- Stephanie Boluk, English
- Patrick LeMieux, Cinema and Digital Media
- Jiayi Young, Design
- Fiamma Montezemolo, Cinema and Digital Media
- Tarek Elhaik, Anthropology
- Talinn Grigor, Art History
- Dan Melzer, University Writing Program
The 2015-16 New Faculty Interview Series was coordinated and produced by Meg Sparling, doctoral candidate in English.
UC Davis welcomes Stephanie Boluk, Assistant Professor in the Department of English, and Patrick LeMieux, Assistant Professor in Cinema and Digital Media. Together, Boluk and LeMieux will be creating exciting new collaborative teaching and research opportunities in the study of digital media at UC Davis.
Boluk and LeMieux are currently finishing their first co-authored book, Metagaming: Videogames and the Practice of Play, forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press (2016). The book pushes beyond games as objects, commodities, and intellectual property to explore what Boluk and LeMieux call “the community histories of play.” This includes metagaming practices like speedrunning, e-sports competitions, and hardware modification. Thus, the book is a historicization of “the wider media ecology of games we play in, on, around, and between videogames.”
Working often in the ModLab in 234 Cruess Hall, Boluk and LeMieux join a team of faculty members and graduate students who are developing new tools and methods for scholars focusing on new media technologies. Additionally, in Winter 2016, Boluk and LeMieux are team-teaching “Video Games and Culture,” a class that offers students critical approaches to the study of videogames and the relations of games to society, politics, economics, and other cultural forms. In focusing the course on metagaming specifically, Boluk and LeMieux are bringing an innovative and hands-on approach to the classroom—allowing students to experiment with designing and modding games, podcasting and streaming gameplay, and organizing and documenting tournaments.
In addition to their work in the ModLab, Boluk and LeMieux are developing another co-directed research lab: ALT-CTRL (Alternate Control Lab). Designed in collaboration with the ModLab as a workshop, gallery, classroom, and community space, ALT-CTRL will be a practice-based humanities lab operating at the intersection of critical disability theory and alternative interface design. Boluk and LeMieux explain: “Rather than emphasize a preventative or curative approach to disability, we hope ALT-CTRL can function as a platform for collectively thinking about and collaboratively working through the relationship between disability and technology.” The scholars are specifically interested in how screens, user interfaces, communication protocols, prosthetic technologies, and virtual worlds both enable and disable work and play in the twenty-first century. Along with a reading group and a graduate-level class on disability and media in the spring, they hope that ALT-CTRL will begin to work on projects at two scales: small collaborations with individuals and broader discussions about policy and design both inside and outside UC Davis.
Stephanie Boluk joins UC Davis from the Pratt Institute, where she was Assistant
Professor of Humanities and Media Studies. Earlier in her academic career, Boluk was a postdoctoral fellow in Media Studies at Vassar College and she holds a PhD from the University of Florida.
Boluk’s research and teaching incorporates game studies and media studies to explore videogames, alternative currencies, financialization, and the convergence of leisure and labor in contemporary information economies. She is currently co-editing volume three of the Electronic Literature Collection with Leonardo Flores, Jacob Garbe, and Anastasia Salter as well as working on a new book project called Money Games, which looks at how games play with capital through crowdfunding platforms, real time gambling websites, digital distribution services, alt coin exchanges, algorithmic trading, and the culture of play that attends the work of finance capital and startup culture in the Bay area.
In addition to the “Video Games and Culture” course co-taught with Professor LeMieux in Winter, Professor Boluk is teaching an English undergraduate course on surveillance cultures and an English graduate course on disability and media—both scheduled for Spring 2016.
The Cinema and Digital Media program welcomes Patrick LeMieux, who received his PhD from Duke University, and his MFA from the University of Florida. LeMieux is an artist, media theorist, and game designer whose creative and scholarly work has been exhibited internationally and published widely.
