Ross School - Senior Project 2007-08

Student: Shola Farber

Mentor: Carrie Clark


Title: Walls: Concrete and Abstract

Description: For my senior project, I knew I wanted to investigate historical subject matter in the context of contemporary society. I also enjoy the writing process and knew I wanted to write. It was important to me to create something physical as well. I wanted to challenge myself and learn a new skill. I combined these personal requirements with an idea that emerged from an otherwise common conversation about modern society and contemporary politics. I decided to explore the concept of walls as structures that humans have been building since we first settled in agricultural villages and, though they are rather anachronistic in modern times, are still building today. I studied both physical and metaphorical walls. I wrote a series of essays about walls in history, psychology, art, literature, and culture in general. I also built a wall, out of stone and cement, as an installation art piece.

Details: These are photos of my finished wall. There are pictures from the process included in the Abstract below.







The Radical Empiricist Assemblage of Walls as a Deterritorialized Ontology of the Present

My senior project began in the fall of my junior year when I had a conversation with Mr. Chris about current events. The topics that stand out in my mind from that discussion are Iraq, the Middle East, and immigration reform. The common thread that emerged from the conversation was the concept of walls. As an art teacher, Mr. Chris spotted the unifying principle immediately. He could see the presence of walls within our contemporary issues and he showed me that perspective too.

From the very beginning, I knew I wanted my senior project to be related to history. I am fascinated with the study history; it is the bedrock of my education and I consider it absolutely vital to my core being. I knew I would write; that is almost a given if I wanted to do history. I enjoy writing, too (editing, not so much…). The trouble was, I did not want my senior project to be something I knew how to do. I wanted to use this opportunity to study something I did not know. I wanted to create something physical and something artistic.

The only idea I ever seriously considered was walls. I was going to write about walls within their historical contexts. Building a wall emerged as a perfect correlation to that written component. I wanted to learn a new craft and to stretch the limits of the abilities I did have.

I talked about my project with friends and family. Soon, ideas were pouring in. Throughout the whole project, I was amazed at how many people were interested in what I was doing. I was talking about my project with a fellow Ross senior at the beach one evening last summer. A University of Texas Austin graduate student joined our conversation and was fascinated by my project. After a brief explanation of what I intended to write and build, but before I had penned a single sentence, the guy had named my project “The Radical Empiricist Assemblage of Walls as a Deterritorialized Ontology of the Present.” In the end, I’m not sure if that title fits what I did, but that was the first time my concept motivated a random person to be ecstatic about the project, and it felt good.

My project truly began when I returned to school in September. It took two months to get permission to build a wall on campus. I was taking a psychology class with Dr. Sacks in the fall trimester. He encouraged me to use that class for my senior project. As a result, my first paper was A History and Psychology of Nationalism. That paper was the most difficult for me to write. It is probably the longest, most complex paper I have ever written and attempting to edit it seemed a Herculean task.

At the same time as I was writing my first paper, I made arrangements to meet with my outside consultant, Michael Ruddy. First, we chose a location. I wanted my wall to serve a purpose, but I could not actually block anything because our path is a functioning entity that everyone at Ross uses every day. I could not get in the way of that, nor would I have wanted to. At the time I began building, there were three paths leading to the back door of the Media and Humanities Building. The actual path, made of stone, and two clearly defined, daily traversed, footpaths through the woods. I decided to build my wall between those three paths. The location was perfect: my wall would be thought-provoking, but it would not get in the way. 

The building process was intense physical labor! I think the first day was the hardest. We spray-painted a path for the wall and I proceeded to dig about 25 centimeters under the surface to give my wall some stable ground support. I then carted crushed stone in a wheel barrow for approximately 300 paces and dumped it in my ditch. I repeated this step about a million times. Then, I took a super heavy pounding tool and proceeded to beat the crushed stone into a flat surface in the ditch. I was so sore after the first day. It hurt to sit up straight, it hurt to slump, it hurt to stand, it hurt to sit. Nothing was comfortable; my back was in agony. But I had a week off from school and I had to keep building.

