University of California, Los Angeles (US)
UCLA Art | Sci Center & voidLab, Department of Design Media Arts

“Everything in nature is about BALANCE and DIVERSITY. In turn everything that is happening in our society and the environment is a direct reflection of our world being out of balance. When you have a group of men deciding what a woman’s right is in relation to her body, you know that chances are high that they would be equally inconsiderate of the Earth we all live in.”
(UCLA Making a Guest Appearance at Ars Electronica Festival, Ars Electronica blog)

Gender and environmental advocacies are stronger than ever, as is the opposing conservatism strengthened by the fear of the unknown and the need to go back to the past. Binary mindsets have to give way to a more complex, diverse and fluid world-views. Thus we come together to conceptualize this campus exhibition as professor and founder of the Art Sci center and recent graduate of Design Media Arts and co-founder of voidLab.

With the selected works, we aim to converge the issues in feminism with environmentalism. By framing the exhibition in this way, it is our hope to reinvigorate the eco-feminism that emerged in the 70s and was ignored for much too long. In this particular context, at the Ars Electronica festival in Linz, we address the local and transnational issues of feminism in media arts and the global issue of climate change—thus the very obvious title.

The climate change movement is not gender neutral—globally, females constitute two-thirds of the world’s poor and their livelihoods are more dependent on the natural resources threatened by climate change. Females and males living in rural areas within developing countries face the greatest challenges in securing water, food and fuel. When relating gender to climate change, we avoid focusing only on binary male-female inequalities but also scrutinize discursive constructions that shape power relations. Ultimately, climate change cannot be solved with a nationalistic mindset—this is a global problem—air and water have no borders.

It would be difficult to present the works of the department alone, as this would negate the dynamic network that has emerged since year 2000 when the UCLA Department of Design was reimagined as Design Media Arts. Very quickly it branched out into auxiliary research labs and centers based on faculty research—enabling students and the faculty to work collaboratively across disciplinary and institutional boundaries. In addition to presenting UCLA Design Media Arts alumni who are now active artists and teachers, it was also very important for us to present women scientists who also collaborate with artists, as gender issues in sciences are much deeper and problematic than those the art world faces and we want to honor and support the brave young scientists working with environmental issues. To this end we present Art Sci center alumnae: Christina Agapakis, a postdoc in molecular, cell, and developmental biology at UCLA (2012-14), now working in a Biotech company, Olivia Osborne, postdoc in the UC Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology, and Rita Blaik, recent PhD graduate in material science, now the education coordinator at the UCLA CNSI.

Finally, we did not shy away from including those who are still students—current Design Media Arts students and voidLab co-founders Jen Agosta and Sarah Brady and recent graduate Sanglim Han collaborate with scholars to examine the urgent issues of gender and racial profiling in artificial intelligence; DMA MFA alumna Noa P. Kaplan, who exhibited at the Art Sci gallery and always enthusiastically followed and participated in the center events, is currently pursuing PhD degree at USC. Art Sci center alumna Mary Maggic Tsang recently graduated from MIT Media lab and is participating with Byron Rich in Ars Electronica this year, so the star is really shining on her estrogen workshops!

Climate Change is certainly a feminist issue but also very much a generational issue—it is these young artists and teachers who hold the key and we celebrate their brave work in these troubling times.

Disclaimer: our curatorial approach may not reflect the views of the UCLA School of the Arts or the Department of Design Media Arts. No doubt every faculty in the department would frame this exhibition in their own way, and we suspect that many of our colleagues would agree and support our curatorial decisions.