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Oct 7th at UCSD with Cara Baldwin

14 Oct

October 7 at UCSD

At UCSD a group of approximately 300 students, workers and faculty members gathered at the Silent Tree outside Geisel Library to shout an alarm. Their message? Once again, the UCOP (UC Office of the President) has proposed a further fee increase of as much as 20%, a year after they voted in an increase of 32%. Indeed, according to UC Budget Director Patrick Lenz, the UC Regents will consider a tuition increase of up to 20% at their November meeting” — 9% in Summer 2009, 32% Fall 2009, %20 Fall 2010. This is a % 70 increase, in compound terms, in a mere year and a half. Our question: Will we stop them?

For many witnessing the gathering, these increases, and the business practices that accompany them -such as predatory lending- were news. Throngs of incoming undergraduate students looked on, and many joined their fellows on Library Walk to learn, for the first time, that they were entering into a field of conflict in which they would be asked to act as isolated and passive consumers or socially-engaged and active producers of their own education.

Across the UC’s, this unfolding drama spooled out further, as institutionally-funded student bodies and groups aggressively assumed control of what they apparently perceived as a formless and undifferentiated ‘student body’ rather than a mutually assembled commons ready and able to imagine and enact change in the present. These bodies were told to sit. They were photographed. Sitting. Listening. They were chided for their inactivity. They were told that their experience in this moment was ‘activism.’

Students and Faculty from UCSD Department of Visual Art listened, and waited, respectfully, for a moment of open and shared exchange that never came. We, each of us, and together, have recognized and shown a deep investment in the possibilities for social change in this moment. Brett Stallbaum responded to this scene actively-raising his voice in response / interjection to the canned speeches presented by self-appointed and institutionally-funded student ‘leaders.’ We were told to write a poem, introduce ourselves to our neighbors and sign a circulating petition.

October 7 at UCSD
Cara Baldwin
Department of Visual Arts: Art History, Theory, Criticism and Practice

At UCSD a group of approximately 300 students, workers and faculty members gathered at the Silent Tree outside Geisel Library to shout an alarm. Their message? Once again, the UCOP has proposed a further fee increase of as much as 20%, a year after they voted in an increase of 32%. Indeed, according to UC Budget Director Patrick Lenz, the UC Regents will consider a tuition increase of up to 20% at their November meeting” — 9% in Summer 2009, 32% Fall 2009, %20 Fall 2010. This is a % 70 increase, in compound terms, in a mere year and a half. Our question: Will we stop them?

For many witnessing the gathering, these increases, and the business practices that accompany them -such as predatory lending- were news. Throngs of incoming undergraduate students looked on, and many joined their fellows on Library Walk to learn, for the first time, that they were entering into a field of conflict in which they would be asked to act as isolated and passive consumers or socially-engaged and active producers of their own education.

Across the UC’s, this unfolding drama spooled out further, as institutionally-funded student bodies and groups aggressively assumed control of what they apparently perceived as a formless and undifferentiated ‘student body’ rather than a mutually assembled commons ready and able to imagine and enact change in the present. These bodies were told to sit. They were photographed. Sitting. Listening. They were chided for their inactivity. They were told that their experience in this moment was ‘activism.’

Students and Faculty from UCSD Department of Visual Art listened, and waited, respectfully, for a moment of open and shared exchange that never came. We, each of us, and together, have recognized and shown a deep investment in the possibilities for social change in this moment. Brett Stallbaum responded to this scene actively-raising his voice in response / interjection to the canned speeches presented by self-appointed and institutionally-funded student ‘leaders.’ We were told to write a poem, introduce ourselves to our neighbors and sign a circulating petition.

We wanted to sit-in at the newly opened CHASE bank branch in the Student Union behind us. We wanted to register our own discontent and resistance in ways that were not only unimaginable to those behind microphones staged in front of us–but in ways that were apparently unacceptable.

One question hangs in the air above us and calls out for response;

‘Will we stop them?’ And how?

Oct 7th at UCSD (stephanie lie and brett stallbaum in background)

We wanted to sit-in at the newly opened CHASE bank branch in the Student Union behind us. We wanted to register our own discontent and resistance in ways that were not only unimaginable to those behind microphones staged in front of us–but in ways that were apparently unacceptable.

One question hangs in the air above us and calls out for response:

‘Will we stop them?’ And how?

Cara Baldwin is a PhD candidate in the Department of Visual Arts: Art History, Theory, Criticism and Practice at UCSD.

