Past Events: 2015

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THURSDAY, 11/12/15 8:00PM – 10:00PM

This award winning film will be screened as part of the Fall Global Urban Humanities seminar, Mexico City: Spaces/Cultures/Histories.

The past and the present collide as filmmaker Natalia Almada brings to life audio recordings about her great-grandfather Plutarco Elías Calles, a revolutionary general who became president of Mexico in 1924. In his time, Calles was called El Bolshevique and El Jefe Maximo (the Foremost Chief). Today, he is remembered as El Quema-Curas (the Priest Burner) and as a dictator who ruled through puppet presidents until he was exiled in 1936. Through recordings by Calles’ daughter, El General moves between the memories of a daughter grappling with history’s portrait of her father and the weight of that same man’s legacy in Mexico today. Time is blurred in this complex and visually arresting portrait of a family and country living in the shadow of the past.

The film won the Directing Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. The Director, Natalia Almada, will attend the screening and take questions after the film ends.


TUESDAY, 11/03/15 5:00PM – 6:00PM

This Spring 2016 interdisciplinary research studio will focus on Mexico City as a composite city: a complex space of palimpsest histories and possible futures that emerges through the materiality of urban experience.

The course will explore the relationship between material histories, cultures and the performance of power through site-specific interventions and research projects based in three zones of engagement: the historic center, the Roma and Condesa neighborhoods, and the Western periphery. Student projects will be included in a subsequent book on Mexico City, to be published in English and Spanish, which expands on course themes and issues.

There are no prerequisites for this class. Studio experience and Spanish language skills are encouraged but not required. Students will be expected to participate in additional activities to be scheduled at a mutually convenient time, including film screenings, guest lectures, project pin-ups and/or research presentation related to individual and group projects. Students will develop an interdisciplinary toolkit of urban research methods and creative practices through participation in the course. This class is open to all graduate students, and upper division undergraduates.

A funded field trip to Mexico City will take place from March 18-27, 2016.

Interested students should write to for information about the application process and other details. Applications due by Dec. 4, 2015, at noon. Selected applicants will receive a CCN on Dec. 7, 2015.


FRIDAY, 10/23/15 8:30AM - 6:00PM

Fall 2015 Symposium

This wide-ranging interdisciplinary symposium will examine art, commerce, politics, history, and urban space on both sides of the Pacific. Creative artists and scholars will explore contemporary performance, film, art, and activism in Mexico City from the Revolution to today. Ruben Gallo of Princeton University will trace the ancestry of Mexico City’s current urban form and artistic life to the work of the writers, builders, and artists of the early twentieth century, and discussions with leading performers, filmmakers and scholars will follow. Speakers will include Gaston Alzate, Minerva Cuevas, Tatiana Flores, Daniel Hernandez, Edward J. McCaughan, Jesusa Rodríguez and Juan Carlos Rulfo.

As a counterpoint from the other side of the Pacific Rim, Margaret Crawford and Winnie Wong of UC Berkeley will present an exhibition on current art and urbanism in China’s dynamic Pearl River Delta, manufacturer to the world of both smartphones and mass-produced Van Goghs. Research on contemporary Shanghai by a team from the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative will also be presented by Dana Cuff and Jonathan Crisman in a parallel exhibit, and a new UC Berkeley publication and website on participatory urbanisms will be unveiled.

The symposium is sponsored by the Global Urban Humanities Initiative, a transdisciplinary experiment in innovative methods of investigating cities. The UC Berkeley Global Urban Humanities Initiative and the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative are both supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The symposium and exhibitions will highlight the ways in which methods from the arts and humanities can be combined with techniques from architecture and city planning to analyze and represent urban form and human experience. The symposium will be held at the University of California, Berkeley, at Wurster Hall. The exhibitions will be presented at the Wurster Gallery and other spaces in Wurster Hall, and the curators will be available for discussion and tours.

Visit the Symposium page for more info.


THURSDAY, 10/22/15 8:00PM – 10:00PM

A film by Juan Carlos Rulfo • 2006 • 83min
Presented in Spanish with English subtitles

Winner, Sundance Film Festival
Best International Documentary, Grand Jury Prize
“...An absorbing documentary about work and the transformation of men into laborers.“ – The New York Times

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker.

Free; sponsored by the UC Berkeley Global Urban Humanities Initiative
Juan Carlos Rulfo will also be speaking at GloUH's October 23 symposium Art, Politics & the City in Mexico and China.


THURSDAY, 10/15/15 1:00PM – 2:00PM

This talk by Susan Moffat, Project Director of the Global Urban Humanities Initiative, is a part of the the Geolunch seminar series at the Geospatial Innovation Facility.

For the full Geolunch speaker schedule, click here.

Global Urban Humanities Open House

MONDAY, 08/24/15 5:00PM – 7:00PM

View event poster here


Come meet participating faculty and students and hear about upcoming events and new courses including a studio course that will travel to Mexico City in spring 2016. The Global Urban Humanities Initiative is an interdisciplinary experiment that brings together the design disciplines, the arts and humanities, and the humanistic social sciences to investigate cities.

