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Trace Evidence: An Art Exhibition and Panel Discussion at Minnesota Street Project

Posted on by sarahhwang@berkeley.edu

Trace Evidence
Curated by Annie Malcolm and Rachelle Reichert
Exhibition September 8th – 29th
Opening event + Panel: September 11, 2018
Minnesota Street Project, San Francisco

Trace Evidence is an exhibition and a panel discussion at Minnesota Street Project, in partnership with SFMOMA Public Dialogue, in which the curators—2019 GUH Fellow Annie Malcolm and artist Rachelle Reichert—will convene visual artists from China and the U.S. who are considering issues of environmental change focused on China. Trace Evidence will take place in San Francisco in September 2018, during the Global Climate Action Summit, and is formally affiliated with GCAS.  The curators are interested in interrogating the work of art as a platform for cross-cultural conversation about climate change. Annie Malcolm discusses the conception of the exhibition and its connection to her research on Chinese art villages.

Americans gaze over to China and see the physical conditions produced by late capitalism magnified because of the scale and speed of development. China’s processes of industrialization and urbanization have degraded their environment in parallel fashion to US industrialization but, due to its rapid progress, they are uniquely perceptible.

Thinking with Timothy Morton, we conceive of climate change as a hyperobject (Morton 2013): its entirety can never be seen, yet it affects everything. How are artists taking the visual elements of climate change, pollution, and extraction and making them accessible? How are artists trying to see this thing that is impossible to see but felt everyday? Climate change is a form of slow violence (Rob Nixon 2013), harming and displacing people, enacting violence at a slower speed than violence usually occurs; climate change forces the rethinking of timescales.

The work we will show in this exhibition deals with these issues on different levels of directness. Some of the work offers the opportunity to meditate on the questions, think about scale, and be in a sensible relationship to place, landscape and environment; other works expose the viewer to the violence of extraction and the factors at work in climate change. By exhibiting both American and Chinese artists, this exhibition will look from the outside while addressing the area from within.

Coming to Berkeley to start my Ph.D. in Anthropology in 2013, my plan was to study art worlds in Beijing. In 2015, however, after my experience in the GUH studio course Art + VIllage + City, taught by GUH professors Winnie Wong and Margaret Crawford, exploring Guangzhou and Shenzhen, I changed my field site to an art village outside Shenzhen. This came in part out of the arrival at Wutong Art Village, twenty minutes down the road from Dafen Village and yet seemingly a world away from Shenzhen’s rapid speed and intense industry. Wutong sits atop the Shenzhen Reservoir, Hong Kong’s water source, and is thus an ecological preserve site. Therefore, while the art there doesn’t sell at a scale like that of Dafen, a creative enclave is given space to thrive. Southern China has a unique history in relation to urbanism and experimentation, both with capitalism and aesthetics.

The GUH course gave me a level of comfort with the studio visit form that I didn’t previously have; it taught me about presenting ideas visually, and about making research communicable through exhibition. Since I met artist Zhou Tao shortly after the GUH studio (who is one of the artists featured in Trace Evidence), I have wanted to show his work back home in the United States—his tender vision, acute methods of processing what he sees as pressing issues of our time and his creation of visual art that is cutting and human, abstract and accessible, bleak and beautiful. Trace Evidence is that desire realized, and with the added excitement of working in affiliation with GCAS to bring art and climate change into conversation.

About the Curators

Rachelle Reichert creates graphite drawings and sculptures inspired by research of Chinese graphite mines, the source of graphite used in her artworks. The drawings depict abstract shapes from up-to-date satellite images of the mines. Working the graphite to reveal its material capacities through the visual language of abstraction, she explores the cost of green technologies and industries.  

Annie Malcolm is a sociocultural anthropologist whose work explores how Chinese artists respond to environmental and urban change. Currently writing an ethnographic monograph about art villages in outer Beijing and Shenzhen, she has worked in China over the last five years in research, installation, and translation capacities. Malcolm is a 2019 GUH Fellow and participant in the 2015 studio course Art + Village + City, for which was also the director for the satellite exhibition at the Shanghai biennale. She was also editorial assistant for the 2015 GUH sponsored journal P[art]icipatory Urbanisms, as well as a contributor to the GUH Special Issue of Room One Thousand Urban Pilgrimage. Malcolm is grateful for GUH’s support on this project.

Image: ​Zhou Tao The Worldly Cave [Fán Dòng] 2017, film still. Courtesy the artist and Vitamin Creative Space

References
Morton, Timothy. 2013. Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Nixon, Rob. 2013. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.


