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College of Fine Arts
Annual Report 2011-2012
Prepared October 29, 2012
Susan Dever, Chair
There comes a moment, some twenty minutes into Daniel Reeves's nearly three-hour video sculpture, when Cinematic Artists regarding the sonic images simply let go. Sitting or standing for a spell under the kaleidoscopic patterns, projected on a great round glass disk, suspended mid-air in the UNM Art Museum, active-minded moviemakers and film scholars seem to find a resting place. Discursiveness diminishes. Space opens. One can almost touch the light, glimpse the work's sound, catch the scent of the "Flower Garland Sutra" from which Reeves's eponymous Avatamsaka takes its all-encompassing view. People relax, and in that moment something happens.
Reviewing the complexities of a year during which so much has happened, I've begun to appreciate Reeves's intricate rendering of the phenomenal world as a most apt symbol of the last twelve months in Cinematic Arts. This report looks at the year from the literal level where many students, staff, and faculty have interacted with the artist's work as showcased in The Transformative Surface, and examines parallel exhibitions and events, where members of the Department have deeply engaged similar arts universes.
For reasons I'll describe in this review, 2011-2012 can be uniquely characterized as a period of generative quiescence and concomitant action.
Over the last few years, given the urgency for "excellence" at a shifting-sands University with differing perspectives about what superior quality might constitute—and how it might be gained—we have found ourselves fairly speeding along to accomplishment. We've yet again painstakingly measured our students' learning outcomes, often uneasy about the way we must articulate those results to suit disparate audiences. We've produced by-the-deadline, compelling scholarship, wishing we had more time to reflect. We've imagined new studio courses into being, commensurate with technology's nanosecond shelf life.
Our staff members have weathered innovations from revamped hiring policies to more exigent requests for detailed financial information. We've experienced a sea change in the composition of our college: life-altering accidents, serious illnesses, and the death of beloved colleague Professor David Craven, past Chair of Art and Art History. These events have prompted all manner of necessarily rapid responses to new circumstances in our intertwined affective, creative, intellectual, social, and economic environments.
We have reacted to these conditions notwithstanding their breath-taking force. In it all we've done what Cinematic Arts does best: we have continued to teach. Our undergrads, who radiate from the center of our mandala, have continued to learn. They create still- and moving-image art, write screenplays and critical essays. In a range of stimulating courses, all dealing with various aspects of what it means to be human, they blend isciplines to produce creative (non-) fiction, poetry, sculptural video pieces, sound designs, performances, and installations resonating with the broadly cinematic. Working closely together, even in large-enrollment courses, since instructors have mastered the art of the "discussion/lecture," students and faculty report enormous satisfaction. Even after office hours conclude around 10:00 pm, or as teachers pack up after seven-hour Saturday classes, "can-do" cheerfulness abounds.
Nevertheless, given our low ratio of faculty to students, everyone is stretched to the limit. And when pressures drive us to strive for excellence, rather than easing into art with the relaxed concentration of the virtuoso, we tighten. Tension impedes success.
On average, over the last decade, we've offered what External Reviewers have called our "cutting-edge curriculum" on the strength of four or five adjunct instructors, plus a few faculty from other departments, and just over four FTE's worth of full-time faculty members. Beginning with two full-time professors ten years ago, we added another in 2005, allowing for a necessary inception of partial sabbaticals, parental leaves, and leaves without pay. By fall 2012 four professors served on campus at 3.75 FTEs.
Currently six full-time faculty members and four adjunct instructors teach our fifteen-year average of almost 1,500 students per annum. Over 300 of these students figure as majors or minors. In January 2012 course offerings became more numerous with the three-year hire of a visiting associate professor. Together with a full-time lecturer and a half-time professor of practice, we inched from 4.25 total on-campus FTEs in 2010 to an on-campus contingent of 5.0 FTEs for the period under review. And after ten years of annually applauding some twenty-plus graduates, we congratulated forty-one students in spring 2011, nearly doubling the decade's average to fifty-one grads in 2012.
