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Cooper Union Hometest

2015 college Admissions project 

 

The Cooper Union leads the nation in art, architecture, and engineering, providing a phenomenal education to hundreds of students each year. After a few weeks at Boston University, I felt that their art program didn't have what I was looking for, so (literally) on a whim, I decided to sell my soul and take a shot at earning a spot at Cooper Union.

The Early Decision application package consists of the following: 
- 1 Sketchbook
- 5 original artworks
- 6 prompt-based art projects 
- 12 short essays
- 20 portfolio pieces

This page will be dedicated to documenting these 6 prompt-based art pieces.


Prompts: EARLY decision 2015

1. a composition of 3+ unrelated objects drawn from observation which in combination create emotion
2. a clone self portrait
3. a view from the crowd to periphery
4. a sequence or series of images defining a healing process
5. deracination
6. design a guide for crossing borders


1.  Back-in-the-Box

(a composition of 3+ unrelated objects drawn from observation which in combination create emotion)

This piece centers around fear and anxiety. The remade Jack-in-the-Box depicts babies around its four sides, representing a few of my own worries: fear of the future (my hypothetical future children), nervousness about present choices, and childhood anxieties. In addition to the infants, I included a hastily written rejection letter which very directly represents a real anxiety for me at the time. The very project itself is an attempt to avoid rejection.

As the viewer turns the handle and waits for the lid to pop open, they might become tense, fidgety, apprehensive, or even annoyed. I captured a wide variety of these emotions through a compilation of short video clips.

 
 

Finally, when the box reveals its contents, the viewer realizes that there is nothing connected to the spring at all. Their fears all lay in anticipation. A small mirror is attached to the inside of the lid, representing how the our biggest worries often turned out to be merely ourselves! (corny, but all art is corny.)

 

Special Thanks to: David Shi, Samuel Zhang, Jesse Bassett, Jesse Bassett, Irene Chowning, Kosze, Jamie Lee, Alice Chen, Boya Su, Joyce Hu

 

2. Body Double

(a clone self portrait)

Since society has yet to reach the point where human cloning is acceptable and available, this project has been based on my own speculations about clones. Whereas my "clone's" personality, character, likes and dislikes, and sense of boundaries might differ from my own, one thing is for sure: they would have the same DNA as I do and most likely possess the same physical form as I do. Therefore, this installation emphasizes my objective physical characteristics -weight, height, race, gender, skin/hair color, and voice. As the viewer enters the corner, a personal laptop plays a recording my own thoughts on cloning, read in my own voice. 

 
 

In retrospect, I wish I didn't literally label each of the characteristics within the installation. I could argue that the small text could speak to my handwriting (another characteristic) but in actuality the labels just make the set-up a bit too didactic and redundant. Also, hypothetically it would have been interesting exploring how my clone would have my identical chemical foundation but potentially could still be a completely different person in terms of behavior, personality, inclinations, etc.

 
 

3. Ideal Self

(a view from the crowd to periphery)

I interpreted the prompt as "a transition from lies to truth." In my mind, being within a crowd would equate to being tangled in confusion while stepping aside into periphery would equate to climbing out into clarity. I then crafted a book containing illustrations, a poem, and various interactive art pieces, where each two page spread represents a different perspective of this concept.  

This was one of my last projects I worked on -- and the one I was least interested in. To be honest I literally wrote the words and painted each image on the spot. Like literally I didn't count how many pages there were when I was binding this poorly crafted "book." And yes, I did have the "truth vs. lie" concept to work off of, but the content is arguably 100% bullshit!!! Like look below: I had LITERALLY written "I just need someone to talk to" and "I'm so alone" and "out of the entanglement of winding falsehoods." If I can do it, you can too!!

 
 

4. Breath

(a sequence or series of images defining a healing process)

A healing process is a return journey. It's the car ride home after a fun time. It's going back towards a renewed state of wholesomeness, consisting of both a wound and struggle to repair this wound. In this film project, I captured various "wounds" (emotional, social, and physical), and then I reversed the clips so that each wound disappears, stating that "only time can heal." 

The soundtrack is the recognizable Hans Zimmer’s “Time,” which plays in the mainstream 2014 movie, Inception. The piece explores the nuances and power of time.

 
 
 

Special Thanks to: Jalen Roark 


5. Exile

(deracination)

Deracination: to pull up by the roots; to isolate or alienate (a person) from a native or customary culture or environment.