LeMieux is currently working on a book project that explores the community histories of play and material practices surrounding one particular videogame: Super Mario Bros. The project examines how practices like speedrunning, hardware reproduction, and ROM hacking each have a particular history and culture, but also mirror the predominant threads of academic discourses like platform studies, software studies, and critical code studies. LeMieux has also extended this research in the form of an art exhibition, Platform Games, recently installed at Babycastles Gallery in Manhattan in May 2015.
With a background in teaching studio arts and media theory, LeMieux is developing courses for the Cinema and Digital Media program that enable students to combine creative practice with scholarly critique. LeMieux emphasizes that no previous expertise in coding, game design, or hardware development is required for a student to thrive in the classes he is planning for the CDM program. One such course under development for Spring 2016 involves repurposing of old Nintendo Entertainment System consoles and cartridge games to develop alternative interfaces and art games while also learning about the cultural histories surrounding videogames and the foundational theories of game studies. The course’s focus on hardware modification makes it unique among videogame courses across higher education.
The Department of Design welcomes Assistant Professor Jiayi Young. Professor Young was recently selected by the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission (SMAC) as a finalist for the Golden 1 Center Public Art Program. Young and three other finalists were invited to submit design proposals for the LED screens at the entrance to the Golden 1 Center. This program is funded by a $1.5 million private donation, the largest commitment to regional artists in the history of the City’s Art in Public Places program.
Drawing upon the intersection of art, science and technology, Young’s work deals with issues of place and identity (both personal and collective). “The end product is usually manifested in a hybrid medium that fuses visual language with scientific data or theory, and emergent media,” she writes. In addition to her M.F.A. in multimedia and painting, Young has earned an M.S. in atomic physics, which gives her “substantial footing in an endeavor that integrates technology to define and create new forms of communication and new ways of constructing meaning.”
Using tools ranging from commercially available, to open source, to custom software and hardware, her projects often take on the form of an interactive installation creating carefully designed environments and experiences involving embedded sensing systems, coding, electronics, networks, real-time data mapping, live-feed videos and sound. Her work has been exhibited and published nationally and internationally.
For example, Young recently launched a public participatory new media project titled “Message in the Sky” at the 20th International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA 2014, Dubai). “At the moment, my emphasis is on creating interactive environments as it relates to social practices. The goal of ‘Message in the Sky’ is to pool together hopes and dreams of our time. The project works with crowdsourced qualitative data to creative narrative.” Young is currently working to take the project to other cities. She would love to hear from you if you have an interest in the project. For additional information, see the website: www.messageinthesky.org.
Working with the UC Davis Humanities Institute, Young is also in conversation with Professor Seeta Chaganti of the English Department regarding a possible collaborative project on the reenactment of a medieval dance “via the means of an interactive (perhaps even audience participatory) contemporary dance/performance art installation.” The piece would use real-time light projection to illuminate an otherwise inaccessible period in the past. Young explains, “Some of the things we might call upon include historical imagery, illusive/geometric visual elements, and/or stereoscopic optics. A part of this is something Professor Chaganti has written about in her work and much of it aligns with my long term research goals of creating responsive environments relating to perception of time, light and space.”
More information about Jiayi Young’s work can be found at her website: www.sifting.org.
Teaching at UC Davis
In fall quarter, Professor Young is teaching DES 115 Typography, where the class discusses the history, theory and practice of letter forms, and the massing of the letters. In winter, she will be teaching DES 37 Coding for Designers, where the class will code using Processing to create generative design, as well as screen-based interactivity. The basics of physical computing will also be introduced to allow the students to integrate the virtual with the physical.
The value of the humanities
“My work, as it stands, is concerned with the critique of popular culture, especially as it overlaps with media culture, consumer culture and culture of mass consumption. I am interested in visual representation on topics related to social and environmental practices, as well as cultural assimilation, the place of the self as we attempt to balance technology with questions about the human condition. Much of this is being researched within the humanities at UC Davis in various different departments. These topics are usually multifaceted in nature. Thus, this convergence of topics within the humanities lends itself to exploration, discoveries and the furthering of our understandings of who we are.”