I never really advertised that I was going to build a wall for part of my senior project but I never kept it a secret either. Before I began building, two of my peers stepped forward and asked if they could help. “Sure!” I said, assuming they were just being nice. But on the fourth day of construction Tucker Marder appeared, roaring and ready to go. He spent several hours building with me. Constructing with someone else was really interesting. My wall is a work of art, I call it an installation art piece, but I have never really considered myself particularly artistic. Tucker is artistic. I was amazed at the way he fit the rocks together. Everyone sees things differently. When I look at my wall, I can pick out the sections Tucker did. He was much more creatively risky than I was. Especially in the beginning, I did my best to keep my wall perfectly linear. When Tucker came along, all that went out the window. I appreciate the creativity he inspired. Over the month or so I spent building my wall, Gloria Dios, Bill Matejovic and Moss Turpan also spent several hours each helping me.

After Thanksgiving break, I had a hard time building. I picked the absolute worst time of year to build anything outside. Daylight was gold because each night was longer than the last. I could not just go to the wall for an hour or two here or there, before or after school. On a good day, with decent weather, a healthy body, and choice cut stone, it took at least three hours for me to build one track, or layer, of wall. When any of those circumstances was compromised, it would take much longer. Thus, I was confined to building on the weekends. In the end, I only built a few more tracks between Thanksgiving break and mid-winter break. During that time, instead of building, I researched and wrote.

The second paper I wrote was called The Presence of Walls Within our Cultural Masterpieces. This paper was easier to write. Over the course of the summer and the fall, I made several trips to New York City to see exhibits that pertained to my project. I even took a road trip to Storm King Mountain in the Hudson Valley. I also met with local artist Silas Marder and Dr. Therese Lichtenstein, my art history teacher, for guidance and inspiration. These exhibits and meetings fueled my creative juices and enabled me to write about walls found in art and literature. The majority of my time between breaks was divided between editing my nationalism paper, writing my art paper, and researching the historical papers.

During the first week of mid-winter break I wrote two papers, Regarding the Great Wall of China, and Regarding the Walls of Constantinople. I wrote Regarding the Berlin Wall shortly thereafter. I had the most fun researching and writing these papers. They are based entirely in the history domain. I was able to learn a tremendous amount of the in-depth history that surrounded the construction of the walls in each region and time period. 

I was absolutely ecstatic to complete the wall. It is beautiful. It is not perfect, but I believe there is beauty in imperfection. In my elation, I told a friend that I wanted to hug my wall and I wanted it to hug me back. Obviously a very solid inanimate object is not going to hug me back, but it feels good to love and feel proud of something I did.

After completing approximately two-dozen edits of the various research papers within my written work, I have come to realize a few things. First and foremost, Ms. Clark is an amazing editor and advisor, no matter the hour. I could not have done this without her. In addition, I have learned an incredible amount of historic information. My writing has improved as a result of the copious amounts of work I have produced, my knowledge of history and art has expanded, I have learned how to build a wall, and I have created a project I am proud of.

Works Cited

4/9 Infantry Manchu (Vietnam) Association. “The Vietnam Veterans Memorial The Wall-USA.” 2006. Viewed 25 Dec. 2007. <>. This website provided background information about the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

Aberdeen, J.A. “The SIMPP President Presents the Waldorf Agreement to the Independents.”2005. Viewed 25 Dec. 2007.<>. I used this website to find a quote from the Waldorf Statement.

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. New York: Courier Companies, Inc, 1983. This book gave me an understanding of the cultural and historical origins of nationalism. The introduction was especially beneficial for my research.

Baycroft, Timothy. Nationalism in Europe 1789-1945. Cambridge University Press: London, 1998. This book gave me an overview of early nationalism in Europe that helped me understand what progressed into the ardent nationalism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Bausch, Elizabeth Ignat. “The Civil War A Film By Ken Burns.” Ken Burns on PBS. 2002. Viewed 13 Nov. 2007 <> . This website gave me a brief generalized view of the Civil War, through the lens of Ken Burns’ camera in his made-for-T.V. film.

