On Wednesday, April 6, design enthusiasts gathered with MFA Design Criticism Department students, faculty and alumni to celebrate the release of At Water’s Edge, the first publication in the department’s recently launched chapbook series. The event was held on the 15th floor of The New York Times building in Manhattan, which provided expansive views of the Hudson River.
Department Chair Alice Twemlow began the event with a brief history of the form: “Chapbooks are pocket-sized booklets used mainly in England and America in the 17th and 18th centuries to disseminate political tracts, ballads or folk tales to workers. They were printed ly, and despite their ubiquity in their heyday, they are rare today as they tended not to be saved.” She noted that chapbooks have a singular advantage for today’s reader, however. “I do want to draw attention to one feature, which is the pocket-sizedness of the booklets,” said Twemlow. “The fact that you can carry it with you suggests that it could be a field guide of sorts. Reading design criticism in the vicinity of the design it refers to gives it an added edge and fulfills one of the goals of design criticism, which is to enable readers to do design criticism themselves, by making the methods, vocabularies, insights and provocations so legible, so that anyone reading it will feel compelled, and hereby empowered, to respond.”
Distinguished author and D-Crit faculty member Akiko Busch followed Twemlow. Busch, who co-edited At Water’s Edge with current students Saundra Marcel and Vera Sacchetti, explained that after viewing two exhibitions, “Mapping New York’s Shoreline, 1609–2009” at The New York Public Library and “Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront” at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, students were asked to select particular areas of the New York City waterfront for their own consideration. Readings by D-Crit students Avinash Rajagopal, Zachary Sachs, Marcel and Sacchetti followed, sharing essays that provided a unique view of the local waterfront and the meditative, yet awkwardly amusing impressions that the great city of New York creates as it runs into water.
Images: (top) The At Water’s Edge chapbook; (middle) Akiko Busch; (bottom) Alice Twemlow and Mark Lamster. Photos by Cheryl Yau.