About the Project
“Mental Block” is a performative piece commenting on the financial pressures faced by students entering university, and how they could be alleviated by improved allocation of funds by the government. As outlined in the CCPA report “Paid in Full”, university graduates (typically in a higher tax bracket than their high school educated peers) on average pay 2-3 times the full cost of their tuition in higher income tax over their careers. Policy ensuring this money is directly put back into tuition for the next generation could ensure university access to all, regardless of financial situation. Three student actors are chained to stacked concrete “gold bars” with the full cost of an undergraduate degree and additional taxes paid by graduates cast into the bars’ tops. The students will be dispersed in Emily Carr’s concourse gallery to engage passersby in the discussion.
This project is to physically make visible the formidable up-front tuition costs of university and the student debt prison students enter into when they aspire to higher learning. It is a call to BC’s Ministry of Advanced Education to use the higher taxes already paid by university graduates to subsidize the costs of tuition for the next generation of students.
We envision the #FutureOfEducation as being more accessible to all.
Artist/Designer Profiles
Theunis Snyman is Co-Founder & Principle Industrial Designer of Basic Design, and has extensive and varied career experience, all of which has contributed to his passion for social entrepreneurism. Theunis graduated from Emily Carr with a degree in Industrial Design, hoping to change the course of his life by transitioning from maker/industry worker to Designer/maker. He believes that understanding global and local systems is critical to making design more efficient and impactful. Being a native South African and having travelled and researched global issues extensively has aided his personal understanding, and he aims to continue to work with communities to develop socially sustainable practices through design and innovation
Theunis’ Education Story
My name is Theunis Snyman, and I was the first person in my family to earn a degree. I applied to Emily Carr University of Art and Design in 2008. I am from a family in South Africa who has always struggled financially. Somehow, I managed to get out of that life and explore the world, on very little money, and with no real marketable skills. I have always been a manual laborer in my mind. I have been in Canada for sixteen years and up until the day I started university, I lived in survival mode. My cultural programming was one of “work to survive” and only the privileged have the real opportunities. My brother, today is very prolific artist and I would argue one of the most prolific artists of his time. He was programmed differently. He had a talent from a very young age and people noticed and encouraged him. He had opportunities to develop his talent and did, but he was always the artist in the family, which made me not an artist, designer or creative person. There was little expectation for me to flourish and for many years I didn’t. I simply believed I was less than I was. I tell you this so that you can try and understand the paradigm shift that happened in me as a result of getting an education. Being outside that context helped me understand my own power and gave me the tools to apply my skills in a very specific way.
My transformation started in foundation year at Emily Carr University. It was a year of imagination and exploration that I have never experienced before. I remember one particular instructor, John Wertschek and his rock game and constant speaking in metaphors that drove most people nuts, but for me it was to be the birth of my imagination. Some say transformation happens over time, and that is true for myself as well. Education also transformed my financial well being from surviving in the workforce to descending into debts of despair.