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A Festive Debut for Ann Hamilton’s ‘KAHNOP · TO TELL A STORY’

A group of contemporary dancers under colorful lights
A special event was held to formally recognize the completion of KAHNOP · TO TELL A STORY, the 22nd addition to the university’s noted public art collection. The dynamic event included a contemporary music and dance performance, presentations from the artist and collaborators, quotation readings, and more. Photos by Erik Jepsen/University Communications.

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There are 25,000 basalt stones that bring language to life in the newest addition to the Stuart Collection, KAHNOP · TO TELL A STORY. Each 35-pound block contains a word or phrase that builds the 800-foot new entryway to campus. On its formal inauguration day last Saturday, campus and community members were handed a scroll and a crayon so that they could peruse the river of words and select one or more to take home with them as a rubbing. Their captures ranged from “Possible” and “A Single Species” to “Starlight” and “Our World.”

The event offered guests a chance to deeply understand how the installation was conceived over the span of three decades and the importance of the regional history of the Kumeyaay Nation through the unique feminist poem that is woven throughout. The celebration also included a world premiere performance of “step by step, line by line” by UC San Diego faculty composer Shahrokh Yadegari, an atmospheric and bold ode to the complexity of ideas that are interlaced throughout the installation that left audience members in a spell.

Explore how the event unfolded through the series of images below.

A group of three images that show the art rubbings students made at the KAHNOP pathway
When campus and community members arrived at the pathway for the public opening, they were provided a small scroll of paper and a blue crayon. Each began to wander the walkway in search of a word or phrase that resonated with them; every few feet groups of people could be seen coloring their paper animatedly, excited to view how their creation would turn out. KAHNOP · TO TELL A STORY comes alive when it is interacted with, whether it is through a stone rubbing activity or as individuals walk and read the fragments of quotations.
Three Kumeyaay scholars participating in a panel discussion
The public event also included a panel featuring several of UC San Diego’s Kumeyaay scholars who bring expertise in history, education, anthropology, archaeology and repatriation. Their talk centered on the research project titled “Unmapping UC Matkoolahooee,” which examines and rewrites the history of present-day La Jolla from the Kumeyaay perspective. Speakers included (from left to right) UC San Diego staff member Eva Trujillo (Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians), alumna Alexandria Hunter (enrolled member of Jamul Indian Village), and alumnus Juan Reynoso (San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians). The talk was moderated by Assistant Professor of Education Studies Theresa Ambo, co-founder of the Indigenous Futures Institute.
Group photo of campus leaders including UC President Michael Drake and UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla
There were many campus leaders who supported the installation of the work throughout all steps of design and construction, including Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla (second from left) and members of the university’s Capital Program Management team, Inspector of Record Josh Hoffman (left) and Architect Bryan Macias (right). University of California President Michael Drake (third from left), a personal friend of Hamilton’s, also attended the celebration to offer his congratulations. “Wisdom is clear in the work of Ann Hamilton…She conjures spaces for people to come and experience their own aliveness and their presence; what a gift that is,” shared Drake during the event. 
Three images showing musical performers and contemporary dancers
Guests were treated to the world premiere of “step by step, line by line” by UC San Diego faculty composer Shahrokh Yadegari. The multilayered piece started serenely with soft whispers of sounds, then slowly gained momentum with deeper percussion. Using improvisation techniques, Yadegari expertly merged captured live sounds with recorded sounds to create an immersive environment. To further energize the performance, members of UC San Diego’s contemporary dance program brought physicality to the music. 
Opera singer
Standing inconspicuously at the periphery of the event a few moments before the performance took off, Grammy Award-winning American soprano Christine Brewer made a grand spotlighted entrance with her powerful voice at the start of “step by step line by line.” Her poetic verses reverberated throughout the space, creating an ethereal, immersive experience for audience members.
Ann Hamilton speaks at event
According to artist Ann Hamilton, the work represents an impulse to share the findings that were discovered from reading. Describing the pathway as “a tactile chorus of language and material,” Hamilton and her team read works from thousands of authors who have a connection to UC San Diego. The resulting 1,500 lines of quote fragments weave together topics that range from social justice and revolution to technological advancement and environmental activism. Interlaced within these fragments is a 36-line feminist poem written by UC San Diego Kumeyaay Scholars Eva Trujillo and Alexandria Hunter that unfolds line by line every 20 feet.
Ann Hamilton laughs with former Stuart Collection Director Mary Beebe
The KAHNOP · TO TELL A STORY project began three decades ago as a conversation between founding Stuart Collection Director Mary Beebe (right) and artist Ann Hamilton. Many of the installations in the collection are integrated directly into the buildings and landscape of the university. In this case, the UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley and Epstein Family Amphitheater had to be built before Hamilton’s stone pathway could be completed, now forming a new threshold to a campus that is quickly becoming a destination for arts and culture.

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