Mapping as Research with Trevor Paglen

Posted on by sarahhwang@berkeley.edu
Filed under: Art, Journalism

From the Arts Research Center blog: http://arts.berkeley.edu/mapping-as-research-with-trevor-paglen/
By Laura Belik (GUH Graduate Certificate Student and instructor of the Fall 2018 Colloquium: The City and its People)
April 24, 2018

Trevor Paglen’s work and interpretation of space are great examples of the association between art and research. Blending photography, installation, investigative journalism and science, Paglen’s approach reveals that there is always more to an image than what we anticipate, and that these perceptions announce strong political meanings as well.

Paglen’s background and professional life include being a musician and composer in the punk-scene; doing an MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago; and later receiving his PhD in Geography at UC Berkeley. “You are creating your own space”, reflected ARC Director Julia Bryan-Wilson, in conversation with the photographer. We can see how this is reflected in the images he produced especially when it comes to his series of photos of official places/objects that “don’t exist”; that are a political secret. “Open Hangar, Cactus Flats, NV, Distance ~ 18 miles, 10:04 a.m” (2007) exposes classified military bases and installations located in remote areas. The photo taken from a distance, combined with the heat waves and extended exposure time looks like a blurred landscape. The dichotomy of what you can and what you can’t see; what we know and what is hidden from us, is precisely a conversation the artist is trying to have. Parallels to a criticism on the “war of terror” and the military hidden agenda are addressed revealing the physical aspect to these ideas, and at the same time, how they continue to be obscured from us.

The artist sees both the landscape and the act of seeing and understanding it as a performance: “It is not just about making images of this space, but a performance of someone trying to make the image of that space.” Paglen talks about the aesthetics of these acts, and how they are an example of the tension between what is seen and not seen. Beyond the final image, we ought to remember that there is a political performance happening behind those lenses as well. Images become allegorical for Paglen in that sense, and photography in this case, is understood as a platform in direct connection to the history of survey, fear, borders, etc.

Other topics present in Paglen’s images are addressing artificial intelligence, and figures created only through algorithm representing a space, which leads to conversations on the role of the machine as the curator; on another project, similarly to the one on classified military spaces, Paglen offers a closer look to our sky, tracing airplanes, drones and secret satellites once again confronting people about the things we don’t know, bringing to light hidden images. The latter ultimately evolved into the project the artist is currently working on of his own satellite to be launched within the next few months. His goal with this new proposal is to launch something that has no specific purpose other than its aesthetics, as a purely artistic gesture of a giant mirror that reflects light down on earth. Although understanding this object as a very contradictory one, the artist also argues that by doing this experiment, for the first time one will be detaching the history of the satellite from a military one, therefore he names this as an “impossible object”.

About the writer and ARC event: 

Laura Belik (PhD Student, Architecture) reviewed the Arts Research Center Event: Mapping as Research: Trevor Paglen in conversation with Julia Bryan-Wilson on April 24, 2018. To celebrate his first comprehensive artist monograph, Trevor Paglen (UC Berkeley Geography PhD and 2017 MacArthur “genius” fellow) discussed his work with ARC Director Julia Bryan-Wilson. Paglen’s work relentlessly pursues what he calls the “unseeable and undocumentable” in contemporary society. Blending photography, installation, investigative journalism, and science, Paglen explores the clandestine activity of government and intelligence agencies, using high-grade equipment to document their movements and reveal their hidden inner workings. The new publication includes a survey text by Bryan-Wilson and presents over two decades of Paglen’s groundbreaking work, making visible the structures and technologies that impact our lives.


GUH FACULTY JASON LUGER’S REVIEW PUBLISHED IN ANTIPODE

Posted on by Anne Jonas
Filed under: Art

Global Urban Humanities faculty member Jason Luger is co-teaching the GUH Core Seminar in Spring 2018 with Angela Marino: Populism, Art and the City. He recently published a review of  ArtWORK:  Art, Labour and Activism by Paula Serafini, Jessica Holtaway, and Alberto Cossu inAntipode. Here is a short excerpt from the review:
"Contextually, the volume fits well amidst geography’s creative (re)turn (De Leeuw and Hawkins 2017), and also the convergence across several fields where the political–and political socio-spatial relations–has once again become central to discussions (as Dikeç and Swyngedouw 2017 argue). Serving as a bridge between the parallel and related–yet often disciplinarily distinct–literatures on art geographies, politics and political economy, and comparative urbanism, Serafini et al.’s volume represents an important effort to bring these areas together. While other recent works (e.g. Luger and Ren 2017; Zebracki and Palmer 2017) likewise approach the flows and networks of art’s relationship to the urban landscape (or “artscape”), this collection zeros in on the production, embodiment, and practices of processes that are both the art’s subject and involved in the art’s impact and meaning (p.2). This less conceptual, more descriptive focus on the political production of art, rather than just a focus on the meaning/interpretation of the art itself is welcome. The volume is also pointedly political, which is required in these insurgent (and populist) times."
The full review can be found here.

