Thursday, May 23

Classmates defend student in art incident


Dispute spurs retirements; UCLA to continue investigation of conduct

As the investigation continues into a UCLA graduate
student’s controversial performance art piece, others are
speaking up to defend the student and his Nov. 29, 2004,
performance.

According to witness reports, graduate art student Joseph Deutch
loaded what looked like a revolver, spun the chamber, held the gun
to his head and pulled the trigger. After the gun did not fire,
Deutch stepped out of the room and a shot was heard.

Shortly after the incident, longtime UCLA art professors Chris
Burden and Nancy Rubins retired on Dec. 20 during winter break.
According to a Jan. 22 Los Angeles Times article, the two retired
partly because the university refused to immediately suspend Deutch
in addition to grievances they had over budget cuts in their
department.

An investigation is still going on to determine if Deutch has
violated the UCLA student code of conduct. Robert Naples, the dean
of students, declined to comment because the investigation process
is still ongoing.

Stephen Bowersox, a second-year art history and economics
student who was in the class, said what Deutch did was in the
context of a performance.

“The piece was evocative of emotion,” Bowersox said.
“However, as the piece resonated with the audience, the
artistic merit of it became increasingly clear.”

Bowersox added that he and others who were in the class are
supportive of Deutch.

Sarah Watson, spokeswoman for the two artists and director for
Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, declined to comment on student
comments about the incident.

Burden told the Chronicle of Higher Education in a Jan. 25
article, “If terrorism is admissible in the classroom as a
way to generate discussion and attention, we’ve got a
problem.”

Bowersox did not specify how Ron Athey, the instructor of
performance art, reacted, but said Athey kept the situation under
control.

Some students believe that Deutch should not be reprimanded for
his performance.

“I don’t think Joe should be critiqued because
someone was traumatized,” said Robert Summers, a doctoral
student of art history who was in the class. “It’s not
Joe’s fault (others) feel traumatized.”

Burden is well known for his 1971 performance of
“Shoot,” which involved an assistant shooting him in
the arm with a .22-caliber rifle during an exhibition at a Santa
Ana gallery. In 1973 Burden also performed “Through the Night
Softly,” in which he rolled through 50 feet of broken glass
with his hands behind his back.

“(Burden and Rubins) are saying they felt threatened, but
Chris Burden did very controversial pieces,” Summers
said.

Summers noted that the history of performance art is marked by
controversy and for the most part, people learn from it.

“I think the job of the university is to ask important
questions and dangerous questions and to explore,” Summers
said.

Soon after Burden and Rubins retired, the School of Arts and
Architecture started a search to find faculty to fill a sculptor
instructor position. Though Burden and Rubins were supposed to
teach this quarter, other faculty members have filled the two
professors’ teaching duties for winter.

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