Digital Arts and New Media: MFA: Collaboration, Innovation, Social Impact

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Signs of Life: 2021 DANM MFA Graduation Exhibition opening

Wednesday, April 14, 2021 - 12:00am

Explore the full exhibit at the DANM MFA website

Run Dates: April 12 - May 7, 2021

Featured Artists:

M. James Becker - L'art du Treillageur
Nick Junius - Tracks in Snow
Haoran Chang - Fair Sai Re Pi LLC
Erin Single - Dust Warning
Rey Cordova - Walled In: An American Ritual
Patrick Stefaniak - CLOTH^3
Dayna Diamond - Bluestockings
Stephanie Layton - The Illusion of Control(er)

Curator's Statement

During their program at UC Santa Cruz the cohort of 2021 which graduates this year have endured a series of trials: the viral pandemic, which forced them to adopt new modes of virtual working; a Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) strike in which many of this cohort were active; an unusally active fire season in which the flames grazed the UCSC campus and the Black Lives Matter protests– an outswelling of public rage against the pandemic of US racism. This exhibition is not ‘about’ any of these things, but the works presented bear the traces of students’ negotiation of these processes and events as they make the transition to artistic practice outside of the University.

The COLA strike revealed deep inequities at the University. DANM students were vocal in their support of this protest and some of their work embraced civic action and political protest as a dimension of art practice. The viral pandemic has forced us all into new modes of thinking, working and making art. The zoom seminars which enabled us all to continue university learning, teaching and research, were liberating at first – abolishing distance and proposing a quasi-democratic way of relating, but eventually became repressive. Our students had to develop their art practice virtually, working from home without the recourse to studio facilities – though access to these was gradually improved. Indeed this experience seems to have encouraged students to work between media – sculpture, performance, video, and in some cases to insist on a live studio element of their work.

There is a paradox at the centre of the DANM project - it involves digital media, and inevitably engages the internet. However while the artworld may have embraced virtuality as a form of display and marketing, we present a quite different approach, one involving liveness and location to engage critical alternative narratives, alternative political and social themes, however opaque those manifestations may appear.

This website presents links to individual artist projects. Artists statements will be complemented by individual commentaries elaborating on some of the themes of their work. It is too early to say whether this exhibition represents a new chapter of Iinternet art, Despite the boom in online exhibitions, and emergence of blockchain NFT art work, few manage to work across media and engage viewers the way the traditional exhibition does.

We engaged a student filmmaker (Jordan Freeman) to document the studio element of our artist’ projects so that visitors to our virtual show could appreciate the depth and complexity of all the works featured. Because of Covid restrictions artists projects will be added to the website as they are completed. Some feature live relays from the DANM studios.

The real exhibition then is both this online exhibition as well as the various live elements which intersect and diverge from it. Involving as it does in real life sculptural installation and performance as well as Virtual Reality and alternative gaming experiences this show demonstrates the heterogeneous aesthetic of contemporary digital art.

This exhibition is a sign that the artistic imagination is alive and well. Perhaps the survival of the trials outlined above serves to initiate our artists into deeper and more complex practices, reinventing themselves to maintain sustainability. What used to be a local university exhibition is now connected to the world through the digital medium of the internet. We encourage you to engage with these new voices which reflect our difficult new times.

-Mark Nash,

Curator of the 2021 DANM MFA Exhibition