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The Magazine of California Institute of the Arts Spring/Summer 2011


Janet and I are enjoying a long-awaited sabbatical, our first in many years. Over the last several months, we have visited a number of European capitals and affiliated there with several different institutions. Throughout, we have been struck by the level of resources European nations continue to invest in culture and the arts, despite their current economic difficulties. There is a consistent recognition that the arts will be a key component of their postindustrial economies. We hope to share what we are learning at CalArts, in Los Angeles, and nationally. In our absence, meanwhile, CalArts—under the able leadership of acting co-presidents Provost Nancy Uscher and Herb Alpert School of Music Dean David Rosenboom—has moved forward with great energy. On the occasion of Alfred Ladzekpo’s retirement, this issue of CalArts magazine looks back at the rich history of the Institute’s World Music Performance Program. Alfred has been with us since the beginning and his contributions—41 years of teaching, mentoring and performing — have been essential to the program’s success. We thank him and wish him the very best. Also in this issue you will find a lively exchange between Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance faculty member Laurence Blake and alumna Linda Cevallos. Their conversation touches on many aspects of what makes CalArts such a special community, not only in the School of Dance but throughout the six schools. The third feature surveys the remarkable accomplishments of recent alumni of our two live-action programs in the School of Film/Video, whose distinctly personal, deeply felt work defies easy categorization.


Janet and I will be looking forward to catching up with our many friends in the CalArts community when we return in July. Until then, please take a few moments to complete the enclosed readership survey, using the card provided. Doing so will help CalArts to become more responsive to your needs and interests. Wishing you a wonderful summer, steven d. lavine President, CalArts

CalArts is published twice each year by the CalArts Office of Advancement. California Institute of the Arts Steven D. Lavine, President Bianca Roberts, Vice President, Advancement Wendy Shattuck, Executive Director of Public Affairs Editorial: Stuart I. Frolick and Freddie Sharmini Design: Scott Taylor and Tasheka Arceneaux-Sutton (Art mfa 07) with Mitchel Cox (Art bfa-2) Type in this issue includes Spektro Gothic and Spektro Roman by Andrea Tinnes (Art mfa 98). Photography: Scott Groller and Steven A. Gunther Telephone: 661 255-1050 E-mail:

Letter from the President / Contents

Artists from CalArts and Seoul’s Chung-Ang University teamed up for an adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, called Lear/Layer. The dynamic one-time production staged at the Institute in January was performed in three languages—English, Korean and Spanish—with three actors playing the part of Lear. Lear/Layer was organized by playwright Alice Tuan, head of the School of Theater’s Writing for Performance Program.

HEADLINERS CalArts Announces the 2011 Recipients of the Beutner Family Award for Excellence in the Arts From left, CalArts students Michael Tomlin iii, Ashley Jacobson, Zoe Etkin, Kirsten Lepore, Justus Caudell, Kathryn Marks, Lauren Halsey and Jose Trujillo.

In 2009, Austin Beutner, chairman of the CalArts Board of Trustees, and his wife Virginia made a gift of $1 million to help 20 exceptional CalArts students over three years complete their studies and make strong entrances into professional life. The primary consideration for this award is the applicants’ excellence in their chosen métiers and potential for promising careers in the arts. Though the gift was originally structured to provide five scholarships a year, up to $50,000 each, the strength of this year’s finalists prompted the Beutners to select eight students to receive awards in 2011. They are: Justus Caudell (mfa Writing Program), Zoe Etkin (mfa Writing Program), Lauren Halsey (bfa Program in Art), Ashley Jacobson (bfa Composition Program/Program in Music Technology), Kirsten Lepore (mfa Program in Experimental Animation), Kathryn Marks (mfa Film Directing Program), Michael Tomlin iii (bfa Program in Dance), and Jose Trujillo (bfa Program in Dance). “Each applicant made such an impressive and heartfelt application for the award,” said Virginia Beutner. “After getting to know the candidates and their work, we felt a personal connection to each one and a real desire to help them achieve their creative goals. We are truly honored to help support their work, their dreams, and the vision that each recipient brings to make a difference in the world through their art.”

David Rosenboom, dean of The Herb Alpert School of Music and the Institute’s co-acting president during the spring semester, said, “A central goal of CalArts is to prepare students for their lives beyond these walls. The Beutner Family Award affirms this commitment—not only to educate the artists of the future, but also to launch them smoothly into the next phase of their artistic careers.” The Beutner Family Award for Excellence in the Arts recipients were chosen by a selection committee comprising Austin and Virginia Beutner, David Rosenboom, Dean of Enrollment Management Carol Kim, School of Theater faculty member Ellen McCartney, and alumnus Stephen Hillenburg. When notified of her selection, award recipient Kathryn Marks declared, “The Beutner Family Award is proof that even in our economy’s darkest hours, there is astounding generosity and support for the pursuit of art.” mfa candidate Justus Caudell added, “The award has not only given me assistance for my final year of study, but it also provides the confidence and confirmation that, I believe, young artists need.”

Institute Expands Art and Dance Facilities The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at CalArts hosted a dedication ceremony on March 1, marking the opening of a new dance studio, with faculty, staff, students and guests in attendance. The facility, a203, formerly used as art studios, has been remade for dance performance, providing CalArts dance artists with a fifth full-time studio in which to compose work, rehearse and, of course, perform. The converted space features sprung Marley flooring, one fully mirrored wall, ballet barres, a sound system, acoustic paneling, and video equipment for reviewing and critiquing work. “The new studio is an important and wonderful step towards creating a more focused learning environment

above: Dean Stephan Koplowitz speaks at the dedication of the newest studio of The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance.

right: Ongoing construction of the School of Art’s new studio complex.


Theater Students Join Russians for Upcoming Co-Production This past February, 10 students and one faculty member from the Russian Academy for Dramatic Arts, one of Russia’s most prestigious performing arts academies (known colloquially as gitis), were in residency at CalArts for a two-week workshop. Students from both the undergraduate and graduate programs of the CalArts School of Theater participated in the exchange, which was the first stage of a program designed by Mirjana Jokovic, the school’s director of Performance and head of mfa Acting. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, this initiative marks the first official and substantive collaboration between American and Russian theater students; its stated goal is the establishment of lasting relationships among artists of the two countries. Dialogue between gitis and CalArts began last year, developed further in association with the CalArts Center for New Performance (cnp) — the professional producing arm of CalArts — and now the initial phase is set to culminate with the June 2011 premiere of a production in Moscow.

process that makes national boundaries as permeable as an inviting gaze, and very easy to share.” Communication between directors and actors, she adds, was sometimes achieved solely by vigorous headnodding or -shaking, finger-pointing, and enthusiastic thumbs-ups, with a few hard-working actors pulling double duty as translators: notably Sandy Simona on the CalArts side, and Igor Mazepa from gitis. “Exposure to different cultures is immensely important,” says Jokovic. “Amid our obvious differences, many similarities also emerged. This collaboration opened doors for connection on a deep, human level that transcended language barriers, and I think everyone who participated realizes how special this initiative is. It will be exciting to meet again, this time to complete the circle of the creative journey in Moscow.”

Time restraints precluded creation of a finished piece during the first round, but Jokovic says the process of this joint production is just as important as the final outcome. “In February we created a common language forged by circumstance, curiosity, respect, and desire. We crafted a vocabulary for a new kind of theatrical

for our students and faculty,” says Dean Stephan Koplowitz. “The immediate effect is that we have been able to lower the student-teacher ratio in all of our technique classes. We are thrilled and grateful for this development.” In January, construction began on a new School of Art expansion project that will eventually accommodate 16 new art studios, a critique room, and a painting classroom — all with 20-foot-high ceilings. The rectangular space, designed by Behr Browers architects, is close to the Super Shop — the School of Art’s fabrication center— and the Edythe and Eli Broad Studios. The plan is to complete work by the fall of 2011. “These new studios are going to be a terrific addition to the School of Art,” says Dean Thomas Lawson. “They will provide light and airy work space for advanced undergraduates and a much-needed, long-awaited painting classroom with high ceilings and lots of natural light.” Two undergraduate photography students, Cody Edison and Rafael Hernandez, are documenting construction of the new facilities on a weekly basis, from groundbreaking to opening. Their work is showcased on the Institute’s Facebook and Twitter sites.

Theater students from CalArts and gitis workshop scenes in advance of their June production in Moscow.



by freddie sharmini


THE TENURE OF RETIRING FACULTY MEMBER ALFRED LADZEKPO HAS SPANNED CALARTS ’ ENTIRE LIVED HISTORY, FROM DAY ONE , AND THAT OF THE SIGNATURE WORLD MUSIC PERFORMANCE PROGRAM , A KEY SHAPER OF THE HERB ALPERT SCHOOL OF MUSIC ’ S IDENTITY— ITS DNA . “ I CAN ’ T IMAGINE CALARTS WITHOUT ALFRED ,” SAYS ONE COLLEAGUE . When Alfred K. Ladzekpo took the stage to close this year’s CalArts World Music and Dance Festival, the occasion was at once celebratory and bittersweet: The consummate artist of West African Anlo-Ewe music, song and dance was set to retire at the end of the semester after teaching at the Institute for 41 years. Here was the farewell concert appearance, at CalArts, by one of the icons of the storied World Music Performance Program.

