Tag Archives: UC Los Angeles

Q & A with the organizers of BOOM

15 Aug

William Kaminski, "Well" 2011

SOTA did an email interview with Elizabeth Kunath and Daniela Campins, two recent MFA graduates from southern California art schools who were part of the group that organized BOOM: 2011 Southern California MFA Group Exhibition. Institutions represented by BOOM artists include: Art Center College of Design – Pasadena, Claremont Graduate University, California State University Northridge, Otis College of Art and Design, University of California – Los Angeles, and University of California – Santa Barbara. BOOM was supported by the UCIRA and we look forward to seeing where this experiment in sharing resources across institutions goes. For more information on BOOM, see http://www.BOOMlosangeles.com

Q: Is BOOM responding to a perceived lack of critical attention or attendance at southern California area MFA exhibitions? 

Cima Rahmankhan, "Ask", 2011

Elizabeth Kunath: Not exactly. Our original idea for BOOM was a result of finding out that the former “Super Sonic” (a very widely attended and massive production) was no longer happening. We wanted to create a smaller version of this to see if it would pick up – if other schools would be interested in participating, etc. I think the theme was “power in numbers”, maximizing visibility, but not in a way that forcefully compensates for a perceived lack of visibility or lack of attendance at MFA exhibitions. I am an MFA student at UC Santa Barbara, so our MFA exhibition audiences are slightly different than the those of the Los Angeles programs.

Q: How did the BOOM project get started? Who contacted whom and was there support from your home institutions?

Jacob Fowler, "Marina", 2011

Elizabeth Kunath: As previously discussed, the impetus for BOOM was in part, a response to the desire for another “Super Sonic” (at least on a smaller scale). So initially, Daniela Campins (a recent UCSB alumn) contacted a former curator/organizer for the Super Sonic exhibitions. Also, BOOM came about when the UCSB MFA students decided that a large-scale MFA exhibition for SoCal schools would be a good goal to shoot for for the upcoming year – to promote all of the participating programs, to provide a blended conversation of contemporary art practices, and to reinforce the SoCal emerging art community. Approximately 10 Southern California graduate art programs were contacted. Of those, representatives from 5 schools responded to the desire for a fairly comprehensive art exhibition. There were concerns with space, money and administration. Thankfully, we partnered up with LAUNCH LA, an LA-based non-profit that promotes contemporary art, who secured a space in the LA Mart building and helped with administrative, marketing and organizational tasks for the exhibition.

Michelle Carla Handel, "Love Me Anyway", 2011

Daniela Campins: BOOM started independent from our home institution (UCSB art department), it was student organized, student funded at first.  The same goes for the rest of the programs.  Supersonic was a huge operation of over 300 graduates, many Socal schools were involved, the Southern California Consortium of Art Schools (SOCCAS) was involved, each art department and the UCIRA funded the exhibition and outreached for additional sponsorship.

BOOM started from scratch, it was a new name and it was difficult when we were first getting organized to receive support.  For all of us it was the first time organizing a show of this magnitude (40+ artists, more than 100 art pieces), to be placed in a raw space that needed paint, clean-up, lights, etc…    Thankfully, after things were up and running we received the 7000 sq ft basement space donated by the people from the LA Mart, who trusted our vision and helped us to achieve an amazing exhibition.

Q: What has the response been like? Are you getting motivated to continue doing this work for future years of graduate student artists? Where will BOOM go?

Elizabeth Kunath: The response has been good. It has generated conversations between artists from different programs, aligned people’s practices and provided a sense of the current state of the MFA for outsiders, fellow artists, faculty, etc. We hope that BOOM will go on through the efforts of next years graduate students with the support of LAUNCH LA and the UCIRA. We hope that the exhibition will grow to include more Southern California programs, which will mean finding a larger venue and of course, more money. We also hope that the exhibition will lead to more opportunities for the individual artists featured in the exhibition and more connections between the participants- be it personal or professional.

Daniela Campins: The response has been amazing! The work is fabulous and the space looks great.  Many people have come in, enjoyed the work and have attended our events.  The opening reception last month had maximum attendance, we were visited by other artists from the community, family and friends, writers and critics, faculty, gallery owners, collectors, etc…We have been invited to be part of Art PLatform–Los Angeles, a Contemporary art fair in LA this fall.   Last week we organized a panel discussion and event sponsored by the UCIRA.  The title was  “SoCal MFA: Navigating the Complex Arena of the Emerging Artist”. In Addition other art schools have already started to approach us and shown their interest for next year.  It is up to the new crop of MFAs to organize again and make it happen.  I am certain that there will have another iteration of BOOM in 2012!

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.

