Put this in the you-can’t-make-up-this-stuff category: At the University of California San Diego, a controversy is brewing over an art class in which students take the final exam in the nude.
According to KGTV, ABC10 in San Diego, the course is Visual Arts 104A: Performing the Self, which has been taught for 11 years by Associate Professor Ricardo Dominguez. According to the story, Dominguez explained that students strip down — along with himself — for a “performance of self” in a dark room with a lit candle. It quotes him as saying:
“At the very end of the class, we’ve done several gestures, they have to nude gesture. The prompt is to speak about or do a gesture or create an installation that says, ‘what is more you than you are.'”
And he said:
“It’s a standard canvas for performance art and body art.”
Jordan Crandall, chairman of UCSD’s Visual Arts Department, said in a statement published by KGTV that nudity was not required to pass the class. He also noted the class itself was not a requirement and that students taking the course were aware of the final. The statement said:
“The concerns of our students are our department’s first priority, and I’d like to offer some contextual information that will help answer questions regarding the pedagogy of VIS 104A.
“Removing your clothes is not required in this class. The course is not required for graduation.
“VIS 104A is an upper division class that Professor Dominguez has taught for 11 years. It has a number of prompts for short performances called “gestures.” These include “Your Life: With 3 Objects and 3 Sounds” and “Confessional Self,” among others. Students are graded on the “Nude/Naked Self” gesture just like all the other gestures. Students are aware from the start of the class that it is a requirement, and that they can do the gesture in any number of ways without actually having to remove their clothes. Dominguez explains this — as does our advising team if concerns are raised with them. There are many ways to perform nudity or nakedness, summoning art history conventions of the nude or laying bare of one’s “traumatic” or most fragile and vulnerable self. One can “be” nude while being covered.
“There are many comments from former students that are visible online. These comments clarify the matter quite directly. It is important to listen to students who have actually taken the class. Again, the concerns of our students are our department’s first priority.”
The KGTV story quotes an unnamed mother of an unnamed female student as saying her daughter was not, in fact, aware of the naked final and that the whole episode has made her “sick to my stomach.”
If you are wondering how this final has been given with nude students for 11 years without controversy, Dominguez is quoted as saying he’s never had a complaint before now.