The Institute’s World Music Performance Program in its earliest days. above: The brothers Ladzekpo, Alfred (right) and Kobla. right: Javenese court gamelan master K.P.H. Notoprojo, aka “Pak Chokro” (center), leads the first iteration of the CalArts Gamelan Kyai Doro Dasih (“The Honorable Dream Come True”).

photos from the calarts archive unless otherwise noted

Legacy of World Music “Best wishes to a terrific musician, beloved teacher, and good friend,” says David Rosenboom, dean of The Herb Alpert School of Music. “What Alfred, and his brother Kobla [who himself retired four years ago], built over four decades with the West African program has been an important cornerstone of what we do at the music school. And the sophistication and rigor of world music performance here, West African as well as Indian, Indonesian and now other traditions, has really set CalArts apart from other music schools and conservatories. It’s always been one of the features drawing students here, regardless of their major.” The Ghanaian music artists Alfred and Kobla Ladzekpo came to the nascent California Institute of the Arts from Columbia University at the invitation of the university’s ethnomusicology head Nicholas England, who had been asked by CalArts founding music dean Mel Powell, at Yale at the time, to put together a performance program drawing on global musical knowledge beyond the classical Western repertoire.

The program England designed focused on three advanced—and very distinctive—music cultures: Indian, Indonesian and West African. The vertical cross-rhythmic and polyrhythmic percussion of West Africa, and its combination with song and dance, was already ingrained in the musics of the Americas— from blues and jazz to salsa and samba to other regional music derivations of the African diaspora—as a historical result of the transatlantic slave trade, which was run largely through Ghanaian ports. In their respective turns, the Indian classical tradition, distinguished by its complex linear rhythmic patterns and melodic structures, and the Indonesian gamelan tradition, which integrates music with dance, with its fluctuant, cyclical time and refined pitch consciousness, had increasingly drawn the attention of Western musicmakers throughout the 20th century—from Debussy, Maurice Delage and Albert Roussel to later, in the late 1950s and early ’60s, American composers like Lou Harrison, John Cage, La Monte Young and Terry Riley, who looked to Asia for musical know-how. (The latter four would soon become familiar faces on the CalArts campus.)


Mel Powell, writing in an early Institute prospectus, described the music school’s global vision thusly: “The comparatively new field of ethnomusicology has already caused all talk of musical ‘exotica’ to become simply parochial. It is no longer merely eccentric to point out that, say, a Brahms-oriented cellist has much to learn from an African master drummer. Nor is it only abstract deference to the world’s contracting space that suddenly invests the music of the Far East with relevance. The meeting of East and West has been encouraged by the changing structures and tonalities of music in our own tradition... What we hear in the music of India or Bali not only merges with the discoveries of the modernists, but it also confirms that our common musical experience has been truncated. It’s perfectly clear now that we have been hearing less than we should.”

michael jang

clockwise, from left: The Ladzekpo brothers are joined by Nicholas England (right) and Beatrice Lawluvi (far right) during a West African drumming class; Pak Chokro; South Indian Carnatic music with (from left) T.H. Subash Chandran, L. Subramaniam, V. Shankar, Amiya Dasgupta and John Bergamo; Alfred (left) and Kobla Ladzekpo flank Nick England, founding director of CalArts’ World Music Performance Program.

CalArts The CalArts World Music Performance Program was unique—in fact the first of its kind at a U.S. college—in that, unlike the proliferating ethnomusicology departments at colleges elsewhere, it focused on actually playing the music first and foremost. “[Kobla and I],” recalls Alfred Ladzekpo of their arrival in California, “were very happy to start something new, from the ground up, and that our classes were going to be about the performance—about the doing. The class at Columbia was a laboratory for ethnomusicology students, and we met once a week for three hours. Here, we were teaching five days a week, all day, individual lessons as well as ensemble classes, with students from different departments and schools participating. And the concentration was not just on research; the concentration was on doing the practical part of it, on performing the music and the dance.”

below: The Spring World Music and Dance Festival, an annual CalArts fixture over the decades, has often featured cross-cultural collaborations. bottom: Informal presentations of African music and dance represent another enduring CalArts tradition.

In addition to bringing in the Ladzekpo brothers from New York, Nick England managed to enlist the legendary Pandit Ravi Shankar, pop sensation of the late ’60s and early ’70s due to his work with the Beatles and violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Pandit Shankar was accompanied by two sitar disciples, Amiya Dasgupta—mentor to the Beatles’ George Harrison—and Harihar Rao. Also on hand were the brothers Ranganathan and Viswanathan, specializing in the South Indian Karnatic tradition, as was percussionist John Bergamo, a devotee of North Indian music. Shankar’s tenure, though, was a short one; he departed before the Institute moved from the interim campus in Burbank to Valencia in 1970 and passed the baton to Dasgupta. (The pandit did return as a frequent visitor and CalArts presented him with an honorary degree in 1985.) The Indonesian gamelan was begun in 1971 as an intensive course involving CalArts students as well as gamelan players from several other U.S. schools. Ethnomusicologist Robert E. Brown, brought in from Wesleyan—where he had first coined the term “world music”—engaged Javanese court gamelan master K.P.H. Notoprojo, affectionately known as “Pak Chokro,” and Pak Chokro’s son-in-law, Balinese musician, actor


and dancer I Nyoman Wenten, and Brown supplied the program with his own instrument set. (Wenten, a current member of the faculty, recalls that an ad hoc gamelan room was put in what is now a laundry facility in the Chouinard Hall dormitory.) After Brown and the group traveled to Indonesia later that year for research, studying both the Javanese and Balinese traditions, the program was permanently adopted by the music school in 1972. Over the course of the next decade, the school added to the ranks of its faculty artists such as South Indian violinist L. Subramaniam, Ghanaian dancer and choreographer Beatrice Lawluvi, Javanese dancer and choreographer Nanik Wenten, and the noted tabla player Pandit Taranath Rao.

stephen callis

d. palm b. gormley

right: Alfred and Kobla Ladzekpo with the West African Music and Dance Ensemble at the Santa Monica Mall in 1983, there to perform as part of a series called “CalArts in Town.”

photos from the calarts archive and by steven a gunther

above: John Bergamo, a founding faculty member who retired in 2005. left: Taranath Rao (left) and Amiya Dasgupta with CalArts students.

Legacy of World Music Ethnomusicologist Philip Yampolsky is a 1972 mfa graduate of the Institute and now director of the Robert E. Brown Center for World Music at the University of Illinois — Urbana-Champaign — so named after the same Bob Brown mentioned previously. Yampolsky had followed Nick England and the Ladzekpos to California from Columbia. “The World Music Performance Program,” he remembers, “drew not only students dedicated to Indian or African or Javanese music, but musicians and dancers from throughout the school. There was no feeling that some of us were doing ‘world’ music and the rest were doing ‘real’ music. I think that was partly because Nick England and Bob Brown were themselves accomplished Western music performers, and, in their early years, composers, who were nevertheless devoted to world music. And we, the students, were all over the lot— South India in the morning, gamelan in the evening. I came to do Ewe music but soon wandered into gamelan. And CalArts didn’t require me to choose between them; I did both intensively.”

Teaching Ewe, Indian and Indonesian music meant, by definition, introducing the pedagogical methods unique to each of those cultures —methods that are, in each case, quite different from classical Western training, according to harpist Susan Allen, the music school’s associate dean for academic affairs, who herself transferred into CalArts from the New England Conservatory of Music in 1970. “The mandate Mel Powell set for world music was to develop the broad musical learning for training students to become the best artists possible,” she says. “The inclusion of the traditions we have, all of which are ages old, enhances our understanding of music in a wider context, and helps us appreciate that there are more notes, more rhythms and more socio-musical realities outside of our sphere of influence. This learning also actually helps us give more dimension to our Western musical traditions, and helps us become better musicians.”

clockwise, from left: Alfred Ladzekpo in the late 1980s; Kobla Ladzekpo (left) with visiting artist C.K. Ganyo; CalArts student Ed Dorsey plays Javanese gamelan; a West African procession is a traditional component of CalArts’ graduation ceremony.

below: Visiting artists from Tibet.



below: North Indian music at the 1995 Spring Music and Dance Festival. right: Alfred Ladzekpo following one of his “FeFe” works.

above: Amiya Dasgupta, longtime director of Indian music at CalArts, took over in 1971 from his mentor, Pandit Ravi Shankar. right: Founding faculty member I Nyoman Wenten performs in colleague Morton Subotnick’s Intimate Immensity, a “staged media poem” first presented in New York. rachel slowinski

above: A performance by Gamelan Kyai Doro Dasih in 1996, featuring a newly acquired set of instruments. right: The West African Music and Dance Ensemble, here with Alfred Ladzekpo as lead drummer, performing in a tent following the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

“The way I’ve been teaching is based on how I learned the music,” says the artist who started his first ensemble at age 13 in Anyako, east of the Ghanaian capital of Accra. “Back in Ghana, there was no formal teaching. We went to performances, listened to the music, and absorbed what we could. And if veteran drummers saw that you were interested, they would beckon to you, demonstrate a pattern on an instrument, and ask you to play it. If you could do it, they would keep you; if you couldn’t do it after maybe three tries, they would ask somebody else, and that was for you to go back and listen some more. What I learned from that was, getting the information in your ears first.”

photos by steven a gunther and scott groller unless otherwise noted

n 1970, the Ladzekpos’ Ewe music and dance classes were an instant revelation for CalArts students (as well as for the wider community, thanks to numerous presentations the brothers gave at high schools across Southern California). The CalArts classes overflowed into hallways and on occasion had to be moved outdoors. “The class was huge because a lot of people had never seen anything or heard anything like it before,” says Alfred Ladzekpo. “And they loved it.


