Celebrating Senior Theses: An interview with Alex Ford ’17

In our spring series, Senior Theses: A Celebration, we take a moment in the interlude between thesis deadlines and graduation to appreciate the diverse, personal, and impactful work of seniors’ capstone research projects.

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Alex Ford, a senior from Los Angeles

On Thursday, April 20th, the University Student Government presented Zanmim, a short film by Alex Ford ’17 who is a concentrator in Sociology and has a certificate in film studies. After completing both of his theses (a film and a research paper on Haiti), Alex agreed to sit down with PCUR  to talk more about his work. Here’s what he had to say:
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Celebrating Senior Theses: An interview with Aubree Andres ’17

In our spring series, Senior Theses: A Celebration, we take a moment in the interlude between thesis deadlines and graduation to appreciate the diverse, personal, and impactful work of seniors’ capstone research projects.

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Aubree Andres ’17 is an Anthropology concentrator with a certificate in visual arts. Here, she shares the story behind her visual arts thesis, an installation that transformed a room in the Lewis Center into a kaleidoscope of color and collage. The installation is titled after Aubree’s favorite non-word: &Thunk.

Aubree, a senior from Cambridge, Massachusetts, stands with one of the completed walls in her thesis exhibition. The panels are a collage of strips she cut from fashion magazines, interweaving images and words. 

What is your thesis about?
The intersection between chaos and control, the complications with human memory and fragmented narrative, and giving the viewer a lot to get lost in.

Tell me about the space where you created your thesis.
I share a studio in Lewis with two other girls in the program. It’s facing Nassau Street, so we get tons of natural light. The heater’s broken, so it’s always really cold. But it’s just – it’s a mess, in the best way. The floors have been splattered with paint for years before you’ve been there. You know, each year, every studio is made to reflect the humans that are living and working there. It’s like moving into a dorm room, with the history of all the people who have lived there before you – except it’s a dorm room with no repercussions for throwing paint everywhere. You can tell it’s a space to get chaotic and messy.

What are the things you can’t thesis without?
Mod Podge [a collaging glue]. Scissors. Lots of magazines. I mostly used fashion magazines – Vogue, and a bunch of old Oprah magazines from my mom. I spent hours and hours in the studio, often with friends, flipping through magazines…putting the show together was very different from the normal kind of stress I feel at Princeton. Oh, and I listened to a lot of music. Music is the real MVP.

What’s the soundtrack of your thesis?
A lot of Hamilton, relaxing folky music, and long, random mixtapes. The three albums I listened to the most were Always this Late by Odesza, Malibu by Anderson Paak, and In Colour by Jamie xx.

“My mom is probably the most influential creative force in my life. She and I had done mosaics in the past – not on this scale or style – but I took a lot of my pieces home over winter break, and we laid down the papers and talked about it. That’s when a lot of the work started to come together.”

Did you have an Aha! moment in your artistic process?
The weekend I installed the project, my parents had come down to help out, and it was an exhausting two days. My “Aha! moment” came just after I’d installed both of my bigger walls in the space, and then brought my beanbags in and sat down. My mom has a picture of me passed out there in a beanbag chair. When I woke up there, in that space, I realized: wow – I’ve done it. I’ve created something that I could look at forever.

“When I woke up there, in that space, I realized: wow – I’ve done it. I’ve created something that I could look at forever.”

What’s one thing you would do differently if you were to start again from the beginning?
I was way too nervous at the beginning about what I was ultimately going to do. With a thesis and a whole installation it’s hard to see the endpoint from the very beginning, and I put way too much pressure on myself to perform – all with Mod Podge and paper, these most basic materials! I learned that not knowing where you’re going to end up is totally fine.

— Interview by Zoe Sims, Natural Sciences Correspondent