Judson-Morrisey Scholarship Exhibition
Artists: Lena Chen, Ralph Day, Huan He, Jonghong Park, Sal Moreno, Anisa Hosseinnezhad, Chanee Choi
The New Media Caucus’ 2021 Judson-Morrissey Excellence in New Media Award was granted to seven artist-scholars of color who are graduate and undergraduate students at universities and colleges worldwide; Lena Chen, Chanee Choi, Ralph Day, Huan He, Anisa Hosseinnezhad, Sal Moreno, and Jonghong Park. In its 3rd year, the scholarship has evolved from directly supporting travel to the College Art Association (CAA) conference to an unrestricted gift while CAA is held virtually. Through the scholarship, the NMC aims to bring visibility to these outstanding practitioners while helping to increase racial diversity in our field.
As rising scholars, the awardees represent the breadth of new media practice in the methods they are using, including video and film, physical computing, interactive games, sound, performance, and XR. While the traditional art world often lacks knowledge about the histories of digital and new media art, those same histories not only lack racial diversity in the perspectives that are featured and discussed, but they often centralize whiteness and ignore relationships between race and technology entirely. Among these rising scholars are those who are revisiting histories and underlining the already racialized applications of commercial and artistic media. As Huan He, one of this year’s awardees, writes, “Media and information technologies, their artifacts and histories, are often considered to be race-neutral. [Nam Jun] Paik offered me a way to think about the intersection of race and technology, both as a PhD scholar and as a maker.” (He, Huan, 2021). Through this scholarship, He and the six other 2021 Judson-Morrissey awardees are broadening and reframing new media conversations.
The works in this exhibition are considered here under three overlapping themes. The first includes works that involve repetitive sound, body movement or individual agency through moving image, sound and performance. In Ralph Day’s “Purgatory” (2021) and his UNC Asheville senior thesis Electronic Dance Music (EDM) workshop, he generates rhythmic electronic beats to create spaces of safety and free movement. In Sal Moreno’s “Dreaming Sound” (2020), the artist performs in a motion capture suit while wearing a VR headset. The free agency of Moreno’s body movement is captured and reflected back as real-time sound limited only by programmatic constraints. Moreno layers gesture with XR modalities and creates a rare example of extended reality and live performance.
The projects under our second theme highlight an attention to making. They craft a relationship between artist-made objects and participants through interactivity, automation and performance. The repetitive sound of “Moving Papers'' in Jonghong Park’s 2020 installation is the result of spinning DC motors connected to reels of white paper. Park’s motors reflect the give and take of human relationships as two people working in tandem begin reflecting and responding to one another’s actions. By animating strips of paper, Park places emphasis on otherwise banal everyday objects through their interactions. Through a post-pandemic gaze, a viewer cannot overlook the close, perhaps uncomfortable, proximity of the pairs of strips intermingling with one another as if in a busy social group. Chanee Choi presents video documentation from her installation “Polaris” (2019), that includes paper puppets and an immersive projection that maps across the four walls of the gallery and onto the viewers themselves. Choi creates colorful images on-screen with interactive games and at times, costumed performers moving through a space full of onlookers.Viewers are invited to engage directly with Choi’s work, to handle it as one would with traditional handicrafts. They become part of the direction that a piece takes as they are given agency to move and to take in the aesthetic and unique hand of the craftsperson.
The final group of works investigate the notion of the gaze and push back on media’s power to impose whiteness and cultural tropes on non-white, non-western viewers. Through an intersectional feminist approach, these artists seek to reclaim media for those who have more often been its object than its maker. Huan He’s “We Are Live” (2021) questions “liveness” and who has the privilege to go live with agency versus being the object of the camera, such as in the widely broadcast images of Vietnemese people impacted not only by the horrors of war in their home country, but exponentially by the distribution of images of AAPI people as victims of violence. Simultaneously, white Americans are portrayed as the newscasters in control of the live media image as those broadcasting a sense of calm to domestic and international viewers during wartime. Anisa Hosseinnezhad’s “Wherever the War, Whoever the Enemy” (2020), depicts landscapes of the Middle East with ghost-like movements rippling through grasses, skies, mountains, and villages. A static camera frames otherwise pristine natural scenes that now billow with tension through Hosseinnezhad’s hand-erasure of the military components in the foreground. Her expungement of the violent imagery from the edited US Army commercial leaves behind tranquil but glitched scenes, their stillness interrupted by the ghost-like movements of erasure. Editing imagery into a landscape through layering and green screen capture is a common effect, but here, Hosseinnezhad achieves the opposite by using a reductive rather than an additive process to bring the landscape back into view. She also includes her own closed captioned titles that describe what has been erased from the original advertisement, underscoring a deep sense of unease and disconnect between what is happening on the screen and what was intended by the original maker. Awardee Lena Chen and collaborator Maggie Oates' “Only Bans” (2021) game uses interactive browser-based technologies to critique the medium itself, intertwining the content and the approach used to create the work. In doing so, Chen and Oates ask the player to take the perspective of a sex worker who is making and uploading their own content. By reflecting the frustration of this task back on the viewer, Chen increases understanding of ways in which platforms must be navigated in order to make a living as a sex worker online.