Oct 7th at UCLA with Olive Odille

13 Oct

The Ides of October

Balloon fliers to promote the event, inspired by UC Berkeley. Photo by Eric Gardner

October 7th was the occasion of many actions at college campus nationally with a heavy concentration in California. There were rallies, sit-ins, marches, demonstrations, and merriment at nearly every UC campus, UCLA not being an exception. Organized by the UC Fights Back Coalition which unites student groups and unions, the events at UCLA included balloon drops, teach-ins on various aspects of the economic crisis, a rally, and a march/radical tour of UCLA which stopped at different sites on campus where students spoke of past radical actions that have happened or the effects of budget cuts  on various aspects of the university. The march paraded through the halls of these buildings, momentarily interrupting the normality of campus life to evoke UCLA’s radical history and find ways to collectively name the unannounced effects of austerity measures. We disrupted the quiet of the library and tumbled into lecture halls full of 300 students with drums and festivity.

About 100 students rallied and then marched through a series of campus buildings on a "radical campus tour." Photo by Eric Gardner.

The actions on October 7th at UCLA and more broadly at campuses state-wide highlight two connections between the arts and student organizing. First, student activism frequently invokes the slippage between a political event and an art event. Students use artistic media – particularly music, paintings, poetry, dance – in how they organize, how politics is done. Student movements, like other social movements, have their own cultural production. This use of artistic media within student organizing helps to give an action a performativity; organizers do not direct the mobilizations to some imagined listener but enact a certain kind of politics amongst  those present.

However, one must be a bit wary of foregrounding the artist in social movements. The artist is often a figure that is instrumentalized behind her back and used for any number of political interests. The artist has become the poster child for neoliberal labor markets: the continued expansion of professionalization accompanied by the simultaneous eclipse of full-time work and a decent wage. So while the artist may be useful to student movements, one must not reify the work of the artist without interrogating the politics that are at play.

 

Olive Odille is a PHD student in Culture and Performance at UCLA.

Oct 7th at UCSC from Kyle Mckinley

13 Oct

Students, workers, faculty and community members came together today, at UC Santa Cruz’s Bay Tree Plaza, to voice opposition to privatization, fee hikes and pay cuts. This is the same site where, one year ago, dozens of students kicked off a year of occupations, strikes and teach-ins by seizing and communizing a study lab known as the “Graduate Student Commons.” Though the number of people in attendance today (estimated to be 100-200) was overshadowed by the massive rallies and campus shut-downs of the last academic year, enthusiasm was high in the plaza as students shared the stage with workers and local politicians. Participants vowed to continue the struggle against the corporatization of public education with further direct actions, legislative pressure and consciousness-raising.

The highlight of the event was a skit by faculty members that literalized the metaphor of “pie-charts” in order to make apparent the disproportionate allocation of funds given over to administration. Some faculty members – dressed as cigar-puffing fat-cats – wore signs identifying them as “executive compensation,” and “Yudof’s housing expenses,” while other faculty played the roles of “teaching budget,” “ethnic resources,” “graduate student support”  and “language instructors.” As might be predicted, when dollar sign-inscribed apple pies were laid out before these competing sectors of the UC budget, it was the administrative concerns that wolfed down the lion’s share, while other players were left with crumbs and crust. By the end of the skit the crowd was roaring with boos and laughter at the expense of the good-willed faculty who, it should be said, had a great deal of pie on their faces.

Check out the video here:

Among the participating professors, all of whom are members of the Faculty Organizing Group (FOG), was Ben Leeds Carson. At UCSC, Professor Carson (http://bencarson.squarespace.com/) teaches music theory and composition for the Music Deptartment and graduate level courses in art theory and practice for the Digital Art and New Media program. He joined me for an informal conversation about the role of artist-academics in this social movement and the importance of arts divisions embracing struggle for public education. Carson’s analysis of how Arts divisions have been suffering the effects of privatization begins with the administration pulling a bait-and-switch. Departments were told a decade ago that when their enrollment increased, so would their funding. “Increasing enrollment was easy,” Carson remarked, “but the goal posts shifted; disparities in resource allocation continued.” The paradox that Carson emphasizes is that at the same time as class sizes have increased, there is ever more pressure on academic-artists to seek the sponsorship of private and corporate donors who sometimes value art as a kind of luxury. Voicing a common sentiment, Carson explained that “we’re left with an impression that our programs don’t deserve funding simply for their serious contributions to research and education.”

