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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Catching Culture

I was seven months old when I first traveled to the US with my family. My parents took me and my sisters to many places around the world, but we always came back to America.

The land of the free was always exceptionally appealing to my parents, children of Jewish holocaust survivors. Growing up in post-war Germany among the same people who had rooted for the eradication of the Jewish people only a decade earlier, didn't necessarily motivate them to develop a sense of patriotism. Neither my mother nor my father was born in Germany, yet still circumstances had brought their families to the origin of hatred.

Even though my parents eventually decided to stay in Germany and build a future there, they never left out an opportunity to make clear to me we didn't belong there.

By the time I was a teen, ready to figure out my identity, confusion was at its peak; My father was born in Poland – yet I had never set foot onto Polish soil. My mother was born in Argentina – but I didn't speak more than a few incoherent words in Spanish. I was born and raised in Germany, many of my friends, neighbors and classmates were German. The language of communication for me at home and everywhere else was German and yet nobody around me seemed to miss a chance to remind me that I somehow wasn't. My looks and my name seemed to be giving it away before I even started talking; In school –as the only Jew in my class – I was involuntarily made the unofficial ambassador of “my people”. For many, I was the only Jewish person they new, and so apart from having to be a flawless representative, it was my responsibility to clear up misperceptions and reduce ignorance. Whenever we talked about the second world war, the holocaust or even the conflict of the Middle East, I could feel 25 pairs of eyes carefully lingering on me, as if they were fearing an uncontrollable outburst of emotion from my side. Many were tiptoeing around me when it came to certain topics so as not to hurt my feelings. And all I had ever wanted was to be treated like anybody else.

So there I was, thirteen years old, asking myself who was? A German Jew? A Jewish German? Or was I just a Jew living in Germany? Everybody made it seem like there was only one right answer to this question but nobody cared to tell me which one it was. Back then, I didn't understand why my parents made it seem so inappropriate for me to feel German, but with time and experience my cultural understanding grew. In many situations I found myself acting differently from my all-German friends and instead I found similarities to people with multicultural backgrounds, like me.

Scientists believe that learning a new language is easier for people who had been raised bilingually, because they can access the same neurological net they had used before. Other have to rebuild a completely new net for each language. I wonder if the same theory can be applied to culture. Growing up with a multicultural background requires an awareness for and flexibility in adapting to varying cultural circumstances.

A German proverb says: Manchmal sieht man den Wald for lauter Bäumen nicht! It can be translated to: Sometimes you can’t see the forest because all the trees are in the way. The same goes for culture: It is so comprehensive, you can’t see it until you step away and look at it from a distance.

With my parents encouraging me to move away from Munich and leaving Germany behind, I found a new home in Los Angeles, California. In general, I found it easy to adapt to the LA lifestyle and as I was used to it, I attempted to fit in. Only when I got to the other side of the world did I realize how German –and münchnerisch (typical for Munich) in particular– I am after all.

Living in LA now, I can feel the freedom my parents always desired when they visited the States. I am free to decide who I want to be without the circumstances of a city pushing me towards one identity or culture. The variety of this city lets me reinvent myself every day – that is if I chose to do so. Not being attached to one single culture has given me the opportunity to look at cultures critically and live my own more freely. Both Munich and Los Angeles have a very distinct character of their own. 

Looking at each city from a more distant standpoint than their livelong inhabitants, these characteristics sometimes suddenly arise amidst the sea of people and the jungle of glass and concrete. With the large cultural diversity in Los Angeles, it is quite unlikely that you have the same perspective on situations than the person sitting in the car next to you. So I encourage you to look out, reach out to others and find the funny habits we develop living in LA.

- Sharon Kellermann -

You may have received an email about Brianne Yokatake’s senior project involving dogs at Otis for a way to relieve stress. What students need most is a way to relax and bringing in dogs is perfect! Although not everyone may be a dog person, statistics as well as the obvious show that a pup can change our whole attitude when it comes to how we act around others. 

I myself am from out of state and I have a miniature dachshund at home that I miss very much. This event will absolutely help me cope with my little friend not being here for my journey at Otis. I think Brianne’s idea is a brilliant one. We all know that pets make us feel welcomed or more relaxed, but taking it to the level of bringing this to everyone is something I haven't heard of before! This is almost like going to the adoption day at PetCo. and making a day of playing with pets! The only difference is these dogs are meant to help us and we don’t have to feel bad for petting them and not adopting them. 