About Jason Luger - 
Jason is the co-editor of the volume Art and the City: Worlding the Discussion through a Critical Artscape (2017), and his research has been featured in academic journals such as CITY, Antipode, Geoforum, the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, and Media and Culture. 

About the authors of artWORK - 
Alberto Cossu is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Milan, Italy.
Jessica Holtaway is a PhD candidate in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, University of London.
Paula Serafini is a Research Associate at CAMEo Research Institute for Cultural and Media Economies, University of Leicester.
The book is available for purchase here 

About Antipode - 
Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography is a peer-reviewed scientific journal published five times per year by Wiley-Blackwell and produced by The Antipode Foundation. Its coverage centers on critical human geography and it seeks to encourage radical spatial theorizations based on Marxist, socialist, anarchist, anti-racist, anticolonial, feminist, queer, trans*, green, and postcolonial thought. 


On statues, and what can and cannot be said

Posted on by Tina Novero
Filed under: Art, History

From the Berkeley Blog: http://blogs.berkeley.edu/2017/08/18/on-statues-and-what-can-and-cannot-be-said/
By Andrew Shanken (GUH fellow and co-instructor of the GUH course City of Memory )
August 18, 2017

I’ve been loath to write about what’s happening with Confederate statues, but a few sleepless nights cured my diffidence. As an architectural historian who works on memorials and has dabbled in the history of historic preservation, I’ve vacillated over the years between a Ruskinian position (“let it moulder”) and a Rieglian position, trying to establish some basis, however culturally relative, for how we value parts of the built environment.

My first thought on the matter at hand is that there have been waves of iconoclasm since memorials and statues first became fixtures in the built environment. While the present phenomenon is part of a modern reaction to what are essentially political interventions in the built environment, Romans regularly cleared out the statues that cluttered the Forum. It was a form of political erasure, a fine art for any successful autocrat. France experienced moments of “statuophobia” tagged to the waves of revolutions that swept through that country in the 19th century. More recently, statues came down after the fall of the Soviet Union and its former puppet states, Saddam statues fell in Iraq, and across the world reactionaries have used iconoclasm as a form of violence manqué, often alongside actual violence. This sort of erasure has been a tool of the left and the right; iconoclasm is not a politically fixed act.

But it is erasure and this is a point that we need to explore a bit more vigorously. What are these statues saying and should we be silencing it or responding to it? I’m not totally sure I know the answer to that question.

There is, luckily, a history of contest in the south over Civil War and civil rights statues, one explored in a recent book by Dell Upton: What Can and Can’t Be Said. The title gets right to the heart of it. We are witnessing a rupture in the basic conception of what can and can’t be said publicly.

White nationalists, emboldened by the present regime, feel empowered to speak and are using monuments to do so. This is not a new use for these monuments, but the situation is amplified, acute, raw. These monuments are linguistically flexible. They can be quietly beautiful one moment, a seemingly harmless piece of civic adornment—and many were erected, we have forgotten, during the reign of the City Beautiful—and harnessed for evil in another. People have rushed in to counter the darkness unleashed in places like Charlottesville verbally, bodily, and violently. The violence has a larger context, of course, but some of it may issue from the fact that these statues are bold: tall, dignified, larger than life, often aesthetically powerful, and laden with layers of dark history. Going back to Upton’s title, what words can possibly counter that! Fists, lassoes, physical force of some sort seems to be the answer for many people. Where words fail to win the day, the statue comes down.

But should it? It is, I suppose, not enough to argue that these statues are artistically significant. Beautiful things get destroyed routinely. We may rue their passing, but preservation often has a mightily precious view of artistic and age value.

Perhaps there is some verbal or cultural equivalent to a martial arts move that could turn the power of these statues against them. Can they be lampooned, subtitled or otherwise diffused by further intervention? At the moment, I think not, at least not now. If Americans were capable of meaningful, civil dialogue, the white nationalists would not be marching and Antifa would not be storming the marches. But perhaps these statues have a role to play down the road, didactically, politically, aesthetically. I was astonished to learn that there has been for about 20 years a return to erecting Stalin statues in the former Soviet lands.