Legacy of World Music David Roitstein, chair of the Jazz Program, says he “cannot imagine CalArts without Alfred. He and the World Music Performance Program have affected everything we do at the school. Not just how to learn African music, but how to learn. For Alfred, nothing is separate — you learn the song, the dance, the story, and several instruments, and the knowledge of all parts is essential for understanding the whole. It is not a linear, analytical process, but a circular, natural way of learning.

“This learning process,” Roitstein continues, “has had such a deep and lasting impact on all the musicians that have gone through our Jazz Program over the decades, and has opened so many opportunities for our students that they couldn’t have imagined before they came here.” “The most important thing I’ve learned from Alfred is how to listen,” says Erin Barnes, a Percussion Program alum who performed with Ladzekpo’s ensemble at the spring festival. “In the Ewe form, whether you’re drumming or dancing, you’re always listening for ‘calls’ from the lead drummer—to change patterns, to shift to an interlude, to improvise, and so on—so everything is very in the moment.” Another former student, composer Sarah Romero, who also appeared with Ladzekpo at the festival, adds: “Alfred makes you look at things from a very different perspective. He wants you to not focus so much on what you see visually but how the music and dance feel. As a composition major, playing with the African ensemble has made me think about writing differently, exploring the different rhythms, for example, certainly different from any of the training I had prior to CalArts.”


Ladzekpo’s own work as composer and performer has developed in new directions, most notably in the later ’90s with an original form of music and dance theater he calls “FeFe,” meaning “play” in Ewe. This form was in part inspired by operas staged at CalArts, and his combination of Ewe drumming and dance with theatrical staging offers yet another example of the artistic cross-pollination that has been a hallmark of the Institute. His latest FeFe piece, entitled Don’t Say It Does Not Concern You, deals with, as many of its predecessors do, traditional and contemporary stories of Africa. Don’t Say was performed by the CalArts African Storytellers and Dance Ensemble under the direction of Ladzekpo as the curtain raiser of the World Music and Dance Festival’s second weekend.

left: Gamelan Kyai Doroh Dasih performing a dance drama about the Hindu kingdom of Majapaihit. above: Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri, current chair of World Music Performance.

below: Kobla Ladzekpo, playing the lead drum, during a rehearsal at the Walt Disney Modular Theater.

above: Visiting Balinese dancer Niken Sekar Dewani.

CalArts roviding an outside perspective with a measure of insider knowledge is Paul Humphreys, professor at Loyola Marymount University’s School of Music and a member of the CalArts faculty in the 1990s. “The degree to which CalArts performance communities have developed around its outstanding artist faculty for world music has been just extraordinary,” he says. “The enthusiasm of the students and their openness to new experience follow directly from the accomplishment, dedication, and creative distinction of its artist faculty, exemplified by artists such as Alfred Ladzekpo and I Nyoman Wenten.”

clockwise, from top: Beatrice Lawluvi, director of West African dance; Alfred Ladzekpo; Nanik Wenten, director of Indonesian dance; Gamelan Kyai Doro Dasih performs at redcat; sarode faculty Pandit Rajeev Taranath in 2000.

Looking back, Ladzekpo and Wenten, as well as Philip Yampolsky, do not have much recollection of early collaborations among the original world music departments, which were programs with fairly narrow frameworks of teaching, at first, the basics, even as a large cross-section of students easily migrated from one to the next, as Yampolsky recounts earlier. “I think that we, the world music teachers, were in such a new environment and being exposed to many new things,” says Wenten, “and so maybe we were more focused in the beginning on giving a good presentation of our individual cultures.” Within a couple of years, the administration grouped together the three programs under the banner of the World Music Performance Program, in a bid to achieve a more robust profile within the school, and encourage more cross-cultural collaborations, which arrived duly —and in droves.


Today world music performance at The Herb Alpert School of Music encompasses five different degree programs: a generalist undergraduate program and four specialist mfas in Balinese and Javanese music and dance, North Indian music, West African Music and Dance, and World Percussion— all of which are arrayed alongside all other instrumental and vocal programs, not set off from the rest as in years past. “And we’ve brought in,” says David Rosenboom, dean since 1990, “smaller additions in other areas, Balkan and Persian and now Japanese musics.” Asked about the future of the West African program without the Ladzekpo brothers, its two historical mainstays, Rosenboom replies without hesitation that “we’re maintaining the African program, no question about it. Its exact nature, however, will be determined after we give ourselves some time to study it.” A new development on which Rosenboom is especially keen, however, is the combination of traditional world musics with digital and interactive technologies. He points to the work coming out of the recently expanded Music Technology Program directed by Ajay Kapur, a program “delightfully leapfrogging some of our other offerings, with things like a digital gamelan class and digital Indian music, brought right into the cuttingedge hi-tech world.” (Rosenboom, incidentally, first played with Alfred Ladzekpo in New York ca. 1968, as part of a series of multimedia sound-and-light events organized with another soon-to-be Institute icon, composer Morton Subotnick, and Anthony Martin.)

Legacy of World Music The story of world music at CalArts over “When I arrived at CalArts, I saw my study time has been its steadily growing influence of tabla as a singular pursuit,” writes recent on the school, touching virtually every area, mfa alum Robin Sukhaida from Kolkata, Rosenboom explains, “due to accelerating India, where he is on a Fulbright. “The multiglobalization in arts and media. But world dimensional nature of our program, with its music became integrated in the overall integration of West African music, Indonesian curriculum very, very early on. And when gamelan, North Indian music, classical the Jazz Program came later, it was made a Western music theory, and even electronic requirement that students have some experiapproaches, opened my ears and mind to ence with the African program. Artists now new possibilities. It gave me the foundation study and play world music all the time so I needed to think critically about my art pracit’s important how well it’s integrated in their tice in relation to other cultures and world wider learning. And now it’s hardly necessary views,” he elaborates. “And I can’t believe to require it; the students all want to do it.” Alfred is retiring—definitely the close of an There is, of course, a set of students who epic chapter. I feel blessed that I got to be in major in world music and go on to become his classes, and got to know him.” experts, he adds. “But certainly the breadth Thus the guest of honor joined with colleagues of influence is so much greater across the on the Wild Beast stage May 8 for the commuschool than just that group of student experts.” nity to bid him farewell. Lining up with Ladzekpo was the all-star lineup of CalArts percussionists: Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri, Wenten, Randy Gloss, Andrew Grueschow and Houman Pourmehdi, plus guest artist Guello from Brazil. World music ahoy!

What lies next for Ladzekpo? He says he is returning to Ghana, where he will continue his writing, music, dance and theater— albeit without teaching full-time. Does he expect to return to CalArts as a guest artist? “I hope so,” he says with a mischievous glint in his eyes. “In my lifetime,” says Pandit Chaudhuri, the Institute’s chair of World Music Performance, “I’ve had the privilege of playing with so many great maestros. And Alfred is definitely one of them. Alfred is a fantastic musician.”

photos by steven a gunther and scott groller

The CalArts music community cheered Alfred Ladzekpo as the beaming maestro led the African Storytellers and Dance Ensemble one last time before his retirement.

above: Founding faculty member I Nyoman Wenten, music director of the Balinese Gamelan Burat Wangi (“Fragrant Offering”), at redcat. below: Kobla Ladzekpo at his farewell concert in 2007.




Laurence Blake and Linda Cevallos




n 2012, Laurence Blake will celebrate his 30th year of teaching at CalArts. Originally hired by dance dean Cristyne Lawson, Blake had just completed six years as a dancer with the famous Joffrey Ballet. Today he is assistant dean of The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance, teaches four classes a week in ballet technique and a men’s class, and edits a blog for and about the Institute’s dance alumni. One alumna, Linda Cevallos (bfa 89), returned to campus last March and serendipitously reconnected with Blake for the first time in more than 20 years. A few weeks later, the two sat down in Blake’s office for a wide-ranging conversation, excerpts of which follow. laurence blake: What brought you back to CalArts last week?

herbert migdoll

linda cevallos: I’m taking some directing classes, and I needed transcripts. I could have had them mailed, but I decided to visit the campus because I hadn’t been here in quite a long time. I intended to just get my transcripts and go, but the minute I walked in, CalArts just swallowed me up. I know it sounds corny, but I felt like I was home! I thought, “I need to go down to the dance studios.” I could hear the music, and it was beautiful to take in the atmosphere and see the kids. I looked in on one class; and then another; and I thought, “Oh, there’s a new studio down there.” I walked over and I heard your voice before I saw you. The kids were dancing across the floor. I couldn’t see you, and I just listened. Then you came over and, I thought, “There he is, looking exactly the same!” [Laughter.] The class ended, and you walked out...

