Stephen Miguel Decker

BFA, 2009

Stephen is an artist, media producer, DJ and graphic designer currently residing in New York City. As part of artist-collective ALLGOLD, he was the first to participate in a residency program initiated in October 2014 at The Print Shop at MoMA PS1. Unlike a typical studio residency this was meant to be used as social platform that would facilitate the artistic endeavors of others, programming activities such as live performance, symposia, dance nights, video screenings and more. Under the moniker SYSDJ Stephen has extended his activities as a DJ at various club-oriented functions and for a regular radio show he hosts, most recently featured on London based station NTS Radio. He is a frequent collaborator with fashion label Lactic Incorporated, producing soundtracks, DJ mixes, online works, as well as modeling for their first two collections.

Stephen’s collaborative work with Lactic has appeared in a solo exhibition at Julius Caesar Gallery, Chicago and a runway presentation at the Brooklyn Museum. In 2012 he received his MFA from Yale University and during this time he was also included in UCLA’s New Wight Biennial. Since living in New York, Stephen has presented an evening long performance to inaugurate the Filipino American Museum and has been working as a graphic designer. He is currently on the Met’s design team and will join the newly minted Art Handler Magazine in producing their first issue.

What have you been up to since graduating from VCU?

Since graduating I spent a couple memorable years at Yale in their MFA program, sustained a living in NYC while simultaneously considering exit strategies, quite literally put a latent skill set to work in the graphic design field, took night classes for web programming and digital sound production, met people that created new directions for me, and collectively organized artistic endeavors among other equally relevant everyday activities.

What advice would you give a current VCU Sculpture student?

The academic space should invite experimentation and critique given the right circumstances; consider these things as a constant. I would encourage deviating from what you already know or what others already expect; otherwise you work in a closed loop. Take the opportunity to learn new technical skills, whether or not you think they have a place in your work; you will thank yourself later. Don’t take your peers for granted. It is a rare moment to have an immediate community under one roof to actively and willingly engage with your work. And go to the library, often.

How did VCU prepare you for your current situation?

My work as an artist and where I think that work belongs has undoubtedly changed over the course of six years but during my time at VCU, I think certain ideas were set in motion that never left me. VCU also allowed me to engage with things that had a potential of failing. A necessary function if anything should be discovered beyond what is in my immediate grasp. These moments help build non-complacency and self-critique essential to current and future situations.

How do you define success?

Success for me is the ability to participate in conversation that can further enhance activity beyond personal domains. Success is horizontal movement not vertical ascent. It only has value if others are enabled to build upon it.

Why did you decide to study sculpture?

The field of sculpture placed my work in context with a number of specific historical, conceptual, material concerns I was interested in but weren’t part of the conversation in
other disciplines. Although I didn’t make much sculpture in the round per se, I never felt like I had to make my work more “sculptural” in order to talk about it. As an area of study, sculpture seemed to actively conflate enough different strategies and media to generate a dialogue I could see myself being a part of.