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Visual Anthropology Showcase Scheduled For Evening Of May 19

Published: May 15, 2012

The Visual Anthropology Student Association hosts a showcase of its work on Saturday, May 19, beginning at 4 p.m. at the Liberty Art Gallery and Performance Space at 435 Alamitos Ave. in Long Beach. Admission is free.

The program, organized by the Department of Anthropology and supervised by faculty members Steven Rousso-Schindler and Scott Wilson, will present an evening of films and new media projects on topics as different as vinyl records and the body image of Mexican-American women.

“This showcase of student work represents a variety of media available in the classes,” explained Rousso-Schindler, a member of the university since 2008. “Last year’s showcase drew hundreds to downtown Long Beach and I expect hundreds more to attend this year for our program of eight films and five new media projects.”

As a visual anthropologist, Rousso-Schindler hasn’t seen as much work as he expected about Mexican-American culture from an enrollment as diverse as CSULB’s. “That changes this year with two projects about Mexican-American culture,” he said.

He points to an undergraduate film by CSULB’s Joanna Diaz, Vanessa Diaz and Andrea Carcovich titled “Dia de las Muertas: Advocacy through Altars and Art” which connects the celebrations of Mexico’s Dia De Los Muertos and the death of women in Juarez. “These filmmakers focused on the women living in a lawless, violent border town and asked what nuances gender can bring into the equation?” he said.

The three students will present “Yadi,” a portrayal of a Mexican-American woman with bulimia who overcomes conflicting messages about ideal female body types. “Body image is differently constructed in the two cultures,” said Rousso-Schindler. “Mainstream America prizes bone-skinny models and Mexican culture does not. These filmmakers have one foot in American culture and one in Mexican-American culture. It caused them to struggle with their own body images. The film is put together very cleverly.”

“The Yogalution” set in Long Beach is from student filmmakers Stacie Shewmake, Julia Wignall and Lauren Brounley. Subtitled “Empowering Bodies and Minds: in Long Beach, California,” it details a new yoga movement that provides free instruction for community members.

Other titles include “The Puvungna Project” by Jessica Matson, Stephanie Schoniger, Brian Delas Armas and Megan Harmon; “The Culture of Vinyl” from Andrea Carcovich, Christiahn Govan, Holden Deaton, Jennifer Chung detailing the industry surrounding the vinyl record; “War Hammer” from Nicholas Fitch, Alexandra Uhl, Martin Tominaga and Socorro Leandro which uses interactive video to re-create the experience of miniature-based gaming from the perspective of multiple participants; “A Garden without Roots” from Katarina Spralja, Adam Neilson and Brian Delas Armas which profiles a Long Beach community of elderly Cambodian-Americans who support a communal garden; “Voices from the Village” from Christiahn Govan and George Georgiev which follows an ex-‘tagger’ in South Los Angeles who uses art to teach teenagers about responsible living; “Unplanned Love” from Adriana Vigil and Cassandra Vitale which visits the experiences of early motherhood shared by younger and older women of different ethnicities; “Living Icons” from Christine Gilbert and Brittany Woodard which examines the personal and spiritual meanings behind the practice of Orthodox Christian tattooing; and “Roleplaying: A Game of Glorious Adventure and Fun for the Average Person” from Nick Fitch about “geek” culture and its expressions of sexuality in such fantasy games as Dungeons and Dragons.

Rousso-Schindler explained that visual anthropology is a subfield of cultural anthropology concerned with the study and production of ethnographic photography, film and new media. “Technology has had a significant impact on visual anthropology,” he said. “Up to now, visual anthropology has depended on film and TV. New media changes that. Access to technology has allowed more people to become visual anthropologists. The program at CSULB would be impossible without the support of the university, CLA and the department. Our equipment is top grade.”

The department’s insistence on visual anthropologists working in the Long Beach community expands student world views, Rousso-Schindler believes. “Long Beach is an incredibly diverse place. That is one of the strengths of this university and one I appreciate the more I visit other CSUs,” he said. “CSULB students are great at finding amazing stories. They show the city’s diversity. It is one thing to study diversity and another to be confronted by different cultures. It’s a very educational experience and a fun challenge.”

He encourages the university and surrounding community to attend. “They’ll see student work many would have thought impossible; it is that good,” he said.

–Richard Manly