New Media Caucus (NMC) Diversity Panel 

Sponsored by University of Michigan
Stamps School of Art and Design
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiative

3pm – 6:15pm, Saturday September 21st @ The The Art & Architecture Building

Today, we are facing micro and macro aggressions of threats of “The Wall” at global and local scales, affecting all human bodies. We drown in the media war on Trump’s victory wall between the Mexican and US border; the post-internet wireless world turns out to be less than borderless as exemplified with China’s Great Firewall as an erected government surveillance; cold war tensions continue regardless of the collapse of the Berlin Wall; and nobody really cares about North Korea as long as the DMZ reinforces the splitting world power-relations. Moreover, Brexit is about leaving the European Union to deface the monetary burden of the Syrian refugee crisis, while more border-patrolled walls keep millions of Middle Eastern and African refugees from entering Europe. Every nation-state borderline contours a separation to prop up naturalized citizens, whereas undocumented bodies are systematically left in the gutter. Walls and borders displace bodies, and every neighborhood, block, or fence strategically borders off the “others.” The New Media Caucus (NMC) Diversity Panel, comprised of artists who use new media in their work, demonstrate artistic responses for countering scattered hegemonies, walls, borders in our world of increasing cultural, ideological, political, economic divisions. This is what diversity looks like in WOKE New Media.

Chair/Moderator: Mina Cheon
Artists/Panelists: Part I – Mina Cheon (Introduction), Christopher KojzarVictor F M Torres, Allana Clarke 
Part 2 – Antonio McAfee, Kei Ito & Andrew Paul Keiper, Vagner Mendonça-Whitehead (Conclusion)
There will be a 15-minute break from 4:30 – 4:45 between the two parts of the panel.

“Dreaming Unification, Eating Choco-Pies, Walk for Peace, and Information Media Penetration into North Korea” | Mina Cheon (Moderator)

Mina Cheon will introduce the diversity panel WOKE New Media and the relevance of social activism within new media when considering issues of borders and bodies. The presentation will be followed by a specific look at the DMZ border that physically separates the North and South Koreas and the people, and how her global activism art projects infiltrate into the Korean psyche by calling on peace streaming for unification. Through her dream sequence digital paintings, Choco-Pies food art for healing, global walk (protest) for peace, and video art history lessons sent into North Korea by USB drives, Cheon takes the global efforts of media penetration into the DPRK to new heights by sending cultural information to North Korea. While some inter-Korean efforts for cooperation within Korean peninsula chants hope, political ploys for peace registers power, control, and the rhetoric of warfare that keeps worlds divided. Her artistic practice as both South Korean new media artist Mina Cheon and North Korean social realist painter Kim Il Soon mirrors the continued split between the Koreas and recounts Korea’s unique historical trauma of borders that keeps bodies apart. In this landscape of cultural fragility, Cheon considers media dissemination as the catalyst for change.

“Counter-surveillance tactics: Staying Woke in Public Space” | Christopher Kojzar

Christopher Kojzar identifies how the “see something, say something” campaign heightens the stakes of drawing in public space. Sketching in a notebook and/or recording with wearable technology regularly prompts interactions with security personnel, police officers, TSA agents, and pedestrians and he reexamines how this art practice might be interpreted as an infringement on the personal space of other pedestrians. He points to a new standard about what it means to see and be seen in an era of escalating surveillance and mistrust – complicating it further by signaling how AI technology may raise concerns about privacy laws. While people are normalized to the idea that their every move is being recorded with data, he takes note of the passive hypocrisy that exists when others react differently to the act of drawing in public. His critique ends on the racialized, gender-bias, and politicized notions of surveillance. As facial recognition is implemented into our daily lives, an important line might be crossed by opening the door to the mass, suspicionless scrutiny of Americans on public sidewalks.

