by Mary Anne Davis and Jason Hoelscher
Who is this new person at the helm of our beloved learning institution? Jason and I had a chance to ask Simonetta a few questions this fall after our summer residencies.
MAD: Why did you decide to combine a studio practice with the academic and administrative demands of directing a PhD program for artists?
SM: They are both creative in their own way. I also think I can make a difference – as an artist – in this position. And I like the challenge!
MAD: What is it about IDSVA that attracted you to its helm?
SM: The intellectual opportunity to work with advanced students and renowned scholars and artists. The particular structure and content of the curriculum, with its mix of intensive residencies and long-distance learning. And the fact that it’s a young and small institution, where everyone knows one another and feels personally invested in its success – all this is very attractive to me.
JH: Given that your work is about geography and location, how do you feel this relates to your role as director of a nomadic program like IDSVA?
SM: At the risk of sounding a bit daff, the Topological Studies curriculum resembles my art projects. The points on the maps I draw and paint become points of arrival and departure in real space when we travel to destinations abroad with the program; it’s about exposing what is not immediately visible, or giving a name to the visible traces of past existences, in order to understand the present and lay the foundations for the future. Through this experience we become aware that geographical and social conditions shape a certain way of thinking, and vice versa, a certain way of thinking produces certain forms and structures: philosophy, like art, is not an abstract entity.
JH: What do you feel that IDSVA has to offer that other PhD programs don’t?
SM: IDSVA has a very rigorous and coherent curriculum that I haven’t seen in other PhD programs I know. I think it truly prepares students to the challenges of writing a dissertation, and to the broader task of being original and critical thinkers. The ethos of care at the basis of IDSVA’s mission is not simply words on paper, but is enacted throughout the program in concrete and meaningful ways. I also think that the strong relationships formed between students in the program is very unusual, due to the emphasis on team work (at least in the first three years of studies) as opposed to the solitary scholarly research of the typical PhD program. I believe that’s very beneficial and more in line with the demands of the contemporary world.
JH: In the year 2030, what would you like to be able to look back on as IDSVA’s early accomplishments?
SM: By 2030 the PhD will be a necessary step in the education of visual artists and art professionals, and that will be also due to the influence of IDSVA. We’ll be able to look back at the beginning of IDSVA with the knowledge that we were at the forefront of a global trend and acted as a reference for future programs. By then our early graduates will be leaders in the fields of art and philosophy, shaping a new consciousness through their publications, art projects and teaching.