While Berkeley burns money adding security to protect the right to free speech of conservative provocateurs such as Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter, UC Santa Barbara proceeds with presenting the UC’s most thoughtful, creative, and popular effort to combine higher education with political consciousness raising. The 2017 edition of UCSB’s Art Colloquium 1C starts on Thursday, September 28, with speaker Kip Fulbeck addressing this year’s theme, Making Art in a Time of Rage, at Embarcadero Hall.
Originally created as an introduction to the faculty for graduate students in the university’s master of fine arts program, Art 1C has expanded to enroll one of the school’s largest groups of students in a general education class. Each week, 250 or more UCSB students gather, along with interested members of the community, in Embarcadero Hall, Corwin Pavilion, and Isla Vista Theater for guest lectures by politically engaged artists from all over the country and the world.
The lead professor and organizer of Art 1C, Richard Ross, embodies the ideal of the artist as activist to a degree rarely achieved in or outside of the academy. Beginning as a UCSB faculty member in 1977, Ross expanded the photographic tradition of Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Dorothea Lange by bringing a distinctive sensibility to his work that was derived in equal parts from the critical theory and the contemporary art practice of the 1970s through the 1990s. Looking critically at institutions like museums led Ross through the documentation of atomic bomb shelters and other technologies of radical survival to his current project chronicling and advocating for juveniles incarcerated by the United States justice system. His work, which has been recognized and funded by the Guggenheim and MacArthur foundations, among many others, argues for the more humane treatment of juvenile offenders by offering practical and systematic solutions to the persistence of injustice and cruelty.
As the director of Art 1C, Ross has organized a 10-artist, 10-week experience designed to encourage people to “make beautiful trouble.” Ross sees the arts as essential to social progress because “when you have images it means something.” Each Thursday from September 28 to December 7, a different artist or collective will present in one of the three venues, and all the events are free and open to the public. “We all have Trump anxiety now,” Ross said, “and we also have climate anxiety. These talks are intended to point us and those feelings in a positive direction of taking action.” Asked about his intended audience in the community beyond UCSB, Ross said, “I would love to have the local high schools involved, and I welcome anyone who is interested in positive engagement with the present moment.”
Asked about what such speakers as Self Help Graphics (Oct. 5), Anne Makepeace (Oct. 12), and Los Angeles Poverty Department (Nov. 9) would bring to the course, Ross asserted that though there would be direct connections to specific studio classes, the series was designed to encourage artists to “use media in different ways” than were expected. Describing an incident that occurred early in his own career, Ross located the entire program “in the hall” of the university’s art department. What happened to Ross when he was starting out involved a rejection by the photography faculty based on the premise that he was making prints, followed by a rejection by the art department that his “prints” were photographs. Turned away from both sides of this disciplinary divide, Ross was left in the hall, a place he has relished ever since.
Making Art in a Time of Rage lectures take place Thursdays, September 28-December 7, at 5 p.m., at Embarcadero Hall (935 Embarcadero del Norte, Isla Vista), UCSB’s Corwin Pavilion, or Isla Vista Theater (960 Embarcadero del Norte, I.V.). Visit arts.ucsb.edu/colloquium.