Critical & Curatorial Studies MFA Thesis Exhibition

Student Exhibitions

Winter Quarter


January 14 – February 11, 2017

Opening reception: Saturday, January 14 from 2– 5 p.m.

"Who Gets To Look," Erik Benjamins and Sable Elyse Smith
Curated by Virginia Arce
University Art Gallery

The University Art Gallery is pleased to present Who Gets To Look, an exhibition featuring audio recordings and text by Erik Benjamins and video and sculpture by Sable Elyse Smith. Working within different geographic settings and social environments, each artist’s work actively disrupts forms of spectatorship associated with tourism and violence. Coalescing in the space of the gallery, these works call into question the conditions that make it possible for viewers to temporarily occupy a space in the field of the other.

Gathered across various public sites in Chengdu, China, Erik Benjamins’ Chengdu Field Recordings undercuts conventional models of sightseeing abroad, prompting viewers to reconsider the nature of tourism and what defines a tourist. Presented alongside texts generated by the artist during his stay in the city, the recordings echo throughout the walls of the gallery both defying a conventional sequence of time and inverting the dynamics of spectatorship and control.

A similar disruption echoes within Sable Elyse Smith’s video works, which pivot off intimate documents produced between the artist and her incarcerated father. As documentation of a deeply personal relationship mediated by the profoundly depersonalizing apparatus of the industrial prison system, Smith’s videos, How We Tell Stories To Children and untitled: Portrait, explore the far reaching trauma wrought by mass incarceration calling into question the social narratives that uphold it.

Through their respective conceptual and aesthetic strategies, the works in Who Gets To Look point to the troubling disjuncture between diverse individual experiences and totalizing social narratives, thus prompting viewers to contemplate the complicity of spectatorship while suggesting new and potentially fruitful modes of engagement. In the space of the gallery, the cadence and opacity of these works refuse the limits of concise narratives and instead continue to resonate beyond the exhibition.


Presence in Absence
Curated by Nicolas G. Miller, Danielle Nieves, Renée Reizman, and Corrie Siegel  
Room Gallery

We can learn from each other. Kindness is radical. Introspection is social and gathering together encourages deep thought and connection. From January 14 - February 11, Room Gallery will be a welcoming space for the UCI Community and public to reflect upon our current moment through four distinct curatorial projects. These projects range from an archive of garments, sound works addressing public legislation, the writings of an reviewer, and an invitation to contribute to an ongoing collective art project about relationships to home. Though each project functions as a distinct unit, they are united by their interest in what remains in our cultural memory and what is forgotten. Throughout the run of the exhibition each curator will host a weekly conversation thematically connected to the idea of presence in absence. Each curatorial project presented, and the accompanying  conversation circles, ask what can be gained from what is present and what can be learned from that which is missing.


All exhibitions are free admission and open to the public.


Presented by the Department of Art at the

University Art Galleries
712 Arts Plaza | Irvine, CA 92697 |
Gallery Hours | Tuesday - Saturday | 12–6 p.m.


Image: Sable Elyse Smith, untitled, courtesy of the artist

January 14, 2017 - 2:00pm
February 11, 2017 - 6:00pm