UC Santa Cruz Digital Arts and New Media program presents the 2024 MFA exhibition: "Embodiments"


The Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) program is showcasing the students’ best work in its annual MFA exhibition. Entitled Embodiments, the show features multimedia exhibits including visual novels, games and virtual reality as explorations into identity.

“I am looking forward to the ways in which these graduating artists explore challenging questions of identity and power,” says g. craig hobbs, a visiting professor at UC Santa Cruz who curated the exhibition. “Their work embodies a collective will toward transformation of self and society through artmaking, cultural engagement and experimentation.” 

Embodiments tackles issues of queer and trans identity politics, erotic energy in the digital age, visual cultures of gay social spaces, experiences of trauma, access, and bodily autonomy. Embodiments implies not just one way of being in a body but a myriad of ways of being, in the world, in our bodies, through creative experiences of experimentation, catharsis and play.

Works by the various artists including Jordan Fickel, Kristopher Funk, Robbie Trocchia, Saul Villegas, and Elliot Rex White have been featured both on and off campus including UC Santa Cruz’s quarterly open studio show. “I’m not a curator who seeks a unification with the work, rather a collective distribution of peer-to-peer knowledge that allows the audience to explore, discover, ask questions,” says Hobbs.

Embodiments offers viewers a unique chance to experience the emerging artists coming from UC Santa Cruz. It will also be the last DANM MFA show for at least the next year due to restructuring in the program.

The exhibition will be open for two weeks starting on April 26. It will kick off with a reception at 4:00 PM April 26 to celebrate its opening.

About the Artists

Jordan Fickel
Eagle UCSC

Mixed media installation



Jordan Fickel is a multidisciplinary artist specializing in sound and game technology, wooden cutouts, and graffiti tools. His solo work interrogates unexamined normative viewpoints to create installations and sound pieces. Jordan is influenced by media and glitch art, the queer community, video games, and his personal experience with neurodivergence. His MFA thesis work includes elements of social practice and experimental documentary.  Jordan collaborates as half of the art duo BEARPAD, creating explicitly fat positive and sex positive queer installations for parties and galleries all over the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.

Artist Statement

In Eagle UCSC, I delve into the unexamined history of art within leather bars and kink spaces, while also proposing a forward-looking vision for the community's visual culture amidst shifting landscapes of queer bodies and desires. Collaborating with a diverse group of contemporary gay artists, I aim to present a more inclusive and reflective portrayal of the diverse bodies and desires prevalent in these spaces today. The suspended wooden figures, crafted with a jigsaw in homage to the traditional form of artwork found in leather bars, serve as embodiments of this modern perspective. Central to the installation is a physical wooden bar, symbolizing the historical foundation of the leather community by presenting interviews and historical media. Sitting at the bar positions one between the past and the potential futures of these rapidly disappearing spaces.

Kristopher Funk
Facades of Ingress
Interactive puzzle-based experience
Arduino, wood, cardboard, pill bottles, microelectronics, foam


​​Kristopher Funk is a mixed-media installation artist born and raised in the Bay Area. He creates puzzle-based experiences that tackle questions of identity and access, specifically dealing with their experiences navigating the world as a transgender crip. Funk synthesizes sculptural, interactive, and spatial practices to critique topics of gender, identity, disability, and access. Funk received a BFA in Comparative Media Studies and Game Design from Whittier College in 2021 and is working towards his MFA in Digital Art and New Media at UCSC. They have exhibited their work at Liminal Space’s “Northern Lights” and during Open Studio events at UCSC. Kristopher Berardi currently resides in Santa Cruz, California.

Artist Statement

Through the forest of Spoons lies a monster that many have faced, but few have laid slain. A large looming beast that provides you with the accommodations you need to survive. Pill bottle crystals shimmer along its body as it stares you down with its glowing eyes. It knows you need it. It knows it can’t let you go. Can you see through its facade to the truth?

Facades of Ingress is an interactive puzzle-based experience revealing the monster that lies at the center of the institution. It holds the power to grant accommodations and provide an avenue to accessible education for all. Instead, it is greedy. It creates complex systems of paperwork, deeply intrusive medical exams, and copious layers of bureaucracy to hold hostage the resources it hordes.

This project stems from the anger and frustration I have dealt with trying to gain accommodations necessary for me to exist in the academic world. Over the summer of 2023, between my first and second years of graduate school, a monster began to form in my head. A greedy, gargoyle-esque creature that hoarded all my medication that doctors and insurance were making it so hard to receive. This monster grew as I leaped through hurdle after hurdle, trying to gain my right to accessible education. I dealt with harassment from fellow students and faculty. I dealt with a lack of belief in my ability to be in this program. I dealt with doctor appointments, meetings, emails, and invasive discussions about my health from all sides while also growing sicker and continuing toward my degree. This piece is the accumulation of everything I have faced.

Made mostly of foam, cardboard, and pill bottles, this piece features a series of microelectronic puzzles hidden inside of the monster, each representing challenges one must deal with in order to gain accommodations in higher education. Players will have to work their way through a series of purposely obtuse puzzles only to find that this game has no end. Like the institutional systems meant to help disabled folks through society, it instead holds them in place. A facade of helpfulness and community, a metaphor for the neverending hoops disabled folks have to jump through in order to survive in society. It provides illusions of ingress and gives the player hopes of power, freedom, and access, but instead blocks their progress forward.

