The University of California Institute for Research in the Arts supports embedded arts research through critical exchange

Past Initiatives

Definitions of our 2009-2014 Initiatives and the past grantees who have been awarded grants in these categories.


With an eye to California’s diverse landscape and the complex relationship between its natural and developed spaces, UCIRA’s Art+California initiative provides opportunities for artists to investigate the radically diverse terrains of the state. New modes of visual and material translation are encouraged.

-Robert Kett and Anna Kryczka: Learning by Doing: Embodied/ Material Encounters at the Farm.  Through an exhibition, conference and publication, we propose to examine an experiment in intercultural exchange, social scientific research and artistic learning that took place at the Farm at UCI, examining its relation to the creation of the new university, attempts to “learn through doing,” and countercultural ferment in the 1960s and 70s. We will offer the university and the community a chance to explore how California modernism, new approaches to education, encounters with “otherness,” and counterculture came together in late 20th Century Irvine.

-Lisa Kotz and Charles Curtis: Imaginary Landscapes: Researching Experimental Music in California.  Imaginary Landscapes investigates the rich legacies of musical experimentation and interdisciplinary art in California, and explores their relevance to diverse present-day practices. Through a series of workshops, performances, and discussions, we will foreground the unique forms of knowledge and experience that emerge through the performance and realization of experimental music, understood broadly; this process will also help develop a future series of larger-scale events.

-Jennifer Parker: Art and Public Space in the Tenderloin/ Central Market.  With support from UCIRA, artist Jennifer Parker, of UC Santa Cruz, and the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA), propose to draw together artists, technology consultants, and community members to research and develop (PAS), an interactive online community website. PAS would help revitalize neighborhoods by creating an open-sourced website to facilitate the matching of spaces and art of all types. Users, including community members, municipal organizations, property owners and community organizations, would be empowered to nominate spaces and create projects in those spaces. A PAS prototype was co-founded by Parker at GAFFTA’s Summer of Smart June 2011 community development and art hackathon, a digital democracy and urban innovation experiment.

-Hermoine Spriggs and Sam Kronick: Slab City. Where do anthropology, design, and contemporary art practice collide? We enter Slab City, mythologized and self-organizing “free place” in the Californian desert, to explore and activate potentials for a new interdisciplinary research paradigm. As a collaborative duo we intersect methodologies of reflexive anthropology and critical design/ engineering. We initially engage The Field as ethnographers, with the hope of recursively incorporating spatial and social readymades into the genesis of new sense-making tools. Our motivation exists in confronting the problematics of all-too-often oversimplified participatory art practice: the default reduction of relationships to aesthetics; short-term invasion of exoticized “communities;” and temporal and infrastructural conditioning of institutional research environments into spaces of isolation, competition, and linear authorship. We propose an alternative method of litoral exploration, entanglement and sustained intervention. Driven by the desire to experience and curate radical forms of interaction, our modes of entry and production in Slab City will consist of import, modification, and export of new meta/ physical “tools” to work with and think through the hyper-local conditions of this and related sites.

-Teddy Cruz: The Mobile Conference Political Equator III. Political Equator III is a 3-day cross-border mobile conference and community forum held in June 2011. The third program in a series of bi-national conferences, PE III continues to engage pressing regional socio-economic, urban and environmental conditions across the San Diego – Tijuana border.

-Shannon Jackson: Art+Neighborhood. Art+Neighborhood examines the ecology of three Bay Area arts districts in order to explore alternatives to the ‘gentrification’ discourse that currently dominates arguments for the role of the arts in neighborhood vitalization.

-Adam Tinkle: The Universal Language Orchestra of Spring Valley, CA. The Universal Language Orchestra is a new performing ensemble of 8-12 year olds, lead by a team from the UCSD Department of Music.  By collaborating with the students on the development of the compositions and strategies for improvisation inspired by environmental sounds and a number of non-western music traditions, we aim to develop a new musical language situated in the culture and landscape of Southern California.

- Sara Daleiden Los Angeles Urban Rangers: Access UC-NRS: Research in the Expanded Field. The Los Angeles Urban Rangers have developed guided hikes, campfire talks, field kits, and other interpretive tools to spark creative explorations of everyday habitats, in their home megalopolis of Los Angeles and beyond. This multi-year residency places the collective, comprised of artists, historians, geographers and organizers, within the UC Natural Reserve System to assess the potential for enhanced engagement by UC artists with this significant resource.

