Elective Courses

Wintersession 2016 (check Webadvisor for class meeting schedule)


Our bodies give form, adapt, and respond to spaces and objects. When we strip away our visual reference to an object that we know, where does it sit in the world? How does this new thing exist, resist, or re-contextualize our relationship to what we once knew?
This intensive studio elective explores methods and issues concerning the in-between space of sculpture and furniture where spatial dynamics, objects, cataloging, interaction, play, commodification, and labor are employed to destabilize this dichotomy. Through the class, we are presented with assignments that examine these different possibilities from multiple perspectives, including studio-based assignments, prompts, writings, readings, and research. We study the recent history of artists and designers who engage in this in-between space of sculpture and furniture. They experiment with contemporary techniques and materials that redefine the parameters of art and design, while broadening the definition of the two disciplines. Students learn basic metal and wood fabrication as well as specialized demonstrations throughout the course. Students should have an understanding of material and fabrication techniques and be ready to experiment, recreate, and innovate new ways of seeing and working in response.
This is a short list of artist/designers we look at: Tom Sachs, Franz West, Misha Kahn, Johnny Swing, Katie Stout, Roy Lichtenstein, Colin Tury, Sam Maloof, Chen Chen & Kai Williams, Martin Puryear, Matthias Pliessnig, Joseph Kosuth, Tara Donavon, Tom Dixon, Ai Wei Wei, and Wendell Castle.
Estimated Materials Cost: $200.00


This intensive studio course explores the methods and conceptual basis for connecting performance and robotics into a unified practice. No prior knowledge of robotics is required.
Through a playful, exploratory approach, students learn how to work with arduinos, motors, pneumatics, and light in order to integrate them into active performance projects. Using a mixture of new and traditional performance techniques, we define performance as either scripted or unscripted, autonomous or controlled, random or carefully orchestrated, with or without audience participation.
During the course students are given a number of short-term assignments that serve as explorations of common themes relevant to the artist’s own practice. The course ends with one larger final project. To complement the making aspect of the course, we also study the recent history of artists who engage with these techniques and further investigate the theoretical discourse surrounding the relationship between humans and technology.
We look at the ways in which artists bring work to life with mechanics, embedded electronics, code, or live performance. Reference artists include Hito Steyerl, Arthur Gansen, Petra Cortright, William Kentridge, Laurie Anderson, Bruce Nauman, Elizabeth Streb and performances such as “Einstein on the Beach” and “Open Score” by Robert Rauschenberg.
Course Fee: $225
Estimated Materials Cost: $150.00


This is a fast-paced studio course designed to help you problem solve on the spot, help you extend the use of common woodworking knowledge, and help developing artists advance a per basis woodworking studio practice using fundamental techniques to address common critical functions of fabrication. Students are exposed to prevailing tools, methods, materials, and processes through demonstrations and lectures concerning the individual’s range of work.
Students are assigned two projects over the five-week course: the first project is grounded in functionality and making as a conduit for serving found objects, i.e., pencil holder, shoe horn, phone case, bear trap; the second is a larger scale project devoted to creating a more ambitious studio-specific object. Students then present their final piece with a brief written statement conceptualizing their work in terms of its function, design, and overall contribution to their body of work. Students are able to leave the class proficient in all basic woodworking tools and techniques – and feel comfortable solving complex woodworking problems whenever they may arise in their studio.


The ‘uncanny valley’ is a phrase coined by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori in 1970, used to explain the bizarre perceptual qualities created as digitally rendered entities approach representative perfection. In Traversing the Uncanny Valley, students challenge the digital vs. analog binary through 3D rendering objects before physically processing them using a variety of mold-making and casting techniques. With guidance from artists such as Frank Benson, Stephanie Syjuco, AES + F Collective, Robert Lazzarini, Takeshi Murata, and Mike Kelley we address the idea of the uncanny within contemporary practices.
Digital fabrication has vastly changed the way we perceive sculptural phenomena. We now have the ability to download and physically replicate any object we desire with the only limitation being the speed of our Internet and the availability of a 3D printer. In many ways, 3D printing has usurped traditional mold-making and casting as the most convenient way to replicate an object. But how can the two practices inform one another? How can techniques / concerns associated with traditional mold-making / casting be applied to digital fabrication such that both practices benefit? In this course, we explore the intersection of these two fundamental sculptural techniques. Students learn how to download, customize, and print a 3D model; how to create a mold of that model; how to cast that model out of a variety of materials; and how to incorporate those casts into a larger sculptural work.
No prior knowledge of 3D modeling or mold-making necessary.
Estimated Materials Cost: $250.00



