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10 Questions: What is Beauty?

Doug Aitken, "Underwater Pavilions." | Photo: Matt Crotty
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, J.Ed Araiza, Paul Barber, Marla Berns, and Kathleen McHugh will join Brett Steele, dean of the UCLA School of the Arts & Architecture to explore the question, "What is Beauty?"

John Cage and Mountain Lake Workshop
John Cage and Mountain Lake Workshop

J.Ed Araiza, writer, director, and performer

Professor, Department of Theater/Area Head, MFA Acting Program/Principal Actor, SITI Company

J.Ed Araiza has a long and varied history working on multicultural, cross-disciplinary projects as a writer, director and performer. Araiza holds a B.A. in theater from Texas A&I University in Kingsville, Texas and studied journalism at San Antonio College. Early in his career, Araiza was a member of El Teatro de La Esperanza Company and worked at both the Los Angeles Actors Theatre and the Los Angeles Theatre Center. Araiza is a principal actor and original member of the SITI Company, founded by Tadashi Suzuki and Anne Bogart. SITI Company is one of the most important experimental theater ensembles in the world. He is a proponent of Suzuki and Viewpoints training and for more than 20 years has performed in productions in major national and international venues.

The Americano Mythos

Latino/a Theater is a under-documented literary form with deep roots in the fertile soil of California that began as voices from its fields and groves. It grew into Teatro Chicano and is now a prominent form of American Theater, rivaling the themes of the conflict, flux, or successes of the American Dreams from mid 20th-Century playwrights like Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, and Tennessee Williams. Read more.



Still Grand: On the Canyon's 'Lasting Light'

The Grand Canyon has the unnerving capacity to shut us up. Native peoples have lived in and around it for millennia, with varying degrees of intimacy. For many of them it has served as sacred ground from whence life began; approachable on pilgrimage, held at a distance. Others, such as the Havasupai and Hualapai, have lived comfortably within its contours for centuries. Read more.


I-Ching Hexagrams. | Photo: Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Considering the Sound of an Air Conditioner: John Cage and "Zen Ox-Herding Pictures"

John Cage was a composer, philosopher, writer and visual artist whose interest in East Asian and Indian philosophy led him to renounce artistic intention and instead embrace process and chance in music, performance and visual art. Read more.


Ellen Lauren as Queen Attossa (center) and the Chorus in "Persians" by Aeschylus at the Getty Villa. | © 2014 Craig Schwartz.

Recommended Reading: Approaches to Theater Training — The Articulate Body (by Ellen Lauren)

In search of stillness. Capturing the purity and energy of not moving is the root of the invisible body. Read more(Note: This is a pdf document.)

Discover more about Ellen Lauren's performance in "Persians" (pictured) in Artbound. Read more.


Fish-weir across Trinity River | Art by Edward Sheriff Curtis, Gift of Edwin and Irene Weinrot
A Hupa man fishes from a weir on the Trinity River. These weirs were built to allow most salmon to pass, ensuring survival of the salmon run  | Art by Edward Sheriff Curtis, Gift of Edwin and Irene Weinrot

Paul Barber, evolutionary and conservation geneticist

Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology/Principal Investigator, Barber Lab

Professor Paul H. Barber is an evolutionary and conservation geneticist. His Ph.D. research at UC Berkeley focused on the dispersal of frogs among the sky islands of the desert southwest, but he turned his attention to marine ecosystems of the Coral Triangle as an NSF postdoctoral fellow at Harvard. He moved to UCLA in 2008 from Boston University. Honors include the Presidential Early Career Award forScientists and Engineers, the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award, UCLA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award, and the Life Science Award for Excellence in Educational Innovation. Research interests of the Barber Lab include integrates genetics, ecology, oceanography and geology, in order to understand the processes that promote speciation in marine environments, creating marine biodiversity hotspots.