Thanks to a College of Fine Arts/Provost Office Grant, we were able to offer Dr. James Stone a key Post Doc last spring upon his submission of his successful Code Three dossier—just before the birth of his daughter this summer. With those one-semester funds, we hired an excellent group of part-time faculty to cover his courses. Professor Deborah Fort also enjoyed a term of remunerated, partial leave, and we were similarly able to replace her courses. As readers will appreciate by the list of Stone's and Fort's accomplishments, a pause in teaching, if not in service or childrearing, resulted in publications in prestigious journals, as well as the presentation of innovative performance art and the completion of related creative projects.
Beginning spring 2011, and for the first time in a decade, we became able to respond to exigencies rather than simply reacting. We were grateful for the addition of a new faculty line late spring (ably filled by Associate Professor Deborah Fort, formerly serving in a visiting capacity) that, above all, lent us the means by which we can responsibly cultivate our students and the Program. Just as Reeves patiently grew his Avatamsaka "lotuses" from the fertile mud of the previous century—his reincarnated fractals arose from the fast-paced, promotional '50s film, American Style—so, too, have we begun to transform the rich confusions of the new corporate university into the soil from which our arts practices can emerge. In particular rhyme with Reeves's Buddhist-inspired work, where bedlam becomes bedrock, a number of courses in the Department, instructed by several faculty members, make pointed use of the opportunities that chaos stirs. Indeed, Cinematic Arts offers our signature lines of courses in Contemplative, International, and "Third" Cinemas by seeing the potential inherent in uncertainty.
Courses such as Professor Hinkley's "Still/Moving," prepared last spring in conjunction with her own still- and moving-image art, especially speak to the relationship between the thoughtful pause and the thought-provoking result. During the planning stage, Hinkley also revealed her creative process, leading a "Meeting of the Minds" conversation in the Art Museum on Hiroshi Sugimoto's quietly compelling photographs. Discussing the artist's re-visions of reality, she asked us to consider "reducing the alleged autonomy and supposed binary oppositions of the still and moving image" even as we link our seemingly dual modes of doing so. Presence—whether showcased as impending possibility in the photographer's take of a soon-to-be-occupied movie theater, or ghosted into the print by the viewer's reflective looking—is "still/moving." Both terms, both practices, require their not-so-separate other.
As all of the work we've studied and discussed in the Art Museum's Transformative Surface exhibition suggests, this kind of reimagining is itself a precursor to art-making and its appreciation. Cinematic Arts professors speaking about the role of relaxed inquiry in fostering production also include Dr. James Stone, who discussed Professor Mary Tsiongas’s Dendrochronologist’s Dilemma, and Professor Deborah Fort, leading a conversation about Woody Vasulka’s Light Revisited in dialogue with Daniel Reeves's work. I also offered a short presentation of Reeves's Avatamsaka in conjunction with the artist's talk.
Of course none of the interactions we enjoy with the Art Museum, including the current show, would have occurred without the forethought and follow-through of Electra Luanne McKinnon, Museum Director since fall 2008, Emerita as of this fall's installation of The Transformative Surface. Together with Curators Sara Otto-Diniz and Michele Penhall, now serving as Interim Directors, McKinnon has encouraged Cinematic Artists' participation as Museum visitors and students of companion texts, from Professor Patrick Nagatani's Desire for Magic and its comprehensive catalogue, to McKinnon's solo curatorial project and her anthology, Eva Hesse: Spectres 1960. Students in "EveryDay Art: Mindfulness for Movie Makers and Other Poets" eagerly absorbed masterful essays and masterworks in connection with their multiple visits to the Museum. Of additional interest to students in Professor Nina Fonoroff's "Autobiography" courses, Spectres taught us to see how we all, with Hesse, might take the time to "look inwardly and outwardly with paint as . . . guide." In "painting [ourselves] out and away and ahead," as McKinnon writes of Hesse's visionary project, Cinematic Artists' still/moving has become invigoratingly relaxed: the hallmark of genuine art.