- Cole Akers and Catherine Liu: Learning from Irvine or the Laboratory of the Ordinary. William Pereira, chief architect of the Irvine Master plan originally envisioned closely grouped commercial, residential, and leisure spaces organized around the new University of California campus, a plan that Pereira believed would “restore the land to the pedestrian.” The subsequent development of the Irvine Ranch has played a critical role in the postwar economic and social evolution of Southern California and, arguably, planned communities internationally. Learning from Irvine will be a site-specific exhibition and series of workshops and panels that investigate the architecture and built environment of Orange County.

- Jeremy Fisher: UC Studio – Envisioning an Ecological Field Station for the 21st Century. Project 1 of Integrated Design: Education in Action [IDEA], a student-lead interdisciplinary design group at UC Berkeley. The goal of the group is to research and apply Integrated Design methodologies with a focus on the built environment and real-world design challenges; this project focuses on the production of design/build studios at a the Blue Oak Ranch Natural Reserve.

- Kenneth Rogers: Off Peak. Off Peak is a collaborative public practice project centered around oil field remediation of the Inglewood Oil Field in Los Angeles, in collaboration with Bulbo, the Tijuana- and Los Angeles-based media collective.

- Kim Yasuda and Seetha Raghupathy: Proximity Research, Isla Vista, CA. Part of a multi-year arts initiative designed to engage the student-dominated community of Isla Vista, this project focused on researching campus/community dynamics through the lens of urban planning, experimental geography and public art. The end result is a dynamic mapping system designed to illuminate social and cultural traffic patterns, as well as to foster partnerships and programming opportunities for a broad array of stakeholders. Using emergent participatory technologies, this local demonstration project is a test-bed for a UC Proximity Research Laboratory, embedding arts research in the areas surrounding the system’s diverse campus geographies and proximities (suburban, urban, agrarian, bordered), and providing new ways to animate California’s complex, post-war development history.


Artists have long been involved in creating participatory practices based on new models of evaluating both production and capital. Current economic conditions have precipitated a resurgence of forms of collectivism, exchange and ‘anticipatory’ practices, i.e. those that seek to imagine and address possible future economic and social modalities. UCIRA supports artists from across the UC system as they enter into situated partnerships with collectives, institutions and agencies working to explore new methods of value and idea exchange.

-Andrew deWaard: The Cultural Capital Project: Radical Monetization of the Music Industry. Cultural Capital is a collaborative research project that explores the historical antecedents, theoretical trajectories, legal ramifications and technical components involved in the creation of a non-profit patronage system and social network uniting musical artists and fans. The software harvests user-generated data of listening and sharing habits, and then utilizes an algorithm to allocate equitable compensation via the cultural industries via distributed micropayment. Incorporating the multitude of individuals and others, the Cultural Capital project aims to establish a ‘radical monetization’ of the music industry based on equity, connectivity, and sharing. Integrating the ideas of Bordieu, Attali, Lessig, and more, this research argues – both legally and philosophically – for the recognition and compensation of music consumers in the cultural industries, and the establishment of a sustainable infrastructure to fully embrace shared culture.

-Erin Johnson and Amanda Eicher: Tactical Aesthetics and Activism. The Tactical Aesthetics and Activism Working Group, a cross-disciplinary collaboration of students, lecturers, and faculty at UC Berkeley, seeks to develop creative arts and media strategies, works, and spaces devoted to visioning and growing participatory social change. During the Spring 2012 semester, the group will meet regularly in the Hearst Field Annex, and will invite U.S.-based artists to campus, to work with students and to help develop research questions and threads, formulate working modes that travel off campus and back again, and organization short- and long- term projects – all geared toward the development and implementation of new curricular approaches Fall 2012.

-Tim Ridlen: The Artist’s PhD Field Library. The Artist PhD Field Library is a library of published material on (and relating to) the subject of the artist PhD implemented at various institutions of higher education. The overall goal to implement The Artist PhD Field Library in School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the library at University of California San Diego and the CCS Library at Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and establish an online platform for the project and to undertake further research of additional branches of the library. The three branches of the library will function as the physical collection of the virtual online bibliography.