Serious dialogue begins with empathy. Perhaps we might begin that dialogue with a considered act of empathy toward these statues. They are prisoners of war, in effect, and deserve that consideration.


Awakening the Dragon: Art, Urban Space + Authoritarianism

Posted on by TIna Novero
Filed under: Art

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).


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, performance, identities, labor, opportunities, and relationships.


Street sign saying 'No Cruising' against blue sky background


Out of the studio comes a new publication documenting these projects, also titled No Cruising. Student essays are accompanied by rich images of urban life, archival materials, and maps that reflect the social, political, cultural, and environmental histories that shape current experiences of movement and entrapment within the city infrastructure. These projects upend dominant myths of the city (spoiler alert: people do walk!) and disturb established spatial arrangements through performance and imagined design.


Book cover for 'No Cruising,' - A drag queen in a leopard-print blouse stands in front of a train, fanning herself with a lacy fan


As the faculty advisors write in their introduction, “The No Cruising projects address human agency–transit activists, artists and gallerists, teenage drag queens, and Midwestern, Mexican, and Taiwanese immigrants–as well as monumental forms like the Watts towers and palm trees, and finally the expressions of invisible but potent agents such as seismic and spiritual force fields.” This beautiful publication weaves together distinct experiences across a landscape, offering readers a chance to dive into the many complex threads that make up life in this iconic city.


A man in a wide brim straw hat, his face in shadow, stands on top of a bicycle in a dark parking lot


Students in the course:

  • Ying Fen Chen, Architecture PhD
  • Sarah Cowan, Art History, PhD
  • Jason Fritz, Art Practice, MFA
  • Megan Hoetger, Performance Studies, PhD
  • Kathleen Irwin, Architecture, MS
  • Lee Lavy, Art Practice, MFA
  • Fabian Leyva-Barragan, Art History, Art Practice, and German, BA
  • Michelle Ott, Art Practice, MFA
  • Sabrina Richard, Architecture, PhD
  • Noam Shoked, Architecture, PhD
  • Alec Stewart, Architecture, PhD

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 websites on participatory urbanisms (focusing on São Paulo and New Delhi) and urban pilgrimage were unveiled.

by Will Payne

Susan Moffat, Project Director of Berkeley’s Global Urban Humanities Initiative, kicked off a short session showcasing hybrid approaches to cities with faculty from different departments teaching together, weaving together different methods and bringing together students from different disciplines. First, Berkeley professors Margaret Crawford (Architecture) and Winnie Wong (Rhetoric), accompanied by graduate student members of the studio José Figueroa and Valentina Rozas-Krause, came up to introduce the exhibition that came out of their Mellon-funded studio course in the spring semester of 2015, Art+Village+City in the Pearl River Delta. The group visited a number of villages where art is produced and documented them, producing a complex, multimedia exhibition over the summer, with many hours put in by visiting scholar Ettore Santi. Their website (artvillage.city) is “the story of the pedagogical journey of the studio,” and all drawings were done by Figueroa during the class.

 


Image courtesy of Genise Choy

 

Next up were Jonathan Crisman, project director for the Urban Humanities initiative at UCLA and Dana Cuff, UCLA Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning, to present the Now Shanghai project, also funded by a Mellon Foundation grant. According to Cuff, Now Shanghai is a cross-disciplinary urban methodological investigation wrapped around ideas of film, thick mapping, and experiential ethnography, made up of a group of 24 students incorporating films made in Shanghai about urbanism across many genres, from documentary to fable and travelogue. Crisman described the way in which the project drew on anthropologist Clifford Geert’s idea of “thickness,” as the group explored a wide range of media "that could embed this polyvocality, multiple voices that are often conflicting” occupying the same space.

 


Image courtesy of Tamara Kalo

 

Crisman and Cuff were followed by UC Berkeley graduate students Kirsten Larson (Architecture/City Planning) and Karin Shankar (Performance Studies), to present their coauthored journal and website, P[art]icipatory Urbanisms, a project that came about due to a “blind date” meeting through the Global Urban Humanities Initiative. Larson described how bracketing the [art] in ‘participation’ also suggests a blurring of the conventional separation between the aesthetic and the political dimensions of urban participation. She offered that urban practices, from spontaneous protests, to organized claims on urban space, are as aesthetic as they are political since they "entail a re-ordering of the field of urban experience and perception." The publication has two main components, a bilingual website (www.part-urbs.com) with interviews in English and Portuguese with community activists, artists, and other groups involved in participatory urban processes in Sao Paolo and New Delhi, and a peer-reviewed publication of articles by scholars across disciplines taking on the subjects of participatory practices in art and planning. Shankar outlined their hope that this intervention can help spark conversation and collaboration, and to “assess the radical promise and the potential pitfalls of participation in both urban politics and art today.”