Intensive 10 day workshop at Brown University’s Granoff Center For The Creative Arts: January 6-16th 2016

A Cross-Disciplinary Workshop of Visual Artists, Theatre Artists and Designers addressing Identity within the Promise and Perils of Connectivity in the 21st Century. On day 6 of the workshop, Brown students will join RISD students for the remaining 5 days. The workshop will explore the vocabulary, technique, opportunities and challenges of interdisciplinary collaboration as an active creative process. The specific focus and application during this intensive will be the question of how we relate to the world around us—as it represents itself in sensory and tactile form—as well as the virtual world of the internet. While the focus of this course is contemplation of our relationship to technology in various modes, the work will resonate within a larger context of the convergence of Technology, Design and the Performing Arts. The hope is that new ideas and vocabulary will emerge from the engagement of artists in process-oriented disciplines rather than the goal of a finished product. The collaboratively intensive course will use both the iterative/prototyping methods of art and the rehearsal based narrative explorations of Drama in new experimental methods. Both in creation and performance, we will attempt to reflect, juxtapose and critically investigate the way the “real” and “virtual” world shape our perceptions. This course will:

• Apply performance principles to art-based work.
• Apply art principles to performance.
• Create theatrical installations, performance art, and video.

The above may include work of Fine Artists, Design Technologists, Conceptual Artists, Game Designers, Animators, Fashion Designers, Architects, Fabricators, Actors, Writers, Directors, and Filmmaker/Videographers.


Iron, as a material for sculpture, has a unique visual quality and history separate from Bronze and other traditional art metals. As one of the oldest and most common elements in the universe, it makes up the core of our planet and it runs through our veins. Artists respond to the transformation of Iron from elemental Earth to a liquid state fueled by fire; emerging as a new solid form, with an organic life that changes over time as it begins the slow return to its origin. We embrace the mechanical and architectural heritage of this material and its role in the Industrial Revolution; we marvel at its structure and strength, or its crystalline surface and depth, while adopting its history or reinventing its meaning within our own work.
In this course we will explore form, material and process as we use cast Iron as a material for sculpture. We will delve into the physics of the furnace, and the technical aspects of casting Iron using RISD’s first homemade blast furnace. Students will receive hands on experience in this vigorous and physical process of preparing and running an Iron Cupola, reclaiming and smashing up radiators and bathtubs to give them new life as sculpture. The course will culminate in an Iron Pour of work created in class, then return to the studio to complete the projects.
This course requires prior experience with casting and will also involve hands on physical activity in the preparation for the pour.
Open to sophomore and above
Course Fee: $250

Fall 2015

CASTING STUDIO: Chris Sancombe

Friday 1.10-6.10pm: Metcalf 114

Credits: 3.00

This course is designed to build upon the fundamental principles of mold making and casting while exploring more complex concepts, materials, and techniques. The transformative process of casting can embody the signs of growth or decay, of evolution and metamorphosis. From cellular multiplicity to large scale sculptures, casting skills enable the artist to control the sensation of the finished work through a spectrum of materials and processes.
Through demonstrations then hands-on exploration, students will pursue individual projects that reflect upon themes in sculpture that utilize casting for its unique versatility. Students will have extensive exposure to a variety of traditional and nontraditional materials. Processes will include multi-part shell molds, gypsum and composite materials for shell construction, urethane and silicone rubber, castable plastics, cold cast metals, and material specific release agents. We will review the possible health hazards associated with casting, and learn safe working methods, as well as have in-class discussions about concept and craft, various fabrication and finishing methods, and uses for molds in the making sculpture.
Junior and above
Elective, non-majors by permission of instructor.