Trained as both an artist and anthropologist, Fiamma Montezemolo creates site-specific, inter-disciplinary, and intermedia interventions that build on her long-term fieldwork in borderlands and the border zone between Mexico and the United States. She has been designing intermedia practices that reflect on the border as a mobile category of experience, as sensory and conceptual mediations, as disciplinary negotiations, and as geopolitical articulations.
“I have been primarily interested in ethnography as a polyvalent medium. My art practice builds on and extends the pioneering contaminations between ethnography and surrealism around Georges Bataille’s Document circle (Michel Leiris in particular), as well as on the passionate trans-cultural mediations of artist-researchers from Maya Deren to the contemporary interventions of Jimmie Durham, Alfredo Jaar, Renée Green, the Atlas Group, Isaac Julian, Yinka Shonibare, Mona Hatoum, and others. I think of my work as an experimental mode of translating through art practice research conducted in carefully selected urban sites, public cultures, and conceptual horizons.”
Montezemolo describes her work as incorporating lessons learned from Conceptual Art, Arte Povera, Post-minimalism, Site-specificity. In creating a wide range of art practices, including video, installation, performance, cartography, digital photography, and medical imaging technologies, she has tried to create conceptual and evocative interventions that are less about documenting, translating or representing the Other, and more about reflecting on the nature of desire in border zones, and how cross-cultural desire can be mediated through an art practice.
Teaching at UC Davis
Professor Montezemolo will be teaching the undergraduate course TCS 113: Community and Networks, and has designed a new course on Art & Cinema. She will also be teaching a graduate seminar concerned with questions of research and methodology in Performance Studies.
The Humanities and Humanistic Social Sciences at UC Davis
“At UC Davis, I hope to collaborate with several of my colleagues in my own department who are invested in questions of intermediality, as well as with others in Anthropology, Art, Performance Studies, and Cultural Studies. Of course, I am very interested in collaborating with the Shrem Museum of Art. My ultimate goal is to connect fruitful bridges between the Humanities and Social Sciences,” she writes.
Professor Elhaik’s work builds on intensive participant-observation in contemporary art and curatorial worlds. “Animated by a deep sense of care towards the world of images, I think of my work as a simultaneous contribution to the anthropology of media, the anthropology of art, and the anthropology of the Image. Until now I have been conducting fieldwork in Mexico City where I was particularly attentive to the formal inquiries, image-making processes, and writings of media artists, as well as to the concept-work of curators who care about them. I have engaged, specifically, those artists and curators whose inquiries have provocatively signaled an ongoing breakdown of cultural forms and historical figurations of anthropos in Mexico (eg. mestizaje, mexicanidad, cosmopolitan-nationalist modes of existence).”
The outcome of this first fieldwork experience and experiment is a book length study titled, The Incurable-Image: Curating Post-Mexican Film & Media Arts (Edinburgh University Press, 2016).
Professor Elhaik is also setting up “AIL: the Anthropology of the Image Lab” in Young Hall 226. AIL will be a space for curatorial and pedagogical experiments, including workshops and symposia with artists, curators, and scholars committed to fostering interdisciplinary fieldwork-led modes of curation and inquiries through images.
Teaching at UC Davis
In Winter 2016, Elhaik will teach one graduate seminar that examines past and present conceptualizations of the Image in anthropological inquiry. In Spring, he will teach an undergraduate course in media anthropology with a special focus on cybernetics and human-machine interactions in contemporary digital worlds.
The Humanities and Humanistic Social Sciences at UC Davis
“My fieldwork in the contemporary art world is inherently interdisciplinary and straddles both the social sciences and the humanities. Along with other colleagues, my aim is to make UC Davis a hub for Contemporary Art and Anthropology dialogues. We plan on setting in motion collaborations with both on-campus and off-campus partners, starting with a symposium I am organizing in Fall 2016 titled, ‘The Logic of the Image.’”