“The Language of the Immigrant: How does the acculturated body become a culture-maker?” | Victor F M Torres

Consider this for a moment: Genes and mythologies share the same properties and, as such, they function as a language that writes the characteristics of living organisms. Then consider this: Genes are to phenotypes as mythologies are to realities. This analogy illustrates Torres’ investigatory path. Since the rise of civilization, humans have been demonstrating that manipulation of genes changes physical traits of a living organism through selective breeding and more recently genetic engineering. For millennia, humans have also exhibited the ability to rewrite metanarratives and perceptions of reality through language. Mythologies are taught and taken as values through enculturation. When a specific set of mythologies or “common-senses” are taught to and expected from a large group of individuals, the outcome, to my mind, is a form of colonization that is often disguised as socialization. The artist believes that examining the historical trajectory of sounds and their meanings is pivotal not only to track how human perception has changed over millennia, but also to develop a way to rewrite societal norms—how we can decolonize colonization. Throughout his work, Torres explores the experience of an acculturated body taking on the role of culture-maker. The artist explores an experimental and artificial language through technology, art installations, sculptures, and durational performances. 

“A Will to Be” | Allana Clarke

In her artist lecture Allana Clarke will create a space for conversation and contemplation. Her artistic practice is built upon a foundation of uncertainty, curiosity, a will to heal and an insistence upon freedom. Fluidly moving through video, sculpture, text, photography, and performance; Clarke’s research based practice incorporates, post-colonial, socio-political, and art historical texts, searching-not for answers but-to feed her obsession with the idea of being unbound, of being more than the body. Ironically, we must look to the body to escape its limitations. Through her personal history she explores the binding nature of bodily signification; asking of the possibility to un-align sign from signifier, of the possibility to create non-totalizing identity structures, of the possibility to assert your agency while acknowledging inherent antagonism and of the possibility to do so while not participating in hegemonic practices. 

“The Social Science of Portraiture: Reworking W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Exhibition of American Negroes” | Antonio McAfee

Baltimore artist Antonio McAfee’s work addresses the complexity of representation by appropriating and manipulating historic, photographic portraits of the 19th and 20th centuries. The artist will discuss the construction of identities through portraiture, and photograph’s proliferation through economic classes and 19th century sciences, using examples from his own practice as well as photographs through history of the medium. Since 2011, McAfee has been focusing on remaking historical portraiture of African Americans from the The Exhibition of American Negroes. W.E.B. Du Bois, with the efforts of HBCUs, organized a display for the 1900 Paris World Expo. The exhibition functioned as a legislative, economic and photographic survey – spanning 1850-1899 – of middle-class African Americans in Georgia. “Functioning as a ‘counter archive’ it challenged the influence of racist taxonomy that intervened in turn-of the-century ‘race science’ by offering competing visual evidence” says Dr. Shawn Smith. The exhibition presented proof of the vitality and upward social mobility of southern blacks despite prejudices that reinforced the contrary. 

“Archives Aflame” | Kei Ito & Andrew Paul Keiper

In their work together, conceptual photographer Kei Ito and sound artist Andrew Paul Keiper address personal and collective trauma through the perspective of their shared heritage: Ito’s grandfather witnessed the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, and Keiper’s grandfather helped to create the bomb as a Manhattan Project engineer. Ito and Keiper insist on the ongoing relevance of our past to our present crises, using immersive installation to dissent, to protest and to foreground the experiences of those subject to violence and power. Their collaboration explores ritualistic image making, the political potential of listening, and the roots, sorrow and scope of our shared story. Ito and Keiper seek mutual understanding and see their work as a prayer for the future. 

“Body Controlled” | Vagner Mendonça-Whitehead

This presentation unfolds aspects of the monitored migrant body in contrast with the prevailing body of authority, as explored in the artist’s practice. More specifically, the continued recontextualization of photographic imagery as identification methodology, the unwavering power of the white male in big media, and how these representations erase, silence, or disavow valid and complex personal experiences and narratives. Through the perspective of his brown, queer, immigrant body, Vagner Mendonça-Whitehead reflects on his creative path while considering current political tendencies to monitor and punish certain bodies. His most recent body of work, titled “Children,” questions the possibility that, given different and less privileged situations, the artist himself could currently be a child caged at one of the many border camps in the U.S. As a community of engaged new media artists, how do we consider the possibility and implementation of continued cultural amnesia? How does the current control of children’s bodies on our borders affect the trajectory for (new media) art? Last but not least, as an extension of his interested in breaking away from the exclusion of certain bodies in a greater discourse, Vagner concludes the panel by raising questions of professional inclusion/exclusion and equity within our academic community.

See the full schedule here

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