, painters, poets, philosophers, fiction writers, audio documentarians, filmmakers, performance artists, and PhD candidates from English and American Studies departments.

The majority of one’s day is spent delving into one’s own creative project or practice. Additionally, our day revolves around a large variety of activities. We have structured activities: cleaning, cooking, workshops, field trips and classes. We have unstructured activities: spontaneous artistic rituals, walks into the woods, readings, improvised music-makings. We make our program extremely affordable for those who attend.

Thinking: At SMT, thinking is a questioning and investigating of the basic assumptions that define our selves, culture and world. The Academy has established itself in Western Culture as the institution that produces some of the most cutting-edge and innovative thinking; however, there are hidden methodological assumptions embedded within the academic notion of thinking- namely that to do thinking one must write or speak at people.

SMT seeks to expand upon this traditional notion of thinking. Thought (at it deepest) can occur out of silence, it can occur in conversation on a long walk, it can occur when it is stimulated by artwork, it can be brought upon us by a creative practice itself- a kind of meditative stimulation. Most importantly, thought doesn’t occur in a vacuum but comes about due to particular occurrences/situations/environments. SMT is committed to an active investigation of these environments and structures that produce thinking as we make an explicit call for thinking to explore the sensuous and material world that exists around and within it.

Schooling: A school is an institution that assists in growth and development. With this in mind, SMT attracts participants whose creative practices’ have nascence, are open to innovation and renovation, and resist stability. At SMT, we defy the traditional student-teacher hierarchical model as participants take on the roles of both students and teachers. Teaching is teaching how to learn; each of us are experienced in specific areas of learning that are defined by the iconoclasm of our creative practices. Learning is an openness of one’s identity to other’s practices and projects. Learning at SMT is rarely by rote or lecture and fails to meet most criteria for assessment. Rather, we encourage experiential and dialogical learning models and our most used criteria for success is an openness to failure.

Collaboration/Individuation: We believe that creation, at its best, exists as a state that lies in-between the two poles of individuation and collaboration. Furthermore, we believe that each practice has its way of facilitating this in-between. We allow and encourage each individual to find their own way to this in-between especially if this involves exploring untried collaborative terrain. We acknowledge that there are a wide diversity of ways that collaboration can manifest. Some use audience to gather material for their project; others use participants to test out a performance/installation in-progress; some use the audience to test out ideas or provide a critique; others work directly with fellow participants to actively work together on a project.

In structuring SMT- its dinners, its activities, the length of a session- we recognize that any functional community needs to carve out space for anti-community. Finding the balance between one’s own project and the amazing activities of others is the biggest challenge of attending SMT; navigating one’s way through this challenge is a rewarding struggle.

Nomadology: Nomadology (the study of nomadic life and thought) has an explicit external manifestation at SMT- each time SMT holds is summer residency, we are in a different location. SMT defies the traditional residency model as many of our “residents” come back the next summer thereby forming a quasi-cohesive community that creates an illusion of permanence which attests to our external nomadism. Our place exists within a narrowly defined temporality that is coextensive with our residency itself. Each summer we undergo the process of acquaintance with and departure from our place; and this process is itself part of the practice of SMT as we punctuate this process with creative ritual.

Nomadology also occurs internally where this is understood as non-linearity, spontaneity, anti-rationality and rhizomatic relationality. At SMT we find our concepts in the wild. At SMT our projects take shape as we walk off into the woods, as we embrace the ephemeral community that is established, as we accidentally find something that was hidden. At SMT the best of what occurs cannot be spoken, because language falls short.

Community Engagement: On weekends, SMT opens its doors to the larger community.  Guests are invited to take part in workshops or even lead their own classes.  Field trips are usually offered once every two weeks in order for us to learn from other creative communities in our region. In 2012 we had a series of ongoing art shows called Make-Think-Athons which were held at The Catskill Arts Center in Livingston Manner. We hope in future summers to increase our community presence and offer a wide variety of programming to the larger community.

Cost: $120 – $450 depending on session choice, food and cooking materials provided for the hiking session, during Session A/B teacher’s can receive $150 towards their tuition fee

Application Fee: Free

Number of Artists: 8 – 10 Residents at a time

Accommodations: The Farmhouse.  All residents will be housed in the farmhouse in bedrooms that will hold accommodate 2-3 residents each.  Space will be limited, and residents will be responsible for keeping their belongings tidy and the spaces they inhabit clean.  We will also have weekly cleanings of the common areas.  The farmhouse has an unfinished basement that residents can use for their creative practice.  The house includes 1 shower and 2 toilets.

The Barn.  All residents will have 24-hour access to a 3-story barn that is located about 100 meters away from the farmhouse.  The top floor of the barn features a large, open floorplan that is ideal for yoga, dance, performances, etc.  The barn’s ground floor contains a variety of rooms and spaces ideal for artists’ and writers’ studios.  The bottom floor features a large open floor plan; it’s a more “industrial” space, ideal for gritty creative practices–woodworking, metalworking, etc.  While private studio spaces will not be available, residents will have the opportunity to carve out their own space, within certain limits.

The Outdoors.  One of the main attractions of this property is its beautiful outdoor space: 10 acres of rolling meadows, bordered by a small stream and a horse farm, there is no major road nearby, and the main sound one hears is the wind or crickets.  The weather in June and July is quite temperate–it rarely gets uncomfortably hot–but also quite variable–thunderstorms can come and go in a matter of hours.  One is welcome and encouraged to work outside.  There are a handful of hiking opportunities within a short walk of the farm.

Length of Stay: Depending on the session, 1 – 3 Weeks 

Demographic: Emerging contemporary thinkers and artists

Medium: Visual Artists, Writers, Dancers, Philosophers, Interdisciplinary artists, Musicians interested in walking practices, walking meditation, philosophical dialogues with other walkers, memorization, reading, writing, botanical surveys, hiking, Nomadology, Being-Not-at-Home, collaboration, community, playing with structure and not-structure

Benefits: All residents will have 24-hour access to a 3-story barn that is located about 100 meters away from the farmhouse, 10 acres of rolling meadows, bordered by a small stream and a horse farm, there is no major road nearby, and the main sound one hears is the wind or crickets, there are a handful of hiking opportunities within a short walk of the farm, making temporary structures out of found materials, hiking, Nomadology, collaboration, classes, making, thinking, learning, teaching, cooking, eating together, camping out in the woods alone, which will be followed by a “day of silence”

Deadline: April 1

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