LAURENCE BLAKE ON TEACHING BALLET: “WE LOOK AT EACH STUDENT AS AN INDIVIDUAL AND ALLOW FOR PHYSICAL DIFFERENCES . . . BUT I HAVE HIGH STANDARDS IN TERMS OF WHAT I EXPECT EACH OF THEM TO ACHIEVE .” above: Blake, left, with Cynthia Anderson and Philip Jerry in the Joffrey Ballet’s 1978 production of Mythical Hunters. right: Blake teaching at CalArts this spring.



lb: And I thought, “That woman looks familiar...” I’m very curious about what you may remember of our classes 20-plus years ago?

Cevallos with Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, one of the many music artists with whom she has choreographed and performed. courtesy of linda cevallos

lc: You had high expectations. But at the same time, you were very nurturing. I knew that I had a lot to learn from you. I could tell by your facility, your body, everything about you! And you were not only able to say, “Do this...” You could also show us; you could do it, execute it. That was very important for me because I needed to see it. It was the same with Rebecca Wright and Donna Wood. She would go across the floor showing us leaps; a beautiful, tall, statuesque woman, and I thought, “Oh, I want to do that!” I was in awe of you, knowing that you had danced with the Joffrey, and I remember thinking, “He could be out there [dancing] but he’s here...” As a former student, I’ve always wondered what it was that kept you here at CalArts? lb: I’d never really thought about teaching or about myself as a teacher. When I first got the job here, it was really just a job. I moved to L.A. on unemployment and one day got a call from Cristyne Lawson, who said, “We need somebody to come teach.” I said, “Okay; I’ll teach... whatever.” But as the years went by, I really got into the energy of CalArts and the students, and having the opportunity to be part of their development. Now I’m also working to reconnect with alumni of the School of Dance, seeing where the students have gone in their careers and that has been amazing. To know that I was a part of that in some small way—that there has been impact on some level. lc: Absolutely! You were very elegant but very strict, and still had that sarcasm and little smirk. [Laughter.] I had come in with a whole different style of dance, having been a professional flamenco dancer. So, to take that kind of style of arching your back and being up here [gesturing] to closing the ribcage—was a whole different technique. Even though I was afraid, I felt strongly supported by the faculty here. I never felt that I had to catch up. With the modern, the ballet and the flamenco, I was able to form a bridge. I can still be grounded here [ gesturing], even though ballet’s grounded here; but how do I do that? Your teaching style was very effective for me. I didn’t know you as a human being—only as the dancer and choreographer. Now, being older, I wish I had known my teachers better. Do you find that the faculty-student relationship has changed over the years?


lb: I do have a bit more interaction with students now than I did back then. Even though I wasn’t on campus as much when you were here—I taught my classes; I did my mentoring; and then I went off and taught in L.A. Now that I’m here, practically 24/7, I do have more of a personal connection with the students. The kids are different now; they’re a lot more gregarious and open. Your class, in particular, I remember as a little bit timid—and that you did hold us in high esteem, which made it kind of difficult. I like to get off that pedestal. [Laughter.] However, I also feel that the students don’t know us from our dancing careers. Being here 29 years, they are more aware of my teaching than my dance lineage. And we know each other more as people, not necessarily as dance artist/teacher and student.

Left to right: Herby Sanchez, Kim Bretto, Lanz Fuller, Linda Cevallos, and her sister Sandy Cevallos.

lc: That’s nice, though I think students would benefit greatly from knowing their faculty’s histories. That’s something very important that’s getting lost. We were a lot younger, and the dance program was going through a transition—it may have been the first year it accepted dancers right out of high school. lb: Yes. I got here in ’82 and I think there was a real shift in bringing younger students into the program. Before, people had been out in the world a little bit and were coming back to get their degrees... lc: I had worked in a company and toured with flamenco groups, but I didn’t have the life experience. Some of the things you guys said to us I didn’t get ’til years later, when they finally resonated. “Oh, that’s what Laurence meant. That’s what Cristyne meant!” I needed those years of life experience.

Laurence Blake and Linda Cevallos


courtesy of linda cevallos

lb: We do have some alumni who have had successful careers in contemporary ballet companies, but of course CalArts is a modern or contemporary dance school, not a ballet school, per se. So, we look at each student as an individual. It’s about looking at the facility in front of you and getting the most out of it. Obviously, we have to allow for physical differences and the entire facility—and what is available to each student to utilize, which we do take into consideration. But I have high standards in terms of what I expect students to achieve. I expect them to have a certain amount of proficiency when they leave, whether it’s knowing some history, or it’s having some real knowledge in their bodies.

Cevallos directing Motown legend Smokey Robinson during production of his Don’t Know Why video. Cevallos has choreographed and performed on tour with Robinson for the past nine years.

lb: What kinds of things stuck with you? lc: In my first year, end-of-year review—sitting with all my teachers and my mentor—was really nervewracking. I remember being told, “Ground yourself into the earth.” I used to hear that all the time. And, “We want you to gain a little bit of weight. It will help.” (Laughter.) I didn’t understand what that meant. But as I became more experienced and put myself out there, I really got it. It wasn’t necessarily plié more; I was trying to plié as much as I could to ground myself. It was about taking that experience, putting it into my core, performing from that place, and then allowing things to happen — as opposed to, “Oh, this is a pretty pose.” I remember feeling it in my body, five years after I graduated from CalArts. You say that your teaching was a small part of our development, but, for me, it was a big part. I was very sheltered coming here from San Antonio. What about you? How and where did you first get involved with dance? lb: I guess I was in second grade at the time. I’m from Virginia, and one evening my mom and I were at the local mall in Roanoke where there was a dance school with a window, and you could look in and watch the classes. My mom asked me if I wanted to do that. “Do what?” [laughter] I said, “Oh, sure!” She took me in and immediately signed me up. Little did I know that that would be the beginning of my career. My parents had a country grocery store; it was about a mile from where we lived. After school we were dropped off at the house, and we’d have to go down to the store to work and help out. I would dance all the way down the street to the store. The neighbors would see me and say, “There’s something wrong with that boy!” [Laughter.] lc: So that was your first class? lb: Miss Mona had a huge class of young guys and girls, and it was mostly tap. I then moved into some jazz and ballet. She was from vaudeville, and didn’t know that much about ballet, so I didn’t get my formal training until I went to North Carolina School of the Arts. I did my junior and senior years of high school there, and then went into the North Carolina Dance Theater for two years before going to New York and joining the Joffrey Ballet. lc: What are the challenges of teaching ballet at CalArts, where producing ballet dancers is not necessarily the mission of the program?

lc: Which is important. I didn’t have ballet or modern coming to CalArts, and when I graduated, I chose to stay here in L.A. and tour with artists. I didn’t go into ballet or modern or even flamenco; I took a whole different path. But I was ready for everything and anything. If we did technique across the floor before we did a jazz combination, I was ready because I’d had four years of strict ballet. I felt like there was nothing I couldn’t do. What carried me through every single audition were the modern and the ballet, because if you didn’t have that foundation, you were cut immediately. What else do you want students to take away from your classes? lb: I think to love the art more than anything else. You don’t have to be a perfect technician. Yes, I expect you to succeed on a very high level; but dance is not just about learning how to do a tendu; it’s about feeling what it is to be fully enveloped or engrossed in this movement form, and have a love for movement and dance—along with humor. I think humor is really important. The work is so hard that if you can’t relax and just let it be a joyful experience, then you need to get out of the business. It’s not an easy life at all. As much as we want to give to this life, it’s pretty hard, and if you don’t have a love for it, then there’s really not much more, other than a little applause here and there—which, of course, is always nice. [Laughter.] lc: Yeah, we’ll take that! [Laughter.]





Natasha Mendonca’s multipleaward-winning film Jan Villa (usa/ India, 2010, 20 min, 16mm) “has a documentary root,” says faculty member Betzy Bromberg, “but it’s constructed in a poetic, sometimes abstract, way that takes you on a journey, where you glean the meaning image by image, on a visceral level.”

