“Performance is the golden thread of connection among living bodies,” said Stephen Barker Ph.D., dean of UC Irvine Claire Trevor School of the Arts (CTSA), during a recent Zoom interview. “It captures the essence of the human experience.” While his words might cause one to feel disheartened about our current dearth of live performances, he is enthusiastic about the expansion of CTSA’s work online, about the possibilities of art forms evolving virtually, and about the college’s magnanimous exploration of exhibitions and performances.
In our Zoom get-together, Barker discussed the virtual aspects of many genres of art, explaining that this notion has actually been around for millennia. Looking at a Greek statue is to experience it virtually, as the performance inherent in the art piece occurred while the artist was sculpting it.
Barker added that many students at UCI, particularly those under 25 or 30, are comfortable with viewing art virtually. He explained, “Our species is adaptable. We’re learning a whole new set of experiences about alternate realities. There are incredible opportunities for flights of fancy with technology; for example, creating hybrid art forms, such as merging filmed performances with live ones,” even as those performances are online.
This “new abnormal” for UCI began in mid-March when the University of California system announced that all classes, performances and exhibitions will go online. “We were stunned at first,” Barker said. “We had ten days to get ready for this change. But everyone leaped into a new model of operation.” While the entire UC system — including the art departments — soon went online, the Claire Trevor School of the Arts became proud of the range, depth and quantity of its virtual presentations.
With the help of the school’s technology team, CTSA’s art, dance, drama and music departments have segued toward virtual end-of- the-school-year exhibitions and performances. “All art departments are rising to the challenges, becoming innovative, thinking outside of the box,” Barker said. In essence, the departments have reconstructed their artistic models, and in turn have dramatically expanded their opportunities — with the added benefit that the public can enjoy their free artful events.
Each of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts departments has its own links to access Zoom events, other online events and presentations, and links to RSVP. CTSA’s website provides an overview of the school’s activities and mission, as well as links to the individual departments.
The Department of Dance presented “Physical Graffiti Online” dance performances on May 21 and 22, via Zoom. Created by video-conferencing, the live online performances included dance, video, animation, collage, poems and sketched images. Artistic directors are Lisa Naugle and Lindsay Gilmour. These Department of Dance performances might be available in the future online. Check out the CTSA website for more information.
The Drama Department’s “Improv Royale,” led by UCI drama professor Joel Veenstra, and performed by the Drama 135 class, was on view on May 26 via Zoom. The 60-minute play is described as, “an improv battle between A Series of Unfortunate Zooms vs. ZOOMBOMAFOO.”
The department will perform the online play, “These Days and Times are in Process and Not Final,” on June 3 from 3-4 p.m. Its event description reads in part, “What to do when you can no longer write and present plays in-person during a pandemic? UCI Drama’s Prof. Juliette Carrillo had to answer that question for her students. The decision she made created the opportunity to learn what some consider a lost art, radio plays. Experience what the students created as works-in-progress at our ‘Listening Party.’”
The Visual Art Department’s Undergraduate Honors Thesis Exhibition will present a series of live Artist on Artist interviews, each conducted between undergraduate students, on Fridays at noon on May 29, June 5 and June 12. These will be available to the public on the art school’s Instagram. The department will also present a screening of the film, Light in the Mist. This insight into a farm in Nepal explores how women and children struggle and deal with trauma and heal through the support of their community. The film can be viewed from May 27 at noon through May 29 at noon. RSVP to see the film here.
The Music Department’s UCI Opera Salon will be held on May 31 at 3 p.m. The real-time afternoon event will feature arias and a selection of songs, followed by a discussion with composer Lori Laitman and with vocal arts students.
The new online cultural paradigm at UC Irvine, at other UC schools, and at universities nationwide and worldwide, does not supplant our direct sensory encounter with visual and performance art. Yet the Claire Trevor School of the Arts faculty, students and support personnel are taking a difficult and unexpected situation, and creating new models of artistic expression. After this pandemic comes to a close, some of these models — such as combining live with filmed performances — will likely become part of the artist’s toolbox.