"Electric Earth: The Art of Doug Aitken" Episode: Underwater Pavilions by Doug Aitken

Electric Earth: Doug Aitken Explores How We Communicate with Nature and with Each Other

Born in Redondo Beach and based in Los Angeles, Aitken explores contemporary issues, like technology's role in human communication or environmental concerns, through sculpture, film and large installations. His works often connect to each other in subtle ways, allowing "Electric Earth" to come together as not just a retrospective, but a larger statement about communication between humans, and between us and nature. Read more.



Scientists Want to Unlock the Joshua Tree's Secrets

The Joshua tree, the iconic denizen of the Mojave Desert, faces serious threats from climate change, drought, and human development. And a group of scientists wants to see if the tree's genome holds potential answers to those threats. Among the questions the project's biologists hope the trees' genetic makeup will help to answer are what drives the plants' reliance on yucca moths for pollination, and whether the wild population of trees might hold traits that allow survival in a warmer, drier, world. Read more.



What is Traditional Ecological Knowledge?

The New World is in fact a very old world. The mountain forests, broad inland valleys, oak-studded hills, and deserts of the region now called California were thoroughly known, celebrated in story and song, named in great detail, and inhabited long before European explorers sailed along the west coast of North America for the first time. Read more.


The Origami Revolution on PBS still

Recommended Viewing: The Origami Revolution

Engineers are using origami to design drugs, micro-robots, and future space missions. Watch now.

Purifoy structure. | Photo: Drew Tewksbury.
Purifoy structure  | Photo: Drew Tewksbury

Marla Berns, scholar and curator of African Arts and Director of the Fowler Museum at UCLA

Shirley and Ralph Shapiro Director, Fowler Museum at UCLA

Marla C. Berns received her Ph.D. in art history at UCLA, specializing in African art, and was director of the University Art Museum at the University of California, Santa Barbara from 1991 to 2001. Her work focuses on the arts of northeastern Nigeria. Berns served as the lead curator of the international traveling exhibition "Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley," which premiered at the Fowler in 2011. She authored a history of the museum for the book "World Arts, Local Lives: The Collections of the Fowler Museum at UCLA" (2013). Berns is project director of the upcoming international traveling exhibition "Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths," which opened at the Fowler in June 2018. In 2013 she received the medal of chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters of the French Republic.

José Montoya, “Untitled,” date unknown. Ink on paper, 29 x 15.5 cm. Courtesy of the Montoya Family Trust.

Essay For An Ese: A Tribute to Chicano Artist José Montoya

When did he have time to create the portraits of so many? Framing their moment with as few lines as a Beat poet? Perhaps part of the riddle is locked in the economy of his line. He was moving, and so his pen and pencil were as well! There is as much an existential question in these works as there is simplicity and beauty. Read more.



Cameras d'Afrique: Indie Films of West Africa

In an age in which the global North largely focuses on the most negative aspects of African life like poverty, war, and the AIDS crisis, Caméras d'Afrique highlights how West Africans view themselves thus allowing for their own self-definition after centuries misunderstanding or overt denigration. Read more.


Noah Purifoy's Sophisticated Assemblage

Noah Purifoy created from the cast-offs and the detritus of modern society. However, upon closer look, we realize the late artist's elevated skill and inspired inventiveness in making sculpture out of leftover boards and planks, lunch trays, vacuum cleaners, bowling balls, and anything else he could find in bulk and cheaply. Read more.


Ga'anda Scarification by Marla C. Berns image

Recommended Reading: Ga'anda Scarification — A Model for Art and Identity (by Marla C. Berns)

Although their dominant artistic mode is ceramic sculpture, the scarification of women is highly elaborate and contributes significantly to an understanding of Ga'anda social and art history. Read more. (Note: This is a pdf document.)

