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Q&A with SVA 2021 Alumni Scholarship Winner Talya Alsberg
May 11, 2021
A photo from fourth year BFA Photography and Video student Talya Alsberg’s thesis project, Record Keepers.

A photo from fourth-year BFA Photography and Video student Talya Alsberg’s thesis project, Record Keepers.

Credit: Talya Alsberg.

This spring, SVA has been highlighting some of the many outstanding projects from the 2021 Alumni Scholarship Award winners. Today’s featured thesis project is BFA Photography and Video student Talya Alsberg’s Record Keepers, an archeological excavation of collective histories stored in a “timeless” library activated by each viewer. Inspired by sacred practices, spiritual history, philosophy and quantum physics, according to Aslberg, Record Keepers is polymer clay character sculptures, each accompanied by unique three-dimensional dioramas, photographed as large gelatin prints. Alsberg’s inventive work was also featured earlier this year in the department's Mentors exhibition.


Tell us about your project. What inspired the idea?

My project, Record Keepers, started [as finding] a way to create a living visual document of my entire existence in this lifetime. I quickly realized this meant I needed to encompass my entire existence, the existence of my soul and the history of all beings on earth. As strange as it sounds, I’ve always been an existentialist in the best way. This project was an excuse for me to explore philosophical questions by creating magical sculptures in imaginary worlds.


What most surprised you once you started working on the project?

Of course, as an artist, my expectations of what is realistic to create within budget and under a time constraint will always be beyond reality, so I have had to scale back on some things I wished to do—unfortunately, creating nine actual-size magical forests isn’t in my budget! Most importantly, this project was a healing process of sorts—it allowed me to sit for months with many thoughts, memories and tools to somehow come out as a new person on the other end.

A photo from fourth-year BFA Photography and Video student Talya Alsberg’s thesis project, Record Keepers.

A photo from fourth-year BFA Photography and Video student Talya Alsberg’s thesis project, Record Keepers.

Credit: Talya Alsberg
Talya Alsberg

A photo from fourth-year BFA Photography and Video student Talya Alsberg’s thesis project, Record Keepers.

Credit: Talya Alsberg

What was a highlight of living and studying in New York City?

New York City is full of inspiration, texture, overwhelming intensity and insanity! This tension created an endless supply of inspiration and caused a massive shift in how I make my work and in my personality. The energy of New York is undoubtedly the best place to be an artist during college.


What is something you learned at SVA that you’ll always take with you?

My community at SVA has become my second family, and some of the people I met while being at SVA will stay with me for life! 


Was there a teacher or course that was essential for you?

There have been so many influential teachers that have supported me through my time at SVA, including Jessica Craig-Martin, my beloved Seminar professor and style mentor, and surely Elizabeth Bick, who taught me everything I know about lighting. A class that was essential for me was “Altered States: Ritual, Magic, and Meditation” (AHD-3922-A), taught by the fantastic Jeff Edwards—I would recommend this class to every person on planet Earth.


What was your favorite piece of advice that a teacher or student shared with you?

There will always be someone who doesn’t like or understand your art—therefore you must do whatever you want.


What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program?

Do whatever you want! Be unapologetic! This is YOUR experience—and it will only be as great as you make it—take advantage of the amenities you have while you’re here. Also, don’t take yourself too seriously and have fun.  

Talya Alsberg

Fourth-year BFA Photography and Video student Talya Alsberg.

Credit: Talya Alsberg.