Blass, Thomas. “The Man Who Shocked The World.” Psychology Today. Mar./Apr. 2002.Viewed 8 Jan. 2008. <>. I read about the Milgram experiment here and specificially used the site to cite the percentage of students who cooperated fully in the United States.

Boeree, George C. “Erich Fromm.” Personality Theories. 2006. Viewed 8 Nov. 2007. <>. I used this website to gather information for the psychology aspect of my written product.

Burkdardt, Heiko. “Berlin Wall Online.” 2007. Viewed 8 Jan. 2008. <>. I used this website mainly for the photographs of the Berlin Wall, although also to access general information.

Bulliet, Richard et al. The Earth and Its Peoples: a Global History, Volume II, Since 1500.

Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. I read an excerpt from this source in a history class and used that handout for research into the Meji Restoration.

Buckely, William F. Jr. The Fall of the Berlin Wall. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons, Inc, 2004. This book was an excellent source of information regarding the circumstances around the rise, presence and fall of the Berlin Wall. It is an incredibly comprehensive resource that covers the situations from every possible angle and contextualizes the Berlin Wall and the event surrounding it in history.

Caddy, John. “Artist/Naturalist Pages Andy Goldsworthy 1956-.” Morning Earth. 2007. Viewed 25 Dec. 2007. <>. I used this website to find a quote by Andy Goldsworthy.

Chavet, Anne. “Tilted Arc.” New York Collection U.S. General Services, 1981. I used this photo to accompany one of my papers.

"Culture Shock Visual Arts." PBS. 1999. Viewed 25 Dec. 2007. <>. This website gave me an overview of Richard Serra’s controversial work, Tilted Arc.

Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. New York: Penguin Group USA, Inc. 1998. I used excerpts from this novel to support my argument that walls appear in literature.

“Drawing the Boundaries of Africa.” Worlds Together Worlds Apart. 2002. Viewed 12 Jan. 2008. <>. I used this website for a quote from Lord Salisbury and for a map of Gambia.

Eaton, Katherine B. "Brief Chronology of Russia and the Soviet Union in the Twentieth Century." Greenwood Publishing Group.  2007. Viewed 22 May 2007. <>. This site gave an overview of Russian and Soviet history during the twentieth century.

Eaton, Katherine B. "Soviet Union: The Bolshevik Coup Of October-November 1917.” Greenwood Publishing Group. 2007. Viewed 22 May 2007. <>. This site gave an overview of the Russian Revolution, focusing on the Bolshevik coup that ended the civil war.

Eaton, Katherine B. "Soviet Union: Civil War And War Communism, 1918-1921.” Greenwood Publishing Group. 2007. Viewed 22 May 2007. <
dle.jsp?k=3&x=GR1628&p=GR1628-39>. This site gave an overview of the Russian Revolution, focusing specifically on the civil war that ensued after the revolution and on the impact of communist ideology on that war.

Eaton, Katherine B. "Soviet Union: The Revolution Of February/March 1917." Greenwood Publishing Group. 2007. Viewed 22 May 2007. <
dle.jsp?k=3&x=GR1628&p=GR1628-29>. This site gave an overview of the Russian Revolution within the context of the events in February and March.

Ebrey, Patricia Buckley. “Gunpowder and Firearms.” Viewed 5 Jan. 2008. <>. I used this site to date gunpowder’s appearance in China.

Efrani, Farhang. The Uncanny Proximity: From Democracy to Terror. Florida Philosophical Review. 2.2 (Winter, 2002):6-14.

Gellner, Ernest. Nations and Nationalism. New York: Cornell University Press, 1983. This book was extremely helpful with my nationalism research. I used many quotes from Gellner, especially when I connected nationalism and psychology.

Giblin, James Cross. Walls Defenses Throughout History. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1984. This book gave an excellent history of walls as defense mechanisms. I learned about warfare and the role walls and fortresses played in battles through the ages.