Robbie Trocchia
Performance and interactive installation 
eroto-system is a multimedia performance that guides audience members through an installation activated by their own bodies. The performance is set in a futuristic showroom, presenting a new form of technology that absorbs erotic charge and converts it into a renewable source of energy. Audiences are instructed to cycle between “pumping” the receivers with various parts of their bodies in collective sonic harmony and “charging” their batteries in moments of vibratory solitude.
Robbie Trocchia is an artist working in performance, sound, video, installation, and sculpture. In his performances and multimedia installations, he explores embodiment, desire, and intimacy. Robbie’s work engages with entanglements of the self and collectivity through collaborative processes. He takes an anachronistic approach to (re)contextualizing objects, bodies, and formal structures to speculate on the undiscovered potentialities of queer subcultural experiences. He is currently working in collaboration with Nicki Duval on a growing series of performances developed with competitive athletes. He has presented work in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and San Francisco and has participated in residencies at Espai Souvenir (Barcelona), Espacio Lavadero (Granada), and Locust Projects (Miami). He received his BA in American Studies from Vassar College in 2014 and is a 2024 MFA candidate in Digital Arts and New Media at University of California, Santa Cruz.

Saul Villegas
Cristela’s Shadow
Materials TBD


Born and raised in a rural city of Avenal in the Central Valley, CA, Saul Villegas is an interdisciplinary artist who emerged through the Latino community as a philanthropist of the arts. His work in the E.A.R.T.H. Lab, OpenLab Collaborative Research Center, and the Venom Lab at UCSC has focused in art and science projects that address the environment and reimagining of archives. His research focuses on the exploration of scientific taxomonies  of mental imagery and optics as a way to visualize those characteristics.  

Artist Statement

Cristela’s Shadow  is a three-part installation in the virtual and physical space that compartmentalizes materials into video projection, VR, and photography pictorial media. The work builds on the themes of memory, perception and trauma as viewers encounter my cathartic experience of losing a loved one. Building on art and science themes, the arrangements of materials depict my transformative journey of healing and dealing with grief. The immersive virtual environment allows viewers to encounter a landscape where memories are expressed through a mind map that explores the five stages of grief. Employing an autoethnographic methodology, my work delves into the complexities of trauma, utilizing imaginal exposure techniques to explore its transformative potential for healing  through art.

Elliot Rex White
A Night for Flesh and Roses
Game + installation
Paper, found image collage, fabric, latex, silicone, video projections, digital game and interface

Elliot Rex White is an artist from Los Angeles, California currently working in Santa Cruz. They primarily create experimental narrative games drawing from a sculpture and digital illustration practice. Influenced heavily by science fiction and body horror, they utilize speculative biology to explore ways personal embodiment can extend into strange new forms as well as how the monster can be a place of identity. Their work mingles together the grotesque, comedic, and sometimes unsettling to articulate experiences of neurodivergent trans life.

Their games and animation works have been featured at the UC Davis Film Festival, 2018 & 2019, the Melbourne Queer Games Festival, 2020, and UCSC’s Arts Division Open Studios, 2023. Their dragon puppet design and fabrication for Unibeauty and Her Wicked Daughters was performed by UCSC’s theater department, also in 2023. They are a graduate from UC Davis with a BFA in Studio Art and Cinema & Digital Media and will graduate from UCSC’s Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) MFA program in spring 2024.

Artist Statement
A Night for Flesh and Roses is a single player, gothic, borderline romantic, visual novel where players investigate a strange imagined future, those living in it, and construct their own ideas of bodies. Surrounding players is an immersive, physical installation creating passages of fleshy/fabric textured collages that evoke the style of the game itself. Familiar becomes alien as characters are constructed out of human body parts in seemingly deeply unnatural ways. The environment provides an immersive atmosphere for individuals playing, but also welcomes others to explore in physical space. Visitors may participate in analog, monster making collage exercises reflecting themes explored in digital space and emulating the process of constructing characters for this world. Utilizing old medical diagrams, players are invited to critique authoritative constraints put on bodies and question the existence of default, natural bodies.

Projected anatomical collages from Gray’s Anatomy mixed with fabric, photographs, and textures on fabric envelop a space for exploration and play. Reds, pinks, purples, and greens fill the atmosphere as players interact with a digital game that combines collage and stop motion animation. Crunchy, low framerate, paper puppets speak from their biomechanical world with evocative text transporting players into an alien space. Audio fluctuates between rhythmically bassy and metallic; a cyborg remixing of sound, texture, and flesh. Players grip a computer mouse with silicone engulfing it via Cronenberg-like tentacles. Watching them, figures are illuminated through latex membranes blurring the lines between the rectangular container of the game and physical space. Tactile and playful. The body is reimagined and reconstituted as a vessel for new possibilities.

This piece is a reflection on transgender surgery while existing in a society rife with transphobic and terf (“trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” or “gender critical”) rhetoric that asserts the deviancy and inauthenticity of surgically (and hormonally) changed bodies. It speculates a world where flesh remixing and bodily change are not merely allowed within a state/medical power structure, but freely given, and spontaneously generated. Just as humans invent the concept of the body and boundaries between things, this game represents a deconstruction of taxonomies that exist for power and control. Games in gallery spaces are becoming more common, bringing new challenges for presentation. This piece explores how to present a game in a non-sterile, tactile, and playful way. Bridging digital and analog spaces, it continues the tradition of indie games that are messy, trans, and full of monsters.

More Information


Exhibition Dates: April 26, 27 & May 1-4, 2024

12:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Opening Reception: April 26, 4 p.m.

University of California, Santa Cruz

Digital Arts Research Center

407 McHenry Rd

Santa Cruz, CA 95064


Free and open to the public