Chancellors Research Scholarship:


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Overview Summary of Proposed Project:

My primary research goal is to investigate Performance Art as a stimulus for people to indicate their desire for change. Centered on the facilitation of dialog, my hypothesis is that Performance Art can effect change far more than the spoken word. Thus, I plan to manipulate the mode of communication by using a performative approach. I will explore this association as it relates to the concept of a dialogical art practice through the work of author and UCSD Professor, Grant Kester in his book, Conversation Pieces: The Role of Dialogue in Socially-Engaged Art (2005). My model for the new media art perspective will focus on the work of Augusto Boal, who “created opportunities for some of the most oppressed people of South America using techniques known as the Theatre of the Oppressed” (The New Media Reader). Importantly, the prestigious work of author and UCSD Professor Ricardo Dominguez, who coined the term ‘artivism’ and created virtual sit-in’s, which target large corporations, will lay the ground work for my undergraduate research project. Like Dominguez, the application of my performance technique aims to give voice to those who typically lack the resource. Equally, my performance art points toward developing a therapeutic legislated reserve to ensure that they are not neglected. Thus, the expected benefits of my research to society are to provide evidence that, as a mode of communication, Performance Art elicits higher levels of participation and activism from students. In turn, my research aims to promote further study in the field of Performance Art, specifically relating to the dialectical, theatrical, and aesthetic approach. Such art has been employed in a variety of formats, (e.g., Kester, Boal, and Dominguez) though it has not been studied as a hybrid form of communication, empirically compared to other forms of communication effectiveness. Thus, my research offers an opportunity to explore this measurement of audience participation, operationalized as proportion of participants who sign a petition.

Description of Project:

First, I plan to offer one way in which participants may respond: either to sign a petition for change, or not. Then, utilizing the methodology of the Theatre of the Oppressed, I will elicit other forms of resolution from my audience. Like Boal and the Austrian arts collective WochenKlausur, (as discussed in Kester’s book, Conversation pieces), as well as Dominguez’s approach to artivism, I plan to organize my performance with the understanding of art as an “intervention” vehicle. Accordingly, I will stage a 5-6 minute poetic performance titled, One RED CLOUD 10 USA, and dedicate my act to the dog named Natividad —who died in 2007 after the controversial artist Guillermo Varga Habacuc captured him off the streets of Porto Rico, tied him to a rope in an art gallery and then left him there to starve to death. I will inform my audience that for several days the artist and those who visited the exhibition watched the ‘masterpiece’ (based on the dog’s agony,) until eventually the dog died. I will highlight the fact that the esteemed Visual Arts Biennial of the Central American decided Habacuc’s installation was art, so that he has been invited to repeat this action for the Biennial of 2008. I plan to ask the audience through my performance: Does this look like art to you?

Through interaction with audience members, I will address questions surrounding this topic. Specifically, by announcing the artist’s intentions to bring public awareness to Porto Rico’s large population of starving, homeless, unwanted dogs. Hence, I will inform the audience that the artist believed he could demonstrate a particular irony toward the way in which people typically perceive and ignore the many starving dogs which run rampant in the city. And yet, when a prototypical starving dog is placed in an art gallery to die, then, the people become outraged. Using Boal’s suggested format, wherein “it is not the place of the theater to show the correct path, but only to offer the means by which all possible paths may be examined,” I plan to begin by offering one solution. Hence, I will ask the spectator-actor to participate by signing a petition to stop this artist from committing the same act on another animal during the 2008 Biennial and then to indicate their willingness to participate in a community project seeking to find solutions to the animal starvation problem in Porto Rico (e.g., setting up fund raising opportunities, and pet food donations, etc). Thus, my work will require both interaction and participation (fulfilling one of the most basic definitions of new media art). Further, I will offer the spectator-actor the opportunity to explore other alternatives via a suggestion box (fulfilling Boal’s definition of the dialectical and theatrical approach to Performance Art). Finally, through the process of collaborative interaction, political aspects of performance art that dominate Dominguez’s work will also be adopted via the requisite signing of the petition.

Thus, my method for the research design calls for me to go to six different locations: University of California San Diego, University of San Diego, San Diego State University, MiraCosta College, Grossmont College and Mesa College. In terms of design of project, I will duplicate what ever happens in one location to the next, identically throughout. I will set up the visuals of the dog Natividad, which was the product of Habacuc’s performance, at a specific location and employ counterbalance for order. In other words, I will stand in the same place at the same time with the same visuals. The only difference will be one time I will include my Performance Art and the other I will give that same information— only this time, the words from my performance will be on display in writing only, placed directly next to the photographs of the dog, Natividad. In both instances, immediately afterward, I will have an assistant solicit signatures. I will then measure the number of signatures to determine whether or not Performance Art is indeed a productive territory based on the number of increased responses to signing the petition accordingly. Further, to provide an historical account of the research proposed, this project will be filmed documentary style and made available to the public post-production.

