This semester the students of New Media 201: Questioning New Media were tasked with rethinking the intersection between art, activism and new media in light of the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement. Throughout the semester, students attended the Art, Technology, and Culture Colloquium lectures hosted by the Center for New Media and the Arts Research Center, read related texts, and discussed the convergence of these ideas. As their final assignment, they reimagined the lectures given during the fall 2014 ATC season and challenged the themes discussed by the speakers, who include John Perry Barlow, Maya Lin, Brett Cook, Cheryl Haines, and Rick Lowe. Their work was often funny, often beautiful, and always thought-provoking. Congratulations New Media 201!
Félix Treviño‘s presentation “Between Page and Screen” discussed a book comprised of QR codes that demanded readers use their webcam and computer screen to read the text. Blurring boundaries between the physical and digital as words appeared, exploded, and spun apart based on the physical movement of the object, the book asked the audience to consider their relationship to the written word, and to their online presence.
Daisy Kim discussed “(In)Visibility and Asian Americans in Social Media.” Her research used digital humanities tools to explore Asian American identity online. Daisy ultimately found that activism of Asian American communities online is relatively low, owing to a lack of cohesion around the term Asian American. Where activism existed it arose not with the positive sense of identity making, but in terms of absence as a result of being part of a minority.
Marcy Monroe presented “Architecture is Radical,” arguing that architecture in its very decisions about where and how to built is politicized. To explain this, Marcy discussed rebuilding efforts in a Japanese town wiped out by the Tohoku tsunami. Certain architects took the time to talk to locals who had knowledge of escape routes and safe areas to build. However, central government and outside organizations insisted on reconstructing the broken sea wall and building on lower ground, effectively ensuring that another disaster will occur in the future.
Naomi Bragin explored “Anti-Human Corp/orality and Black Power Loco-motives: working Soul Train Lines from Funky Robot to Hip Hop.” Beginning with Soul Train, where communities would gather around a television set to practice and create new movements, street dancers developed a form of movement based on the isolation and jerking of muscles and ultimately the dislocation of the body as the physical becomes roboticized and freed from hegemonic power structures. Naomi displayed how this functions for the audience through dance.
Miyoko Conley channeled Cheryl Haines in her “Collective Passions, Collective Interventions: Intersections of Art and Activism in Fan Culture.” Dressing up as the ATC speaker, Conley discussed art and activism in co-splay as the For-Site curator might. In so doing, Miyoko questioned who defines “art” and “activism” and who has access to these items. Miyoko also considered the labor involved in art and its creation.
Randi Marie Evans considered Brett Cook and Rick Lowe’s lecture in “Can an Institution be a Critique? Can a Critique be a Body?” Randi had the audience write definitions of both institution and critique à la Brett Cook and then posed the question as to whether the For-Site Foundation, Project Row Houses and What is Missing? are institutions and critiques. She then considered how ARC Director Shannon Jackson defines institutional critique and challenged whether institutions are capable of critique.
Anna Carey tackled “Art, Women and Wikipedia,” drawing attention to how underrepresented women are in the editing of Wikipedia articles, and therefore how few women artists have Wikipedia pages. Carey explained how this misrepresents women’s role in history, effectively making it even more difficult for young women to succeed given that they have so few role models. Carey called on the women in the audience to try editing and become involved in outreach programs aimed at increasing women’s representation online.