Faculty and graduate students in anthropology, architecture, art history, city planning, comparative literature, geography, history, landscape architecture, performance studies, public health, rhetoric, and many other departments come together to find new approaches to understanding urban form and experience. Refreshments will be served!


TUESDAY, 05/12/15 11:00AM – 6:00PM


Anthony Cascardi (Humanities), Marco Cenzatti (Architecture), Ralph Croizier (University of British Columbia), Michael Mascuch (Rhetoric), Lanchih Po (East Asian Studies), Anne Walsh (Art Practice), Chengfang Wang (South China University of Technology), Xiaoyu Weng (Kadiz Art Foundation), Jennifer Wolch (CED)


11:00AM - Introductions (Ettore Santi, Brittany Birberick)
12:15PM - Guanlan Original Printmaking Base (Katherine Bruhn)
12:45PM - Dafen Oil Painting Village (Story Wiggins)
1:15PM - Wutongshan Art Village (Annie Malcolm)
1:45PM - Baishizhou Urban Village (Valentina Rozas)
2:15PM - Mirrored Gardens (Sben Korsh, Xiuxian Zhan)
3:15PM - Xiaozhou Art Village (Trude Renwick, José Figueroa, Susan Eberhard, Genise Choy)

For event poster, click here.
For more information about the
Art+Village+City research studio, click here.


THURSDAY, 05/07/15 – 05/09/15

Questioning Boundaries, Opening Space: Advancing New Topics, Methods, and Applications, the 7th International Linguistic Landscape Workshop and first in the series to take place in the U.S., will be at Berkeley Thursday-Saturday, May 7-9.

Registration cost: $170
Registration deadline: April 30

For more information and a detailed schedule, visit

Van Gogh on Demand: China and the Readymade

WEDNESDAY, 04/22/15 12:00PM – 1:00PM

Professor of Rhetoric Winnie Wong specializes in the history and present of artistic authorship, with a focus on interactions between China and the West. Her book, Van Gogh on Demand: China and the Readymade (University of Chicago Press, 2014), explores contemporary art in the world's largest production center for oil-on-canvas painting, Dafen village, China.

The book has just been awarded the 2015 Joseph Levenson Book Prize by the Association of Asian Studies. It was also named one of the Top 10 Art Books of 2014 by Hyperallergic. Van Gogh on Demand argues that the global contemporary art world is shaped by two powerful ideas: the postmodern assertion of "the death of the author" and the universalist notion that "everybody is an artist." Wong focuses on an unlikely case of global art production, China's Dafen Oil Painting Village, a production center of eight thousand Chinese painters who produce five million oil paintings per year, sourced from the Western art canon and made for the world's retail and wholesale markets. Based on five years of fieldwork in this transnational trade, Wong’s study offers a comprehensive account of this "readymade" art. Her narrative centers on two unique sets of "authors": internationally-active artists who made Dafen village into a source of appropriated paintings and a subject of conceptual art; and the Chinese party-state which turned Dafen village into a model cultural industry and the subject of extensive propaganda spanning television and the World Expo. Wong examines the encounter between contemporary artists and the Dafen painters whose labor they appropriate, tracing critical issues of artistic authorship and assessing their deployment at a site of anonymous production.

After an introduction by Michael Mascuch (Rhetoric), Wong will speak briefly about her work and then open the floor for discussion.

Winnie Wong is currently co-teaching with Professor Margaret Crawford (Dept. of Architecture) a studio course, Art+Village+City in the Pearl River Delta, sponsored by the Global Urban Humanities Initiative (GloUH). The course's subject of research is closely related to the topics discussed in Van Gogh on Demand. Professor Wong is also a co-advisor for the GloUH-sponsored student publication, Urban Pilgrimage.

Kathakali for the Contemporary Performer: Artist Talk and Workshop with Maya Krishna Rao

THURSDAY, 04/09/15 12:30PM – 2:00PM

Maya Krishna Rao (b. New Delhi 1953) has been producing work as a dance and theater artist, director, writer, educator and activist in India for the past 30 years. She combines many years of intensive Kathakali (17th century masked dance drama) practice with burlesque, political cabaret, street theater and new media tactics to create compelling solo pieces that critically engage current socio-political issues in urban India. In recent years, her performances have thematically addressed the questions of rural-urban migration, contemporary consumerist culture in New Delhi, gender-based violence in the city, and urban protest culture. For her extensive body of innovative work, she received the Government of India’s highest honor for a practicing artist in 2010, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.

Rao will lead a one-and-a-half-hour workshop on the principles of Kathakali, including an introduction to working with breath, rhythm, gesture and facial expressions, with an emphasis on how these tools may inspire the imagination of the contemporary performer, storyteller or activist.