In late fall 2010 we applauded the teaching, research, and artistry that Dr. Eva Hayward, invited as a part-year Researcher/Consultant at Sweden's Uppsala University (after two years there plus a Post-Doc at Duke), achieved in stellar service to Cinematic Arts. Her curriculum design for CFA helped bring the Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media Program into productive existence vis-à-vis our Department and others. Her development of numerous elements of the Program was matched only by her skillful instruction of IFDMers and CA students. So it was that when the faculty learned of Hayward’s hard-wrought decision to leave UNM, there was an immediate suggestion that we hire someone of the same intellectual and creative caliber. We had already enjoyed Professor Caroline Hinkley as a one-year visiting associate during the calendar year of 2009, teaching Hayward’s complex Post-colonial Cinema Series, her demanding “Film Theory” courses, plus critical race studies in U.S. cinemas “Beyond Hollywood.” Hinkley, an experienced internationalist, was capable of highlighting various regions, particularly as those “Third Cinemas” resonated with works of ethnically diverse filmmakers in the United States. In addition, the former Naropa University Dean and Associate Professor of Film and Photography could offer philosophy-based courses in Visual Epistemologies and Contemplative Cinemas, two areas in which Professor Hayward, Professor Fonoroff, and I variously team-taught as we expanded courses as "The Practice of Looking" and "The Politics of Display" during Hayward's service in CFA.
As of January 2012 Visiting Associate Professor Hinkley assumed a three-year post. Having just lost home and studio to fire in Boulder, Colorado, she began to reassert the (im)materiality of her own art as the subject of haunting photographs, asking viewers to revisit her images of seemingly solid worlds. With her new work, monoliths from the Himalayas to Icelandic mountains could be viewed with an appreciation of their ultimate ephemeral nature. Positing pilgrimage as the connecting link between quiescence and motion—a mode anyone can use to experience the present moment—Professor Hinkley began to teach "transition" itself.
The virtual and real travel that she offers her viewers (taking students on documentary- making treks to Tibet and Nepal, for instance) raises questions about what we know, and how we inhabit different knowledge systems. These themes become the theorized part of presentations in courses such as “Hotels, Motels, and Tents: The Cinema of Diaspora,” encompassing immersive spaces (including museums, following Hayward et alia, and the “elsewhere” of exile). Truly transdisciplinary, Hinkley holds two MFAs. Her first is from Claremont Graduate School; her second, Cal Arts. Each degree relates her widely cinematic work to the arts of painting, drawing, as well as social and environmental design. Her combination of expertise in both art-making and its explication made her a unique candidate for this multi-dimensional post.
Professor Hinkley has taught at the University of Colorado in the College of Architecture and Planning, as well as CU's Art Department and Women’s Studies. Service at Naropa, including four years as Dean of College, stretched over a decade. Having received a NEA/WESTAF award for photography, a Visual Arts Fellowship from the Colorado Council on the Arts, a Neo Data fellowship, and the San Francisco Foundation Phelan Award for excellence in photography, she was a resident artist in Denver’s RedLine interactive studio, and enjoyed three other such residencies in Ireland and Iceland, the artistic result of which culminated in recent shows in Colorado and New York.
The members of Cinematic Arts' extraordinary staff are as much a part of the creative/intellectual enterprise as anyone on the faculty. For a teaching-intensive unit, staff involvement with scholarship and art-making is indispensable. Technical Coordinator and video-maker James Roy very capably teaches MA111, one of our introductory studio courses; Cage Supervisor and CA grad Alicia Garcia, until her promotion to wider worlds this fall after four years of service, offered students spot-on instruction in the use of equipment. These staffers, together with a cadre of impressive work-study students under their supervision, are beyond valuable when it comes to making anything function—at almost anytime around our 12/7 clock, for everyone who teaches a few, to a few-hundred, students.
