Blog Post

ATC Candice Breitz Lecture TODAY and Follow up Q to Utterback's Talk

Just a reminder about today's Berkeley Center for New Media  Art Technology and Culture Colloquium featuring new media artist, Candice Breitz!

Breitzs lecture is entitled, "From A to B and Back Again." It will start at 7:30 located at 160 Kroeber Hall, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720. For more information, please visit:   

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The last ATC lecture was give by artist and recent recipient of the McArthur fellowship, Camille Utterback. I tend to love artist talks, just because I Love Artists generally, (as poet Mei-mei Berssenbrugge titled her book of poetry) and its always illuminating to hear an artist talk about her work, in person. In particular, Utterback's lecture provoked questions for me around the politics of access, technology, and public art. Utterback presented many pieces, one being Liquid Time, a video installation featured in the Tenderloin, San Francisco.  Part of the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA) "Tendorama Window Gallery Project which is a "series of rotating bi-monthly installations in the gallerys prominent 15 x 8 front display windows facing Taylor Street."

"Liquid Time" utilizes film footage of people in the Tenderloin, and then, the visual imagery is projected back in the gallery. An intervention occurs when people passing by, disrupts the images in the gallery space, through their motion, that fragments filmic time. As stated on Utterback's website, as "viewers move awaythe image heals in their wakelike a pond returning to stillness. The interface of one's body which can only exist in one place, at one time becomes the means to create a space in which multiple times and perspectives coexist."

 For more information, please visit: 


At the Q & A, an astute comment and question were made on the politics of gentrification and socio-political issues surrounding "Liquid Time." Specifically, on the exhibits placement in a neighborhood known for poverty, homelessness, and immigrant communities, a population of people who struggle with social, cultural, and economic structural inequities.

In response to this question, Utterback provided insights when interacting with people who had expressed appreciation for the public gallery space in the neighborhood during the exhibit's opening night. However, Utterback did not engage with the socio-political implications--if I recall correctly--explaining it was a large question. The socio-economic issues surrounding the Tenderloin is certainly larger than any one person to provide an answer, and its understandable for Utterback to explain it as such.  However, I wonder about the politics of participatory new media art, for example, in a neighborhood like the Tenderloin.

I am particularly interested as I have been working with the San Francisco Dept. of Public Health, Forensic AIDS Project in the possibility of providing digital media storytelling training for women of color in the San Francisco jails, which is not too far from the Tenderloin. So these questions around community access, art, and social engagement have been on my mind. Certainly when thinking about possible technological interventions social justice issues, they are pressing.

Some questions: How can new media art fully engage with members of marginalized communities who are not fairly represented in dominant culture, and have little access in the production of art? What does public art actually entail in terms of engagement? How could artists empower marginalized communities to create their own images and art? Would it entail providing not only access in participation in an exhibit, but actual training and skills? How can digital citizenship be extended to all people through art and culture?

During the summer, I watched emerging visual artist Jillian Soto's film, Color Watch at the Queer Women of Color Film Festival in San Francisco. The film documented the pervasive surveillance of communities of color in San Francisco and the U.S. Mexico border, namely the Mission District.

How can we tease out the nuances between  surveillance/filming utilized for different purposes and outcomes?

From: 1) state sanctioned policing 2) new media art ?

I feel that Utterback's work brings a lot of beauty and innovation into our world, along with an interesting participatory engagement with interface and play. And it seems that the strategic placement of the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA) provides tremendous potential and resouces to provide access to communities who are largely denied digital citizenship. As stated on their website, "GAFFTA is a San Francisco-based nonprofit dedicated to building social consciousness through digital culture."

Interested if others may have any resources, articles, or opinions on this issue? Definitely relates to the insights on the HASTAC thread Democratizing Knowledge in the Digital Humanities.          



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