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Design media arts exhibit highlights artists’ interpretations of migration

Running at the New Wight Gallery until Jan. 30, “Migration” is an art exhibit featuring 45 undergraduate design media arts students including Dong Hye Kim, Ruth Lee and Gustavo Tepetla. Kim said the theme of migration was selected in an effort to display diversity in the exhibit while also allowing artists artistic flexibility. (Anna Syed/Daily Bruin)


New Wight Gallery

Running through Jan. 30


By Natalie Brown

Jan. 21, 2020 11:49 p.m.

“Migration” explores the personal identities and transformations of each featured artist through modern media and technology.

The undergraduate art exhibit, running at the New Wight Gallery through Jan. 30, showcases works created by 45 undergraduate design media arts students – each centering on the overarching theme of migration. Dong Hye Kim, a third-year design media arts student, said the theme provokes personal art defined by a period of transition, making it relatable to viewers who may also be dealing with times of change.

“All students have to go through this process, either entering college or at some time in their lives,” Kim said. “They enter a transition, go through a realization and have to adjust to a new environment.”

[Related: Design media arts MFA exhibition to experiment with context via multiple mediums]

When helping decide the exhibit’s theme with the rest of the department’s student council, Kim said the choice was unlike others they had made in the past. After all artwork submissions were received, the student council publicly announced the theme, unlike in previous years in which they did the opposite, Kim said. With this new policy, Kim said the submissions were incredibly diverse, as artists didn’t feel restricted by theme.

The inclusive theme of migration was selected in an effort to display diversity in the exhibit, he said. The opportunity for artists to personally interpret what “migration” means gave them artistic flexibility, Kim said, and allowed them to represent themselves while still maintaining a common thread throughout the chosen works.

“Rather than just showing the technical aspect of what we do, I wanted to give students an opportunity to represent where they came from and their life experience,” Kim said. “Their works are more personal rather than something that just looks cool.”

Since many of the artists have varied lifestyles and artistic backgrounds, Kim said he wanted artists to have the freedom to showcase their personal stories. Gustavo Tepetla, a third-year design media arts student, said the exhibit’s theme mirrors current changes within the design media arts department.

As a representative of the council, Tepetla said the design media arts council made more of an effort this year to connect with students, making them feel more inclined to participate in the show. Thus feeling more inclined to submit pieces, the large pool of applicants allowed for greater representation of different identities, he said.

“We wanted to create a very diverse and inclusive environment, but a very family-oriented one,” Tepetla said. “We wanted students to feel like they were not just attending classes and being students of DMA, but that they represented DMA, and embodied DMA instead.”

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This shift toward emphasizing community carries over to the current exhibition, Tepetla said, which allows for the acceptance of different identities and interpretations of migration. Various artistic media were used to represent the theme, including virtual reality and augmented reality pieces, projections, books, 3D mapping and interactive exhibits, which express the diverse personal identities of each artist.

Gustavo Tepetla, a third-year design media arts student, said his work includes a virtual reality experience that puts the viewer in the perspective of an immigrant child at the U.S. border to elicit an emotional response from those who experience it. (Anna Syed/Daily Bruin)

Tepetla’s work, titled “AGAINST ALL ODDS,” is featured in the show and includes a VR experience that puts the viewer in the perspective of an immigrant child at the U.S. border. The piece invites the viewer to physically walk in the children’s footsteps through cages and hear their young voices describing their mistreatment, eliciting intense emotional responses from those who have experienced it, Tepetla said.

Although not all pieces intend to yield such guttural emotions, Ruth Lee, a first-year design media arts student, said other interactive migration-themed pieces actively engage viewers as well. Lee said another VR game leads the viewer to paint makeup on someone’s face, which is another means of representing personal identity and transformation. While the show’s pieces are conceptually different from each other at their core, Lee said this is important as it represents the composition of the student body.

“It almost doesn’t look like one cohesive show,” Lee said. “We have everything from a whole wall of hanging wig hair to a 14-foot tall stack of immigration documents to projections of different colors.”

With a wide range of topics, she said it was rewarding to see the pieces ranging from Hong Kong protests to emojis paired together. Seeing how differently each artist’s work connected to the “migration” theme reflects the exhibit’s goal to put diverse ideas on display, Kim said.

“The strongest part of the exhibition was how personal everyone was,” Kim said. “Obviously there were different levels of that, but each work had its own story and it was very cool to see that people are able to instantly relate and interpret the works and understand other perspectives.”

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Natalie Brown
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