Tim Ridlen (Scholar-Practitioner, BAVCS 2007)

Visual and Critical Studies
Tim Ridlen Headshot


Describe your path since graduating from SAIC, and what you're doing today.

Since I graduated in 2007, I have been on the path I discovered through Visual and Critical Studies. My first job after graduation was data entry for the Art Institute of Chicago. Not glamorous, but I also did some freelance writing and research on the side. I took a number of odd jobs in the art world before and during my MFA degree. Ultimately, I went for a PhD that would allow me to combine scholarly research with artistic practice. Now I teach and continue to “do VCS” in an academic setting from the University of Tampa in Florida.


Describe how VCS has impacted where you are today.

Ever since I took George Roeder’s class History of Ideas I have been bouncing back and forth between creative practice, scholarly writing, and other modes of thinking about the world. I had no idea what the class would cover, but I certainly wanted to know where ideas came from. I have been taking that class ever since.


What is the most memorable experience you have from your time in VCS? 

It’s hard to pick just one. I really enjoyed working on my senior thesis with Karen Morris. She introduced me to some big thinkers – Michel Foucault, Stuart Hall, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and others. I remember reading Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities in a class with Margaret Olin on monuments and memory. I also remember listening carefully – understanding the relationship between seeing, hearing, speaking and thinking – after taking a class with Joseph Grigely. Most of all, I remember that these ideas didn’t belong to any single discipline. They didn’t need updating or defending. They were just there to draw from and put to use in different ways.


Describe what VCS students might expect from the program.

Expect a lot of questions – from your professors, from your friends in other programs, from your future colleagues, and from yourself as you pursue a degree without a single path. The phrase that comes to mind is interdisciplinary practice. 


What do you wish you had known when you were still in VCS?

I wish I had known how unique the VCS program is. I might have been a little bolder in imagining what to do with a habit of mind that combines so many other fields, pursuits, and ways of being. 

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