Last month, a team of RISD students made a consulting trip to the headquarters of Random House, the venerable New York publishing house whose widely-publicized financial troubles earlier this year required company-wide layoffs. Random House CEO Markus Dohle extended a personal invitation to the students, who were paid a six-figure consulting fee and tasked with "re-energizing Random House's artistic mission by challenging our notions of creativity in business settings."Do I label this "business strategy" or maybe comedy.
On their first day at Random House, the RISD team - who arrived in Manhattan on blue bicycles, wearing plaid pants and one-shouldered leotards - spent the morning examining the artwork in the offices of several Random House employees. Upon seeing a framed print of Thomas Kinkade's "The Christmas Cottage" hanging above the desk of senior editor Robert Littrell, RISD senior Megan Lafleur-Ramirez pronounced it "beyond tragic," and replaced the Kinkade print with "Awareness of Self and Non-Self Entities," a sculpture consisting of a bag of Cooler Ranch Doritos dipped in honey and tied to a Betamax player. RISD junior David Harrison spent the afternoon replacing many of the Dell computers in the office with cardboard signs reading "COMPUTER + COMP-YOU-TER = THE SIGNIFIED (???)" and sophomore Hannah Benton joined senior Rachel de Compt in the accounts division, where they spent several hours dropping long green threads onto pieces of canvas, attaching them to glass slides and putting the slides in a toaster. The project, de Compt said, was inspired by French surrealist Marcel Duchamp's "Trois Stoppages Etalon," and was meant to represent the plight of America's poor.
Kevin Roose has a book coming out: The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University Amazon. (Hat tip Ron Hogan).