 


Image courtesy of Tamara Kalo

 

Finally, Berkeley graduate students Mia Narell (Architecture) and Lawrence Yang (East Asian Languages + Cultures) presented Urban Pilgrimage, a special issue of Berkeley’s Room One Thousand student-edited journal on architecture. Narell, who serves on the publication’s editorial board, talked about how pleased she was to be partnering with the Global Urban Humanities Initiative, and read a statement on behalf of Padma Maitland, co-editor of the publication. Maitland and Yang were drawn to the project of “rethinking pilgrimage in the modern urban context” beyond merely religious travel. There were print copies of the journal available for sale at the symposium, but the whole project is also available on their website (www.roomonethousand.com), providing a diverse collection of answers to the question: “What draws and moves us towards and through cities?”


Art+Village+City: Post-Travel Update

Posted on by Genise Choy
Filed under: Art, Art+Village+City, China

Art+Village+City in the Pearl River Delta is one of two interdisciplinary courses being sponsored by the Global Urban Humanities Initiative in Spring 2015. Students in this research studio are utilizing a variety of research methods from interviews to video documentation to explore the ongoing evolution of relationships between urban and rural spaces and people, and the emerging role of the arts in China’s Pearl River Delta.

From March 18th to April 3rd, the students and faculty of the Art+Village+City in the Pearl River Delta Studio visited the three mega cities of the Pearl River Delta: Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou. Working in small teams, students surveyed over fifteen neighborhoods, urbanized villages, theme parks, commercial districts, and production centers of art, creative industry and cultural heritage. They interviewed artists, activists, art teachers, designers, performers, and villagers.

 


Image courtesy of José Figueroa

 

As he has done throughout the course, Berkeley MFA student José Figueroa (Art Practice) documented in drawing and watercolor our discussions and group meetings in cafes, restaurants and on the road. Our March 24th journey took some of the studio members on the highway running along the historic shorelines of the Pearl River Delta, from Shenzhen’s Shekou and new Qianhai financial district, to Guangzhou’s Xiaozhou Art Village.

 

 

Since our return, the studio has been archiving and cataloguing the extensive amount of photographic, ethnographic, video, and ephemeral materials collected, which will be presented in a public exhibition at UCB, and in various cities of the PRD in Fall 2015.


Art+Village+City: On the Photograph

Posted on by Genise Choy
Filed under: Art, Art+Village+City

Art+Village+City in the Pearl River Delta is one of two interdisciplinary courses being sponsored by the Global Urban Humanities Initiative in Spring 2015. Students in this research studio are utilizing a variety of research methods from interviews to video documentation to explore the ongoing evolution of relationships between urban and rural spaces and people, and the emerging role of the arts in China’s Pearl River Delta.

This week in the studio we worked on two common forms of fieldwork representation that are often overlooked: the single photograph, and the anecdote. Each student took a single photograph and told a single anecdote. In our studio crit, we reflected upon what an anecdote or a photograph can and cannot do as a form of research representation. At issue are questions of narrative and image, both in our own making of images and anecdotes, and in our framing and telling of them.
— Winnie Wong

“As I thought about what I might want to photograph I was constantly reminded of what I perceive to be my inability to capture the perfect photo while I am in the field or to determine what might be ‘interesting.’ It was with this in mind that I chose to use a photograph of the San Francisco skyline taken from Sausalito. As I mentioned in class, this is a photograph I have taken on numerous occasions. Each time, while from the same spot, the image of San Francisco appears different. While this is not a profound reflection I think that it demonstrates the relevance of how something is represented based on when a picture is taken, who takes the picture, and how it is later presented be it with captions or not.”
— Katie Bruhn (Southeast Asian Studies)

“We are very used to being faced with anonymous images, and while I’m not sure that we mistake them as objective, we do not (could not possibly) analyze each one in the way that we did this project…it was a pleasure to take time with images, digesting them aesthetically and probing them for meaning. It gave them back the dignity that has been taken away by the digital proliferation of photographs. We assign meaning by choosing a single photograph and by giving it a caption or not, and others assign meaning by seeing it from their unique perspective. It’s a fascinating process and undervalued or taken for granted today.“
— Story Wiggins (Landscape Architecture)