Personal Essay:

The desire to measure how much my performance art dramatically influence / increase student response to sign a petition for change is important to my future academic and career goals, since it is my belief that this type of art provides an outlet of opportunity in which to reflect on our society. And, at the same time, may also bring the expertise of many artists together to serve a single story or vision– transport the audience to a new world, or perhaps, a new state of mind. Thus, I plan to pursue an education and ultimately a career that will allow me to communicate and contribute to the “collective imagination.” By integrating lessons learned through experimentation as a performance artist I hope to inform my perspective as an artistic storyteller.

Ultimately, my aim is to produce art forms that not only entertain but also inspire new forms of communication. For this reason, exploring the potential for change through Performance Art is essential to developing my ultimate artistic expression.


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UCSD Visual Arts

Chancellors – 2008-2009 Research Scholarship

Experimenter: Holly Eskew / Exhibiting “Performance Art” and its effects on a person’s willingness to sign a petition for change

Faculty Advisor: Ricardo Dominguez



The point of interest was studying the validity and influence of Performance Art by creating and manipulating a social experiment designed to measure levels of communication effectiveness – wherein the frequency of a performance and intensity of participant interaction was used to represent estimation to Performance Art as a productive territory.


Students were exposed to the visual drama of a dog’s physical horror by way of a pictorial narrative—which was the product of Habacuc’s performance and death of the dog, Natividad. Three basic black and white posters 36 x 48 inches in size promoted the petition wherein the question “Does this look like art?” was posed and students were asked to carry out a political effect by signing a petition for change, answering a field study questionnaire, or by adding to the suggestion box. In two separate conditions, the full reading of the poem, One Red Cloud 10 USA was presented in written form. The artist as researcher was introduced through a five-minute performance. Relations between audience/artist, audience/audience was measured by level of participation and/or social interaction in response to the performance then mapped accordingly. Real action was understood as carrying out a political result.


More people will sign a petition for change if a performance act is carried out alongside the promotion of an activist event.

Methods / Procedure

• A display table was setup to display the poster(s), hold sign-up sheets, and seat a group representative.

• People were considered subjects once they entered the radius marked off via placement of video cameras (3 cameras were set at a distance of 20 feet from performance area and booth setup – one left, one center and a third to the right). If they made a full stop to observe the poster in detail, or approached the table to sign up and/or ask a question they were considered participants. If they signed the petition they were recorded under the results section.

• Two raters were stationed nearby to code the types of questions posed to the representative, and whether or not they ultimately gave their name and email for the petition during performance conditions vs. non-performance conditions. Additionally, how frequently conversations occurred in those spaces, where people stopped to tie their shoe, where they tripped, where they stopped to talk on cell phones and those places where people avoided running into each other were recorded.

• To control for the number of people in each location ran under all conditions, thus to observe an even amount of people walking inside the experimental zone, we randomized the order of the performances by way of a coin toss (ab ab blocks).

IV – Control Condition

The written poem was displayed throughout all conditions.

IV – Performance Condition

The written poem was read aloud and delivered by way of a performance.

• All other processes in the two hour-long segments were held constant so to restrict any changes in participant behavior strictly measurable to the performance.


Performance art condition vs. Control condition (non-performance art): there was a significant main effect for the performance condition such that participants are twice as likely to sign a petition for change when the Performance Art condition is present.

Petition sign-ups overall = 33

Signed- up after performance = 22

Qualitative Observations

• The majority of sign ups occurred in waves. Either a group of students would approach, or individuals would be emboldened to approach if they witnessed the performance.

• Only one person in the performance condition asked a question specifically about the performance in relation to the petition before signing up.

• Having no form of solicitation other than the poster made it very difficult to attract people to the table.


Our hypothesis was thoroughly met under the focus of our quasi-experiment. Not only did more people sign up under the performance condition, but also only half the number of individuals chose to engage with the booth representative under the non-performance condition.



• Finding the right location was essentially the prerequisite for success of the project. How easy or hard it would be for students to make informed choices during the experiment was one of the key considerations. Hence, an accurate assessment was limited in the sense that experienced numbers of performance(s) were limited to number of students within the physical space inhabited or regularly traversed on campus. Given that the quality of a space may facilitate or discourage a variety of social interactions, then, the significance of examining associations between audience and performance artist within one space or another remains relevant. Future directions to get findings certainly have to do with more campus exposure so to achieve statistical power. Thus, due to the small sample size, our findings can only be generalized across several different collages.


Special thanks to:

• Professor Ricardo Dominguez for his continuous advice

• Field Assistants: Chelsey Grasso, Liz Hood, Simon Quiroz, Roberto Rosales, Travis Cochran and Arthur Turner for donating their personal time to help document our cause.

• UCSD / SDSU Students that took the time to participate in our petition.

• Members of Muir TV for never sacrificing on our individual perspectives.

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