Thought-provoking new works of media art in exhibition by Digital Arts and New Media MFAs

The UC Santa Cruz Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) MFA program presents unforgetting, the culminating exhibition of its 2022 MFA cohort, on view free to the public at the Digital Arts Research Center April 22-May 1 with a special performance May 20-29 at the Experimental Theater. Curated by DANM affiliate faculty, research associate, and lecturer in music and art Yolande Harris, unforgetting features a diverse array of new media art works by five graduating artists.

“The exhibition captures the essence of the five individual voices that have formed out of two years of concentrated artistic research and development at DANM,” says Harris. “Common threads of lost histories, hidden realties, and hauntings permeate the works.” 

Mohamadreza Babaee, an Iranian performance and digital media studies scholar and transdisciplinary artist, contributes Global (re)Entry, a work that creatively simulates the Customs and Border Protection agency’s Global Entry software, created to ease traveler screening for ‘low-risk’ US citizens and permanent residents, and redesigns it as a pro-immigrant 2D video game and installation. Says Babaee, “This project aims to intervene in the failing, current US immigration system. The game encourages a closer look at systems through which social, political, and civic ostracization of immigrants is perpetuated. Moreover, the project invites players to formulate an ideal vision of society based in equality, fairness, and inclusion.”

Egyptian-American film and theater maker Laura Boutros explores the Egyptian-American diaspora in Amduat: The Twelve Hours of Ra, an immersive, multimedia theater work taking place over two weekends, May 20-29. The work, which draws on ancient Egyptian myths, situates Egyptian aesthetics in the Western museum space, taking audiences on a ‘docent’ tour led by major figures in Egypt’s Pharaonic age. “The piece questions the legacies of colonialism in narratives and history while highlighting the media’s role in perpetuating misinformation surrounding Egypt’s stories,” says Boutros.

Troubled Waters: The Ocean as a Contested Space in California Surf Culture is the name of Dave Crellin’s site-specific installation exploring the history of white supremacy, racialized exclusion, and erasure in surf and beach popular culture. The project includes an ongoing intervention at surf sites along the California coast using surf culture-styled stickers embedded with QR codes to educate the public; activism within surf marketing and consumer culture; audio recordings of surfers of color; and an interactive website. Says Crellin, an interdisciplinary artist and lifelong surfer, “My hope is that this project instantiates a reckoning and reevaluation in white surf culture, brings greater awareness to surfers of color, scholars, activists, and creatives working to change surf culture, and opens further space to reimagine the beach and ocean as places of equity, inclusion, diversity, and community.”

Forest Reid, a sound designer, composer, and installation artist, presents The Last Galician Switchboard, an interactive, multi-screen video installation that follows a switchboard operator in 1930s Detroit who is haunted by family left behind in Eastern Europe. The piece was inspired by familial letters from the late 1910s that contain words of personal anguish and pleas for help from relatives in war-ravaged Europe. The Last Galician Switchboard incorporates these letters as well as excerpts from Yiddish theater, literature, and folklore. “The work uses switchboards to patch the dead into the living, to answer unanswered letters of desperation, and to connect the present to the past that haunts it,” states Reid.

dani wright, a queer game designer and digital artist, offers blood play, an installation that explores their concept of a ‘queer gothic’ genre through game fragments, printed zines, installation, and theory. wright says, “The work I am presenting sets an example for how we, as queer game designers, can engage with queer, gothic, and monster theory while working within the queer gothic genre, which I identify as a radical genre that relies on gothic structures to usurp the status quo.”

DANM researches the creative potentials and social implications of emerging technologies and digital cultural practices. The two-year MFA program emphasizes artistic and technological innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, and social action. 

More information about unforgetting can be found here.

Information about viewing Amduat: The Twelve Hours of Ra is available here.