This film explores the thoughts and feelings that an immigrant might experience during their life in America. Vibrant but helpless fish, representing the alienated foreigners, swim in the midst of several scenes, and while fast-paced, outlandish backgrounds fly by, viewers listen to "immigrant confessions" spoken by people of different ages, genders, and languages.

The soundtrack is another recognizable piece by Hans Zimmer - "S.T.A.Y." -which plays as the main theme in the 2015 movie, Interstellar. The movie centered around exploring the unknown space, both out of human curiosity and necessity -common motives for emigration -and throughout the movie, there were constant elements of fear, sadness, and feeling lost.

 
 
 

Special Thanks to: Mark Haddad, Joey Shim, my mom, Bhavana Srikakolapu, Irene Chowning


6. wet feet

(design a guide for crossing borders)

I chose to investigate the crossing of social borders, so I created a new card game. Up to 4 players could get to know each other better: perhaps better than they would be comfortable with. The questions aren't too wild and crazy - they definitely could be more violating, but I wanted to create a reasonable set of conversations or actions that people would usually rather avoid.

This is what is written on the back of the box:

On each card, a certain question or request is displayed, increasing in level of invasiveness as the numerical value on the cards increase. The different suits -hearts, clubs, spades, and diamond -represent different categories: sexual, physical, miscellaneous, and "wild," respectively. Wild cards are blank, and the player holding one has the opportunity to ask or request anything they want. Since their opponent(s) would not know if the question or request is written on the card or not, the player can essentially demand anything without social chains. 
Players sit in a ring with the deck of cards facing down in the middle. Take turns drawing cards and performing the tasks or answering the specified questions. If a player refuses to do so during a turn, he/she thus accumulates a "point." Upon collecting 3 points, the player is out: Player could not cross all boundaries. Last player standing wins

If I had more time, I would have definitely typed and more meticulously designed the text. I also think that I pulled back too much and could have made the commands/questions more little bit more intense. But then again my purpose wasn't to rile people up as much as possible, but to just gently push friends into crossing each other's comfort zones. 

 
 

Afterword

Considering how I actually had only 16 days to finish the test, I'd say I'm satisfied with how each project turned out. I'm surprised I didn't submit any large-scale illustrations, especially since I normally identify as an illustrator. Still, I am bolder and more open to including friends and casually-acquainted people in my projects. Creating art feels less like an exclusively individual activity. Also, this was my first time working with iMovie, so jumping right in to green-screening, reversing videos, and making films at high stakes was definitely quite a ride.


 
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to aspiring students


Ever since publishing this page, I've received so many emails (and cries of distress !!) from eager-beaver Cooper Union attendees. I've decided to dedicate this last section of this page on helping you guys out and providing some tips on how to deal with the prompts and crippling anxiety. My words of "advice" aren't holy sanctified truths - I'd just like to share methods/ways of thinking that I personally found helpful in getting me through each step of this Cooper Union admissions process. Of course, feel free to still shoot me an email or message anytime. I know these times are trying, and it really helps talking to another person who can empathize. I'd love and be honored to stand by you as you take on this challenge.

Ok here we go:

Hello! I'm so happy that you're interested in applying to Cooper Union! You will no doubt experience intense pressure, fear, and maybe even total hopelessness between the time you receive the prompts and the time when you finally receive word about admission. Understand that you aren't alone -and that from the very start, you knew you had the potential to become a part of the Cooper Union family -after all, you have made the decision to take on the Hometest challenge. Embrace this stress and fear, and use these emotions to fuel your ability to think straight and work efficiently.

If you're anything like me, you're already scouring the entire web for tidbits on how to approach the test. The #1 thing you've probably read is to "BE CREATIVE!!!!! Think outSidE the boX!!" So more specifically, this is how I approached doing so: before I committed to a solution to a prompt, I first wrote out ideas that I thought to be "cliche", ideas that I imagine a hundred other students will probably be going with. For example, for clone self portrait, at the top of my cliche list was "paint two pictures of myself, two identities." Afterwards, I came up with at least 5-10 potential ideas until I arrived at the purest, most strongly distilled project. If you're not 80-100% excited or committed, it's worth thinking some more and spending a bit more time to develop a better plan. Of course, this might fuel procrastination, so unfortunately there must be a point where you make the executive decision to plow forwards.

