Mirror Schools:
Education in a State of Emergency

Chris Hamamoto & Federico Pérez Villoro
4-6 February 2021, 10am–1pm EST

In a time where education is rapidly being reordered in response to the pandemic, the value of academic institutions is put to the test. The cost of keeping schools running seems at odds with their concrete offerings and the need to transition institutions online exposes their (previously invisible) structures which seem more apt to protect markets than students need. Yet this is not just a result of the pandemic, but the progressive collapse of privatizing knowledge and oppressive meritocratic systems. But, what are the essential components of schools and what are their academic and administrative surpluses? Can they really be repackaged online and if so how to make them more accessible? Are their alternatives that can emerge in response? This three-day workshop will address the need to rapidly develop new learning spaces as profound recalibrations of education logics by enhancing what digital platforms offer enabling access, but also by conjuring intimacy within virtual environments and critically considering the political and economic mechanisms that benefit from our digital presence and over-productivity. Participants will reassemble their experience as current students to develop and distribute “mirror” versions of the institution they are affiliated with as a way to comment, amplify and transform institutional materials into public and free resources.


Day 1: Thursday, Feb 4, 2021

Day 2: Friday, Feb 5, 2021

Day 3: Saturday, Feb 6, 2021


Step 1: Build a collective set of mirroring actions

Collectively list possible strategies for replicating components of RISD — whether this are experiences, spaces, objects, materials, resources. This will be our starting point: an exercise where anything goes and where, perhaps, the most silly idea is the most powerful. Let's postpone judgment and embrace options. Strategies should be synthesized as short tactical sentences. Ideally, these would be descriptive of actions; generate mental images. They can range from the practical, to the poetic, to the humorous. Let's think of this as an absurdist, yet critical, manual — a “how to” book to mirror, reproduce, imitate, copy, multiply, propagate aspects of your school. Reverse engineer the instruments the school uses to lock itself as private. Make your sentences as specific as possible. Be economic about them, but use their real estate to tell provocative stories.

Add your sentences to this shared doc.


Step 2: Develop a protocol for a mirroring action

Select one sentence from our shared list and develop a protocol as instructions or sequence of actions to put it into practice. Here you would have to commit to one component of your school experience. We are looking for actions that are systematic and repeatable. Reflect on your time at RISD and identify a specific thing you would like to change, a physical or social space you would like to intervene. Break down the material elements, actors and economics of your selected institutional component. Get your voice heard and amplify other voices. Yet carefully consider the ethics of your proposed protocol. What are the politics of reproducing materials protected by intellectual property? Who would be affected and benefited by your actions?

Generate a written protocol and informal diagram to illustrate the process of turning an institutional material into a public resource.

Ask yourself questions like:

Step 3: Enact and visualize your mirroring protocol

The school is the material. Now that you selected an action and developed a protocol for it, put it into action. Go ahead and enact your mirror. Granted, this is a short workshop and there might not be enough time to fully realize your proposal. If that is the case, find a way to represent it, to scale it down where it becomes manageable or to package the protocol itself as something that is distributable. You might want to generate an aggregator for publicly posted syllabi. If so, you could make a simple website to host the collection. You could provide access to the studio’s printing resources for communities at need. In that case, you could develop social media accounts to communicate your efforts. Is it possible to mirror a full class by posting YouTube videos? Can a live-feed bring you closer to your studio? Have you Zoom-bombed a class from another school?

Submit a digital artifact (image, URL, audio file, video, etc.) to this folder. Your works would be compiled as illustrations of our collective “how to copy a school” publication.

Remember, reflections on mirrors will never be one-to-one reproductions and are always incomplete representations. If you feel stuck, consider the attributes and different reflective qualities of our list of rare mirrors and use one of them to activate your project though its specific reflective characteristics.


Chris Hamamoto and Federico Pérez Villoro’s collaborative work investigates the impact of emerging technologies in contemporary culture and politics. It often includes computer-based media, publications, video, writing, and pedagogical initiatives. They both hold MFAs from the Rhode Island School of Design, where they met in 2011. Chris is based in Berkeley, CA and works as a designer and educator. He is an assistant professor at the California College of the Arts, while maintaining an independent graphic design practice. Federico is an artist and researcher living and working in Mexico City. He has advanced various independent educational programs and has served as a faculty at the Rhode Island School of Design and the California College of the Arts. Their work together has been exhibited internationally and recognized by institutions such as Printed Matter, the Walker Art Center, OCAT Shenzhen, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.