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10 Questions: What is a Body?

Charles Long Banner
Support Provided By

"10 Questions" is a collaboration with UCLA and is an interdisciplinary course/public event series featuring conversations with leading scholars that provides both students and the public a special opportunity to experience the conversations that drive innovation at the university. 

Every Tuesday for ten weeks UCLA faculty members from disciplines as diverse as dance, medicine, photography, astrophysics, athletics, Chicana and Chicano studies, law, philosophy and religious studies will join UCLA Arts Dean Brett Steele to explore a fundamental question such as: What is space? What is failure? and What is freedom? The goal is to stimulate dialogue and exchange, and to seed a greater understanding of the profoundly interdisciplinary nature of knowledge production in the 21st century. We present a discussion primer for each week's session to get the conversation started.

Art&Arc100: 10 Questions sessions will be held on Tuesdays through December 4 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Glorya Kaufman Hall theater (room 200). Free and open to the public (RSVP required). Pay by space parking available on campus adjacent to Kaufman Hall (Structure 4).

This week, Susan FosterJennifer JayTracy Johnson, and Greg Lynn will join Brett Steele, dean of the UCLA School of the Arts & Architecture to explore the question, "What is a Body?"

Lula Washington group outside
The Lula Washington Dance Theatre

Susan Foster, choreographer and scholar

Professor in the Department of World Arts & Cultures/Dance

Susan Leigh Foster is the author of "Reading Dancing: Bodies and Subjects in Contemporary American Dance," "Choreography and Narrative: Ballet’s Staging of Story and Desire," "Dances that Describe Themselves: The Improvised Choreography of Richard Bull," "Choreographing Empathy: Kinesthesia in Performance," and "Valuing Dance: Commodities and Gifts in Motion." She has also performed lectures on dance at the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. Foster began presenting concerts of her own work in 1977. From 1979-88 she choreographed and directed Discordancers, a California-based company, and produced several evening-length group works in collaboration with composer Ron Kuivila. Foster began dancing at the age of seven, and has studied extensively in the traditions of Graham, Humphrey, and Cunningham. Foster prepares for dancing through the practice of Iyengar yoga. She received a BA in anthropology from Swarthmore College, an MA in dance from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in history of consciousness from UC/Santa Cruz.

Related content:

Recommended Reading: "Meaning in Motion: New Cultural Studies of Dance" by Susan Leigh Foster, edited by Jane C. Desmond

The following is an excerpt from the text:

If you are asked to describe an object, you answer that it is a body with a surface, impenetrable, shaped, coloured, and movable. But subtract all these adjectives from your definition and what is left of that imaginary being you call a body? — Denis Diderot, "Letters on the Deaf and Dumb"

As a dancer working with, in, and through the body, I experience it as a body-of-ideas. I believe it is, as Diderot observed, the sum of all the adjectives that can be applies to it. I know the body only through its response to the methods and techniques used to cultivate it. (Note: This is a pdf document.) Read more.

"Kinesthetic Empathies & the Politics of Compassion" — a performed lecture by Dr. Susan Leigh Foster

As Foster creakily and haltingly plods across the stage, stooped and weighted by the persona of old age, she asks the audience to consider:

  • How might another body witnessing this body imagine what it is feeling?
  • How might the viewing body grasp the shuffling body’s sensations of tension, fatigue or achiness?
  • How might the viewing body fathom the motivation, desire, or emotion contained within or is it attached to this slumping figure?

All of which leads to the key questions for the lecture: How and “on what basis might the viewing body claim to apprehend what the moving body is experiencing?” Watch the lecture.

Three African-American Women Who Revolutionized Modern Dance

From ballet and modern dance to Lindy hop and hip-hop, African-American women have left indelible marks on the dance community. They have formed companies, authored books, penned choreographies, taught legends and wowed audiences near and far with breathtaking movement. They have blended techniques and created technique; studied the masters and became masters. Their fascination with movement metamorphosed them into trailblazing hyphenates: dancer-choreographer-anthropologist-artistic director-executive director. The three dancers on this list (modern and contemporary dancers), have soared over poverty, racism and ageism and inspired others to do the same. Read more.

Farmland and the Los Angeles River looking north from Elysian Park toward Mount Washington, 1895-1915
Farmland and the Los Angeles River looking north from Elysian Park toward Mount Washington, 1895-1915

Jennifer Jay, environmental engineer

Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Jennifer Jay earned her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She specializes in the fate and transport of chemical and microbial contaminants in the environment. Her research addresses a wide range of topics, including coastal water quality, arsenic in groundwater, and environmental proliferation of antibiotic resistance. Jay teaches classes in Aquatic Chemistry, Statistics, Chemical Fate and Transport, and Food: A Lens for Environment and Sustainability. She was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering, and an engineering school-wide award for excellence in teaching. In addition, she was the Pritzker Fellow for Environmental Sustainability and a Carnegie Fellow for Civic Engagement in Higher Education. Jay also directs the Center for Environmental Research and Community Engagement (CERCE), a UCLA Center that addresses community-based environmental research questions in under-served communities in Los Angeles.