Live-Action Films Natasha Mendonca taking home the top prize at this year’s Ann Arbor Film Festival marked the latest stride in a remarkable run by the live-action contingent of the CalArts School of Film/Video, rightly famous for its animation pedigree, and for the famous alumni behind pop-cultural forces from Pixar to SpongeBob. Mendonca’s powerful film essay, Jan Villa, about the aftermath of the 2005 monsoon floods in Mumbai, had earlier won in Rotterdam. Mike Ott, director of the intimately observed, idiosyncratic California small-town drama l ittlerock, collected the “Someone to Watch” Spirit Award at the “alternative” Oscars precursor. Tariq Tapa, whose taut Kashmir-set Zero Bridge just concluded a weeklong run at New York’s Film Forum, and Jason Byrne, with the maritime documentary Scrap Vessel, have made Filmmaker magazine’s list of the “25 New Faces of Independent Cinema.” The Viennale, the Locarno festival, the New York Film Festival’s “Views from the Avant-Garde” experimental showcase—all have featured plenty of CalArts live-action filmmakers. “The level of achievement at the school has always been high,” says Steve Anker, dean of the School of Film/Video, “but we’ve seen a ‘ratcheting-up’ over the past six years or so in the live-action areas.” The list of CalArts filmmakers who have recently received recognition at festivals and museums is long, and the works cover an expansive range of genre, subject matter, aesthetic and technique (and span a fairly wide stretch of the world’s geography). The commonalities the films do share are “a fierce independence and an uncompromising commitment to a personal voice, and to taking the work out into the world,” says Anker. “But then we encourage all of our students to do personal work, in all our programs, not only the live-action filmmakers.” Gary Mairs, co-director with Deborah LaVine of the Film Directing Program, adds, “Even in our most conventionally dramatic pieces, we want to see the filmmaker’s fingerprints, as it were, all over the work— their vision. That’s what we’re trying to teach.” This notion of a distinctive artistic vision is borne out by Mendonca’s (mfa 10) CalArts thesis film, a heartfelt “tapestry of images” shot in the city of her birth, Mumbai. The jury of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, which presented Mendonca with the coveted Tiger Award, noted that she “succeeds in telling a deeply moving story that is at once personal and universal. What begins as an outsider’s point-of-view imperceptibly transforms to subjective camera. Through poetic images and notably without the use of voice-over, the filmmaker intimately reveals to us the soul of a city after devastation.” (The other prize Mendonca’s Jan Villa collected in Ann Arbor, the Ken Burns Award for Best of the Festival, is especially noteworthy because the Michigan fest is one of the oldest in the United States and one of the most amenable, in the U.S., to experimental film. CalArts, historically well-represented in Ann Arbor, had 11 alums and four faculty members in the festival’s selection, with additional awards going to Deborah Stratman [mfa 95], Brigid McCaffery [mfa 09], faculty Thom Andersen, and the late animator Helen Hill [mfa 95].) “The school,” says Steve Anker, “has been building up the two live-action programs for 20 years, with Hartmut Bitomsky [Film/Video dean from 1993 to 2002] of course playing a key role, and the programs are

In littlerock (2010, 84 min.), the second feature by Mike Ott, a young Japanese woman stranded in a forlorn California hamlet tries to relate to the struggles and hopes of some local misfits.

Deborah Stratman’s Ray’s Birds (2010, 7 min., 16mm) looks at the collection of 70 birds of prey kept on a farm in northern England. “The film,” notes Stratman, “is a little homage to Ray’s variously coy, imperious, curious, stubborn and comic raptor menagerie.”


CalAr CalArts

Thompson (2009, 10 min.), by Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims, is an observational documentary “with a very sure comic core,” says faculty member Gary Mairs. “It dramatizes what’s funny and typical about the relationship between the two real-life characters while never being condescending to them.”

In Psychohydrography (2010, 62 min.), Peter Bo Rappmund applies keen visual technique and conceptual consideration to one of the most controversial subjects in Southern California history for more than a century—the struggle over water. Using only singleframe photography to build hd video, Rappmund documents the landscape shaped by this struggle, from the Eastern Sierras to the ocean.


Live-Action Films operating at a high level.” Of the two, the three-year mfa Film Directing Program is built around innovative storytelling in narrative cinema; the Program in Film and Video, which offers both a four-year bfa track and a three-year mfa, takes a broader approach, with students producing documentaries, nontraditional narratives, abstract films, and installations. “The students are a very ambitious group,” Anker says, “very sophisticated, driven to make serious work. And the attention and acclaim received by our alumni, and the faculty, is drawing really impressive applicants — the portfolios get stronger from year to year. “The great thing about the film school here is we cover a much larger variety of independent filmmaking than any school I know — there’s documentary, narrative, experimental, and, of course, animation, and it’s all aesthetically very diverse. And the students influence each other, challenge each other across different genres and between programs.” Anker points to Peter Bo Rappmund’s (mfa 10) Psychohydrography, shown at Ann Arbor and featured in The Museum of Modern Art’s Documentary Fortnight: The filmmaker’s study of the far-flung waterworks infrastructure supplying Los Angeles (tapping into the L.A. “water” theme) was shot in single hd frames. “It’s a hybrid, a documentation, but also a visual, conceptual piece; it uses the pristine precision of hd, playing with the sense of unreality with time and light.” The school, though, continues to support, “very strongly,” he says, traditional technologies like 16mm film, with its “alchemical” qualities. One example Anker cites is Erika Vogt’s (mfa 04) Secret Traveler Navigator, a film loop installation shown at the 2010 Whitney Biennial, in which Vogt, mixing digital and analog media, reflects on “the nature of illusion in film.” Another type of hybrid is the mixing of documentary and dramatic storytelling, says faculty member Adele Horne, herself a Spirit Award winner. She mentions a recent work by Jason Tippet (bfa 08) and Elizabeth Mims (bfa 08), the documentary short Thompson, which screened at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. The story of the fraying relationship between two reallife high school students, the film “creates a dramatic scenario around real situations, and structures the development of its characters that way,” Horne says. Betzy Bromberg, director of the Program in Film and Video, says CalArts filmmakers are “actually creating new genres.” Bromberg — whose own latest effort, Voluptuous Sleep Series, just screened at redcat— focuses on the combination of documentary technique and poetic, often very personal, image construction. Akosua Adoma Owusu’s (Film/Video–Art mfa 08) Me Broni Ba (“My White Baby”), for example, a film featured at moma and numerous festivals, looks in on beauty salons in Kumasi, Ghana, in which women practice braiding hair on dolls of Caucasian complexion. Beyond its reflection on the tangled legacy of colonialism in Africa, the work, Bromberg says, is “really a lyrical story about Adoma’s sister’s childhood memories, growing up in Ghana and then coming to America.” Owusu’s documentary in Ghana, it turns out, is only one in a larger body of work by CalArts alumni that is sweepingly international in its scope. New Yorker

“What’s unique in Akosua Adoma Owusu’s Me Broni Ba [usa/Ghana, 2009, 22 min.] is the mixture of fact and creative storytelling; the clash of jazzy tunes, documentary footage, slow-motion images, and audio tracks that shift in and out of sync.” according to mtv. “It’s a mood piece... It’s also edgy, fresh, and fun to watch.”





Tariq Tapa (mfa 08) traveled to Srinagar, Kashmir, to make Zero Bridge with a cast of first-time, nonprofessional actors, working with a technical crew of one—the filmmaker himself. Expat Theron Patterson (mfa 99) helmed the award-winning Turkish-language feature Bahti Kara (“Dark Cloud”), a dark structuredimprovisational family comedy set in Istanbul. C.W. Winter (mfa 07) teamed up with Anders Edström to make The Anchorage, a prizewinner at the 2009 Locarno International Film Festival, with Edström’s mother as an older woman exercising everyday routines while living alone on an island off the Swedish coast. Gregory Rentis’ (mfa 10) thesis film, Sundown, screened at last year’s Rotterdam festival, sets the story of a 13-year-old boy and his dying, Alzheimer’sstricken grandfather on the Greek island of Rhodes. Eliza Hittman’s (mfa 10) Sundance entry from this year, Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight, is an emotionally complex coming-of-age drama with teen Russian immigrants in Brooklyn, with the dialogue mainly in Russian. Internationalism aside, “one of the distinguishing things about the narrative films by the students lately,” says Gary Mairs, “is that many of them are stories about very young people or very old people, not about 20-year-olds or 25-year-olds—often the curse of student films. This shows the filmmakers are trying to explore other lives and memories and not only their own experiences at the moment. They’re making personal works, made with personal conviction, that are not necessarily diaristic or autobiographical. I think that’s a feat.”

With dv gear stowed in his backpack, Tariq Tapa traveled to Kashmir and made Zero Bridge (India/usa, 2008, 96 min.) in a feat of endeavor and determination. The resulting portrait of a teenage pickpocket earned Tapa two Spirit Award nominations last year. “Gritty, powerful… a real find,” was Variety’s verdict. “Packs an impressive emotional wallop,” said the LA Weekly. Another CalArts thesis film, Gregory Rentis’ Sundown (Greece/usa, 2010, 15 min., Super 16mm), is enacted in Greek. “A lot of filmmakers overseas find their way here,” notes Gary Mairs, “because CalArts has such a strong international reputation and our films play internationally.”

Live-Action Films

Eliza Hittman’s Sundance entry, Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight (2011, 16 min., Super 16mm and hd), explores challenges — domestic and otherwise — facing a teen Russian immigrant in Brooklyn. “The film takes on the sexual coming-of-age story in a rigorous way, without any of the easy clichés,” says Gary Mairs. “It’s just emotionally very rich.” Shot at the last drive-in movie theater left in Los Angeles, Laura Kraning’s award-winning experimental doc Vineland (2009, 10 min.) conjures an eerie dreamstate in which Hollywood images reflected in car windshields and mirrors are blended with the nocturnal industrial landscape surrounding the drive-in.