With this report I want to underscore the contributions of a long-term administrative assistant who rose in rank last year, as well as a new "accounting administrator" who arrived last September, filling a post that had been virtually vacant for nearly six months. The combined efforts of Jennifer Griggs, now Administrative Assistant III, and Lindsay Rogash, Accountant II/Department Administrator, are, without the slightest exaggeration, the power behind every Cinematic Arts success.
I worked closely with Ms. Griggs during those six months when we two served our departmental administrative needs with the help of former D.A. Andrea Arvizu, assisting as quarter-time accountant while she began a new full-time job in Contract and Grant Accounting. Over the following six months, when Ms. Griggs and Ms. Rogash began to work as a particularly efficient team, we all became grateful for Griggs having assumed myriad responsibilities previously accomplished by our DAs. Her dedication was commensurate with her perspicacity in anticipating students', staffs', faculty members', and this chair's needs, plus her willingness to do quite literally whatever was necessary for the Department to thrive.
In managing our office, she also took the time to engage our students, from her incursions into the hyper-real spaces of social media, e-mail, and the website she imagined and built from scratch (and re-built, over the winter break), to the real encounters she has with folks after their visits—even to databases where she's networked everything. An extraordinary listener, Griggs absorbs a student or faculty request, commentary, idea, or question, and then offers her expertise in the form of a suggestion we all can weigh according to our own lights. Knowing her libraries as a scholar (she's earning an MA in Landscape Architecture), as well as acting as our Curator of Film and Texts, she points people and their projects to the precise book, DVD, or on-line resource we need in order to achieve a range of academic or business goals.
With her generous and precise crafting of our infrastructure—creating systems that bring low tech into current and more durable formats, updating ways we approach course promotion and scheduling, taking all sorts of initiative to get students and faculty to stay connected, and noting all these details in her ever-expanding Job Manual—Cinematic Arts has been able to entirely re-imagine our best managerial practices.
Seamless operation of accounting and other administrative tasks began with Lindsay Rogash's hire to a post we created from a previous half-time accountant line amalgamated with the former department administrator position. Ms. Rogash is indeed the "financial wizard" we sought last August, gifted with an extraordinary ability to analyze and interpret financial data, as well as compile and write fiscal reports, statements, and projections. She offers details of our unit's negotiations as easily as she can explain, in layman’s terms, accounting arcana. Toggling between people and issues and policies, keeping meticulously-maintained paperwork and virtual files, Rogash has solved long-perplexing puzzles. Thinking on her feet, sharing her ideas with the appropriate constituents, she incorporates the various needs of the Department—and its diverse individuals—into her calculations and care.
As Cinematic Arts enriches our film- and video-making equipment assets, plus DVD holdings, our Accounting Administrator has also been vital in making projections that help the faculty prioritize purchases. Inventories are up-to-date and acquisitions are tracked with attention; we consequently enjoy greater ease than ever before in terms of course planning. This is essential as we consider advances in teaching that may include offering more students the opportunity to complete a CA-assisted minor in Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media.
Having two degrees in accounting from NMSU, Rogash has now begun the Anderson MBA program. Her aim is to earn the degree with a concentration in Information Assurance, an expertise at which she is already reassuringly skilled, evidenced by her comprehension and ease of use with meta-narratives from Banner to Big Red. Administratively "bi-lingual," Rogash teaches that business is not "as usual" in her world, where her "love of movies, theatre, and writing have made the College of Fine Arts a great fit" for her—and us. While she enjoys the "exchange of ideas about politics, the environment, and diversity," we've learned to value the precision that good business practices dictate. This slightly different "exchange of ideas" has strengthened everyone's view of how a mindfully creative group can function in the smartest sort of way.
