Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
This is an artist talk contained within a book. It is 816 pages and 49 minutes long. Closed captions run across the spreads. A video of this talk can be watched on bendenzer.com/making-then-meaning
At RISD, I’ve been prompted to expand the scope and tools of my practice and to reflect on questions of meaning in my work.
I spend my days making things, but I’ve never really had good answers to questions of why I make the things I make, or what their meaning is. I don’t think there are simple answers to these questions.
I think meaning comes from accrual. From the piling up of time, experiences, objects, and images.
I believe in a sort of ‘coherentism,’ a theory of knowledge that says justification for beliefs comes from the coherence of a system, rather than on ‘truth’ emanating from any one foundational belief. Basically, it means that things prop each other up. I think if I make enough, connections will bubble up and meanings will follow.
I think there’s a power to limiting the number of formal moves I make. I think I gain a legibility.
I think I get something from commitment and rigor. That as simple moves aggregate, within a series and across bodies of related work, they reinforce, and they buoy each other.
I think with quantity, there’s less to explain because more is plainly apparent.
I think design is relationships. Between, people, histories, contexts, forms, etcetera. For me, graphic design is gathering, experimenting, collaging, iterating, and editing. I really believe in experimentation and play.
I think craft is a feeling of process. A felt intentionality, a clarity of relationships, a presence of some humanity.
I believe things mostly live in pictures, that documentation is as important as the work itself. I think images will outlive objects.
I think I am a pile of images and words.
Denzer, Ben, "Making Then Meaning" (2023). Masters Theses. 991.
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