“What’s interesting from my perspective,” says Adele Horne, “is to watch the progression of the students while they’re here. And so many of them found their way to their projects in a very idiosyncratic way, and the eventual form that was by no means certain at the beginning of a project. That’s how it was with Natasha [Mendonca], with [experimental documentarians] Laura Kraning [mfa 09] and Alexandra Cuesta [mfa 09]. They really arrived at it through the process of the work, and so there is a lot of integrity in the way a piece comes to fruition. The form came out of the process of making it, and the filmmakers had to go through a whole journey of discovery and creation to get there.” all stills courtesy of the filmmakers




Known as one of the founders of California assemblage and an influential member of the Beat Generation, George Herms premiered his latest free-jazz opera at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (redcat) this February. The freewheeling performance included two live bands, the voice of Diana Briscoe (pictured), and, not least, large-scale sculptural instruments. The opera concluded with the 75-year-old artist, secured in an elaborate rig, hoisted up in an act of “ascension.�



Celebrated artist Mark Bradford (mfa 97, bfa 95) turned philanthropist last December when he announced a $100,000 donation to the arts advocacy organization United States Artists (usa) for its Artists2Artists fund. The matching gift program encourages artists who have met with commercial success to help support fellow artmakers. Meanwhile, the traveling survey of Bradford’s work that was organized last year by the Wexner Center for the Arts in Ohio—where Bradford was artistin-residence—has just concluded its Boston run at the Institute of Contemporary Art. A critical and popular hit, the exhibition, titled simply Mark Bradford, includes painting, sculpture, installation, and video from 1997 to 2010, as well as several new works created during the Wexner Center residency. The show next travels to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Typefaces by Jeffery Keedy and Barry Deck, respectively, were recently acquired by moma.

courtesy of blum & poe

Installation view of Sam Durant’s exhibition Laissez Faire et Laissez Passer, Le Monde Va De Lui Même, held at Blum & Poe in Los Angeles.

Keedy Sans Template Gothic Sam Durant (mfa 91), holder of the Robert Fitzpatrick Chair in Art, has presented two solo exhibitions in Los Angeles and Paris: Laissez Faire et Laissez Passer, Le Monde Va De Lui Même at Blum & Poe, and Mirror Travels in Neoliberalism at Praz-Delavallade. Both shows offer critiques of economic Neoliberalism. The former title is a quotation by an 18th-century French government functionary to whom we owe the term “laissez faire,” and in the exhibition Durant proposes cartography as a political art. The title of the Paris exhibition pays homage to Robert Smithson’s Yucatan Mirror Displacements (1969), itself a reference to writer John Lloyd Stephen’s book Incidents of Travel in Yucatan (1843). Mirrors here hold special interest for the artist due to their symbolic charge of “reflection.” The iconic 11 x 17 in. posters made by Ed Fella over the years—after-the-fact visual comments on lectures, holiday greetings, various announcements—are the main subject of a solo exhibition featured as part of the 22nd edition of the International Poster and Graphic Design Festival of Chaumont in France.


Charles Gaines was among the 14 artists featured in All of this and nothing, the sixth in the Hammer Museum’s biennial invitational exhibition series, which highlights the work of Los Angeles artists, both established and emerging, alongside a number of international colleagues. Gaines’ contribution was a series of pieces in which he converted the language of political manifestos into musical scores. Photographs by faculty Harry Gamboa Jr. are on display in the exhibition America Latina: arte y confrontacíon, 1910–2010, held at the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. The show continues through June 5. The Chicano Art pioneer and cofounder of the East Los Angeles conceptual performance art group Asco (“Nausea”) also gave an artist talk under the heading “Erased: Limits and Borders” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, dc. Only one year after graduating from the School of Art’s Program in Photography and Media, Karolina Karlic (mfa 10) has received a Guggenheim Fellowship. Joining her in this honor is Maria Hassabi (Dance bfa 94, please see next page). The Museum of Modern Art (moma) has added to its Design and Architecture Collection two typefaces created by Graphic Design faculty Jeffery Keedy and alumnus Barry Deck (mfa 89). The faces—Keedy Sans and Template Gothic, by Deck—are among 23 digital fonts acquisitioned by moma. The only other typeface previously acquired by moma was the legendary Helvetica. “The typefaces,” says moma Senior Curator Paola Antonelli, “are all digital or designed with a foresight of the scope of the digital revolution, and they all significantly respond to the technological advancements occurring in the second half of the 20th century. Each is a milestone in the history of typography.” The newly acquired faces remain on view at moma through January 2012. Michael Worthington (mfa 95) and Yasmin Khan (mfa 05), guest–art directed the March/April issue of Print magazine. The issue included Print’s “20 Under 30 New Visual Artists”—among them Kim Dulaney (bfa 05), Zak Kyes (bfa 05) and mfa candidate Scott Barry. Worthington also designed the catalogue for the exhibition William Leavitt: Theater Objects at moca Grand Avenue. The publication includes writing about the former faculty member’s oeuvre by Dean Thomas Lawson. Worthington also showed work in Broodwork: It’s About Time at Otis and Getting Upper at the Pasadena Museum of California Art.


School of Critical Studies John D’Amico (ma 09), a graduate of the Aesthetics and Politics Program, has won a seat on the West Hollywood City Council. “Mr. D’Amico’s ascension to the city council dais stole the show,” WeHoNews said as the CalArts alum took the oath of office in March. “During the election, [D’Amico] demonstrated that a challenger could out-raise, out-campaign and out-poll established incumbents; his was only the second victorious non-incumbent election bid in the city’s history.” Faculty Bruce Bauman, representing CalArts’ literary journal Black Clock, and alumna Grace Krilanovich (mfa 05) and Lauren Strasnick (mfa 05) were roundtable panelists at this spring’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. For the past two-and-a-half years, writerproducer Lisa Dowda (mfa 04) and photographer Liz Ligon have been documenting the lives of New York City sanitation workers, whom the pair regard as the world’s best. The pictures and stories of the “san men” are gathered on the website (whose subhead is “Falling in Love with New York’s Strongest”). Dowda and Ligon also presented in February a photo and narrative exhibition, This is the Strongest, in downtown Manhattan. According to Marie Claire, Dowda and Ligon’s “visually arresting site Chasing Sanitation showcased the strength, pride, infectious grins, and impressive biceps of the [Department of Sanitation of New York] in ways they never imagined.”


The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance Sound artist and writer Brandon LaBelle (mfa 98) had a solo exhibition at London’s imt Gallery entitled Notes Toward a Sketch of a Sonic Body. Part of LaBelle’s ongoing investigation into the complex interaction of humans with sound, the show consisted of audio recordings of bodies contending with aspects of silence, language, music and dance. Strophe, a Los Angeles-based interdisciplinary arts group founded by Janice Lee (mfa 08), Joseph Milazzo (mfa 08) and Laura Vena (mfa 08), has launched a new lecture series called “Novum: A Compendium of Theories, Ideas & Explorations For the Curious and the Creative.” The inaugural event, “The Biotechnic Opera: Eat the Mouth That Feeds You,” included readings by faculty member Arne de Boever and alumna Carribean Fragoza (mfa 10), as well as a presentation by Fallen Fruit—the trio of faculty Matias Viegener, alum David Burns (Art bfa 93) and Austin Young. The second event this spring, “Estranged Visions,” featured composer Sean Griffin (Music mfa 92), Writing Program visiting poet Will Alexander, and writer Amina Cain.

Two undergraduate dancers, Lexi Gibbons and Michael Tomlin iii, performed with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater during a 10-day run at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles, as part of the series Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center. The CalArts pair appeared in a revival of Ailey’s 1979 work Memoria, set to the music of Keith Jarrett. Maria Hassabi (bfa 94) has received a muchcoveted Guggenheim Fellowship, joining Karolina Karlic (Art mfa 10, see previous page). The Cypriot-born choreographer and dancer has created both full-evening works and short pieces for numerous New York venues. Dean Stephan Koplowitz is featured in, and contributed an essay to, the first comprehensive study of site-specific choreography, a book titled Site Dance: Choreographers and the Lure of Alternative Space. Charting the growing popularity of site-based dance in recent years—with leading choreographers choosing to leave traditional performance spaces for public venues—the book offers close examinations of the work of key figures like Koplowitz,

Europa Editions is publishing Steve Erickson’s latest novel, These Dreams of You, early next year. This is the ninth novel by the mfa Writing Program faculty member and editor of Black Clock. In other news, Erickson’s criticism for Los Angeles magazine earned top honors from the City and Regional Magazine Association. Finally, the ubiquitous James Franco—award-winning actor, nyu filmmaker, Yale doctoral student, writer, Oscars host—has optioned Erickson’s darkly comic, Hollywoodthemed novel Zeroville with an eye to direct. The 2007 novel was named a best book of the year by Newsweek, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. The performance collective My Barbarian— comprising CalArts faculty member and alumnus Malik Gaines (mfa 99), Jade Gordon and Alexandro Segade—has had its first museum exhibition at the ucla Hammer. The group’s “Hammer Projects” show, entitled The Night Epi$ode, was an installation of six videos that use science fiction tropes to link stories of the economic meltdown with the supernatural.

Wang Yuanyuan choreographed a ballet based on the long-banned Ming Dynasty text Jin Ping Me (“The Golden Lotus”) for this year’s Hong Kong Arts Festival.