-Brennan Gerard and Ryan Kelly: Work and Play: How the Art World Performs. Work and Play: How the Art World Performs convenes at the UCLA Department of Art a working group of internationally recognized artists, writers and curators invested in performance-based practices in the visual art field for a three-day workshop and parallel platform of public events, discussions, and performances.

-Shannon Jackson: Art+Time. Art+Time will convene artists, scholars, educators, arts administrators, presenters and curators from within and outside the UC system to produce symposia, a publication, an on-line archive, and curatorial experiments.

-David White: There Goes the Neighborhood. There Goes the Neighborhood is a four-day event that takes place within a specific neighborhood in San Diego called North Park. This neighborhood is generally viewed as having undergone ‘revitalization’ through the establishment of an ‘arts district’ approximately ten years ago.

- Beyond Protest: Considering the UC Strike – with Dmitri Vilensky (Chto Delat?) and Brian Holmes. In March of 2010, Dmitri Vilensky and Brian Holmes considered the upcoming March 4 UC strike and its repercussions for the state of California education. Vilensky joined Alejandro Casazi  and Harry Reese on March 4 at the UCSB print studio for a ‘print-in’ in conjunction with the UC Strike, and later lead a seminar with the student-run publication WORD: the Isla Vista Arts and Culture Magazine.

- Daniel Tucker: editor, SOTA. UC State of the Arts/SOTA is an irregular publication dedicated to documenting and fostering communication in the arts across the University of California system.  Through interviews, Q+A sessions and formal written statements and papers, SOTA brings visibility and connectivity to arts practitioners and their research at each campus across the UC system. In addition to serving as a networking and documenting tool, SOTA is emerging as resource to assist those wanting to connect with their peers and colleagues in other parts of the UC system around pertinent issues. SOTA’s inaugural topic of discussion, “Pubic Ed and the Public Good”, brings together concerns about the value of arts and education with those revolving around an uncertain economic future. See

- Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski: Signal Traffic: Art, Infrastructure, and Geography. In order to develop the multi-year Signal Traffic project, this workshop will bring together leading scholars and artist in the fields of Media Studies, Art, Communication, and Geography to discuss new artistic strategies and conceptual models for thinking about infrastructure and processes of signal distribution, which have long been dominated by fields such as engineering and urban planning. The workshop participants will develop a set of innovative methodologies for the conceptualization and representation of media infrastructures that constitute the key technological sub-structures supporting global culture, including fiber-optic cables, satellites, the Internet, and other data transmission systems.


Artists generate unconventional and imaginative knowledge systems that emerge from aesthetic reflection and risk-taking processes. Their creative energies and skills can be used to catalyze, visualize and re-contextualize the work of scientists, encouraging alternative investigative methods and oblique approaches to problem solving. UCIRA will support art/science and artist/scientist collaborative configurations designed to facilitate new, hybrid, and fusion models of exchange, co-creation and research practice.

-Jaime Forero-Romero: Fluid Skies. An experiment on growing instabilities.  “Fluid Skies” will present in an artistic context unsolved scientific questions. The focus of the exhibition will be the study of extragalactic matter, which can be only approached through indirect observations and theoretical interpretations. This subject belongs to an ongoing scientific research; therefore, exploring it involves examining the current roles and methods of natural sciences concerning the study of our universe. The special nature of this topic provides a favorable framework to bridge artistic and scientific practices, since it involves a creative process even within the sciences.

-Greg Laughlin, Ted Warburton, and Karlton Hester: Three Bodies. Three Bodies is a multidisciplinary course designed to develop a deeper understanding of the complex Pythagorean Three Body problem from the perspective of four disciplines. It is part of an ongoing research project to bring the abstract into the physical though science, music, dance and technology. How does seeing an embodied performance of a theoretical concept enhance our understanding of the universe? How can the slightest change in variable result in dramatically different results? How can we apply this understanding to have a meaningful impact on our daily interactions, across many disciplines and communities? The course is practice based with students working closely with faculty members in the Astrophysics, Dance, Music and Digital Arts in New Media Departments to create a performance on the University of California Santa Cruz’s Main Stage Theater on May 24th – 26th and May 30th – June 2nd. Collaborative coursework will provide students with opportunities to express themselves through multiple mediums that promote interdisciplinary though and praxis.

