Columbia College Chicago

Featured Student Research

2013 | 2012

Students currently enrolled in the Interdisciplinary Arts Department's graduate programs are each leaders of research, which is formally evaluated numerous times during a students' education with us. Among these are a series of week-long critique sessions in which the entire department participates. From the research presented at the most recent critique sessions held in spring 2013, the Faculty selected several projects to highlight.


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The Chronology of Water: Star Blanket, 2013.

Alex Borgen

Inspired by my own underwater past as a competitive swimmer--its repetition, endurance, otherworldliness, and physicality--as well as the body's proprioception as it relates to movement and awareness of the spaces around us, I have been working on projects that are focused on movement, swimming, and the narratives that come out of various movement-oriented sensory explorations.

I am also researching underwater sensory experience as well as other artists who, like me, were high-caliber swimmers, thus spending 4-6 hours underwater each day. Is there a common thread between the themes of these artists? How does one experience a life on land when so much time was spent underwater during childhood and adolescent development? What is a body of water in relationship to the body in water? Using various media including handmade paper, written and spoken word, movement, audio, video, and performance. I am working towards expanding the swimming bodies' memory into an experience for the viewers that may incorporate site-specific interaction, sensory (deprivation), and movement.

My interests in alternative sites for creating and showing art, as well as interdisciplinary education led me to propose and establish The Papermaker's Garden at Columbia College Chicago in the south loop. It is an alternative art space defined by its intersection of interdisciplinary curriculum, sustainable practices, community interaction, hand papermaking, and performance. It will soon see an expansion summer of 2013, and will see more plants, trees, and events. To see more visit: alexborgen.com.


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home sweet home, Embroidery,
Van Dyke Brown on kitchen towel, 2013.

Amy Leners

While extensively researching the history of women’s work in society and within my own family, I began synthesizing connections between house, home, femininity, duty, family and secrets. My work investigates symbolic ideas of The Physical Home, Creating Homes in Others and The Quest to Relocate Home to the Individual. Although my work is initially approachable and aesthetically pleasing, upon closer examination complicated themes emerge. This revelatory quality of my work parallels how we perceive family and home and seeks to subvert it.

My current work in progress, ‘Home Sweet Home’ is a collection of embroidered kitchen towels. Aerial maps of my childhood homes are rendered in Van Dyke Brown stains on common kitchen towels which are then embroidered with visceral spots to mark the location of the home within it’s neighborhood. Embroidering without pattern allows me to respond to the image as I create them. I count my stitches and pay close attention to my breathing. In this way my embroidery is a practice of mindful meditation. Rather than avoiding experiences I find difficult, I practice being present with them. This practice teaches us to stop perpetuating the unnecessary suffering that results from trying to escape the inevitable discomfort we experience as a consequence of simply being alive. Works in progress blog: amyleners.tumblr.com | amyleners.com.


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Collision Part I, still image from live performance, 2013.

A. Morgan Sayers

I form experiential and conceptually charged sculptures, video performances, and sound pieces that explore questions of beauty, power, perfection and consumption and how these affect the human body. By combining my own body and media with everyday materials such as food wrappers, kitchen utensils, or cosmetic products, I reveal the overwhelming pressures of pursuing and upholding contemporary society's concepts of beauty and its expectations of unattainable perfection. I challenge myself to balance process and concept while creating figurative, yet abstract and elegant, yet disturbing works, further addressing the constant struggle for moderation and balance in our nutritional intake or lack thereof.

My creative process is equally important to the final piece of work itself. I see myself as a problem-solver and risk-taker, continuously experimenting and combining new mediums. In the upcoming year, I hope to further investigate interactive, participatory and publicly accessible work that will help participants and viewers achieve a heightened sense of their own bodies. Interactive sculptures and prosthetics, sound pieces, and projections will ultimately heighten senses, amplify subtleties, and address the idea of humanism and what it is to be as such. Members of Western society as a whole have become
more and more unaware and disconnected with their bodies, and it is my goal to help mend that disconnect, ideally providing the framework for similar projects in the future. I aim to create a discourse not only between my work and the viewer and/or participant, but also within the viewer’s and/or participant’s own psyche. To see more visit: morgansayers.com | vimeo.com/morgansayers.


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Surveillance Art 1, Interactive Live-feed
Image Processor, 2013.

Leonardo Selvaggio

Currently my practice explores identity, and the locus of its formation. I am interested in the disruption that occurs between our internal understanding of who we are, and how our identities are perceived, reinterpreted, and redistributed by others via social action. This disruptive space calls into question the nature of privacy in the public realm, and as an artist working with technology,  part of my work addresses this issue through an examination of surveillance.

For example my interactive live feed video and image-processing installation, Surveillance Art1, collects from its participants without consent their image as material for future work under the guise of a fun interactive experience. After to a minute or so of flailing their arms and making funny faces, they become aware that they have indeed been recorded by seeing their actions repeated on screen and through my disclaimer which reads:

“You are in a surveilled space and give up your presumed right to privacy by inhabiting this space...I alone author the work created with your image. You are my art. Thank you. Come again.”

The recordings of the public’s image that were collected from SA1 have been the material for U_R_MY_ART, a series of surveillance documents I have compiled, composed, and layered to the point of illegibility. While visually referencing glitch art, U_R_MY_ART acts as creative encryption, protecting the identities and actions of my participants through abstraction.

While surveillance is a ubiquitous and a normalized component of our modern lives, my works calls for transparency in our technologies and attempts to protect the public from others who would conceal their gaze. To see more visit: leoselvaggio.com/#/interactive-projects | vimeo.com/leoselvaggio.


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Work in progress: Blank bible to be distributed
to random participants, 2013.

Levi Sherman

As I enter my second year in the program, my work focuses on the intersection of visual language and society – how visual communication is both a response to societal conditions and also a driver of behavior and interactions. I continue to investigate visual language through bookworks and other print media, with an emphasis on democratic multiples and free distribution of materials. Recently, a desire for measurable results and a more community-based practice has driven me to include web and social network components to many of my ongoing projects. One such project with a website hub and a print component is The Gospel of _____, in which I distribute blank “bibles” to strangers and then compile their collective works into a single bible to celebrate the wit and wisdom of the everyman. The work also questions why some narratives are dominant and others are marginalized, and the role language plays in this system. My ongoing work, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience also engages the public on the street as well as on the web. Viewers who come across the essay, published as stickers outside, can engage with the project on its website. Documentation of the essay in situ will be combined with other photographic and textual components to create a print-on-demand artist's book and e-book. The process of working in the public sphere, along with outcomes in various media ensure a higher degree of democratic distribution. To see more, please visit my site, lsdgraphics.com.


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middle class warfare, 2012.

N. Davina Stewart

As a cultural worker and a descendant of enslaved Africans the vast majority of my work focuses upon the residual impacts of race, gender, and class oppression. I am interested in power: how it is defined, who has it, how it is acquired and maintained and generating work that bring these questions to the forefront for evaluation. I am interested in the oppressive systems and conditions that shape all of our lives and how we are complicit in their creation, maintenance, subversion and or eradication. I seek to present narratives and concepts that challenge social constructs and advocate for change in accordance to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I am currently researching the establishment of arts collectives that were specifically created as a space of creative and intellectual inquiry as well as an engine to promote the arts as platforms for social change in response to the political realities of their time. I want to create a collective similar to the American Artist Congress (1936-1941) tentatively called Artists for Structural Change that generates visual and performance art and media for mainstream culture that advocate and lobby for issues such as living wages, housing, and parental leave in solidarity with the labor movement and others. To see more visit: dahvuhnay.com | youtube.com/watch