Now In Residence: Artists at Jacobs Hall
The Jacobs Institute’s second year on the Berkeley campus is off to an active start, as it launches new programs and invites ever-expanding communities to take part in design innovation. As part of this ongoing growth, the institute has recently welcomed an inaugural cohort of artists-in-residence, who will bring ideas to life in Jacobs Hall over the course of the fall semester. Emily Rice, the Jacobs Institute’s director of programs and operations, explains that the residency program is grounded in a focus on fostering novel ways of thinking. “We hope,” she says, “that these artists will push the boundaries of what can be made here, and so inspire others towards bold experimentation and thoughtful critique in their own work.”
One member of this cohort of artists, undergraduate architecture student Jordan Coffey, cites a quote from architect Norman Foster in describing his approach to design: “As an architect you design for the present, with an awareness of the past, for a future which is virtually unknown.” Coffey plans to bring this mindset to Jacobs Hall this fall, weaving together past, present, and future through work with textiles. Training his lens on the African diaspora, Coffey will work to recover a past that has largely been erased, “translating our untold history into [the] compelling usable sculptures we call clothing.”
“From my travels around the world, I have realized that every country has a unique textile that tells a rich story,” says Coffey. “My aspirations are to push the limits of the equipment available at the Jacobs Institute, [allowing] me to elevate these textiles into modern silhouettes.” In particular, Coffey plans to make use of tools like Jacobs Hall’s industrial sewing machine and serger to build on previous work at the intersection of fashion and cultural history, such as a hoodie he created with African and Caribbean textiles in response to Trayvon Martin’s death. For Coffey, the interwoven form and function of clothing present an ideal opportunity to explore the intricacies of cultural memory. “Framing these textiles to interact as a contemporary juxtaposition of past and present,” he notes, “can create the couture of the future.”
Shari Paladino, an MFA student in art practice, also approaches the residency with an interest in memory, pairing this interest with a focus on play as intervention. “Play has a rich history throughout twentieth-century art movements,” she says, explaining that she hopes to explore how play can challenge ideas about difference and invite empathy. Over the course of the semester, she plans to draw on interventionist strategies to design alternative computer-based games, using Jacobs Hall’s labs to fabricate game consoles. One idea, for example, is a twist on the board game Memory aimed at prompting moments of reexamination of our assumptions and shared cultural memories.
“My work has long been situated at the intersection of the social, sculptural, and digital, using memory as an unstable site, shaping and reshaping the capacity for knowing and meaning-making,” she says. Informed in part by her time as an undergraduate at Berkeley, in which she self-designed a course of study that combined art, education, and critical disability studies, her practice combines various methods and modes of engagement — a natural fit for a highly interdisciplinary space like Jacobs Hall.
Like Paladino, Nancy Sayavong, also an MFA student in art practice, frequently interweaves the sculptural and the social in her work. Sayavong envisions her proposed project for her semester at Jacobs Hall, Domestic Dispersions, as “a public series of sculptures that act as interactive architectural signage and flags that signify symbols and statements, [enticing] viewers to look closer at issues of immigration and civil rights in the United States.” She plans to temporarily install the signs, which are inspired by “all-American” vintage signs, in communities affected by current events and debates around these issues.
Sayavong, whose background combines training in fine arts with experience working in skilled labor and teaching woodworking and metal fabrication, will use a variety of tools at Jacobs Hall to bring Domestic Dispersions to life. Working with materials from wood to fabrics, she plans to utilize the building’s CNC mill, laser-cutters, vinyl cutters, vacuum formers, wood shop, and more to create the project’s flags and signs.
Sayavong notes that the Jacobs Hall residency will allow her to link new fabrication-based skillsets with her experiences in her art practice — and to build relationships with people in new areas of campus. For the Jacobs Institute, this opportunity to foster new relationships between practices and people is a core component of the artist residency, one that speaks to Jacobs Hall’s role as an interdisciplinary hub of activity. “With this program,” says Emily Rice, “we are intentionally inviting new voices, perspectives, and practices to come be part of the Jacobs Hall community.” Over the course of the semester, these three new community members will bring their voices to Jacobs Hall’s studios and labs, opening conversations and giving form to new ideas in the process.
Want to learn more? We’ll provide looks at the artists’ processes throughout the semester, and the artists will share their work at the Jacobs Winter Design Showcase in early December.