Research News

Exchange program produces exhibition, symposium

six UB MFA students from the Department of Art traveled to Beijing for a two-week residency at Tsinghua University’s Academy of Arts & Design.

Students participate in a movement and performance workshop run by Kyle deCamp (red headband) at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

By SUE WUETCHER

Published August 27, 2018

portrait of Millie Chen
“The collaborators seek to shift our perceptions and interactions with one another by overcoming misunderstandings and finding a common language.”
Millie Chen, professor
Department of Art

A Department of Art exchange program involving MFA students from UB and Tsinghua University in Beijing will culminate in an exhibition and symposium at UB early this semester focusing on the complexities of cross-cultural interpretations and negotiations.

“Antipodal,” the art exhibition, opens on Sept. 6 in the Second Floor Gallery of the UB Art Gallery in the Center for the Arts. The symposium, “Antipodal Intent: Creative Strategies for Environmental Quandaries,” will take place from 5-7 p.m. Aug. 30 in the Department of Art’s Lower Gallery, B45 Center for the Arts.

Both events are part of the biennial UB-Tsinghua University art and academic exchange program, first held in 2016 and developed by Millie Chen, UB professor of art. The program, designed to generate fresh research and creative works through cross-cultural discourse and collaboration, is similar to one Chen initiated in 2011 with the Central Academy of Fine Arts, also in Beijing.

This year’s UB-Tsinghua exchange began in May, when six UB MFA students from the Department of Art traveled to Beijing for a two-week residency at Tsinghua University’s Academy of Arts & Design. The UB students worked closely with their Tsinghua counterparts, MFA students in the Department of Painting, to research and develop collaborative art projects. The students will complete the artworks when the Tsinghua students come to UB for their residency during the first weeks of the fall semester.

The finished projects will be on display in the UB Art Gallery through Sept. 22. An opening reception for the exhibition will take place from 5-7 p.m. Sept. 6 in the gallery.

Chen explains that the title of the exhibition, “Antipodal,” is the brainchild of UB MFA student Martin Chittum, who further developed it with the rest of the group.

“Beyond the fact that the participating UB and Tsinghua students are physically situated on opposite sides of the earth, Martin noted they are also from diverse worlds psychologically,” Chen says. “They are coming together from a great distance and diverse circumstances to create collaborative art works.”

UB students worked closely with their Tsinghua counterparts, MFA students in the Department of Painting, to research and develop collaborative art projects.

Students worked in cross-institutional collaborative groups to write creative texts about their conflicted relationships to Beijing. They were then asked to perform their texts.

The students’ work, presented in a range of mediums, “will articulate something of the experience of working across the globe as creative thinkers who are at once collaborators, counterparts and enigmatic strangers,” she says. “The collaborators seek to shift our perceptions and interactions with one another by overcoming misunderstandings and finding a common language.”

In addition to Chittum, student artists participating in the exchange program are Joshua Elston, Kathleen MacNeil, Julia Sutherland, John Van Houten and Xiao Yang from UB, and Jo Enya, Wang Qi, Xie Xingliang, Yang Qiuxuan, Zhang Lin and Zhang Yang from Tsinghua University.

After its Buffalo run, the show will travel to Beijing for exhibition at Tsinghua University.

Chen notes that an integral part of academic exchanges like the UB-Tsinghua program are symposia on related topics, featuring speakers from both countries.

The title for this year's symposium, “Antipodal Intent: Creative Strategies for Environmental Quandaries,” is informed by the exhibition title, she points out.

“I invited the speakers based on their diverse research interests and how these segue with one another under the rubric of ‘creative strategies for environmental quandaries,’” she says, explaining that the word “environmental” “refers to the built environment, to the natural world and our impact on its condition, and to one’s personal surroundings.”

The symposium speakers:

Kyle deCamp, Barnard College, Columbia University

“Urban Renewal” (66 min video)

“Urban Renewal” is a multimedia solo performance on perception, public policy and the significance of the buildings we live in, from a child’s unsentimental point of view. It maps an experience of growing up in Chicago in the chaotic 1960s, caught in the crosshairs of power and history. The performance reveals a childhood spent on a block razed by the last demolition of urban renewal in Hyde Park, and the devastating aftermath, alongside a conversation with world history, politics, urban planning and the land we live on. The results of planning, or no planning at all, still reverberate. “Urban Renewal” will be presented in video form for the symposium.

Nicholas Rajkovich, UB Department of Architecture

“Top-down, bottom-up or middle-out? Adaptive approaches to a changing climate”

“Citizen science” is often defined as the collection of scientific data by the general public, typically conducted in collaboration with professional researchers. However, in the absence of action by state and federal governments on issues like climate change, the acquisition of data is not neutral and leans more toward advocacy rather than research. In many cases these bottom-up and middle-out cataloging efforts catalyze a response by government; in others they create new governance structures linking policymakers, practitioners and the public. Rajkovich’s presentation will explore ongoing efforts in Buffalo and Cleveland to engage communities in data collection and decision-making.

Eric Fan Feng, Department of Painting, Academy of Arts & Design, Tsinghua University

Warren Quigley, UB Department of Art

“Worrying the inertia: Knowing too much and too little”

This collaborative work-in-progress, based in the coastal rustbelt of northeastern China, aims to shake loose from the inertia caused by the tension between concern for the environment and the 21st century energy demands of the Anthropocene. The project’s itinerary includes Huludao, home of China’s nuclear submarine shipyard, and Panjin, site of the Red Seabeach, the world’s largest wetland and reed marsh, and home to 260 kinds of birds and 399 kinds of wild animals, where one can meditate to the rhythm of the oil derricks on its shore.

The exchange, exhibition and symposium are co-sponsored by UB’s Confucius Institute, UB Art Galleries and the Office of International Education, and the Department of Painting at the Academy of Arts & Design at Tsinghua University.