School of Art, Media, and Technology

Meet the Awesome People in DT: K.J. Barr

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The Design and Technology MFA program is full of energetic, unique individuals who work together to think, inspire, and create with technology. This series, by journalist Rachel Signer, provides a glimpse into some of the people in the DT division of the Art, Media, and Technology program who work that make DT such a great place to work and study. This one is about first-year student K.J. Barr, who you may see sneakily installing provocative art installations in New York City subways, pointing to the wastefulness of the city government.

What year are you and what program are you in? What did you do in college?

First year D&T MFA student, from Oakland, California, studied fine art and graphic design at Notre Dame Day Namur University in California.

What is your favorite thing about being a student at Parsons?

We have very little restrictions in terms of what we can study. I can take a sociology course, a transdisciplinary course, and it really allows me to inform my artwork in different ways than if you were in a more traditional setting. It really allows me to open my viewpoint of the world and learn more things.

What do you like, and not like, about living in New York City?

I really came here for the school. I’m definitely a Californian, let’s put it that way. I’m not really fond of the disconnect in New York City. In California, people interact more. New Yorkers seem very busy. I live in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. My neighborhood is very diverse, and I like it.

What are you working on right now that is exciting to you?

I’ve started collab-ing with another first-year student, Sable Elyse Smith, outside of course work. We met in an Afro-Futurism course, taught by Coco Fusco. We’ve really been mixing things from the course with new ideas, and we’re mainly focused on installation work. It started as a five-and-five project, sort of an exercise to get you to rapidly make things – you have five days to complete five projects. The first day I made an Afro-futurism narrative. And the other days I acted as characters by making contemporary art in an urban setting, closely connected with that narrative. I’m still actively going out in an urban environment and performing as the characters would and doing re-design. The goal of it is to kind of disguise a message – I took that from African futurism, you create a speculative message, and it infiltrates in a way that’s somewhat less threatening. I’m also exploring religion, more specifically Christianity, looking at the Bible as a narrative. I’m focused on condoned areas of creation – when is it okay to create. That will be my final project, and I’ll be working with Sable, and it’s going to be an installation.

What’s something unique about your background the influences how you work?

Growing up in the Bay Area gives you an alternative perspective. Since I can remember, service learning and social justice were important to me, so they are main themes in my work. And also, the spirit of questioning everything.

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