Such sentiments are reinforced by commonplace misunderstandings about UC budgets. “There is a widespread perception that engineering and biomedical research pay for themselves with corporate partnerships,” Carson explains, “but we (arts instructors) offer a disproportionately large amount of the teaching labor that generates the U.C.’s tuition revenue.”

Despite the palpability of these problems, Carson notes that there is “far from a consensus” about how to grapple with these pressing issues. At UCSC the struggle against privatization has been overwhelmingly led by educators from the humanities and social sciences; a lack of consensus as to what is to be done may one of the reasons for the relatively meager response of Arts faculty to the student movements. Carson asks, “why aren’t arts faculty angry about this subservient funding model? It doesn’t match the reality of our contribution to knowledge and learning at this institution.”

Though reluctant to make overarching claims about “Art,” Carson’s optimism for the future role of artists in social movements is grounded in his simple observation that almost all arts practitioners today are likely to agree that art has an important role to play in the production of social values. “I hardly think anyone would disagree with the idea that art is a provocation,” Carson explains, “when we distinguish ourselves as creative workers, or as producers of culture, we understand that distinction as something of an ability to echo society back to itself in a way that is illuminating or in a way that teaches.”

That sense of the imaginative capacity of creative workers was certainly bourne out by the faculty skit and in other events throughout the day in Santa Cruz. A critical-mass type bike ride, students dressed as zombies (in a now familiar reference to Yudof’s “graveyard”) and a rally to bring together K-12 students and teachers with higher education activists were each infused with a sense of good humor and possibility as Santa Cruz kicks off another year of actions in defense of public education.

Kyle McKinley is a student in the Digital Arts and New Media MFA Program at UC Santa Cruz. Read more at http://kylemckinley.com/

October 7th at UCSB from Van Tran

10 Oct

I did a little bit of digging yesterday as I hadn’t seen any posters, flyers, or emails about UCSB’s involvement with Oct. 7th. My fellow grads had not heard of the rally either, and one faculty member in the art department was surprised to hear of it as well, and expressed disappointment in the lack of communication about this event.

I spoke to a student representative from CALPIRG yesterday and he gave me some information about the rally. The event was organized by an informal UCSB coalition that began over a year ago, composed of faculty and various student organizations. The plan for action was to have all protesters and participants meet at noon at The Arbor on campus and then march to the Student Resource Building located near its neighboring community, Isla Vista.

My class ended at 11:50am this morning, just in time for the rally. I rushed towards The Arbor to find the mass. Several students of mixed races dressed in red t-shirts and one could hear the rhythmic beats from the percussion instruments played by a group of Latin American students. A young LGBTQ undergrad named David was in possession of a bullhorn and expressed his grievances to what had started as a small crowd of around 100. I looked around and tried to identify any familiar faces from the graduate art department, but felt like a stranger and at the same time not alone. I asked myself, “Who else was here from the arts to support?”

I was amazed to see several faculty represent and speak on behalf of the rally. Claudio Fogu of the French and Italian department expressed frustration as he has had for months, been looking for something that connected the student fee hikes and classroom crowding. He raised important questions to the students about their mind and position to the university budget cuts. Aranya Fradenburg from the English department cried out to all the students: “What if the administration decided they could do with a writing program but it really didn’t need an English department? Art History? Ethnic Studies? […] A drastic change is happening in your backyard.” She urged the students that were merely sitting at nearby tables and passersby to participate as well.

After hearing several members speak, we marched along campus chanting and cheering. From, “The people, united/ We’ll never be divided,” to “UC students under attack/ What do we do?/ Stand up fight back!” the crowd appeared to grow to somewhere between 200-300 students and faculty. As we marched past the picnic tables of apathetic students texting and eating their lunches, and the temporary traffic nodes of students on their bikes waiting to get through campus, we marched forward to the Student Resource Building demanding for justice.

Postscript:

After the rally today I had walked over to the grad advising office and spoke with the grad advisor Carol. She’s is new to the department and works a part-time position for both the art and art history departments (so she’s really working 25% for the art department, 25% for the art history department). I asked her if she had heard of the rally and she seemed aware about it but was too bogged down from the amount of work that had to be done. Needless to say, the print lab technician came in who was in preparation for his furlough tomorrow and Monday and also admitted that he had too many work commitments to take time out to participate in the rally. It is interesting and mind-boggling to see how the UC budget cuts have pressed so much work on the staff yet cut back on resources for its students.