GORDON MATTA-CLARK, 'YOU ARE THE MEASURE' AT THE WHITNEY, NEW YORK.The Saatchi Gallery : London Contemporary Art Gallery. 2006. Viewed 12 Jan. 2008. <>. I used this website for pictures of Gordon Matta-Clark’s work.

Halsall, Paul. “Modern History Sourcebook: Winston S. Churchill: Iron Curtain Speech”, March 5, 1946.” Internet Modern History Sourcebook. 1997. Viewed 4 Dec. 2007. <>. I used this site to read the full text of the speech Chuchill gave in 1946 that introduced the concept of the Iron Curtain to the world. 

Hildebrandt, Rainer. Museum Haus Am Checkpoint Charlie. Viewed 25 Dec. 2007. <>. I used this website to clarify facts about the Berlin Wall.

Huntington, Samuel P. Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003. I absorbed the forward of this book as a basic reference to the concept of nationalism and nationality. The forward summarized Huntington’s arguments regarding national identity in an amazingly concise and beneficial manner.

Hubbell, William. Good Fences A Pictorial History of New England’s Stone Walls. Maine: Down East Books, 2006. This book provided a beautiful visual reference for my mind to contemplate as I built my stone wall.

Jalic Inc. Literature Network. “Robert Frost.” 2007. Viewed 25 Dec. 2007. <>. This website provided me with an overview of Robert Frost’s life, a biography.

Kagan, Donald. The Western Heritage Combined Volume. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2004. I read this textbook and took from it a general understanding of history. It had influenced my view of history and thus must be cited as a source of inspiration.

Kahan, Hazel. “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” Unitarian Universalist Church, Bridgehampton New   York. 29 Oct. 2007. This lecture taught me about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the

perspective of a psychologist and a the people she interviewed on the ground. The film was jarring.

Kellett-Long, Adam. “Demonstrators Defy Armed Policemen.” Guardian Unlimited. 2007.

Viewed 8 Jan. 2008. <

0,,1281580,00.html>. The author of this article was a Reutor’s reporter in East Berlin prior during the early 1960’s. He was one of the first people to notice the strange behavior of the East German government and to deduce that a wall was to be built. This is the article in which he published that prediction.

Kennedy, John F. “Radio and Television Report to the American People on the Berlin Crisis.”

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum Historical Resources. 25 July 1961. Listened 9 Jan. 2008. <

Reference+Desk/Speeches/JFK/003POF03BerlinCrisis07251961.htm>. I listened to this speech to understand and contextualized the period of the Berlin Wall and America's position in the Cold War conflict.

Krock, Lexi. “Great Escapes Part II.” NOVA. Jan. 2001. Viewed 8 Jan. 2008. <>. I used this website to learn about different methods people used to cross the Berlin Wall.

“McCarthyism.” American Masters. 2003. Viewed 18 Dec. 2007. <>. This website was helpful for getting a brief review and overview of McCarthyism.

McShine, Kynaston and Cooke, Lynn. Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007. This book aided my research of Richard Serra. Although I saw his retrospective at MOMA this summer, I enjoyed reviewing the art and reading background and analysis in this coffee table piece.

Najafi, Sina. Odd Lots: Revisiting Gordon Matta-Clark's Fake Estates. 2005. Viewed Dec. 25 2007. <>. This website provided me with some insight into how Gordon Matta-Clark created his art by giving an overview of an upcoming exhibit of his work.

National Gallery of Art Washington D.C. British Artist Andy Goldsworthy Creates Site Specific Installation for National Gallery of Art’s East Building. 14 Mar. 2005. Viewed 25 Dec. 2007. <>.

Nelson, Cary and Brunner, Edward. Modern American Poetry. “On Mending Wall." 2002. Viewed 25 Dec. 2007. <>. This website provides a brief overview of several different analysis of Mending Wall.

O’Brien, Joseph V. “Empire of Japan Treaty.” Information for Students, Department of History at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Viewed 16 Dec. 2007.<>. I used this website while researching the Japanese segment of my nationalism paper.