“What does it mean to represent versus narrate? Although one may instinctively argue that narration is typically performed through word and representation through image, I think that these divisions were blurred a lot on Tuesday. Therefore, for my own purpose within the class, it became clear to me that I need to move beyond just picking any story or image without some sort of minimal thought into our own motives or interests in taking that picture or selecting that story. Even if I am to use photography more as a from of documentation than a narration of a particular moment, I need to then locate that series of photos within a broader framework of motives, aims, and questions that they then help evoke."
- Trude Renwick (Architecture)

“What struck me about the presentation of photos was the number of ways photos could be interpreted or talked about. Having a range of visual languages within the class (architects, urban planning, design, art practice, anthropology, art history, etc.), it was clear that different people saw different things when viewing the photographs.”
— Brittany Birberick (Anthropology)

“With a studio art background, I am much more comfortable composing visual rather than verbal communications. However, to help make sense of what my image was showing, I had to provide quite a bit of verbal explanation about what the objects in my photo were…. I was impressed by the range of approaches the class took in capturing, captioning and composing their photos. Story’s caption, Sben’s croppings, Susan’s referential process, Xiuxian’s sequencing, Brittany’s accidental symbolism, and José’s layers of bizarre-ness were most notable to me and I think the photos presented may very well tell more about the people who took them than the subjects or objects within them.”
— Genise Choy (City Planning)

“I was struck by the effectiveness of some of the pictures to convey a story, especially Story’s “Leather harvest”. It was interesting to see that the class’ photographs presented a wide range of approaches: some were anecdotes, other registered scenes, while others were aesthetic compositions. Further, the relationship between text and image acquired multiple dimensions: some pictures were in dialect with their caption; others had no caption, and some had a description.”
— Valentina Rozas Kraus (Architecture)

“While I thought [my photo] was very funny, I realized in class how different my classmates understood it. It stuck me that photograph could be culturally exclusive to the others. The way I understood and felt about the photo is tightly related to my cultural background. Without explanation, this photo is totally another thing to the people from other background. Here is my question, photo as visual medium, can it communicate effectively? Can it be narrative?"
— Xiuxian Zhan (Landscape Architecture)

“When I showed my photograph several things became apparent which I had not thought about. I wrote a caption about the postures of the people, which really struck me—the woman’s formal portrait stance and the man lunging to capture her. The class seemed less interested in these poses and more interested in the angles—the strong diagonal line, the accuracy of the caption—how did I know they were tourists?—as well as the fact that I failed to capture the site in front of which the woman posed. We presume tourists aim to record the act of being in a particular place, so why did I not take the photograph from an angle at which I could see that place? It hadn’t occurred to me because I was caught up in their relation…”
— Annie Malcolm (Anthropology)

“Annie presented an ethnographic image, for example, that she coded as such through the caption and her explanation. Can we read her image as data about a cultural actor or practice? Or does her framing of the scene—the strong diagonals echoing the diagonal positions of the two standing figures—already determine its status as a photograph taken by someone who is making the photo by following certain compositional conventions, therefore giving it a connotative, aesthetic value that exceeds its denotative ethnographic content? …Sben took the opposite approach: he shot many pictures of a place before deciding on one to share with us—based on a data-mining procedure he produced after-the-fact. Instead of centralizing the figures like in Annie’s photo or in history painting, his figures were diffuse, more like a Dutch landscape or genre scene showing a literal slice-of-life, in Svetlana Albers’ reading, the real “as it is.” With technologically-aided enhancement, he was able to zoom in on his photograph to reveal more than is initially visible to both the human eye and attention span. Though by fracturing the photo into mini-dramas, we lose the glossy perfection of the intact whole, the picture-postcard.”
— Susan Eberhard (Art History)


Art+Village+City: Video Presentations

Posted on by Genise Choy

Art+Village+City in the Pearl River Delta is one of two interdisciplinary courses being sponsored by the Global Urban Humanities Initiative in Spring 2015. Students in this research studio are utilizing a variety of research methods from interviews to video documentation to explore the ongoing evolution of relationships between urban and rural spaces and people, and the emerging role of the arts in China’s Pearl River Delta.

Students paired up to create videos of places related to China and the Chinese diaspora throughout the Bay Area. Here is José Figueroa's watercolor documentation of the in-class presentations!

We'll be posting one of the videos soon, just in time for the New Year!