A conversation with Dennis and Yasemin
Dennis Could I just ask you: what has your favorite project been this year? That’s such a general question, but I’m curious.
Yasemin I’m doing an independent study this semester...I’m making a documentary about Sri Lanka.
Dennis Oh right, yeah.
Yasemin I wanted to get out of Providence for Wintersession. So I found a course going to Sri Lanka, called Northern Visions. I wanted to go, but I wanted to do something that would make sense, because I’m not in Textiles, and I’m not in Architecture. I was the only filmmaker going on the trip. So, what could I do? I thought, OK, I’m gonna take a camera.
Dennis Good, good.
Yasemin So I took the camera and I went. I didn’t really know anything about doing interviews but I learned a lot from practice, by trying to just...behave like a kid, you know? Like, OK, what am I shooting now? Why am I shooting this? When I started doing interviews, there was a funny moment when I ran out of questions. I was honest and said, “I am out of questions, so I’m going to change the position of the camera.” [laughter] I literally said this to the person I was interviewing! And the person, who is the head of a missionary there, completely embraced that. He was like, “OK.” I took a breath, he took a breath, and we continued.
Yasemin I was so anxious about these moments, but now I can see how much I learned and that’s why it has become my favorite project. When I got home I was like, “OK, I’m going to do a documentary with all this footage, because I have a lot.” And I do—I have, like, 180 gigabytes.
Dennis Oh my goodness! I want to see it.
Yasemin I’ll hopefully have a screening. For me, as an artist coming out of RISD, I want to be able to spot problems and say, “Look at that. Did you know about that?”
Dennis You want to bring things to light.
Yasemin Yeah. I am certainly on the hunt for stuff that is not known, stuff that is overlooked, stuff that is unjust. I have that justice/peace side of me.
Dennis I get that.
Yasemin That would be my parameter for success—if I am able to tell the stories that fascinate me, and tell them well, you know? I should be able to respectfully, authentically tell stories to other people in a way that will interest and fascinate them.
Dennis That’s awesome...there’s that idea that you just throw yourself into it—you’re saying you’d never done something of that caliber before, but you learned so much in the process...I also think we’re never done learning. Your peers often know things that you don’t and you know things that they don’t. It’s this dialogue where you help them, they help you. It influences you, you gain much more knowledge. For example—yesterday, actually—someone was like, “I know you do a lot of soft goods and I’ve never used a sewing machine. Do you think you could show me how to use one?” It’s like, “Of course, totally.” Then a couple weeks ago I didn’t know how to cut blue foam. And someone was like, “Oh, you use the hot wire in the shop.” It’s so vital to have all these different people around you in the making space. They have things to bring to the table, to the meal that we’re all having. Like, they bring this dish, and you bring this dessert, you know? Everyone just kind of feasts together and ends up full and happy and not hungry [laughter]. That’s my analogy, we’re all—RISD’s just one big feast.
Yasemin I think that’s because it’s lunchtime and you’re hungry [laughter].
Dennis [laughter] RISD’s just one big meal, and we’re all just...
Yasemin We’re all, like, cooking together and eating together.
Dennis We’re all cooking, and some meals will catch on fire and will have to be thrown out.
Yasemin It’s so true.
Dennis Some meals will be delicious. Some meals will be spicy. Some meals—you know, maybe they’re getting there, but they still need—they’re missing something. They’re missing that ingredient.
Yasemin They are missing that herb.
Dennis That herb, [laughter] yeah.
Yasemin That herb, those oregano leaves.
Dennis They’re missing something. Will they find it by graduation? I don’t know.
Yasemin I don’t know, either.
Dennis It's up to us. It's up to the chefs.