IDEAS Performance: The Burden of Selfhood

The Burden of Selfhood performance in the IDEAS series debuts March 23 in the Calit2 Theater.


Date: 2017-03-23
Time: 5pm - 7pm
Location: Calit2 Theater, Atkinson Hall, UC San Diego

Guest Speaker: Stefani Byrd, Sarah Ciston, Amy Fox, Fernanda Navarro, Heidi Kayser

Host: Shahrokh Yadegari, Director, IDEAS


The Burden of Selfhood is the next event in the IDEAS performance series in the Qualcomm Institute. The interdisciplinary work by UC San Diego grad students explore feminism, identity and technology.

Images cover the entire VROOM wall in the Calit2 Theater as background to The Burden of Selfhood performance.

By using interactive technology and research from cognitive science, music, poetry, video and performance art, the performance will investigate the experience of viewing and being viewed as a gendered body. “Technology has accelerated the recursive gaze to the point that we continually perform and project back onto each other our internalized expectations for unattainable perfection,” said artist Stefani Byrd, an MFA alumna in Visual Arts who is also a lecturer in the department's ICAM major. “This poly-vocal performance will use large-scale data visualizations and live performers to make explicit both the collective gaze and the implicit impact of being seen.” Using gaze-tracking technology, the first part of the live performance will implicate the view of the audience by revealing where their attention is focused on the body of the performer as the piece unfolds. This data will be used to create a “heat map” that is then projected onto the performer’s body. In Act Two, the artists use projection mapping to project alternative faces onto the performer’s face, turning it into a “malleable surface that we can transform to visualize ideas around reconstructing identity,” said Sara Ciston, MFA candidate in Writing at UC San Diego. Cognitive Science Ph.D. student Amy Rae Fox conducted language-based content analysis of user-generated makeup tutorial videos as a prelude to projecting new faces on the performer. Other participants include composer Fernanda Navarro, a Ph.D. student in the Music department, and UC San Diego MFA alumna Heidi Kayser, an interdisciplinary artist.


Amy Rae Fox is an information designer and doctoral student in Cognitive Science at UC San Diego. Her research examines the notion of representation and the relationship between external representations and cognitive activity.  Fox is interested in how representations of abstract concepts might engender novel insights, pushing the boundaries of human conceptual processing.

Fernanda Navarro is a composer who works with instrumental and electronic music and has been exploring performance art and installation. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at UC San Diego and promotes experimental music as a producer and curator of concerts and music festivals.

Heidi Kayser's interdisciplinary work interweaves sculpture with performance, fashion, photography, drawing and digital media while examining the relationship between body and self-image. A UCSD MFA alumna, she recently premiered the CARAPACE Collection of sculptural garments on the runway at the CUSP Fashion Show, and is currently working on a public art sculpture and performance in Los Angeles.

Sarah Ciston was recently named one of SF Weekly’s “Best Writers Without a Book” and now has two books slated for publication. She graduated from University of Southern California’s Resident Honors Program as a Trustee Scholar and is now researching precarity and GIF poetics as an MFA candidate in Writing at UC San Diego.

Stefani Byrd’s artistic practice includes video installation, new media, and interactive technologies. She aims to shed light on the complicated nature of communication within a contemporary culture where social stereotypes often define our interactions. She is an MFA alumna and current Lecturer in the Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts (ICAM) major in the Visual Arts department at UC San Diego.