Selected Faculty, Staff, and Student Accomplishments
As ever, one of our all-departmental efforts includes the production of a significant film festival, imagined into being and directed by Bryan Konefsky and his students in MA409. "Experiments in Cinema" attracts over 400 viewers to screening venues from the Kimo Theater to the Guild Cinema. Cinematic Arts faculty members, including Nina Fonoroff and Deborah Fort, screen their own films and videos in conjunction with makers from all over the globe. With Konefsky, we can appreciate how course and fête come together:
In this experiential learning course, students work with Basement Films (a community-based, non-profit arts organization) to produce 'Experiments in Cinema,' an eight-day, international film festival that showcases approximately seventy-five films from twenty-five different countries. In addition to the film screenings, the festival hosts special guest speakers and workshops. Most importantly, UNM students engage in year-round outreach efforts where they visit schools throughout the state to introduce middle- and high-schoolers to alternative cinematic practices, encouraging those students to participate in the Regional Youth Film Screening that is a central part of the fest.
This year, Konefsky's own moving image work was included in programs such as the twentieth annual "PXL This" film festival, the "Milwaukee Underground Film Festival," the "Big Muddy" in Illinois, the "Mis-Alt Screening Series," The Other Cinema" in San Francisco, the "Experimental Response Screening Series" in Austin, Texas, "Video-Recycled at D-Block Projects" in Long Beach, California, and the "Anarchist Studies Network/Conference" at Loughborough University in the UK. While teaching in Korea this summer (and accompanying our students on exchange to Dongguk University), several of his films were also presented. As I write, one of his pieces is being shown in an Independent Film Festival in Egypt, while our filmmaker himself is lecturing in Argentina.
I. Awards, Prizes, Grants, and Funding
Camarena, David. Cinematic Arts Student Prize: Gus Blaisdell Award in Critical Writing.
Fort, Deborah. College of Fine Arts Professional Development Grant, UNM.
Griggs, Jennifer. Invited to membership in Tau Sigma Delta.
_____. Prize winner: ALSA, student chapter, logo design contest.
_____. Travel Grant: to submit "The Harlem Edge," design competition to re-envision an abandoned waste transfer station on the Hudson River for ENYA, Emerging New York Architects.
Henry, Melissa. PBS People's Choice Award for first on-line Film Festival for short video, Horse You See, where a Navajo talking-horse "explains his very essence of being."
_____. Artist's Residency awarded for work on video projects.
Kamins, Michael, exec. prod. Bataan: A 70th Anniversary Commemoration. NATAS Rocky Mountain Emmy nomination for Interview/Discussion Program.
_____, prod. USS New Mexico BB40: The Drinan Diary. NATAS Rocky Mountain Emmy nomination for Historic/Cultural Story.
_____. Funding received from W.K. Kellogg Foundation for Public Square. Grant from NM Arts/National Endowment for the Arts for Artisodes. McCune Charitable Foundation monies awarded for Public Affairs Programming. Funding fromWETA for Makers: Women Who Make America. Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funding for American Graduate. Support from UNM Public Affairsfor Connect.
Konefsky, Bryan. Four College of Fine Arts Grants: Two grants supported the production of our annual Film Festival, "Experiments in Cinema"; one grant will allow Konefsky to participate in the “Continente” Media Conference and to lecture at El Museo de Arte Moderno in Buenos Aires, and the fourth grant will pay for travel to Berlin, Germany, to the "Directors Lounge" festival this coming winter.
_____. Two grants: New Mexico Arts, and the McCune Charitable Foundation, to help produce "Experiments in Cinema."
Mellor, Michelle. Summer scholarship-supported travel to study film at Korea's premier Buddhist University, Dongguk University, in conjunction with Konefsky-initiated abroad program.
Valderama, Patricia. Cinematic Arts Student Prize: Michael Costello Award for Service and Smarts.
_____. Summer scholarship-supported travel to study film at Korea's premier Buddhist University, Dongguk University, in conjunction with Konefsky-initiated abroad program.
II. Publications in Print or on Screen
Cutler, Terry. One-Eyed Jack, the story of a girl and her one-eyed horse. Online. Internet. http://www.crookedcatbooks.com.
Finkelstein, David. Rev. of Deborah Fort's It Takes Time to See. Film Threat Reviews, Online. Internet. http://www.filmthreat.com.
Griggs, Jennifer. "Listening to Coherences: Communities of Birdsong and Ecologies of Pollution." Journal of the West 50 (winter 2011): 83-90.
