IN / OUT

May 31st, 2020

Words & Artwork by Emma Seely-Katz

The last semester of my undergrad experience has been a confusing and abrupt end to my five years at college. In February, the thesis I was writing for my Sculpture BFA seemed so paltry in light of all the horrible things happening in the world that I was disgusted by the choice my 17-year-old self made to leave a neuroscience program. Instead, I had racked up debt at art school in a degree program that 22-year-old me felt could never be of use to anyone. I didn’t even want to participate in the senior thesis show and dreaded each week’s critique on the progress I wasn’t making. I wrote In/Out over the course of the semester as my thesis transformed from a burden I didn’t want to shoulder to an abject relic that, with the advent of the pandemic, physically could not take place. 

In

My thesis will probably never exist. 

Out 

Thesis Book Cover: This book is your responsibility. Open it to any page, rip the page out, close the book, then approach anyone in this gallery. Read aloud what is on the page to the person you’ve chosen, then give them the book. You may keep your page or throw it away in the waste paper basket near the front of the gallery. If you are the only person in the gallery or if the gallery is about to close for the day, refer to the back cover of this book.

In

WASTING my time. Get me out of here. Let me think about something else.

Out 

This morning, on the train, a man got in our car and said to all of us, “Sometimes when I get on a train, I pretend I’m the guest of honor at a surprise party and everyone on the train is my friend.” He went on to say that he was not our obligation, to apologize for his intrusion, if he had offended anyone. 

In

I don’t think I have anything to say right now that needs to be heard by anyone. I’m not trying to be self-deprecating; I just think there are a lot of people in the world who have more important things to say than I do. 

Out 

He is our obligation. 

 

In

AWARENESS OF BODY = AWARENESS OF BIAS 

 

Out 

Thesis Critique: Interesting how people do whatever the people before them do re: reading out loud from the book or not. Participants should be configured casually. 

 

In

I felt my body seize up when he began to speak. 

 

Out  

The book will be read by a community made up of “people who have read from the book.” The group will be synthesized as the thesis show progresses and people are given the book by other attendees. 

 

In

Silently lying on the floor as each tile shifts and swells, the dubiousness of the floor reveals itself and attaches itself to the illusion of the cloisters that contain us. The unspeakable, awful beauty of different, distinct layers of a structure sliding against one another, the obsessive friction, the idea that if we just pay the right kind of attention... 

 

Out 

Communities are both arbitrary and intentional; engaging with this duality is essential in determining whether aspects of the communities that we already inhabit are meaningful or just manipulative. 

 

In

I can’t pay attention and like a cyclops, the world comes at me as a bloc, an impossible clot. I can't think except in myopic rotation, all that time in a decade whirls in these hideous circles. 

 

Out 

Thesis Critique: Possible arrangement of audience? Not in circle — not beholden to past actions 

 

In

We’re desperately grasping towards spring. We synthesize it artificially in patches of sun. There are four meager jasmine flowers and it is enough for us to carry on. 

 

Out 

We wonder: What would it take to create a community that fosters individual agency as well as a sense of obligation towards the group that feels compulsory but not oppressive? 

 

In

WE = ME AND MY HOPES 

 

Out 

Communities consist of groups of people committed to values and responsibilities determined by entities (leaders, politicians, deities, texts...) that are simultaneously representative of the individuals in the group and divorced from them. 

 

In

The jasmine promises these circles, though they might never burst, will loosen and elongate as winter warms us with its exit. 

 

Out 

By prompting participants to read aloud phrases or questions that they might never vocalize otherwise, the book will put words in their brains and gestures of speech in their bodies. 

 

In

I notice myself not talking about certain things. 

 

Out 

What does it sound like to pretend not to speak? 

 

In

I woke up this morning wanting to explode some inoffensive portion of my life. Z said that’s why wealthy people live in suburbs and buy so many cars, so on days like today, they can select one to blow up. Then he told me about how he and his dad launched a porta potty with mini rocket boosters in the desert when he was a kid. I also launched rockets with my dad when I was a kid, and in the same desert, but I’m sure I was not as excited about it. It’s sad there is no desert on the east coast, no safe, clear space in which to obliterate things without disturbing the neighbors. 

 

Out 

The participants are very perceptive about the way their gestures speak towards intentionality in confrontation. 

 

In

My entire day slumped to the side. A young mom, it seemed (if the four kids sitting between her and a tired-looking young dad on the train were in fact her offspring), made eye contact with me. She seemed to suggest that I have no idea what “trapped” really feels like. I could be wrong. Most times I’ve accused someone of looking sad or annoyed or combative, they were probably just tired. 

 

Out 

The thing that set him off was the memory of the jumpsuit’s white fabric. “Transmute the bullshit” — he’s yelling very loudly — the effects of pain are inescapable. 

 

In

Yesterday a man crushed his skull falling down the stairs at Broadway Junction and I couldn’t even look. 

 

Out 

Since he got out of the box, he’s been deathly afraid of elevators, and he makes a point never to wear white anymore. 

 

In

I’m not here to impress anyone, just to keep myself intact. 

 

Out 

“I feel like he got more out of me than I got out of him.” “It felt like I was dancing.” 

 

In

What does it mean to have all of this seeping in through the obvious cracks in my work? 

 

Out 

Thesis Critique: “Single-use” book, instruction manual “Give” rather than “pass” — ”find” someone, all active 

 

In

As if I had waking sleep paralysis, I watch myself, sitting at the foot of the bed, unable to do a single thing. 

 

Out 

COVID is in the city, of course. 

 

In

Little white shards keep falling out of the air. I said they were snow and Z disagreed, which frustrated me, because they were clearly pieces of snow, even though all the conditions were wrong for snow and it seemed impossible. We couldn’t capture one long enough to check. Z thought they were flakes of ash. 

 

Out 

Thesis Critique: How to clarify when people shouldn’t speak? 

 

In

My stupid world kaleidescoping shut. 

 

Out 

A woman is ridiculous, pressing her mask into her face with her hand. The rest of the world is diminishing too. She’s pressing the mask directly into her sinuses, so hard her eyes bulge. 

 

In

Everyone is sick of this stupid pause before we are all infected by the virus and get to feel some kind of camaraderie in our worldwide drama. I wish I could crack my brain like a knuckle to let other ways of saying things seep in. 

 

Out 

Thesis Critique: Change font size, typeface, bold “action” word on each page Cover with instructions on how to “use” the book 

 

In

My thesis will probably never exist. 

Emma Seely-Katz lives in NYC with her four best friends, two of whom are her pet rats, Ed and Al. She recently earned a BFA in sculpture and philosophy at Pratt Institute and is currently studying full stack software development. You can reach her at emseely@gmail.com

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