This event is at the:
Otis Lawn
April 29th
11:00 - 12:30 am

In order to attend you must bring a children’s book that you can donate for Bark Therapy Dogs to help others feel less stressed and more comfortable!

- Jonathan Taylor -
Courtesy of Rachel Hanada
Hi, my name is Sandra Kim and I am a sophomore in Fashion Design. I've always wanted to immerse myself in the culture of Paris and explore the fashion capital of the world, but that has always been on the side burner for me since school is already hectic enough and the expenses are crazy. However, I've come across multiple posters and emails about the Paris Trip Otis offers for sophomores, juniors, and seniors in Fashion Design. It obviously sounds amazing; I mean who wouldn't want to go, but I can’t help but wonder if it is worth the money to go during the school year. I’m very curious and I’m sure a lot of other students have many other questions, too! That’s why I interviewed one of my friends who had the opportunity to go on this trip. 

This week I interviewed Rachel Soojin Lee, who is a Junior in Fashion Design. I was lucky enough to receive first hand knowledge about her experience and many details/insight about the pros and cons of the Paris trip. I hope this is helpful for many students who are interested in going on the trip in the future. 

SK:How much did you pay for the trip? What about other expenses?

RL: $3,000 plus another $500 for meals, shopping, and souvenirs.

SK:How was the hotel situation and how were the services?

RL: The services were so good. Everything was clean, the breakfast there was ample enough to get us moving in the morning and they had so many croissants that I failed to eat only one.

SK:How was the experience? What did you get out of it? 

RL: Through this Paris experience, I realized that exposure to culture, art, history, and style within different groups was something that would help me expand my creativity and thinking process. It is through understanding people and their values of all sorts of cultures that I can draw inspiration from when designing clothes. After all, I am designing for people.
Courtesy of Rachel Hanada

SK:Was this beneficial to your major and work? Would you recommend others to go on this trip? If so, why?

RL: It was through Otis’s connections that allowed this year’s group to literally enter into some of fashion’s history. We had the honor to personally go into Yves Saint Laurent’s studio and see his old sketches, walk through a Dries Van Noten exhibition with a collection of his inspirations, admire art at the Louvre, Musee Rodin, Centre Pompidou and more. This trip wasn't something that made me immediately want to design something from a certain architecture in Paris and what not, but it more so excited me to try to understand a culture, to observe people more, and to appreciate details of Paris’s character. I know in the future I will be referencing back to my experience here—whether it be their architecture, or something I saw in the museum, or that super chic woman that rode her motorcycle right pass me. So YES YES, I RECOMMEND IT TO EVERYONE. I applied for more loans for this trip but I don’t regret it at all.

SK:Were there any downfalls with the trip? Did you have any complaints? Could there be things done/changed to improve the overall experience?What would you rate this trip out of a 4?

RL: Because we only had a week to explore this city, our schedule was tightly packed with museums after museums, which eventually and unfortunately tired out some of the students mentally and physically. If the trip was extended for a longer period of time, I think it might have been the best for students to appreciate and soak in the city more. But other than that, I would rate this trip a solid 4. 

If you’re planning on going to the Paris Trip next year, you can also attend the presentations they show and also ask the rest of your questions there.

Courtesy of Rachel Hanada

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Adopt your giant mech baby today!


As one of the more hyped games of the season, Titanfall has presumably met expectations. But just barely. Developed by Respawn Entertainment which co-created the successful Call of Duty franchise, there was a fear that the highly anticipated Titanfall would fall victim to old FPS tropes so prevalent in COD. When you first look at Titanfall, it's very easy to see what has been tried and true in FPS history. The art style is grungy realism, the maps and environments are dilapidated villages and industrial complexes, and perhaps the only depart from COD and Battlefield sameness is the sci-fi element distributed throughout. Yet, Titanfall plays and it plays fast.

At first, it might not be so apparent what makes Titanfall an immense joy to play, but you know it has something to do with the thrill of watching your giant mech (the Titans of Titanfall) drop from the sky. It also has to do with mobility, lots and lots of mobility. In Titanfall, each player pilot, customized to suit you, and their mech Titans fight in matches that have 12 players most at a time. The game is fast-paced: you'll run fast, jump fast, kill fast and die fast—and you have to to keep up with other players on the map.