-Eric Parren: Nano Film. This project focuses on creating an abstract experimental film using technique normally used in nano research. It is a collaboration between a Design & Media Arts graduate student, Eric Parren, the UCLA [Art] [Sci] Center, and the California NanoSystems Institute. To create the film Eric will undergo training at CNSI to learn how to work with a range of microscopes in the Advanced Light Microscopy Lab. From there on an experimental journey starts to find materials and systems that will deliver the desired visual result. The film will be scored with an appropriate soundtrack, and edited by Eric himself.

-Eliza Slavet: Something from Nothing: Audacious Speculations in Art, Science, and Entrepreneurialism.  This project is focused on exploring the connections, overlaps, and productive tensions between three realms of activity often considered as totally distinct: 1) conceptual art, especially activist art, 2) scientific research, specifically experimental design in the natural, neuro- and social sciences, and 3) business/ entrepreneurialism. In each of these domains, we will be studying imaginative acts that change the world by the illocutionary force of their own inspiration, seeking to understand the creative audacity that make something from nothing. Over the next 6 – 12 months we are convening a series of conversations, drawing from researchers and artists on our own campus as well as other UC campuses. These conversations will be the first stage in our longer term project curating a series of public events, performances, publications and exhibitions. The first “outcome” of our project, however, will be an integrated curriculum for the spring quarter of UCSD Sixth College’s Culture, Art & Technology Program (beginning in Spring 2013).

- Tyler Stallings-: Free Enterprise: The Art of Citizen Space Exploration. Free Enterprise: The Art of Citizen Space Exploration will be the first contemporary art exhibition in the U.S. to explore implications of civilian access to the orbit and beyond and the major political and cultural shift away from sponsorship by the federal government toward a free-market, private enterprise model of space exploration.

-David Familian: Black Box Projects. Black Box Projects is an initiative focusing on the research and development of responsive environments, installations and sculptures by artists who will work collaboratively with various UC Irvine research departments.

- Victoria Vesna – Bio/Art course – Winter 2010. Bio-Tech and Art, a UCIRA-supported system-wide course offering, was designed to explore how Bioartists use cells, DNA molecules, proteins, and living tissues to bring to life ethical, social, and aesthetic issues of the sciences. Students investigated how bioart blurs distinctions between science and art through the combination of artistic and scientific processes, all the while creating wide public debate.  

- Joseph Dumit: Expressing the CAVES: Art & Science in 3D Immersive Dialogue. Expressing the CAVES will bring together 18 artists, computer scientists and researchers to spend a day exploring new models of experiencing a 3D immersive environment, new ways of designing interactions with technology, and new artistic and art-sciences possibilities with it.

- Meredith Drum: Fishing: A Playable Possible Future. Fishing: A Playable Possible Future is a playable narrative documentary concerned with the declining global fish population; a food shortage issue with potential dire consequences for humans and the ecosystem.

- Lisa Jevbratt: The Interspecies Project. A collaborative project with Dr. Toni Frohoff, a Santa Barbara-based behavioral and wildlife biologist, and the dolphins in the Santa Barbara Channel. This project featured an Animal Communication workshop with Barbara Janelle and an overnight student fieldtrip to the Santa Cruz Island Reserve as well as lecture/projects with the Santa Barbara Bird Farm.

- API [Arctic Perspective Initiative]: Marko Peljhan, Matthew Biederman. Arctic Perspective highlights the cultural, geopolitical and ecological significance of the Arctic and its indigenous cultures. API aims to empower local citizens of the North via open source infrastructures, such as data sharing, environmental monitoring, and communications technologies. In collaboration with the communities of Igloolik, Kinngait, Iqaluit, Mittimatalik and  Kanngiqtugaapik in Nunavut, Canada, artists and architects are devising a mobile media and living unit and systems infrastructure that is powered by renewable energy sources. The unit will be used by the Inuit and other arctic peoples for creative processes, communications and citizen environmental monitoring while moving, living, and working on the land away from established settlements.