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Awakening the Dragon: Art, Urban Space + Authoritarianism

Posted on by TIna Novero

By Tina Novero, Program Coordinator, Global Urban Humanities

The latest Global Urban Humanities Brown Bag lecture on cities featured urban geographer Jason Luger, lecturer in the UC Berkeley Department of City and Regional Planning. Luger’s talk explored the tensions between art activism within the authoritarian confines of Singapore.

Luger explained that organization and mobilization around an annual firing of two remaining “dragon kilns” provides a metaphor for the underlying power of community efforts toward social change. The annual 3-day “Awaken the Dragon” festival involves thousands of local participants in making ceramics that fill kilns measuring over 88 feet in length.

While Singapore’s government supports the arts as a nation-building strategy, the process of art-making often involves input from diverse stakeholders. Art-making provides a platform for national discourse on a wide range of pressing social issues from censorship of theater to LGBTQ rights.

“Art-making–and the artistic encounter–is one way that critical voices can emerge through the nooks and crannies of the authoritarian structure,” said Luger.

Luger’s research was conducted in 2012-2015 and included interviews with artists, activists, and state officials. He is currently co-editing a book entitled Art and the City: Critical Artscapes / Resilient Artists (Routledge, 2017).


Nevertheless, She Persisted: Women and Land Rights in China

Posted on by Tina Novero

  By Susan Moffat, Project Director, Global Urban Humanities Initiative The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China promises women equal rights. But in reality, many women have to petition for years to secure equal legal rights to their village lands. Their dogged persistence is a striking example of the way quiet, long-term activism can bring about changes to people’s “right to the city,” said Lanchih Po at a recent talk sponsored by the Global Urban Humanities Initiative at UC Berkeley. “Their activism is not photogenic,” said Po, an associate adjunct professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures at UC Berkeley,…


Reflection: Using Bodies to Measure Public Space

Posted on by Ashley Hickman

Environmental design starts with the body as well as the site. In the course Cities and Bodies, taught by Global Urban Humanities Project Director Susan Moffat, students from a variety of disciplines are exploring the physical dimensions of urban form and experience. On September 27, 2016, choreographer Erika Chong Shuch and urban designer Ghigo di Tommaso led the class in exercises designed to sharpen awareness of how we use our senses to understand space and place. They also discussed their cross-disciplinary course Public Space: Placemaking and Performance. Undergraduate Architecture student Ashley Hickman describes the two-hour session: During the presentation, Chong Shuch said she was a performer who…


Publication: No Cruising: Mobile Identities and Urban Life

Posted on by Anne Jonas
Filed under: Art, Geography, Los Angeles,

The first Global Urban Humanities research studio, “No Cruising: Mobile Identities and Urban Life” took place in Spring of 2014, co-taught by Margaret Crawford (Architecture) and Anne Walsh (Art Practice). With six PhD students, three MFA candidates, and one undergraduate student from a diverse set of disciplinary backgrounds, the course took on Los Angeles and the multiple themes generated by the concept of mobility (and its inverse: immobility). Over the course of the semester, students visited LA multiple times and explored the city via car, bus, light rail, walking, and running, focusing on the circulation of bodies, stories, designed forms,…


Rue Mapp on Outdoor Afro and the Nature of Race

Posted on by Crister Brady
Filed under: Oakland,

The stereotypical American explorer of wilderness is usually portrayed as a white male. The word “urban” is often a code word for “black.” Oakland native Rue Mapp stands stereotypes on their head. She grew up with a deep appreciation of nature developed over summers at her grandparents’ ranch in rural Lake County. She has become nationally recognized for her leadership in encouraging fellow African Americans to get outdoors. On September 13th, she came to speak to the course Cities and Bodies, taught by Global Urban Humanities Project Director Susan Moffat. Crister Brady, a student in the class who is pursuing…


Reawakening the Sensory Network

Posted on by Susan Moffat

On Saturday, February 27, Ava Roy, Artistic Director of the We Players site-integrated theater group led students in a workshop at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge to learn methods of using movement and bodily awareness to investigate public spaces.  For a complete description of the workshop, which was sponsored by the Global Urban Humanities Initiative, and other experiments in dance and architecture, see this blogpost. REAWAKENING THE SENSORY NETWORK by Jason Prado, Master in Landscape Architecture candidate My recent fascination with Lawrence Halprin's design process and the development of my studio design is what brought me to Ava Roy's…


On Choreography, Power and Public Space

Posted on by Susan Moffat

by Susan Moffat, Project Director, Global Urban Humanities Initiative How do bodies construct and inhabit public space? In the past week I had the opportunity to participate in three transformative workshops—two sponsored by the Global Urban Humanities Initiative--that used dance, movement, and mindfulness to explore public space. Teatro Campesino in Wurster Hall, the Central Valley and Mexico City 2/25/2016 In a narrow, high-sided concrete courtyard hidden in an outdoor corner of the Brutalist Wurster Hall, Kinan Valdez of Teatro Campesino asked students and faculty to growl and shout; to walk, crawl, and leap; and to engage with props such as…


Art, Politics & the City in Mexico and China: Keynote Presentation

Posted on by Genise Choy
Filed under: Mexico, Symposium,

Click here for VIDEO of the Keynote Presentation. The Art, Politics & the City in Mexico and China symposium took place on October 23, 2015. This wide-ranging interdisciplinary symposium examined art, commerce, politics, violence, history, and urban space on both sides of the Pacific. Creative artists and scholars explored contemporary performance, film, art, and activism in Mexico City from the Revolution to today. The event also featured an exhibition on current art and urbanism in China’s dynamic Pearl River Delta (Art+Village+City) and research on contemporary Shanghai by a team from the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative was presented in a video-based…


Art, Politics & the City in Mexico and China: Panel 1 | Modernity in Process

Posted on by Genise Choy
Filed under: Mexico, Symposium,

Click here for VIDEO of the Panel 1 presentations. The Art, Politics & the City in Mexico and China symposium took place on October 23, 2015. This wide-ranging interdisciplinary symposium examined art, commerce, politics, violence, history, and urban space on both sides of the Pacific. Creative artists and scholars explored contemporary performance, film, art, and activism in Mexico City from the Revolution to today. The event also featured an exhibition on current art and urbanism in China’s dynamic Pearl River Delta (Art+Village+City) and research on contemporary Shanghai by a team from the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative was presented in a…


Art, Politics & the City in Mexico and China: Exhibit(ion)s and Publications

Posted on by Genise Choy

The Art, Politics & the City in Mexico and China symposium took place on October 23, 2015. This wide-ranging interdisciplinary symposium examined art, commerce, politics, violence, history, and urban space on both sides of the Pacific. Creative artists and scholars explored contemporary performance, film, art, and activism in Mexico City from the Revolution to today. The event also featured an exhibition on current art and urbanism in China’s dynamic Pearl River Delta (Art+Village+City) and research on contemporary Shanghai by a team from the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative was presented in a video-based exhibit. In addition, new UC Berkeley publications and…