To further explain I had a recent experience where I was in a scramble to turn in my official paperwork to add classes before the late-fees incurred and was notified by email just a couple of days before the filing deadline. After I had contacted the faculty and instructor, I traversed back and forth across different parts of the campus getting one signature after the other. The art department as I write, is undergoing seismic retrofitting so many offices and studios are separated and tucked in other buildings (the Old Gym, Ellison Hall, Bldg 434; there are only a few used classrooms in the actual Arts building itself…). Needless to say, I wasn’t able to meet Carol yesterday as she had the day off and worked with the other department to try to process my paperwork. If our department had a full-time staff would we still experience these last-minute day-to-day urgencies?

[All videos by Van Tran]

Van Tran is a first-year MFA student in the art department at UCSB. She is interested in public & social practice and is researching the different communities surrounding her new geography of place. More information can be found on her website: http://thinkcollectdisseminate.weebly.com/

Why I made a formal statement to the UCSD Police

26 Aug
Brett Stalbaum at UCSD Police Department

Brett Stalbaum at UCSD Police Department to out himself over virtual sit-ins 7/21/2010 (Image: Paula Poole)

Many people have heard about the criminal investigation of UC San Diego Professor Ricardo Dominguez related to his symbolic protest actions aka Virtual Sit-ins this past March 4th on the servers of the UC Office of the President (UCOP). Republished below is a report back from one of Dominguez’s frequent collaborators and fellow UCSD faculty Brett Stalbaum. This case is extremely important as a precedent setting conflict, bringing together the activism around the UC budget crisis, academic freedom, tenure, and the intersections of online and border activism.

To learn more about the “investigations” and support for Professor Ricardo Dominguez and Electronic Disturbance Theater/b.a.n.g lab click here read and watch these news reports about the “investigations”:

How to help:

  • Donate to the legal fund supporting Dominguez here.
  • Sign the “Stop De-Tenuring of Ricardo Dominguez” petition here.

Reposted from Walkingtools.net:

“I hope you agree that our tradition
of view-point neutral application of
policies governing professional
conduct by faculty and staff is one
of the great strengths we rely on to
demonstrate our commitment to
the public good.”

University of California President Mark Yudof
(Response to UC MRG Core Members Letter of concern over the persecution of Professor Dominguez, April 20th 2010.)

In this post, I would like to highlight the issue of view-point neutral application of University of California Policy by both the University of California Office of the President and UCSD. On July 21st2010 I went to the UCSD Police Department to give a formal statement on the criminal investigation of Professor Ricardo Dominguez. Dominguez is being investigated for a Virtual Sit-in held on March 4th of this year, and yet apparently not (the Police seemed not to know of it) for a virtual sit-in held on March 19th-21st 2008. In fact, as noted elsewhere, UCSD Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Paul Drake actually promoted Dominguez for the latter, yet two years later is trying to fire him for the former, in spite of some very disturbing facts including that both virtual sit-in events involved the same servers (ucop.edu and bang.calit2.net.) First you love him then you hate him. What really is happening here?

The history of Virtual Sit-ins is something that Ricardo and I both know something about, having co-founded the Electronic Disturbance Theater and produced the original FloodNet Applet (along with Carmin Karasic and Stefan Wray) in 1998, and further having implemented many performances (peaceful online protests against President Bill Clinton, his administration and “his” Pentagon, as well as Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and others) in support of the Zapatista indigenous communities of Chiapas. In the interstice between then and now, Ricardo has remained one of the leading theorists and art practitioners of Electronic Civil Disobedience (a term he helped coin with the Critical Art Ensemble previous to our work with the Electronic Disturbance Theater.) Also in that time, I worked on other collaborations (C5 Corporation, paintersflat.net) where I developed a practice in location aware media in the arts. (GPS, mobile phones, code…) Our practice as active collaborators was rekindled in recent years working on an Artivist project titled the Transborder Immigrant Tool, which has been denounced by Republican Congressmen, and has generated troubling death threats from the public.

