Newsletter Issue:
Spring 2014

Interview With Student Taliesin Thomas

What brought you to wanting to get your PhD?

Ever since I was a teenager I had the dream of doing a PhD. It always seemed like an impressive challenge for the chosen few. For more than a decade I “shopped around” to get a sense of doctorate programs offered in the US and abroad. There are a lot of options, depending on one’s intellectual inclination and stage of life. I was thrilled to discover the IDSVA model, which initially struck me as slightly non-conformist yet intellectually sincere. It has thus lived up to its promise.

How did you find IDSVA?

I found IDSVA in part through one of my mentors at Columbia University, Professor John Rajchman, a theoretician working in the areas of art history, architecture, and continental philosophy. John oversaw my Masters thesis on contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. I had received an announcement for IDSVA from an online arts list-serve, and I noticed John was included on the roster of visiting scholars. I was just finishing my graduate degree at the time, and I met with him to discuss the nature of the ISDVA program. He suggested that I might be a good fit, and viola! Here I am.

Did you attend an info session or talk to anyone at IDSVA before applying?  Is there any one special person who really gave you the gumption to apply?

I had the pleasure of speaking with two IDSVA students (Nils Santana and Kate Farrington) during my application process. I was impressed with their take on the program and their work as art professionals. I started to formulate my vision of IDSVA thanks to their insight and candid assessment of things. My first conversation with George Smith was also very inspiring—his articulation of the IDSVA mission really infiltrated my psyche and soul.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

My desire to gain the doctorate with IDSVA is two-fold: art has always been my passion and I am devoted to a life of erudition and spiritual evolution. Philosophy is a compelling subject that offers diverse opportunities for enlightenment. The human mind is a universe of boundless potential, but it must be cultivated. The study of philosophy is actually an inner-mind-science praxis, one that demands imagination and flexibility. It is tremendously satisfying to use the brain for its true purpose—expansion and refinement. My second reason for pursing the PhD is to hopefully teach at the university level, to share this bounty of knowledge with a new generation of students. Ultimately I would like to return to my alma mater Bennington College as the first alumna president, and the PhD is also a necessary credential for that. A girl can dream!

How might philosophy integrate with the econo-mechanics of international art dealing?

The full spectrum of the art world—from artists in their studios creating objects to museums that present those objects to the public—is naturally a kaleidoscope of insight and inquiry for the student of philosophy. I have always thought the art world is, at its best, a dynamic conversation that eventually brings us back to the basic concepts of metaphysics: creation, being, mystery, beauty. In that respect, philosophy is always integrated with the inner workings of the international art market to some extent. As a student of art theory and philosophy who also works for a major collector of contemporary art (one who is closely tied to the market), I feel it is my responsibility to orient the dialogue from the materialist toward the transcendental. My position allows me to do just that, and the confluence of my work with IDSVA and my professional path in the art world is truly uplifting.

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