v.1 is RISD’s student–led publication. Its form and content change from year to year (it’s always “volume 1”).

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Fall 2018 
  1. From the Editors
  2. How to Make a Person: A Recipe Mays Albaik
  3. Providence Votes Marcus Peabody
  4. Encounters with the Codex: Redefining Forms of Publication June Yoon
  5. How to Encounter a Puddle Anny Li
  6. A Brief List of Premises from a Maker Stuck with Paper, Politics, and Performance Yasi Alipour
  7. Art Writing and the Place of the “I” Randy Kennedy
  8. Written in Stone: Lineage, Legacy, and Letterforms Irina V. Wang
  9. The Unbearable Whiteness of Being (a Graphic Designer) Tiger Dingsun
  10. Colliers/Necklaces Théïa Flynn
  11. When One Door Closes: Examining Issues of Space and Student Curation on Campus Wen Zhuang
  12. Addressing the Empty Plinth: Lessons from Gallery Shows and Public Art Jeremy Wolin
  13. Modern Usage: In Conversation with Remeike Forbes Eliza Chen and Tiger Dingsun
  14. Dangling Threads: Remaining Unclear in Capital Everett Epstein
  15. A Vagabond Viking Voyage and Midsummer Daydream Mike Fink
  16. Everything is Interdependent Angela Dufresne
  17. La Bolita Elaine Lopez
  18. Bread Day Olive B. Godlee
  19. Against the Archive Satpreet Kahlon


2017 - 2018 
  1. Birds, Bees, and Beyond: The Nature Lab Evolves
  2. Concrete Mixer Drum Solo
  3. Negative Spaces
  4. “Printer Prosthetics” at NYABF
  5. On Writing: Nader Tehrani and Katie Faulkner
  6. On Writing: Marie Law Adams and Dan Adams
  7. On Writing: Kunlé Adeyemi
  8. Connecting Food and Design
  9. Remixing Architectural Discourse
  10. Genesis : 1: Beret Shit
  11. “No voy a actuar en el mundo antes de entenderlo”: Una conversación con Alfredo Jaar
  12. “I Will Not Act in the World Before Understanding the World”: A Conversation with Alfredo Jaar
  13. Imagining Irmgard
  14. Afterwords: Bite
  15. Afterwords: Portals
  16. Afterwords: Calendar
  17. Seeking Drafts
Mark

How to Make a Person: A Recipe 

Mays Albaik, (MFA GL 2019) 



Mays Albaik, Circumscription, 2018, video.

Thirteen centuries ago, an alchemist wrote a recipe for making humans.

Jābir Ibn Hayyan scribed hundreds of books about chemistry and alchemy, astronomy and astrology, engineering, geography, philosophy, physics, and pharmaceuticals and physiology. But it was his thoughts on Creation that attracted me to his work. Jābir talks of three tiers of being—inanimate, simple life, and intelligent life. When I first encountered a reference to his recipe, I wondered: What ingredients turn inanimate matter into a self-determined life, a life with a body granted movement, agency, and personhood?

I wondered about this as I began to dig deeper into my own person, into the liminality of a third-generation refugee body. I was struggling with giving myself permission to talk about politics in my studio work, and finding reprieve where I could speak with my body—with a physicality that exists, skin and flesh and bones, a person—undeniably.

I finally found Jābir’s recipe.

He instructs: “Begin by placing the bones then the flesh and veins and blood vessels and cartilage.”

Could I reverse the recipe, pull the prerequisites of personhood from it and check them against myself? Find proof that my body exists, make its agency indisputable?

But what were my bones? What is my flesh and veins? My bones were kneaded with the Ka’ak1 of every Eid. My flesh baked with the Fatayer2 of every Friday morning, the veins brewed with the ‘Ahwé3 after every Maghrib prayer. I think I congealed in small crucibles of family gatherings.

“Place,” Jābir writes, “each part in its designated location.”

My designated location? I grew up between the sun and the waters of the Arabian Gulf.

I was made Palestinian-Syrian, in a pot two thousand and six hundred kilometers away from Palestine, two thousand and nine hundred kilometers away from Syria. Left to simmer for as long as the road to either place, bound by the sand of Emirati beaches, created an Aristotelian Perfect Mixture that didn’t exist in either place. No hyphens, no capitals, insoluble: palestiniansyrian.

I was fifteen when I first visited Mukhayyam4 AlNeirab to get my ID card. On it was listed my official “place of origin”—AlNeirab Refugee Camp.

I remember entering the camp underneath a wooden arch, the flags of Syria and Palestine on either side of it. I remember the streets were dusty, and the sun was glaring and hot. I remember my dad walking quickly, talking excitedly, the way he does when his day is running on schedule. I don’t remember much else. On that day, I hadn’t wondered what it would’ve been like to grow up there, I hadn’t connected that desolate place to the one my dad’s stories were often set in, to the Damask rose and strawberry farms that bordered it. I wish now that I had asked to see them—if only to add color to the sepia memories of my place of origin.

I was nineteen when I first heard “rejected because of your passport.” A small part-time job I had for months, until the company applied for my labor card and asked me to leave. That, I think, was the first time I was conscious of a need to defend … defend what? I wasn’t sure then.

“Then affix each part of it in its place,” Jābir says.

Once this desire to defend surfaced in my consciousness, I started to see it in everything I did. Over the next few years I found myself pulling close parts of my parent’s culture, like someone collecting the contents of a spilled bag on a crowded street. I did it in a rush to reconcile who I am. I ate more Levantine food, I switched from espresso to ‘Ahwe, I spoke more Arabic each day. It was as though I was proving to myself that I am who my papers say I am, justifying the obstacles they represented. I further began to see this urge to defend in every decision my parents had made raising me. Choosing my name, selecting my schools: everything was an ingredient they carefully picked, prepared, and dropped into a cauldron. Everything a defense against eradication, a resistance to self-erasure. To prove we are who we are.

“Make the body out of a glass vessel.”

A body that is hollow, see-through. Not invisible, but almost. Out of glass, A material of multiple states, often in constant movement, hot and glowing and flowing, but here: still, cold, a container to contain, not to move.

I was twenty-three when I applied for my first travel visa, and when I realized it was my body’s agency I’ve been trying to defend. A body that isn’t, actually, hollow, not see-through. Stateless, yet always of multiple states, always in constant movement. Not hollow, not still, not invisible.


1. Semolina-based, date-stuffed holiday cookies.
2. Open-faced baked breakfast pastries.
3. Coffee, as pronounced in a Levantine dialect.
4. Mukhayyam: Camp


Mays Albaik is in her studio trying to decide where her next cauldron should be.