Monday 1-4pm

Credits: 3.00

The content of this course will be influenced by the sculpture department’s visiting lecture series and artists invited into the class for projects and performances. Therefore fall and spring courses will be based upon these variables. Students should also expect to encounter accompanying readings and seminar scale discussions native to these discrete experiences.
TRESPASS: sculpture writes performance is a experimental laboratory for thinking and making across the disciplines of sculpture and performance that uses writing as a critical choreographic tool. We trespass from sculpture to science fiction, cinema to landscape, punk rock to theory, dance to poetics, sound to insomnia, history to holodeck. These encounters-conceptual and material-engage a constellation of ideas surrounding critical writing and art-making processes.
To think, to construct, to write within such a surround invites a precarious approach to process and to concept untethering syntax (materially, linguistically, theoretically) from its rational grounds. From here we consider questions of improvisation, correspondence, movement, gesture, repetition, timing, our relationships to history (personal and cultural), utopia and dream.
Structured as a series of workshops, the laboratory unfolds through individual and collaborative projects, critiques, readings and discussions of artists’ writings and theoretical texts. Readings will include Walter Benjamin, Anne Carson, W.G. Sebald, Paul Virilio, Shelley Jackson, Mike Kelley, Jorge Luis Borges, Sigmund Freud, Samuel Delany, Kelly Nipper, Douglas Gordon, Giles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Avital Ronell, Ralph Lemon, Michel Foucault, Stephen Parrino, Kim Gordon, among others. Each semester two Visiting Artists, working along the edges of sculpture/performance/writing, will present their own work and develop a collaborative practice with the group.
Estimated Material Cost: $100.00
Junior and above
Elective, non-majors by permission of instructor.



Wednesday 1.10-6.10pm: Metcalf 301

Credits: 3.00

This course will explore digital design and fabrication within the context of contemporary art, design, and architecture. Through a series of technical demonstrations, students will make connections between CAD/CAM software, digital fabrication technologies and the physical world. Students will become familiar with digital fabrication as it relates to traditional sculptural processes such as mold making/casting, metalworking and woodworking.
Students will undertake a series of projects exploring 3D model creation using various CAD applications, 3D scanning technologies, and experimental approaches to digital model generation. Simultaneously, digital models will be made physical through additive and subtractive fabrication technologies including 3D printing, CNC milling, and laser cutting.
The course will culminate with an ambitious final project encouraging students to blend digital fabrication technologies with their existing studio practice and/or research interest.
The class will use Rhino3d as the primary CAD tool and students will need their own laptop with Rhino installed. The Mac version of Rhino is currently a free download and the Windows version is available at student pricing through rhino3d.com.
Sophomore and above
Elective, non-majors by permission of instructor.



Monday 1.10-6.10pm: Metcalf 320

Credits: 3.00

We will create a unique learning environment where a classroom space is dedicated solely to the making and the display of the course work for the duration of the semester. This approach will encourage the participants to generate work that cannot be “carted in and carted out for a critique”. The opportunity creates a unique format for interacting and making work within RISD’s academic and facility structure. The explorations in this course are based on the fact that absolutely everything is a material and that everything can be manipulated using conditional approaches, responses and skills.
We will start with fundamental skills that use; contextual influences, site specific analysis and behavioral observations. The emphasis will always be on making. You must be willing to adapt the way you work and collaborate with one another during the development and fabrication of every exploration. There will be occasions when you are used as material to be worked with.
After a series of investigations and assignments, studio participants will generate work that is connected to their own interests. Together we will also create an environment within the room that supports the optimum display for all of the individual works. Everyone will be required to document their individual process and contribute to a final class compilation. This course supports the exploration and engagement of interdisciplinary and experiential learning.
Major Elective, Junior and Above
Open to non-majors by permission of department
Course not available via web registration



Monday 1.10-6.10pm: Metcalf 301

Credits: 3.00

Students learn the basics of electricity and electronics while focusing on how to use microcontrollers (one chip computers) in conjunction with sensors, lights, motors, switchers, audio signals, and basic mechanics in works of art. Projects include timekeepers, simple robots, and interactive environments. Readings and slide/video lectures encompass artist-built machines and sculpture from 1900 to the present. Students can expect to spend time outside of class reading and programming, as well as designing and constructing. No previouis experience with electronics is required. Students should have taken a basic computer art course and, ideally, a sculpture course. Computer programming and machine shop skills are definitely a plus.
Elective, non-majors by permission of instructor.