Joanna Haigood, Ann Carlson and Eiko Otake, among others. Published by the University Press of Florida, the amply illustrated 344page volume first appeared in hardcover last fall and, after two printings, came out in paperback in March. A month later, Koplowitz and his architectural partners, the Philadelphia-based firm kbas, won a competition to create a permanent sitespecific media installation for the new Salt Lake Community College Center for New Media. The Koplowitz-kbas proposal was selected from a total of 115 entries.



School of Film/Video Immediately following Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s appearances at the Music Center (see earlier) was the arrival of the Mark Morris Dance Group for a four-night run. The company, which includes Dallas McMurray (bfa 06), who joined in 2007, performed the Morris landmark L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed it Moderato, set to music by Handel and poetry by Milton. Dancer and choreographer Levi Gonzalez (bfa 97) premiered his newest work, a fullevening solo called intimacy, at Brooklyn Arts Exchange (bax). Developed over the course of a year in which Gonzalez was artist-inresidence at bax, the piece is, according to the choreographer, about “my relationship to dance, the relationship between practice (time spent in the studio) and presentation (performance), and the relationship between performer and audience.” Collaborating with Gonzalez was dramaturg Susan Mar Landau.

courtesy of beijing dance theater

The Beijing Dance Theater, directed by choreographer Wang Yuanyuan (mfa 03), debuted the stage adaptation of the 16th century novel Jin Ping Mei (“The Golden Lotus”) at the Hong Kong Arts Festival to great acclaim. It was a risky venture for the company: The piece, commissioned by the Hong Kong festival, is based on a text that has been banned in China for more than 300 years for its graphic sexual content and critique of Ming Dynasty excess and corruption. The official ban forced Wang and her colleagues to conduct the ballet’s Beijing dress rehearsals in secret, inside a locked-down theater. Wang has, among many other works, created dances for the spectacular opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Her Beijing Dance Theater, founded in ’08, is the first contemporary ballet troupe in China.

Toronto’s Images Festival, one of the largest in North America devoted to experimental and independent moving-image culture, featured selections from the touring edition of the survey Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945–2000, co-curated by Dean Steve Anker with Kathy Geritz and Steve Seid. Also included in the festival were films by Film/Video faculty Adele Horne and Lewis Klahr and the School of Art’s Judy Fiskin, as well as alums Vera Brunner-Sung (mfa 08), Brigid McCaffery (mfa 10), Fabian Euresti (mfa 10), and Deborah Stratman (mfa 95). The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (lacma) is the latest venue to host the retrospective of Tim Burton’s (79) multifaceted work. On view through October, Tim Burton originated at The Museum of Modern Art— moma’s largest-ever exhibition dedicated to a filmmaker. The show brings together more than 700 drawings, paintings, photographs, moving-image works, storyboards, puppets, concept artworks, maquettes, costumes, and cinematic ephemera, including art from a number of unrealized and little-known personal projects. Following the success of reality shows Top Chef and Project Runway, Emmy Awardwinning television executive producer Casey Kriley (mfa 98) has moved on to a new competition program, America’s Next Great Restaurant, on nbc. As with Top Chef and Project Runway and their various spinoffs, the new show is produced by the company Magical Elves. Top Chef is the only program to have wrested away the Emmy for best reality competition, first in 2008 and again last year, from The Amazing Race.

Stills from Kirsten Lepore’s festival-favorite stop-motion short The Bottle.

For the fourth consecutive year, Disney/Pixar has won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature with Toy Story 3, directed by Lee Unkrich from a story by John Lasseter (bfa 79), Andrew Stanton (bfa 87) and Unkrich, with Lasseter serving as executive producer. Also contending for the animated feature prize were DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon, co-written and co-directed by Chris Sanders (bfa 84) with Dean DeBlois, and Disney’s Tangled, executive-produced by Glen Keane (74) and John Lasseter. Toy Story also won a second Oscar for Best Original Song, thanks to Randy Newman. In the best animated short category, nominees included Geefwee Boedoe (bfa 88), with Let’s Pollute, and Teddy Newton (91), with Day and Night. Earlier in the awards season, Toy Story had won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Film, again edging out Dragon and Tangled. (Another big Golden Globe winner was actress Katey Sagal—see page 27.) Dragon, however, collected top honors at this year’s Annie Awards, while Newton’s Day and Night won the prize for Best Animated Short. In other news, John Lasseter made the list of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2011. mfa candidate Kirsten Lepore is establishing herself as one of the most exciting prospects in the field of stop-motion animation, having just signed with Caviar, an international ad agency and production company. Her stopmotion short The Bottle has already won the Slamdance Festival’s Grand Jury Sparky Award for Best Animated Short, the first-ever Student Annie Award, the Community Choice Award for Best Animation at the Vimeo Awards, the Prix d’Or at the les Film Festival, and top prizes at giraf6, Anim’est, and the Stop-Motion Festival, among others. Already identified as a rising talent by Animation magazine, Lepore had earlier won, with the short Sweet Dreams, the Special Jury Award at sxsw in 2009 and lacma’s Young Director Award in 2010. Her advertising clients have included Facebook, mtv, Toyota, Nickelodeon, Nestle, and Heinz.

courtesy of the filmmaker



The Herb Alpert School of Music The 2011 edition of the Cinéma du Réel festival, one of the world’s top showcases for documentary film, included two works by CalArtians that were each epic in scope. The Last Buffalo Hunt, directed by faculty member Lee Anne Schmitt (mfa 03) and produced by Lee Lynch (bfa 05), offers a portrait of the disappearing world of the American West, contrasting the open landscapes of Utah with images—often bizarre—of encroaching commercialism, and in the process questioning some of the bedrock myths of American identity. Five years in the making, the film had its world premiere earlier this year at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Travis Wilkerson’s (mfa 01) Distinguished Flying Cross is based on his father’s experiences in the Vietnam War as a member of an airborne unit. The doc includes extraordinary combat footage, shot by soldiers themselves and edited in-camera. Distinguished Flying Cross won Cinéma du Réel’s Second Prize. Beomsik Shimbe Shim’s (mfa 09) thesis film, The Wonder Hospital, won the Grand Jury Prize in the short animation program at sxsw. Already a favorite on the festival circuit, Shim’s 12-minute film considers the illusion of beauty through a visually dazzling blend of 3-d, cg, and live-action puppetry.

“Jazz Crossings,” performed simultaneously at The Wild Beast and Yamaha Artists Services Salon in New York, featured a live intercontinental duet by David Rosenboom (foreground) and JB Floyd.

chris lee

courtesy of susan allen

The Sur Incises group that reconvened at Disney Hall: From left, Gloria Chang, Brian Pezzone, Susan Allen, Ellie Choate, Pierre Boulez, Amy Knoles, Vicky Ray, Nick Terry, Phala Tracy and David Johnson.

At the 2003 Ojai Music Festival, a nineon the album include Cassandra Wilson, member iteration of the CalArts New Century Diana Krall, Norah Jones and Renée Fleming. Players was led by contemporary music icon In other news, Haden has just made the cover Pierre Boulez in a rousing rendition of Sur of the May issue of Jazz Times. Incises, a famously intricate piece for trios The KarmetiK Machine Orchestra, led by of harp, piano and percussion. This spring, music technology program director Ajay Kapur the same performers—harpists Susan Allen and the School of Theater’s head of technical (bfa 73), Phala Tracy (mfa 03) and Ellie Choate, direction Michael Darling, staged an audiopianists Vicki Ray, Brian Pezzone, and Gloria visual extravangaza in the Walt Disney Chang, and percussionists David Johnson Modular Theater featuring a new set of robot (bfa 72), Amy Knoles (bfa 82) and Nick Terry musical instruments and performer-computer (mfa 04)—reunited with the 86-year-old interfaces. The instruments unveiled included Boulez at Walt Disney Concert Hall to reprise “NotomotoN,” a percussion robot with twin Sur Incises in a special concert dedicated to drum heads, a metal body, and 18 solenoid the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s late executive “beater” assemblies. director Ernest Fleischmann. The ensemble is one clearly favored by Boulez for performing Anne LeBaron’s The Silent Steppe Cantata Sur Incises: The same group had convened received its premiere in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in San Diego two years ago to play selections this March. This sweeping “sonic portrait” of of the famous piece on the occasion of Kazakhstan and Central Asia, featured noted Boulez receiving the Kyoto Prize for Lifetime Kazakh–American tenor Timur Bekbosunov Achievement. Of this group, Susan Allen is (mfa 08), the Sazghen Sazy National Folk associate dean of The Herb Alpert School of Chamber Orchestra conducted by Zhamat Music; piano faculty Vicki Ray was this year Temirgaliyev, and a women’s choir. The libretto, named to the school’s Hal Blaine Chair in written by popular children’s book author Musical Performance; Johnson and Knoles are Beysenbay Suleimenov and performed in longtime members of the percussion faculty; Kazakh, Russian and English, weaves together and Brian Pezzone is a former faculty member. several legendary tales about the history of Kazakhstan over the centuries. The cantata’s The California E.A.R. Unit—with core members debut was accompanied by the screening of a Eric km Clark (mfa 05), Amy Knoles (bfa 82, documentary by Sandra Powers (Film/Video see above) and Vicki Ray (again, see above)— mfa 08) called The Nomad’s Song. Traveling to has received the 2010 ascap–Chamber Music Almaty for the final stages of the project prior America Award for Adventurous Programming. to its premiere were Daniel Corral (mfa 07) Charlie Haden, founder of the CalArts Jazz and School of Art undergrad Eugene Moon. Program, has released a new cd to mark the 25th anniversary of his landmark group Charlie Haden Quartet West. The 12-cut recording, titled Sophisticated Ladies, is, according to The New York Times, “the deepest immersion in the quartet’s moody retro film noir style since the 1999 album The Art of the Song.” In addition to the quartet of Haden (bass), Ernie Watts (saxophone), Alan Broadbent (piano) and Rodney Green (drums), guest vocalists



