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Contemporary Artists Explore Notion of Solidarity in New Mandeville Art Gallery Exhibit

Six women blow into a large horn as part of a contemporary art exhibit.
For the "How We Gather" opening celebration, artists Elana Mann and Sharon Chohi Kim will debut a new commission performed by the choir San Diego New Verbal Workshop using Mann's sculpture in the exhibition, "Our work is never done (unfinished business)" (2020–21), pictured here. Photo by Ruth Kim.

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The Mandeville Art Gallery, located on the campus of the University of California San Diego, presents “How We Gather,” a group exhibition that explores how contemporary artists approached the multifaceted meaning of solidarity in the context of the pandemic. The work is organized into two main pathways: objects that invite reflection on care and collaboration and a robust series of public programs encompassing artist-led workshops, lectures and performances. 

The free exhibition will open to the public with a special celebration on Oct. 7 that will include a new live performance commission by artists Elana Mann and Sharon Chohi Kim, performed by the San Diego New Verbal Workshop. The event will also offer catered tacos from 2 to 4 p.m. and an open bar from 2 to 6 p.m. The show will remain on view at the gallery through Dec. 9.

“‘Solidarity’ has a long and complex history; given the pandemic’s monumental and global impact, it makes sense that artists would again turn to this notion to process recent events,” explained Director and Chief Curator Ceci Moss. “Intentionally, ‘How We Gather’ addresses this topic broadly through a number of different entry points, with each artwork centering on collaboration and mutuality. I’m hoping the show will strengthen visitors’ sense of collective responsibility, empathy and understanding.”

The state of emergency brought on by COVID-19 both magnified existing structures of precarity and inequity and strengthened social bonds. How have artists been thinking through and synthesizing solidarity during the pandemic and since? 

Within the U.S. context especially, the global emergency revealed and amplified the fragility, dysfunction and inequity of numerous sectors, from health care to education to housing. The show demonstrates how art has served as a transformative force that unifies individuals into a greater whole and strengthens social bonds—not just in movement organizing and labor, but also in care, grief and collaboration.

"I’m hoping the show will strengthen visitors’ sense of collective responsibility, empathy and understanding.”
Director and Chief Curator Ceci Moss
Mandeville Art Gallery exterior at sunrise
The Mandeville Art Gallery, managed by the School of Arts and Humanities, is a long-standing fixture at UC San Diego. The gallery operates as a venue for artistic exhibitions and events serving both the university and the local community. Photo by John Durant.

About the artists

The exhibition brings together more than a dozen local, national and international artists working in a range of mediums, from performance to sculpture to video. While some works in “How We Gather” ask the visitor to take part directly in actions or expressions of solidarity, others narrativize the struggle to form these connections, particularly under challenging labor conditions and worker exploitation.

Artist Pia Camil's work called
Pia Camil, "A Pot for a Latch," 2016.
  • Pia Camil honors alternate models of shared ownership in the tradition of “potlatch” originated by Indigenous communities and illuminates alliances forged through the transfer of objects in her participatory work, “A Pot for a Latch.”
  • “Banner,” is a textile work by Zarouhie Abdalian that addresses labor and its history under modern industrial production.
  • Visitors are invited to sing or speak into “Our work is never done (unfinished business)” by Elana Mann, a sonic sculpture inspired by the mega-kazoo-horn used to amplify voices in protests.
  • In “worker patch series,” noé olivas celebrates the stories and lives of three women working in the service industry—Penny, Rafaela and Silvia—including an audio interview.
  • Susan Jahoda and Caroline Woolard partner on “Making and Being,” comprised of an interactive book, card set and introductory video that instruct audiences on a methodology of holistic art education that encourages a solidarity-oriented approach to art making. 
  • In 2021, Adelita Husni-Bey led a film workshop over Zoom with unionized Danish and US nurses that focused on their labor conditions—including their exploitation—as “essential workers” on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in her piece “On Necessary Work.”
  • In “You, Stranger; May I Be Your Kin? The Terms of My Death in Perpetuity” Kimi Hanauer explores conventions of ownership and collective care by presenting her legally functioning will to be read out loud by visitors.