There was a reason I moved on from EDT for what has turned out to be close to a decade now. Simply stated: Virtual sit-ins occupy a gray area between (as Ricardo often says) affect in effect. Virtual sit-ins don’t hurt anything or anyone, yet they have some of the appearances of being a bot-net attack, the latter being unambiguously illegal. Our development of virtual sit-in technologies was always focused on playing in the gray spaces of the affective and appearance, specifically designed for purposes of 1) Artivism, and 2) conceptual art practice exploring the unique material and social dimensions of a new medium: the internet. Virtual sit-ins have never been effective in terms of damaging servers, and have been ridiculed by hackers as technically ineffective. But the only reason I quit developing new software myself (circa 2000) was that professional system admins – and no doubt many public relations consultants – were onto our game. (And, probably unimpressed with artivistic gestures such as causing the names of the people massacred at Acteal to appear in President Zedillo’s web server’s error logs.) With few exceptions – and at that mostly triggered by under-trained government bureaucrats – virtual-sit ins simply stopped garnering much of the kind of art, media, public and critical attention that we had previously been able to divert to Chiapas. And when my friend and C5 colleague Bruce Gardner gave me a GPS device to use in 2000, and shared some of his early computer code with me, I became interested in a practice exploring another new medium that for me, frankly, had very little political dimension.

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Meet The Regents

27 Jul

A great example for how to integrate a discussion about budget cuts, democracy into a class project.

From March 3rd to 19th, students in a course on curatorial methods taught by Professor Susette Min (AHI 401) at UC Davis presented Meet the Regents, an exhibit focusing on the California Master Plan for Higher Education and the role of The Regents of the University of California in relation to the recent UC budget crisis. As their press release stated: “Under Article IX, Section 9 of the California Constitution, The Regents are given “full powers of organization and governance” of all the UC campuses. The decisions to appoint Mark Yudof as UC President and to approve to increase student fees 32% were made by The Regents. Who are The Regents?”

Meet the Regents was co-curated by the students of AHI 401: Alison Flory, Ruthye Cole, Kevin Frances, Jane Oh, Elizabeth Ottenheimer, Lucille (Lucy) Potter, Dayanita Ramesh, Stan Nghia Trinh, and Camille Wheat. Two of those students Interview with Dayanita Ramesh and Lucille (Lucy) Potter agreed to be interviewed for UCIRA’s State of the Arts this summer after school was over and there was time to step back and reflect on this project. All photos by Jane Oh.


Going into this class, did you know that you would be making a project that was so timely and focused on the University of California budget and administration?


Lucille (Lucy) Potter:
Originally, no. I’m a double major in biology and classics with little-to-no art/art history experience. I went into this course hoping to challenge myself in a new field and become acquainted with the world of museum curatorial studies.
The first day of class, we were presented with three different routes the quarter could take: purely theoretical with focus on lectures and field trips, the classic route of the course in which we would all propose different exhibit themes/designs and decide on one, and finally that we would each propose different curatorial visions for one topic: The UC Budget Crisis. While I’m not sure what the final vote was, I’m pretty sure there was resounding support for this latter choice… We were excited to have such a relevant yet versatile focal point to work with!

Dayanita Ramesh: Not at all, although I’m extremely pleased with how it all turned out. I’m actually an art history and international relations double major. One of my ideas for post-university is to possibly work for a museum or some kind of art institution, which is why I decided to take the class. I wanted to learn more about what it means to be a curator and how a show is actually set up in a museum. I had no idea that our class would become a group of curators. It was actually kind of amazing to work with so many different people to create and produce the show.

When Professor Min announced that we could curate our own show regarding the budget crisis, I think we all came to realize the power of our position. We already the space to display on campus and plenty of ideas, we just had to decide how to move forward.

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Mark Yudof’s Thriller: A Performative Protest

27 Jul

Creative activism by a student shows the unique role that art can play in representing conflicts playing out on a rhetorical level.

From: Chrissy Noble, UCD


[To view the video of this performance click this link]

On June 1, 2010, students around the Memorial Union Patio gathered and watched curiously as a polished but oblivious man in a crisp business suit laid out a blanket in the center of the patio, one of the most highly trafficked areas on campus, and began picnicking from a basket filled with gourmet cheeses, breads, and “wine.” After he took only a few elegantly executed sniffs and sips, a nosy reporter, who began asking questions about budget cuts and furloughs, interrupted him. Perturbed but obliged, the man humored the reporter. As his final response echoed through the patio, an eerie and familiar tune began to waft through the area. “Student-zombies,” adorned with theatrical makeup, typical college wear, and backpacks, began to emerge from various spots on the patio and angrily approach the picnic blanket. This is Mark Yudof’s Thriller.

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