Q & A: Rabkin (UCB) and Haas (UCLA) on Resources

14 Sep
Q&A is an irregular series on SOTA which will pose a question to a small group of faculty, staff or students from different campuses and compile their responses. If you would like to respond to the question, please do so in the comments section of this post or email ucirasota@gmail.com.
Q: How are you going to share resources this academic year? Does sharing resources signify a submission to the budget cuts or is it necessary restructuring? How can sharing resources model a better university based on principals of cooperation over competition?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: Michele Rabkin (Associate Director, Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley) – The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley has a history of collaboration. Even before the most drastic budget cuts, our funds were always smaller than our ambitions, so we sought to leverage them for greatest effect. This meant joining with others on campus to co-sponsor projects that no one department could pull off alone (frequently artists’ residencies that were interdisciplinary in scope). Now, with our programmatic funds edging perilously close to zero, sharing of resources is key to our survival. This takes two forms. In one, we seek to partner with other units on campus, such as the Townsend Center for Humanities, on projects of mutual interest. They may be able to contribute funds or other types of support (such as the Townsend Lab, a tool for online collaboration). In the other, we provide staff support to arts-related projects initiated by the Dean (such as the new Berkeley Arts Seminars for freshmen) in exchange for additional financial support. While we have to be careful to maintain a balance between the core priorities of ARC and those of our collaborators, both these kinds of partnerships are effective and we will continue to pursue them whether or not the budget situation improves.

A: Gilda Haas (Urban Planning Dept. UCLA and editor of Dr. Pop) – I started this program called Community Scholars in 1991, which has since been led by others. This year and last, what I’m teaching at UCLA has had at its core the idea of sharing resources.  A primary goal is to turn university resources out towards the community, by making a space for community and labor leaders, and as of lately also artists, to work with our graduate students on an applied research project for six months, and then, reciprocally, for us all to benefit from their knowledge and experience.  For almost 20 years, the program has been a collaborative effort between the urban planning department and the UCLA Labor Center.  It has rarely had line funding.  It has succeeded thus far due to a strong commitment to the idea and a sense of accountability to a constituency.  In the world of the work that I do, which is community development, popular education, and organizing for social change, there are always budget cuts.  There are always anti-union efforts to defund the labor center.  Our collaboration is necessary for survival, but more importantly, it is necessary for inspiration, creativity, breaking through silos, and expanding our networks.

Calm Before the Storm: Gearing Up For 2010/2011

31 Aug
Q&A is an irregular series on SOTA which will pose a question to a small group of faculty, staff or students from different campuses and compile their responses. If you would like to respond to the question, please do so in the comments section of this post or email ucirasota@gmail.com. Thanks to Ken Ehrlich, Marc Herbst, Peter Krapp, Brett Stalbaum, and Fred Lonidier for their responses. “Calm Before the Storm” is the 3rd installment of Q & A:
Q: Recently on Remaking the University blog Michael Meranze (UCLA) reflected on the summer and the upcoming school year: “This year crucial issues about the organization of University life and work, about the relationships between the campuses, the intersection between UC and the larger Higher Education system, about pensions, staff layoffs, and student fees are going to confront us all. This summer may have been quiet—but in all likelihood it is the calm before the storm.” SOTA wants to know what challenges do people need to be preparing for, thinking about as the school year begins? What is on your mind?
A: Ken Ehrlich (UCR – Lecturer, Art Department) – The seeds of non-cooperation have been planted. Students I’m speaking with are organizing a massive outreach campaign to refuse to pay further fee increases. They understand that such an action would only work if significant numbers of students were willing to face the consequences of non-cooperation. Faculty members on several campuses have also been mulling over active refusal of certain restrictions that limit the productive pursuit of research and instruction. One concrete proposal put forth that seems to be gaining support is actively opening classes to the un-enrolled so long as it does not disrupt the learning environment. The contest over the meaning of “public” education is far from over. It seems clear that both faculty and students refuse to make demands on an administration whose priorities lie not with education but with efficiency and further marginalization. Students, in particular, are shifting from protest to action. Continue reading

Value of Education?

26 Aug

Just revisiting this article “The Humanities Really Do Produce a Profit”, By Robert N. Watson (Chronicle of Higher Education March 21, 2010) and appreciating this quote:

No sane citizenry measures its public elementary schools by whether they pay for themselves immediately and in dollars. We shouldn’t have to make a balance-sheet argument for the humanities, either, at least not until the balance-sheet includes the value, to the student and to the state, of expanded powers of personal empathy and cross-cultural respect, improved communication through language and other symbolic systems, and increased ability to tolerate and interpret complexity, contemplate morality, appreciate the many forms of artistic beauty, and generate creative, independent thought.

Robert N. Watson is a professor of English at the University of California at Los Angeles.


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