image of Professor Angela Marino and graduate student Manuel Cuellar (TDPS) at the
Professor Angela Marino and and graduate student Manuel Cuellar (TDPS), who worked together as ARC Fellows, participate in the “Sharing Questions” symposium. (Photo: courtesy of ARC)

Last semester the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley (ARC) welcomed five graduate students and five faculty members into its ARC Fellows Program, in an effort to connect scholars and practitioners across disciplines. The participants, drawn from fields ranging from architecture to women’s studies, met regularly to present and discuss their creative and scholarly projects.

On May 10, the ARC Fellows presented an informal symposium titled “Sharing Questions” on  the challenges and rewards of interdisciplinary arts research. The symposium was open to the public.

Fellows remarked how fruitful it had been for their projects — which ranged from interactive public art installations to co-authored journal articles — to consider questions posed by colleagues from other fields and to notice some of the common themes that emerged among their seemingly disparate areas of research.

The ARC Fellows Program is open to all advanced graduate students and faculty members as they pursue semester-long collaborative projects. Applications are typically available in December. To learn more, visit ARC’s website. 

About Spring 2013 Fellows

Manuel R. Cuellar is a PhD candidate in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender & Sexuality; Angela Marino is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies. Manuel and Angela focused on cultural performance, fiestas and other large-scale, (devotional and secular) mass performances that historically and presently transmit the stories, histories, and worldviews of those traditionally excluded from various forms of archived knowledge production linked to law, policy, states, and the academy. They conducted a series of readings and interviews with two leading scholars in areas of performance, dance, theater, and poetry/literature in the Americas, Diana Taylor (NYU) and Leda Martins (Universidade de Minas Gerais, Brazil). Their research focuses on the ways various communities — especially Indigenous (Mayan, Nahua, and Aymaran) and Afro-descendant (Bantu Congados, Devil Dances in Pacific Mexico and Caribbean coast of Venezuela) — organize cultural performance as a means to establish continuity of symbolic and material power both locally and globally through embodied practice. They are currently working on the publication of their interviews, defining the stakes of fiesta performance as epistemologies, and addressing the need to further explore its significance as an interdisciplinary area of focus in the academy and in various public engagements with producers, actors, scholars and community spectators.

Jason Fritz is an MFA candidate in Art Practice; Mel Y. Chen is an Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies. Jason studies the realm of self-help, history, the body and illness, as they come together to form a braid of interlocking meanings, truths and myths. As ARC Fellows, he and Mel examined the work of legendary self-help leader Louise L. Hay and a series of seminars she hosted at the height of the AIDS pandemic dubbed “Hayrides.” Part performance, part healing circles, Hay’s seminars sought to teach these dying young men that her self-help philosophy could “cure” them — but considering that nearly all of those who attended these seminars died from HIV/AIDS-related disease, it’s easy to wonder whether she was selling them powerful medicine or snake oil.

Nathan John is in the final year of the Master of Architecture program at the College of Environmental Design; Nicholas de Monchaux is Assistant Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at UC Berkeley, where he serves on the executive committee of the Berkeley Center for New Media. “How much is required to change the space of the city?  Who has the agency to take action in public space? What are the ramifications — political, social, aesthetic, experiential — of doing so?  Can we imagine an architecture that is both resolute and flexible, that reacts to systemic conditions at a hyper-local level?” Nathan’s project, spacehacking//citytactics, undertaken with Nicholas’s collaboration and supervision, addresses these fundamental questions through the instantiation of two interventions into the fabric of North Oakland. The first, paralite, is a reactive light installation for poorly-lit pedestrian walkways. The second, rockspeak, is a reactive soundscape generator for vacant and disused spaces. In these instances, the ethos and techniques of the hacker/maker movement and the material and tectonic palettes of the architectural avant-garde are leveraged in testing the potential of these temporary interventions to reorient our perceptions of urban environments.

Sahar Khoury is an MFA candidate in Art Practice; Jeffrey Skoller is an Associate Professor in Film and Media. Jeffrey mentored Sahar on an installation of objects and film created in the street where day laborers gather to find employment. For the past three years, Sahar Khoury has worked as an ethnographer on a NIAAA-funded mixed method study of the structural vulnerability of Latino migrant day laborers in the Bay Area. Her frustrations with the inability to share the data collected with the very men whose lives and experiences fueled the research (due to ethical restrictions and language differences) led her to explore other forms of meaning-making independent of the social science research models. While she is still managing the qualitative database of the mixed-method research project, the artistic production that happens on-site is conducted purely for artistic purposes and is created and shared with the producers, an iterative process of aesthetic knowledge creation out of the vestiges of social science research production and methodology. The materials include a digital camera, a hand-built mobile screen, printing cart, and the objects produced while waiting for work. The dialogues and critiques that emerge from the cart are a thematic shuffling of allegiances and contestations that point to spaces that art makes visible.

Padma Maitland is a PhD student in Architecture; Penny Edwards is an Associate Professor of Southeast Asian Studies. Inspired by a collection of animal iconography and imagery from South and Southeast Asia at the Berkeley Art Museum spanning several centuries and multiple genres, their project Art|Artful: Animating South and Southeast Asia is oriented towards the curation of an exhibit in Spring 2014. They plan to present the show in tandem with a freshman seminar on the artistic and literary depiction of animals in regional folklore and mythology. Before diving into the practicalities of planning and organizing an exhibition, they have focused on conceptual framing and curatorial questions. Their hope is to engage people in broader considerations of animals and animation within the artwork as a meeting point for cross-disciplinary conversations on the region, its history, and broader discourses of art and artfulness.