Talinn Grigor is Professor and Graduate Advisor in the Art History program. Grigor’s research concentrates on the cross-pollination of visual culture and global politics and historiography, focused on Iran and India. Her books include Building Iran: Modernism, Architecture, and National Heritage under the Pahlavi Monarchs (2009); Contemporary Iranian Art: From the Street to the Studio (2014); and Persian Kingship and Architecture: Strategies of Power in Iran from the Achaemenids to the Pahlavis, with Sussan Babaie (2015). Her articles have appeared in the Art Bulletin, Getty Journal, Third Text, Future Anterior, and Iranian Studies among others. Past grants consist of CASVA’s Ittleson fellow at the National Gallery of Art, postdoctoral fellow at the Getty Research Institute, Social Science Research Council fellow, Mellon fellow at Cornell University, Aga Khan student at MIT, and awards from Opler, Whiting, Norman, Roshan and Soudavar foundations.
Grigor’s current book project considers the global impact of Europe’s art historiography vis-à-vis practices of eclecticism and kitsch.
Her most recent book, Persian Kingship and Architecture: Strategies of Power in Iran from the Achaemenids to the Pahlavis (I.B. Tauris, co-edited with Sussan Babaie, 2015) explores the fragmented historiography of Iranian art and the institution of Persian kingship through the theoretical frame of the longue durée. It rethinks the role of art and architecture across a number of disciplinary approaches – archeology and art history; ancient and Islamic studies – where the intersections of these diverse lenses of inquiry allow us to cast a new light on the study of not only Iran but of enduring institutions such as kingship.
Grigor also recently published Contemporary Iranian Art: from the Street to the Studio (Reaktion, 2014), an examination of the visual arts in Iran since the 1979 revolution. It addresses the tension between street and studio art as well as art institutions, the art market, state censorship, public-private domain, politics of production, and artistic identity in exile. It provides to a wide and varied audience a critical analysis of the workings of art in the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Iranian diasporas.
Teaching at UC Davis
In Winter 2016, Professor Grigor is teaching an art history course on visual culture, an undergraduate seminar on modern and contemporary art history, and a section of the university’s First-Year Seminar.
The Humanities at UC Davis
“I would like to help develop the global prospects in the curriculum by offering courses and by initiating programming most suited to the overall goals of the Art History program and the university. I am invested in strengthening existing ties between the art history program, the studio program, the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, and other interests. I would like to help form an atmosphere where contemporary art is a part of (university) life. I envisage that UC Davis’ students can contribute to and benefit from a global contemporary art initiative,” Grigor writes.
Dan Melzer is Associate Director of First-Year Composition and Associate Professor in the University Writing Program. His research interests include writing across the curriculum, writing program administration, and multiple literacies. His articles have appeared in College Composition and Communication, Writing Program Administration, Kairos, The WAC Journal, and other publications. He has written two textbooks, Everything’s a Text (with Deborah Coxwell Teague) and Exploring College Writing, and the scholarly book Assignments Across the Curriculum: A National Study of College Writing.
Research at UC Davis
“I recently published a book reporting the results of a national study of writing assignments across the curriculum [Assignments Across the Curriculum: A National Study of College Writing], and I’m currently working on research that will compliment this study by focusing on response to student writing. My current research is a national study of teacher and peer response across the curriculum. I’m gathering teacher and peer feedback, as well as student reflection on teacher and peer feedback, from electronic portfolios in institutions of higher education across the country,” Melzer states.
Teaching at UC Davis
Professor Melzer teaches UWP 1, “Expository Writing,” and the two graduate courses that UCD teaching assistants take in order to prepare them and support them in teaching UWP 1: a rhetoric and composition theory course and a composition teaching practicum.
The Humanities at UC Davis
“As a rhetoric and composition scholar and as the director of first-year composition I think of my work as connecting to the many disciplines across the humanities, and also to the writing being done outside the humanities. My own scholarship is grounded in the humanities tradition of rhetoric, but I’m also interested in the different disciplinary conventions of writing across the curriculum and in beginning to introduce students to the writing habits and processes that will best prepare them for the wide range of writing in all of their courses.”