On the exterior of the Mandeville Art Gallery, visitors can also explore a unique media mesh that will feature a site-specific commission by Cog•nate Collective—which includes UC San Diego visual arts alumna Misael Diaz MFA ‘12. Initiated during the height of the pandemic, “And will be again…” considers what it means to be in solidarity with decolonial projects in the context of a borderland community like Tijuana/San Diego.

The digital screen will present a looped video with a poem by Gloria Anzaldúa, author of “Borderlands,” which reads: “This land was Mexican once/was Indian always/and is./And will be again.” With the help of Indigenous scholars and allies, the artists translate and re-translate Anzaldúa’s poem from the colonizing languages of the Tijuana/San Diego region—English and Spanish—into and across the many Indigenous languages spoken in the area, both within native and migrant communities from Southern Mexico and Guatamala: Kumeyaay, Tongva, Mixteco, Zapoteco and Kaqchikel. The resulting slippages speak to “incommensurate” understandings of land, identity and ownership, and treat them as starting points for unity.

Collage of four images representing the exhibit public programs
The community is invited to take part in numerous free public programs that will be held throughout the fall quarter. From left to right, Alice Yuan Zhang, AWWWOOO Flyer, 2023; Cog•nate Collective, “Circumlocution: Border/Circunlocución: Frontera,” 2021; Nina Sarnelle and Selwa Sweidan, documentation from the Touch Praxis Workshop (Photo credit: Don Edler); and Kimi Hanauer, “Scaffolding Autonomies: Scores for Daily Rehearsal (Excerpt),” 2023.

An invitation to commune

The community is invited to take part in numerous public programs that will be held throughout the fall quarter. The goal is to foster exchange and communing, and prototype solidarity as a practice. All events are free and take place in person at the Mandeville Art Gallery, unless indicated otherwise.

Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, 2–6 pm
Opening celebration featuring a new commission by Elana Mann and Sharon Chohi Kim, performed by the San Diego New Verbal Workshop. Guests can learn more and rsvp here (advance registration not required but preferred).

Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, 2–4 pm 
A roundtable conversation on media mesh commission “And will be again…” led by Cog•nate Collective with UC San Diego Professor and John Muir College Provost Wayne Yang and Dina Gilio Whitaker, Colville Confederated Tribes descendant, scholar, educator, journalist and author in American Indian studies. 

Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, 2–4 pm 
As part of artist Alice Yuan Zhang’s research into DIY digital networks, “A woven word web of our own/AWWWOOO” invites attendees to co-create a local network through a joint exercise of creative writing and server hosting to experiment with self-initiated communication technologies outside of Big Tech.

Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, 2–4 pm (virtual)
“Scaffolding Autonomies: Scores for Daily Rehearsal” is an online workshop led by Kimi Hanauer of the Center for Liberatory Practice and Poetry, where participants chronicle and rehearse practices for collective care and solidarity that emerge from everyday encounters. (Sign up through the Mandeville Art Gallery’s website).

Saturday, November 11, 2–4 pm
Artists Nina Sarnelle and Selwa Sweidan invite participants to experiment with touch as a medium and learn participatory and decolonial methodologies for integrating it into their creative practices in their workshop “Touch Praxis.”

Tuesday, November 28th, 6:30pm 
Join us for an artist talk by noé olivas, organized as part of the Department of Visual Art’s Guest Lecture Series. The talk will take place in the Structural & Materials Engineering Building, Room 149.

Lunchtime curator tours

Curator Ceci Moss will also lead free tours of the exhibition followed by an invitation to exchange objects via Pia Camil’s “A Pot for a Latch.” Visitors are asked to bring items with personal value and history to trade. Tours will happen at the gallery on the following days:

  • Thursday, Oct. 26, 12:30–1:30 pm
  • Thursday, Nov. 16, 12:30–1:30 pm
  • Thursday, Dec. 7, 12:30–1:30 pm

About the Mandeville Art Gallery

The Mandeville Art Gallery, previously known as the University Art Gallery, is a long-standing fixture on the UC San Diego campus with a five-decade history of presenting innovative art in the context of a major research university. Managed by the School of Arts and Humanities and located on the west end of Mandeville Center, the gallery operates as a venue for artistic exhibitions and events serving both the university and the local community.

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