Although this may seem super corny, be true to yourself as an artist and as a thinker. Admissions will have seen thousands of tests and have developed a keen radar to detect when applicants are "trying too hard" or "being fake" in order to appeal to someone or fabricate a persona. Of course, you'll push yourself and produce images or objects and thoughts new, but you'll know when you're not being honest to yourself. Ultimately, these projects will be work that you'll be proud of in a sphere outside of Cooper Admissions -don't solely make work to "get in": try your best to create something you love, and trust me, naturally the love will shine through and be in your favor. 

Make art that you're not comfortable making, even though at first it may seem counterintuitive to simultaneous "make art you love" and "make art you are uncomfortable making." This speaks to the difference between the process of making art and the actual art: be brave in the process and enjoy the product. If you've mastered drawing or collaging, make your projects out of clay or video or performance. You could also build upon your skills: If you've mastered typography or hand-lettering, make a book. Spend 0 minutes worrying about sub-par craftsmanship; after all it's the idea that counts. For example, you could easily tell that the videos in my own Hometest where shitty and poorly put together -but admissions can easily overlook craft; after all improving technique is what college is for. Rather, they love signs that you are not afraid of pushing your limits and putting in effort to formulate unique ideas.

Within the final Hometest box, I also included a bound booklet of explanations of each project (and also the images of my 20 portfolio pieces). The explanations are definitely not required; however, while some believe that the public's untainted, uninfluenced, pure interpretation of the artist's work is pinnacle, I felt that explaining my thoughts would be beneficial to me as a prospective student and help Admissions understand my processes more clearly. To seem even more on top of your game, include a cover letter and table of contents, itemizing everything within the box.

After you've shipped your hard work away to 30 Cooper, expect to continue feeling antsy, since now you must sit and wait helplessly for the "Congratulations!" or "Sorry" email. For me, frantically researching statistics helped, but it obviously won't change fate -or anything, fundamentally. If and when you find yourself panicking a bit, find a quiet corner and meditate. Or distract yourself with Netflix/movies, friends, art, animals, nature, music, memes -learn a new language, learn how to code, read a book. Honestly for this part, the game is just to pass the time, and it's totally doable. 

ALSO: THE EMAIL WILL NOT COME ON TIME. Restrain yourself from checking every 3 minutes during the day/week it is supposed to arrive. That will kill you. The email will come, and it will come 1 week - 1 month late, guaranteed.

This applies to this entire Hometest process, but Dont. Indulge. In. Self. Destructive. Behavior. If you notice that things are getting WAY too overwhelming, step back and relax. Your health is #1. You can't go to class if you're dead, and Cooper Union -no matter how mystical and wonderful it might seem -is definitely not worth that much trauma and giant hospital bills. Incomplete work has gotten kids in. Half-assed work has gotten kids in. But people have literally gone to the hospital with swollen body parts due to Hometest stress. And it's not worth it!! 

Which leads me to dealing with the possibility, or reality, of rejection. Cooper frekin Union is not worth you tearing yourself apart and losing all hope. The first step is to take a look at yourself -all of your strengths, experiences, abilities -and love yourself. Be gentle and kind to yourself. Not everyone could have done what you have done; completing the admissions package was a huge accomplishment, and no matter what, Cooper's admissions decision will do nothing to negate that. Your value and self image shouldn't correlate with the decision in any way. After all, statistically, if a thousand geniuses and iconic prodigies applied with you, they can only offer so many seats anyway, so you may as well have been the genius they had to send away with heartache. Plus Cooper Union has so seen many transfer kids, and potentially you can reapply - it's not a one-time shot. I spent a year in the art program at Boston University, so I have experienced a variety of college art education. So speaking as a student who has a more rounded perspective of possible art programs, Cooper Union isn't mad elite and earth-shatteringly amazing as some would want you to believe. Like every art program, Cooper's got its own twisted issues too. At the end of the day, if you are kind to yourself, you'll flourish regardless of the institution you choose. 

Again, please feel free to contact me however, whenever, about anything. I'm here to help, and I probably have a good idea how it feels to be where you are. I'm also open to giving you a tour around this place if you're ever in the area. We can go out for celebration food or "fuck cooper union u dont need it and here's why" food. Either way, looking forward to hearing from you.

Good luck!