Pace, Eric. “Wolfgang Fuchs, 62, Helped East Germans Escape to West.” New York Times Obituary. 23 June 2001. Viewed 8 Jan. 2008. <>. I used thispage to gather information about Wolfgang Fuchs, the man who helped several escape around the Berlin Wall.

Perrin, Lawrence and Arp, Thomas. Perrine’s Literature. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1998.I used a poem from this book in the Berlin Paper.

"Produce More." Getty Images. History Study Center. College University Library, Viewed 1 Jan. 2008. <>. I got the Russian Propaganda Ministry poster from here.

" Russian Revolution of 1917. " Encyclopĺdia Britannica Online School Edition. 2007. Viewed 4 June 2007.  <>. This resource helped me gain a general understanding of the Russian Revolution.

Smyth, Ned. “Gordon Matta-Clark.” Viewed 20 Dec. 2007.  <>. I used this article, written by a Ross parent, to glean information about the Gordon Matta-Clark.

Scheibe, Karl E. The Self Studies: The Psychology of Self and Identity. Connecticut: Praeger, 1995. I explored this text when composing the psychological aspect of my nationalism paper. I looked at it as per Dr. Sacks’ suggestion.

Shifeng, Zheng. China. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1980. I used this book as a reference for Chinese history. The photographed examples of art and daily life in China were fascinating.

Schoenherr, Steven. “The Versailles Treaty June 29, 1919.” 8 Feb. 2004. Viewed 7 Jan. 2008. <>. I looked at the Treaty of Versailles at this website.

Spodek, Howard. The World's History third edition combined volume. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc., 2006. There is no doubt that this textbook influenced my thinking about history and the evolution of events through time. I had quoted it specifically several times, but it was more than a resource for few quotes; it was a source of general information.

“The Coffinmaker” Time Magazine. 13 July 1953. Viewed 9 Jan. 2008. <,8816,806690,00.html>. I read this article to learn about Walter Ulbright.

“The Berlin Wall.” 10 Jan. 2008. Viewed 10 Jan. 2008.<>. I used this website to gain a general understanding of the Berlin Wall.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall. Dir. Peter Claus Schmidt. Videocassette. Warner Brothers, 1990. This film helped me form a concrete analysis of the Berlin Wall.

“The Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.” The World War I Document Achieve. 26 Sept. 1997. Viewed 26 Nov. 2007. <>. This is the document of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.

The Paris Review Book. New York, St. Martin’s Press: 2003. This book contains several poems and essays the were published in the Paris Review. Although I got sidetracked and read several interesting essays, the was one specific to the Berlin Wall that was helpful.

Trunzo, Adrian. The Ideal of Totalitarianism. East Hampton: Ross School, 2007. I used this source primarily for the bibliographic references it has regarding totalitarianism.

Turnbull, Stephen. The Great Wall of China 221 BC-AD 1644. New York: Osprey Publishing,2007. I used this book as reference for my paper about the Great Wall of China.

Turnbull, Stephen. The Walls of Constantinople AD 324-1453. New York: Osprey Publishing,2004. I used this book as reference for my paper about the walls of Constantinople.

Zewen, Luo. The Great Wall. New York: McGraw Hill Book Company, 1980. I used this book as a reference tool for my research about the Great Wall of China. Text was good, though sometimes dense. I found the photographs engrossing.

Community Member (Details)

My outside mentor was a local stone mason named Michael (Micky) Ruddy. I could not have built my wall without Mickey's incredibly generous guidance. I had no idea at the time I began this project how complex, time consuming and physically demanding building a wall would be. I learned a tremendous amount about myself and my abilities while I learned how to build a wall. Micky’s company did all the stone work on the paths, and in the Center For Well-Being and other buildings at Ross. He knew the school, the site, and had the stone available for me to build something that is aesthetically pleasing on the Ross School’s beautiful campus. Micky supplied me with all the materials I needed to build a wall and he showed me how to do everything, but let me execute the construction myself. I am so grateful to Micky and his men for all their generosity and for their didactic guidance.