Light refreshments and a Q&A session will follow in which Rao will offer clips of her past work in New Delhi.

This event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to

This event is cosponsored by the UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance + Performance Studies, Global Urban Humanities Initiative, Institute for South Asia Studies, and the Contemporary Drama Working Group.

Exhibiting Labor: Indigenous Performance, US American Tourism, and Consumptive Intimacies in Oaxaca

THURSDAY, 03/05/15 5:00PM – 7:00PM

Ramón H. Rivera-Servera, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University, discusses his latest book, "Exhibiting Performance: Race, Museum Cultures, and the Live Event," which looks at the ways race has been collected and exhibited in North America and the Caribbean since the mid-1990s. A conversation with UC Berkeley Professor Julia Bryan-Wilson will follow the keynote address.

Professor Rivera-Servera’s work includes research on history museums, the economics of cultural tourism, indigenous artisan communities, the performance of labor, and craft production and folk art markets.

The Performance Studies Graduate Speaker Series invites notable performance scholars from across the United States to Berkeley to discuss developing subfields of research in the discipline. This event is co-sponsored by the UC Berkeley Global Urban Humanities Initiative.

Click here for event flyer.

Opening Reception and Film Screenings: Atlas of the Albany Bulb at the Refuge in Refuse Exhibit

Thursday, 02/12/15 6:00PM - 9:00PM
SOMArts Gallery, 934 Brannan Street, San Francisco

Free Admission

The opening of a wide-ranging exhibit about the art-filled former landfill known as the Albany Bulb will feature painting, sculpture, photography, short and feature-length documentaries, maps, and oral histories.  There will be three film screenings beginning at 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., and informal chats with former Albany Bulb residents, participating artists, and other people who know the Bulb well.  Curbside tours of LavaMae’s mobile showers for homeless people in re-purposed MUNI buses will also be available.

More info: The Refuge in Refuse exhibit runs from February 12, 2015 to March 14, 2015.

UC Berkeley Global Urban Humanities Initiative Project Director Susan Moffat organized one part of the exhibit, which includes excerpts from the Atlas of the Albany Bulb, an oral history and mapping project exploring the natural and cultural landscape of the site.

Working with students from the UC Berkeley departments of Anthropology/Archeology, Architecture, City and Regional Planning, Geography, Landscape Architecture, Molecular Environmental Biology, and the Information School, Moffat engaged with residents of the Bulb to create collaborative video and photo narratives and maps.

The Atlas of the Albany Bulb is an ongoing project that aims to assemble a diverse multimedia quilt of stories and images about a dense landscape of nature, culture, and memory. The project, including opportunities for participation by the wider community, can be followed at Following the exhibit, the maps and stories will be presented online.

Also on display will be work by UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design lecturer Randi Johnsen and her landscape architecture students. They studied the Bulb and created a range of design proposals that address both the natural and human elements of the site.

About the Refuge in Refuse: Homesteading Art & Culture Project:
For more than two decades artists, recreationalists, and the homeless have shared the Albany Bulb, a decommissioned landfill peninsula located along the east shore of the San Francisco Bay, creating infrastructure and exploring borders between public and private urban space. The group exhibition Refuge in Refuse: Homesteading Art & Culture Project includes audio stories, video, photography, painting, sculpture, interventions, and 3D scans reflecting the intersections of architecture, art, ecology and community at the Bulb. Read more…

About the evening’s films:

6-9 p.m.:  Atlas of the Albany Bulb. Short films and slideshows made by UC Berkeley students in collaboration with former Bulb residents will be viewable on monitors at the exhibit. These will be available throughout the month-long exhibit.

Feature length film documentaries created about the Albany Bulb will be played on BAVC’s SF Commons Public Access TV (Comcast 76, Astound 30 & streamed online). The films will be screened at 6pm, 7pm & 8pm during the exhibition opening, and will play in a loop on monitors in SOMArts gallery space while Refuge in Refuse is on view.

6–7 p.m.: Bums’ Paradise, a 53-minute documentary by Tomas McCabe that depicts the lives of the men and women who lived in the ten-year-old Albany Landfill community prior to their first eviction in 2002.

7-8 p.m.: Where Do You Go When it Rains?, a 1 hour 5 minutes digital film, 2009–2014, was written, produced, directed, and edited collectively by Jimbow the Hobow, Katherine Cody, Chester Mounten, Phyl Lewis, Amber Whitson, and Andy Kreamer.

8-9 p.m.: Refuge in Refuse, a 37 minute film by Robin Lasser was created in collaboration with the “landfillians” living at the Albany Bulb during the final year prior to their eviction in April 2014.


The Atlas of the Albany Bulb was made possible with support from Cal Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit

The Atlas is part of the Global Urban Humanities Initiative, a joint venture of the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design and the Arts & Humanities Division of the College of Letters and Science. The Initiative aims to investigate cities and urban life by bringing together the methods of the design disciplines with those of the arts and humanities.