Sophomore Caucus Features Madeline Schwartzman as Guest Speaker

The Sophomore Caucus hosted a lecture in the sixth floor library featuring Madeline Schwartzman, a New York City-based writer, artist, curator, filmmaker, architect, and professor.

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The Sophomore Caucus hosted a lecture in the sixth-floor library on April 3 featuring Madeline Schwartzman, a New York City-based writer, artist, curator, filmmaker, architect, and professor. She is most notable for her multidisciplinary practices that explore human narratives and senses through her art, writing, and experimental videos.

Schwartzman began her lecture by distributing copies of her book, titled “See Yourself Sensing,” featuring a collection of unconventional body installations that highlight the human sensorium. Sophomore Raymond Wu was present at the lecture and had an opportunity to preview her book. “I read the introduction. [In it], she had this graphic image of a guy licking a girl’s eyeball, and that was the first thing I [noticed] because it was so unexpected,” he said.

Afterwards, Schwartzman introduced her most recent project, “Face Nature,” a series of face installations and prosthetics created with natural elements such as leaves. She described her artwork as experiments that allowed her to explore “the body and [her] understanding of it,” she said.

“I delighted in the Japanese maple leaves on my hand, because they highlighted [the] movement of the hand in a way that is different [from] my usual awareness of hand motion,” Schwartzman said in an e-mail interview. “When I ‘wear’ these Face Nature body installations, I find the body weird and wondrous. Movement of the hand is very nuanced and incremental.”

Schwartzman further explored the theme of human morphology through her artwork, in which she creates prosthetics for her body. “The things I create can be eerie and uncanny, but the science behind it can be fascinating. By gluing pine cones to my knuckles, I am not only creating a prosthetic that adds to my human morphology project, but it also explores the science of how armor is present on certain animals,” Schwartzman said during the lecture.

This section of her presentation was a favorite among attendants. “My favorite part of the lecture was when she showed her experiments. She definitely changed my perception of art and allowed me to see that art can also include the intersection of science and humans. There was a project where she put leaves on her hands and attached them. When she flexed her hand, the leaves would move along with it, so it [looked] like she had scales,” Wu said.

Schwartzman also showcased her project titled “365 Day Subway: Poems by New Yorkers.” On her daily train ride to work, Schwartzman asked strangers in the subway to write a poem and would upload her favorites to her website.

As a teacher and a parent, Schwartzman believes that the main takeaway from her presentation should be that people must take the initiative and express themselves through physical means. “I’ve been thinking a great deal about the times we are in—about how we protest by posting something on social media or walking out of school,” Schwartzman said. “We can talk and talk about making art—about politics and about ambition—but the most important thing is to actually do something. In art making, it's important to allow yourself the liberty and fun of creating some kind of process or regular engagement. We need to get away from our screens and open up avenues for physical making.”

The Sophomore Caucus started planning this event as a part of its ongoing lecture series for the 2018-2019 school year. They had previously conducted polls in the “Dear Incoming…” Facebook groups to survey the interests of the student body in order to better address what subjects would be the most valuable for students.

“Many people in the polls said they would be interested in hearing about art,” sophomore and Events Director Julie Weiner said. “We thought [that having an artist come to lecture] would definitely create a lot of interest and be a useful perspective at a STEM school.”

“This lecture was also important in expanding people’s views. Students at Stuyvesant have learned art appreciation, AP art history, and also studied the Renaissance, but Schwartzman’s art is new, different, abstract, and interesting,” Sophomore Caucus President Katerina Corr said.

However, there have been challenges in coordinating these events due to time restraints and a lack of utilizable space. “A major challenge in coordinating lectures is determining where they are going to be held and at what time. The lecture halls, where most of our past lectures have been hosted, are occupied. Hosting lectures at the library or in a classroom isn’t ideal because we can’t contain as many students, but we will see how it works out and where to improve from here,” Corr said.

Otherwise, the lecture series of the Sophomore Caucus has been successful thus far, and the caucus plans to continue hosting similar events for the student body. The caucus continued to pursue more creative fields with their next lecture, which was held on April 12. It’s called "The Art and Science of Music Therapy: An Introduction,” and it was presented by Tom Biglin, a music therapist.