Ethics, Æsthetics, Ecology, Education

Our Selection Process

Our Selection Process

David Attenborough, Lyre Bird

The OICR espouses a wide range of recruitment approaches, including open calls, announcements, contests, recommendations, and special invitations.  We try to interview each prospective student in person and enjoy a very good history of doing just that.  Students ask questions, and we ask questions: we can usually tell, in short order, if the fit is a good one or not.  At the same time, we are proud of our on-line application procedure, especially the supplemental application.  This is an innovation that requires applicants to examine twelve images, four of them static and eight moving, and to select two for a thoroughgoing critique.  We designed the procedure not just to make the task of applying less hackneyed but to test for the ability of applicants to crisscross between the verbal and the visual (a much-needed if rare skill) as well as to carry out the task of critique.  The images, unfamiliar to many, force applicants to undertake a bit of research in preparation for forming their opinion, and in anticipation of framing their argument.  In thinking about these images, applicants hopefully understand that the program stresses neither arts-based research nor research-based art, but centers on something more hybrid, something that finds vibrancy in-between those discrete categories.  We care greatly about their choices, for they can tell us a great deal about their interests, attitudes, and tastes.  Why did the person write about this particular image over another one?  We pay attention to their interpretations, certainly, but also to the way they argue their point and make their case for their own interpretation.  Most of the images, for a full explanation, demand that applicants take an ethical stance about life and life forms, and thus we are keen to see what position they assume on, say, the Lyre Bird and its ability to mimic the alien sounds of a camera shutter opening and closing or a chainsaw in the process of destroying its habitat. 

Beyond interviews, the application, and a supplemental application, we require a Statement of Research Interests and a Research Project Proposal as well as a writing sample of the applicant’s own choosing.  Here, too, we are interested in what individuals decide to choose to represent themselves.  We read with a keen and focused eye for an array of elements—argument, grammar, style, liveliness, rejection of cliché, concern with clarity, and, finally, respect for language.  We want readers and writers.  We want thinkers.  We believe in the importance of writing and writing well and its strong connection to conceptualizing and thinking, and thus the program concludes with an extended research project, a work of deep analysis, to which the researcher devotes time to the investigation of an original idea.  While we aim for polished work, an undertaking serious enough and charged enough to carry students, should they so choose, into a book-length project, we are also supportive of experimentation.  This was a deliberate choice, one that allows us to take advantage of sense-based critique coupled with the innovation and experimentation that motivate the practice of the arts.  We encourage the cultivation of new perspectives, undeclared alliances, and abrasive realignments.  We desire to go back to the fundamentals of thinking.