Related content:

Recommended Reading: Meals 4 the Planet — Jennifer Jay's website

Climate change is a massive challenge facing humanity — 16 of the 17 most recent years have been the hottest on record. Sea levels have risen, and intense storm have become more frequent. The extent of future climate instability depends on steps we take today. Globally, food systems — what we eat, where and how we grow and process it — play a major role in determining our impact on the environment. By considering our food choices, we can find “low hanging fruit” for reducing our carbon footprint. Visit the Meals 4 the Planet website.

L.A. Food System: An Overview

Unfortunately, technology, density and legislation has contributed to the growth of a broken food system. Today the region operates under a global food system that is monopolizing the market and distancing consumers from food. Within 200 miles of Los Angeles, including top-producing counties Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, Fresno and Kern, an abundance of food continues to grow, but is exported elsewhere. Meanwhile small and mid-sized farmers struggle to compete. Today, only 1% of the food consumed in Los Angeles County comes from the region. Read more.

The End of the World: Mojave Playa Interventions, Part I

This essay arose from a conversation I had with William Fox, author of "Playa Works: The Myth of the Empty," at the Nevada Museum of Art's Center for Art + the Environment in early July 2014. Reoccurring themes of Fox's investigations examine how human cognition informs our understanding of the spaces we inhabit and the cultural construction of landscape. Read more.

Ricardo Rodriguez Cells
Ricardo Rodriguez Cells

Tracy Johnson, molecular, cellular and developmental biologist

Maria Rowena Ross Chair of Cell Biology and Biochemistry and Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology

Tracy Johnson earned her bachelors degree from UCSD in Biochemistry and Cell Biology, her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley, and was a Jane Coffin Childs postdoctoral research fellow at the California Institute of Technology. Dr. Johnson’s research program is focused on understanding fundamental mechanisms of gene regulation and how these molecular events affect cellular function. Dr. Johnson has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the NSF CAREER Award, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, and the UCLA Academic Senate Award for Career Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Related content:

From Beer to Brains: How Yeast Molecular Genetics Prove the Importance of Introns

Using a yeast system typically used to make beer or bread, Dr. Johnson and her team at UCLA have uncovered important genetic findings that could highlight the importance of intron retention during gene expression. Her research looks at the science of gene expressions, investigating the way in which cells synthesise, splice, and process RNA to generate the key proteins that regulate how we, as humans, continue to function. (Note: This is a pdf document.) Read more.

Innovations in Sustainability

Sustainability is shaping trends all across the globe, from agriculture and fashion to architecture and gourmet dining. On this episode, we take a look at the tastiest, chicest and coolest innovations in sustainability. Watch the feature.

New Organic Solar Cell Design Mimics Evolution

When researchers at Chicago's Northwestern University were trying to figure out how to maximize the amount of time light spent inside their organic polymer-based solar photovoltaic cells, they turned to an age-old technique to refine their design: evolution by natural selection. Read more.

Walt Disney Concert Hall (1)
Walt Disney Concert Hall, architect Frank Gehry

Greg Lynn, architect

Professor in the Department of Architecture & Urban Design and Founder, Greg Lynn FORM

Greg Lynn was an innovator in redefining the medium of design with digital technology as well as pioneering the fabrication and manufacture of complex functional and ergonomic forms using CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) machinery. His work is in the permanent collections of the most important design and architecture museums in the world including the CCA, SFMoMA, ICA Chicago and MoMA. Lynn graduated from Miami University of Ohio with degrees in both architecture (Bachelor of Environmental Design) and philosophy (Bachelor of Philosophy) and later from Princeton University where he received a graduate degree in architecture (Master of Architecture). Has has instructed at the ETHZ (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich), the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and as the Davenport Visiting Professor at Yale University. Find his exhibition work, books, videos and design on Greg Lynn FORM.

Related content:

Ted Talk: Greg Lynn — How calculus is changing architecture

Greg Lynn talks about the mathematical roots of architecture -- and how calculus and digital tools allow modern designers to move beyond the traditional building forms. A glorious church in Queens (and a titanium tea set) illustrate his theory. Watch the video.

Architects X Artists 1: A Match Made in Venice

Art and architecture have been intertwined for millennia. Nonetheless, in Los Angeles, which has been defined creatively by artists and architects in equal measure, there exists a tension between the two fields, consisting, it seems, of mutual attraction, rivalry, and disdain. Read more.

Walt Disney Concert Hall Turns 10

Resembling a majestic seagoing vessel, its sails billowing in the wind, the 367,000-square-foot venue was to be a cluster of eccentric shapes, with undulating walls in a variety of curves, clad in off-white limestone. The radical design, not surprisingly, drew mixed reactions: From being dubbed "post-earthquake architecture" and a shoe box left out in the rain, to an undisputed masterpiece, it set tongues a-wagging. Read more.

Top Image: Charles Long, Conceptual drawing for 'Catalin (main deck),' 2013 | Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.

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