Making art in trying times: DANM exhibition examines culture, society, and the digital world

art by avital meshi image from Classification Cube project
Avital Meshi's "Classification Cube" project inivites viewers to step into a real-virtual grid and compare the physical body with the virtual one.
Jordan Magnuson's "Videogrames After Poetry"
Jordan Magnuson's "Videogrames After Poetry" is a collection of videogame poems, seeking to reimagine videogames as a medium of poetic expression.
Yanzi Li's "Wandering" is an interactive installation that illuminates physical and emotio
Yanzi Li's "Wandering" is an interactive installation that illuminates physical and emotional entanglement with screen devices and the Internet.
Kavi Duvvori's "Titled, "Untitled"
Kavi Duvvori's "Titled, "Untitled" presents a compendium of language games by the artist, created in conversation with various models of language.
Shimul Chowdhury's "Stitching Solidarity"
Shimul Chowdhury's "Stitching Solidarity" creates an enclosed space out of quilts embroidered with images representing the lived experiences of young Muslim people.

Thirteen graduate students from the Digital Arts and New Media M.F.A. program (DANM) will conclude two years of artistic study at UC Santa Cruz with Receivership—an exhibition of their work running on campus April 26 to May 12--at the UCSC Digital Arts Research Center, Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery, and Porter Faculty Gallery.

Bringing together the arts, digital technologies, the humanities, and the sciences, the DANM program is designed to produce artworks and scholarly research that examine culture, society, and the digital world. 

"It's incredibly exciting to be expanding this year's DANM MFA showcase to the Sesnon Gallery, and to be extending the run-of-show as well," noted Robin Hunicke, acting director of the DANM Program. "DANM's graduating students continue to push the boundaries of what digital art means in the context of today's political, economic and global climate.”

“Works in this year's show look at the role of social media in our lives, the ways our bodies process sound and light, and the ways in which technology approaches, labels and represents us to each other. Through their work, the students are interrogating what it means to ‘entertain’ to ‘play’ and ‘interact’ with screens, people and the planet."

"The truth is that we live in trying times,” Hunicke added. “In many ways, this show works to address the physical, emotional and financial turbulence we experience when systems break down, leadership fails, and the way ahead is uncertain. Having the opportunity to share this work with the public via this expanded and enhanced format is a testament to UCSC's commitment to creating art that helps us confront difficult and meaningful questions.”

The exhibition is curated by John Weber, director of the Institute of the Arts and Sciences at UC Santa Cruz. He noted that the artists in this year’s exhibition embrace video, virtual reality, the internet, computer programming, photography, sound, music, and related analog processes as baseline tools for creating art.

“The artists in this cohort began their graduate studies in the autumn of 2016,” said Weber. “Since that time, fundamental assumptions and structures governing human institutions have been shaken at the international, national, and local levels, calling forth an aesthetics of engagement and resistance. That spirit is visible in a number of the works in this exhibition.”

“At the same time, other pieces subtly explore processes of perception and aesthetic reception,” Weber added. “They create immersive, deeply interactive experiences of sound, language, color, and the human experience. But technology, if omnipresent, is never an end in itself. It is a tool, a domain, and a condition to be harnessed in the service of something greater. This work testifies to the power of art experience, and to its capacity to impact human lives and the social world.”

A series of opening events for the exhibition will take place on Saturday, April 27. Artist talks are scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. at DARC 308, and the student artists will also be available to talk about their work in the galleries from 4 to 5 p.m. This will be followed by an opening reception outdoors by the Porter College Koi Pond at 5 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.

“The DANM MFA thesis exhibition is a perennial favorite of arts faculty, students and alumni,” observed interim dean of the arts Edward (Ted) Warburton. “This cohort is an especially adventurous, experienced, and talented group, and I’m very excited to see what they’ve produced. I also want to recognize John Weber of the Institute of the Arts and Sciences for his outstanding curatorial expertise and Shelby Graham of the Sesnon Gallery for her active guidance in supporting the students’ work.”