Konefsky, Bryan. "The History of Basement Films: an ABQ Non-profit, Community Organization" with DVD short I Yam What I Yam.Incite: Journal of Experimental. Online. Internet. http://www.incite-online.net/.
McDuffie, Matt, screenplay. Look of Love. Dir. Arie Posen. Film now screening for distributors (starring Annette Bening, Ed Harris, and Robin Williams).
_____, dir. and screenplay. Best of All Possible Worlds.
_____, screenplay. The Road Back. Dir. Gavin O'Connor.
Peterson, Becky. "Fabric in Film and Film as Fabirs: Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon." Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture 8: 226-241.
_____. "Lorine Niedecker and the Matter of Life and Death." Arizona Quarterly: A Joural of American Literature, Cutlure, and Theory 66: 115-134.
_____. "Precious Objects: Laura Riding, Her Tiara, and the Petrarchan Muse." Habits of Being. Eds. Christina Giorcelli and Paula Rabinowitz. Minneapolis, U of Minnesota.
Stone, James. "Enjoying 9/11: The Pleasures of Cloverfield." Radical History Review 111 (Fall 2011): 167-174.
_____. “The Meek Inherit the Earth: Celebrating the End of American Power in Mars Attacks!” Akademisk Kvarter 2 (spring 2011): 136-149.
III. Special Teaching, Learning, Mentoring, and Related Grants
Dever, Susan. Authorized as a teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition; developing Contemplative Cinema Course Series with Nina Fonoroff and Caroline Hinkley.
Fort, Deborah. Training completed: Max/MSP/Jitter. Two-Week Intensive Workshop, Center for New Music and Audio Technology, UC Berkeley.
_____. Teaching Allocation Grant, UNM, Albuquerque, NM.
Fort, Deborah, and Melissa Henry. Faculty Exchange. Semester-long team-teaching in MA111 to share skills, course development.
Konefsky, Bryan. Special Lecturer: "Hollywood through the Lens of Experimental Cinema." University of Dongguk, Seoul, South Korea, International Summer Program.
_____. “Dead Tech: Alive”: A Three-Day Intensive. Northwest Film Center, Portland, OR.
IV. Films, Installations, and Performances
Fort, Deborah, and Ruth Zaporah. Improvisational video performance. "Warning To Wonder." Warehouse 21, Santa Fe, NM.
Fort, Deborah, and Linda Rodack. Improvisational video performance. "In This Time." Currents 2012, Santa Fe, NM.
_____. Improvisational video busking performance. "Spare Change." Currents 2012, Santa Fe, NM.
Henry, Melissa. Work screened in Indigenous Language Film Festival, Alaska.
_____, dir. video short: Run Red Walk: A Navajo Sheepdog. National Geographic "All Roads Film Festival," and "Durango Independent Film Festival."
_____. Selected filmmaker, UNM Native American "Columbus Day" Film Festival.
Kamins, Michael. Up Heartbreak Hill/POV: The intimate story of Navajo teens deciding to leave home for college.
_____. Buffalo Soldiers in New Mexico, The Palace of the Governors: A Witness to History Moments in Time: short NM history documentaries.
Like any split-second, still image in Daniel Reeves's Avatamsaka, the above list of accomplishments—and the art itself—can only point to the continually regenerating larger body of work produced by Cinematic Artists this year. As the Flower Garland fractals emerge from, return to, contain, and reflect each other, so, too, do the films and videos, the essays and screenplays, and all the activities glossed here arise from interconnection.
While we often create work in the artisan mode—crafting in solitude nearly all aspects, say, of a 16mm film—the larger space from which the work springs, and in turn enriches, is profoundly communitarian. At the heart of that community pulse curiosity, inquiry, wonder, delight: why we come to school.
Tapping the energy of that motivation, for everyone's benefit, is our mission. Though we may be fraught by the vagaries of life at and beyond the university, by practicing still/movement we can sustain our students, their degree program, our links with others, and ourselves.