The Authorship of Receivership

Graduation exhibition reflects diverse cohort

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How do you name an art show featuring multimedia works from 13 different artists, each with their own theme and message? I found the answer at the Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) program’s most recent  exhibition.

“Receivership” is the Master of Fine Arts exhibition for this year’s graduating DANM cohort, running from April 26 to May 12. I decided to stop by to learn more about the pieces on display and the artists who made them.

Prior to the cohort’s arrival in fall 2016, the DANM program at UC Santa Cruz went into the Dean of Art’s receivership. Insecure funding and staff turnover made the artists’ first year unsure, but as they moved into their second year, they found their footing and produced the art seen in  “Receivership.”

“This show is not only in direct response to that and the things that we’ve overcome in the past two years,” said Shimul Chowdhury, one of the artists graduating this year, “but also, on a broader level, all of our work in some way addresses leadership, structural and institutional issues and navigating those in totally different ways.”

Receivership also alludes to the concept of reception theory, a hot topic in the art world focusing on how art becomes art when perceived by an audience. Visitors receive what the DANM artists have to say about current social, political and environmental problems. 

I took several trips to the Digital Arts Research Center (DARC) and the Porter-Sesnon galleries where the pieces are displayed. I penned a love letter to the future, reenacted birth virtually and wove my way around wooden beams to make music. I felt like an active participant and recipient partaking in the process of the  artwork.

“Receivership” is not only the culmination of two years of artistic exploration and creation. The exhibition also represents the artists’ perseverance and dedication to their craft. The seamless integration into one exhibit makes a space for entertainment, appreciation and dialogue all at once.

John S. Weber, director of UCSC’s Institute of the Arts and Sciences, curated the show and worked toward arranging the pieces in a way that highlighted their cohesion while still giving them room to be appreciated individually.

“A lot of the pieces are really interactive and they ask you to do something with them,” said Weber. “It’s a good social experience. The show is thought-provoking and it’s also a lot of fun.”

“Code-Switching” by Keegan Farrell at Digital Arts Research Center (DARC) room 108. Photo by Lluvia Moreno.

‘Code-Switching’

Part interactive film, part video game environment, “Code-Switching” is Keegan Farrell’s thesis project that tackles issues of racism and denormalizing racist ways of thinking. The piece challenges visitors to think critically about how racist ideologies manifest themselves in our society. By embodying a Black femme avatar modeled after the artist, players encounter aggressions from her personal narrative and broader social settings.

“I’m hoping people are able to be open to hearing Black women’s experiences more,” Farrell said. “I hope that people are able to reflect on their own behavior, whether they’re white people or non-Black people, or Black people for that matter, reflecting on their own positionality with relation to these  issues.”

Farrell used the opportunity of the DANM program to express her lived experiences and share them through an artistic platform. Rather than searching for a “right” or “wrong” way of engaging with these topics, she made the project to reflect the truths she has come to know as a Black woman in America.

“Stitching Solidarity” by Shimul Chowdhury at the Mary Porter-Sesnon gallery. Photo by Lluvia Moreno.

‘Stitching Solidarity’

Shimul Chowdhury wove together fabric art and Muslim student experiences. After asking Muslim individuals what they associate with the concept of home, she stitched their responses onto fabric that then became part of the tent-like structure displayed in the Porter-Sesnon gallery.

“Even people who may not exactly understand the specific memories and trauma that exist for Muslim people in terms of belonging are still actively engaging with this conversation in some way,” Chowdhury said.

I saw the different definitions of home on the outside of the cloth structure. Inside the tent, there was a station where I could stitch something of my own, making me think about the messages surrounding me and the people they belonged to.

“{remnants} of a {ritual}” by Zoe Sandoval at the Digital Arts Research Center (DARC). Photo courtesy of David Pace.

‘{remnants} of a {ritual}’

Projected palm trees and pale purple tones fill the room this piece inhabits. As I navigated the space, I encountered its three distinct aspects. There are hanging strands of crystallized folded paper, a cauldron of clear liquid where pieces of paper sit submerged and stations with pens and paper.

These areas represent past, present and future, but the piece also explores memory, love, longing and wonder. Following the prompts the artist arranged, I wrote a message to the future on a piece of translucent paper. After folding it as artfully as I could manage, I dropped it into the bowl containing the solution that would crystallize it.

“I always wanted the piece to have this responsive quality to it,” Zoe Sandoval said about their initial idea for the piece. “In making the piece participatory and interactive, I wanted people to experience the same gratification I had in making the sculpture and making the work.”

“Musicians” by Gregory Sullo at the Porter Faculty Gallery. Photo by Lluvia Moreno.

‘Musicians’

A sine wave is the purest form of sound, but it doesn’t occur in nature. Unnatural yet fluid sounds pour forth from the room where Gregory Sullo’s piece is displayed. “Musicians” occupies the Porter Faculty Gallery and consists of several speakers affixed to wooden beams, all emitting the same sound wave at different  frequencies.

The title of the piece reflects how the public is meant to interact with it. By moving around the room and changing their relative position to the origins of sounds, visitors become musicians and the room an instrument.

“You control your own auditory experience within the parameters of the instrument,” Sullo said of the acousmatic  experience.  


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