School of Theater

The first spring event of the Wild Beast Concert Series was a transcontinental “TeleConcert” that linked two simultaneous performances—one at The Wild Beast on the CalArts campus and the other at Yamaha Artists Services Salon in New York City. The program, called “Jazz Crossings,” began with Dean David Rosenboom and longtime collaborator JB Floyd, who performed the bi-coastal improvisational duet Is Art Is on live-linked Disklavier pianos, with Rosenboom at Yamaha and Floyd at CalArts. Next up was a jazz set led by trumpeter Ralph Alessi (mfa 90, bfa 87) and bassist Scott Colley (bfa 87), transmitted from New York to video screens clustered in the Wild Beast’s S. Mark Taper Foundation Courtyard. The evening culminated with the unique interdisciplinary work Crossings, a collaboration between the CalArts Latin Jazz Ensemble and the School of Theater, which was streamed from the Beast going in the other direction. Directed by faculty members David Roitstein, of the music school, and Marissa Chibas, of the theater school, Crossings combined sizzling salsa music with spoken-word stories about “crossing borders.” The concert, which incorporated Yamaha’s “Remote Live” technology, was produced by The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts and presented by Levitt Pavilions. Tabla player Robin Sukhadia (mfa 10) is in Kolkata, India, on a grant from the FulbrightNehru Senior Research Program. Sukhadia is studying the impact of six youth music education programs in Kolkata and Ahmedabad on the development of the children they serve. He also took part in another youth arts education project in Kathmandu, Nepal, alongside two CalArts faculty members, Tom Leeser, director of the Center for Integrated Media, and Provost Nancy Uscher. Karen Tanaka’s Water and Stone was performed by the New Juilliard Ensemble at Alice Tully Hall, as part of Carnegie Hall’s Japannyc festival this April. Earlier in the year, Tanaka’s cello concerto Urban Prayer was performed in Tokyo by soloist Nobuo Furukawa and the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra.

The School of Theater is again returning to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this summer, now for the eighth consecutive year. The CalArts contingent, which numbers nearly 30, is mounting five productions—the school’s most extensive program to date. It includes Leila Ghaznavi’s (mfa 10) Silken Veils, a hybrid work that combines puppetry and live performance with animation and original music to explore the complexities of Iranian– American identity. Silken Veils played at the Fringe last summer, earning a nomination for a Fringe First Award from The Scotsman, and has since been produced at several other venues, most recently Highways in Santa Monica. mfa candidate Alexis Macnab is putting on her solo clown cabaret act Hôtel de l’Avenir. Playwright Amy Tofte (mfa 11, see next column) is premiering her meta-comedy Flesh Eating Tiger, a work that poses the question: Do love and addiction recovery mix? Broken Wing, centered around the rose harvest in rural Iran, uses lighting as its main storytelling device, with the stage fashioned into a landscape of sand, stones and rose petals. Rounding out the CalArts slate is Henrik Ibsen’s family drama Little Eyolf. E. Martin Gimenez (mfa 09) designed sound and projections for the production of George C. Wolfe’s satire The Colored Museum at Pomona College in Claremont. Maureen Huskey (mfa 09) directed Ben Snyder’s Shoe Story at Theatre of note in Hollywood. Drawing upon the New York street culture of the ’80s, this urban fairy tale about love and loss also ponders the “metaphysic significance of a fresh pair of kicks.” The production featured sound and video design by Bryan Maier (mfa 09), costumes by Hunter Wells (mfa 10) and fight chroreography by Vonzell Carter (mfa 09). Huskey’s recent directing credits include a staged reading of Virginia Grice’s (mfa 09) award-winning play blu at the Los Angeles Theater Center’s Playwrights Festival and Jennifer Barclay’s The Exile of Petie Delarge at redcat’s New Original Works (now) Festival. Toussaint Jeanlouis (mfa 10) appeared in the Urban Theatre Movement’s staging of Massacre (Sing to Your Children) by Jose Rivera. The L.A. production ran through May. Cricket S. Myers (mfa 03) has received nominations for both the Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for her sound design on the acclaimed play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. Another CalArts colleague, Laura Mroczkowski (mfa 02) won a Drama Desk nom for the lighting design on the visually stunning Spy Garbo.

courtesy of the artist

Michael Pisaro, holder of the Roy E. Disney Chair in Musical Composition and co-chair of the Composition Program, has started his own cd imprint, Gravity Wave, which is distributed by Erstwhile Records. The label has already issued four discs of his music: ricefall (2), July Mountain (three versions), close constellations and a drum on the ground, and asleep, street, pipes, tones. In addition, Pisaro has been performing throughout North America and Europe, while portrait concerts of his music have been given in New York, London, Oxford, Tokyo and Santiago, Chile.

Leila Ghaznavi is taking her acclaimed hybrid puppet theater work Silken Veils back to Scotland for another run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Travis Preston, dean of the School of Theater and artistic director of the CalArts Center for New Performance (cnp), teamed up again with actor Stephen Dillane for a re-imagined version of Ibsen’s The Master Builder at London’s Almeida Theater. The collaboration between Preston and Dillane renewed the pair’s earlier work on the cnp’s production of Macbeth at redcat. Katey Sagal (72) won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series–Drama for her turn as Gemma Teller Morrow in fx’s biker family drama Sons of Anarchy. Sagal’s unvarnished characterization of the ruthless matriarch of the titular outlaw motorcycle club had been drawing notice since the series premiered in 2008. Sagal became a household name in the late ’80s as the fabulously brazen Peg Bundy on Married with Children, a part for which she received three Golden Globe nominations. In addition to numerous other roles on stage and screen, she had voiced the character Leela on Matt Groening’s Futurama. R. Christopher Stokes (mfa 10) created the lighting design for Molière’s Tartuffe for the Actors’ Gang in Culver City, and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible at the Banshee Theatre in Burbank. Alice Tuan, the School of Theater’s head of Writing for Performance, has received a commission from Yale Repertory Theater to write a new play. Meanwhile, one of Tuan’s students, Amanda Shank, has been invited to attend this year’s Kennedy Center mfa Playwrights Workshop, where she plans to develop a new work, Glass Man. Playwriting colleague Amy Tofte (mfa 11, see previous column) has been invited to present her work Relentless Pursuit of a Lady at The Last Frontier Theater Conference in Valdez, Alaska.



Institute Associate Provost John Bache retired at the end of the semester following a CalArts career spanning four decades. “John’s legacy is incalculable,” said co-associate provost Jacqueline Elam during a ceremony held in Bache’s honor in April. As a longtime member of the photo faculty, Bache has been a venerated teacher and mentor to generations of CalArtians, and, since 1990, as one of the Institute’s most passionate backers of the Community Arts Partnership (cap), to generations of cap students. Bache has taken on numerous administrative duties, among them associate dean of the School of Art and subsequently acting dean prior to the arrival of Thomas Lawson. He was appointed associate provost in 1995, and has served in this capacity since then, including two spells as acting provost. Bache’s photography, characterized by a keen eye for light and composition, has been exhibited internationally. “There’s only one phrase that really sums up John—‘a loved man,’” said Elam. “He’s our friend, our mentor, and a role model for how one should get on in the world.”

2011 redcat Awards honorees, from left, Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Eli and Edythe Broad, with, on far right, redcat Gala Master of Ceremonies and CalArts alumnus Ed Harris. John Bache

This year’s redcat Gala, with design by Choi Jeong-Hwa, who had formerly shown his work at the Gallery at redcat.

East of Borneo A new collaborative art journal and multimedia archive edited by Thomas Lawson

East of Borneo frames a discussion of contemporary art and its modern history, as considered from Los Angeles. East of Borneo is published by the School of Art at California Institute of the Arts and is funded in part by grants from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and The Getty Foundation. Asco, Decoy Gang War Victim, 1975. Photo: Harry Gamboa Jr. (Pictured: Gronk)

California Institute of the Arts Office of Public Affairs 24700 McBean Parkway Valencia, California 91355-2340

The Los Angeles Aqueduct is one of the Southern California waterworks photographed by alumnus Peter Bo Rappmund in his mesmerizing experimental documentary Psychohydrography. The film follows the Los Angeles water supply from its source in the Eastern Sierra Nevada all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Psychohydrography has screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival, The Museum of Modern Art’s Documentary Fortnight, and the Ann Arbor Film Festival, among other venues.

non-profit org. u.s. postage paid santa clarita, ca permit #18

CalArts Magazine Spring/Summer 2011