The Witch No. 1 | Art by Joseph E. Baker
The Witch No. 1 | Art by Joseph E. Baker

Kathleen McHugh, feminist media theorist and critic

Chair, Department of Film, Television and Digital Media/Professor, Department of Film, Television and Digital Media

Kathleen McHugh's most recent book is Jane Campion (University of Illinois Press, 2007), which examines the subversive style of the woman who has become one of the world’s greatest film directors. She is the author of American Domesticity: From How-To Manual to Hollywood Melodrama (Oxford University Press, 1999), the co-editor of South Korean Golden Age Melodrama: Gender, Genre, and National Cinema (Wayne State University Press, 2005), and the co-editor of a special issue of SIGNS on “Film Feminisms.” She has published articles on domesticity, feminism, melodrama, the avant-garde, and autobiography in Cultural Studies, JumpCut, Screen, South Atlantic Quarterly, and Velvet Light Trap. Before coming to UCLA in 2002, McHugh was Chair and co-founder of the Film and Visual Culture Program at UC Riverside, where she developed and coordinated interdisciplinary curriculum involving twenty faculty across seven departments; developed a film library with 3,000 acquisitions; wrote grants for equipment for production, editing, and screenings; and wrote proposals for a minor (approved in 1992) and a major (approved in 2000). From 2005-2012 and again from 2013-2014, she served as Director of the UCLA Center for the Study of Women.

Louise Bourgeois, "Arch of Hysteria," 1993. | Courtesy Louise Bourgeois Studio (New York).

A History of Hysteria in Art, Film, and Literature

Western history's read on hysteria is long and fraught, fascinating and powerful. Hysteria is almost always associated with the female mind and/or body, and mention of it calls to mind a plethora of images and concepts, such as witchcraft, the relationship between photography and psychiatry in the late 19th century, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's novella "The Yellow Wallpaper" about a woman who loses her mind when confined inside. Read more.


Nao Bustamante | Eleanor Goldsmith

Spotlighting the Work of Transgressive Latinas in Art

We asked Fajardo-Hill whether the marginalization of women in Latin American art is due to the influence of Western European art history, or whether it is inherent in Latin American culture itself. "The twentieth century produced great women artists throughout the world, but art history with its colonial patriarchal perspective has tended to erase these women, not only in Europe or the U.S., but also in Latin America,” she said. Read more.


Eaton Science Fiction Conference Makes Riverside the Center of the Known Universe

The Eaton Collection of Science Fiction & Fantasy is the largest publicly accessible collection of science fiction, fantasy, horror and utopian literature in the world. It is housed in the UC Riverside Libraries' Special Collections & Archives in the Tomás Rivera Library. Read more.


Gloria Swanson

How Women Built Early Hollywood — And Transformed Los Angeles

In early Hollywood, women outnumbered men as stars. They also wrote, publicized, directed, edited, and produced films in numbers unequaled until the 1980s — or beyond. Read more.


Top Image: Doug Aitken "Underwater Pavilions" | Photo: Matt Crotty

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A portrait of Larry Baza from shoulders up. He's wearing thick, tortoise shell glasses, a beige plaid suit with yellow details and a gold tie. Baza is smiling and looking off to the side.

The Legacy of Larry Baza, San Diego Activist and Arts Advocate

A prominent advocate for the arts, BIPOC and LGBTQ causes, Larry Baza served on San Diego's Commission for Arts and Culture and was later appointed to the California Arts Council in 2016.

Animated Series 'City of Ghosts' Explores L.A.'s Rich Histories for Kids

Award-winning animator Elizabeth Ito explores L.A.'s rich, diverse history in a hybrid documentary and animated series, "City of Ghosts."
A black, square-shaped piece of fabric with chain stitch embroidery reading the words, "BLACK LIVES MATTER" in white thread. The ends of the threads are long and loose. The patch sits on top of a multicolored, striped surface.

When Embroidery Stitches a Portrait of Our Times

These L.A. artists have been using the craft of embroidery to send messages of hope, renewal and justice. With designs inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the presidential inauguration, their pieces have become a way to protest and record history.