Titanfall aids gameplay with parkour abilities and a population (large or small depending on the map) of AI minion soldiers, which may be the least important cog in this unique system, but nonetheless significant despite being dumb as bricks. The true bread and butter of Titanfall lies in its blend of fleet-footed, cartwheeling combat as a Pilot and its lumbering, tactical episodes as a Titan: two disparate and distinct combat forms melding together to create a battlefield beyond COD dullness.

The things that drag Titanfall down are its lackluster campaign mode, uninventive multiplayer modes, and ironically unintelligent artificial intelligence. The multiplayer modes include Attrition and Pilot Hunter (both traditional Team Deathmatches), Hardpoint Domination (a classic capture and defend mode), Capture the Flag (self-explanatory), and a mildly unique Last Titan Standing, wherein each player starts the match in their Titans and have only a single life. Through multiplayer matches, players earn experience points that unlock new equipment and abilities that allow customization of their pilots and Titans.image_37955_fit_940.jpg

Titans range from cumbersome to agile with the Atlas (an all-around balanced mech), the Ogre (a heavy-hitting, slow monster), and the Stryder (an agile, zippy little mech). Despite its drawbacks, Titanfall has received generally positive reviews and is certainly not lacking in the fun department. After all, half of the enjoyment in Titanfall lies in using your Titan to decimate enemy forces, and what better fun is there than having a giant robot baby?

Images courtesy of titanfall, throwingdigitalsheep, gamespot.

- Sara Ji -

Profile: Tucker Neel


Last week I had the privilege of speaking with Tucker Neel. In my personal opinion, he
is an important person to know, especially if you are in the Comm Arts Department. 
The way he talks and articulates, you kind of get sucked into his little world of 
knowledge. Plus, he is one of the reasons why I chose to stay with my intended major 
during Foundation Forward. He told me that Illustration is a place where you can 
create and live through your own identity. With that being said lets get to know Tucker.

FU: So, first question is what do you do here (at Otis) Tucker?

TN: (chuckles) A lot of things, I teach in three different departments. I teach in 
Comm Arts and Graduate Graphic Design and in Liberal Studies. So my time is sort 
of spread around those three departments. I primarily work with seniors and I do 
teach Professional Practices to Junior illustrators and then the graduate program is 
over the summer. We have a low residency MFA in Graphic Design.

FU: What are some things you do outside of Otis?

TN: Well I write, I curate, I run my own gallery, and I still maintain an art practice. It 
really depends on what week you’re asking me that because it changes quite a bit. 
I’d like to say I work project to project across everything I do, so at any time I’m sort 
of juggling different things as most artists do. For example, right now I’m curating
a show that’s going to be opening in the summer at CB1 Gallery and the title of it is 
called “Manclude Explicated Imagery,” so I’m working with artists for that, writing 
a catalog essay, I’m writing a piece for Artillery (art magazine) on a next issue on 
George Bush as a contemporary artist, the question of politics and art. And I run my
own telephone gallery called 323 Projects, so I sort of vigorously take on what ever I 
can, but to be honest teaching takes up a lot of time for me right now. The end of the
semester is hard for faculty as well.

FU: Could you briefly talk about you background and how you got to where you are 
now at Otis?

TN: Well, starting way back, I grew up in Washington DC. I went to Occidental College 
for my undergraduate degree in Art History and Visual Arts. Occidental is like a 
liberal arts school. After that I worked with curators, I worked in a framing company 
and I went and got my MFA here at Otis back in 2005- 2007 when the program had 
Marsha Tucker and Dave Hickey teaching, which was a big draw for me at the time. 
After graduating from Otis I found myself working for a design firm in Downtown 
LA called The Group, which I think still exists. I curated art and organized all the 
identities for this massive concert that happen at 7707 that was called Live Earth
an environmental awareness concert. After that I ran a gallery and then after 
that I started working for a company that I now am the vice president for called 
Getting Your Shit Together. I know it’s funny, but it’s professional practices, tools, 
software classes for artists of all kinds. So helping them develop software, write 
books and teach classes. And then from there I came in and did a lecture here at Otis, 
they liked me and so I came in to teach classes and I really am comfortable here. I 
really like the school and I really think we have great students, so I put a lot of effort 
into teaching here now. 

FU: On that note I want to congratulate you on your full time position here at Otis!

TN: Thanks!

FU: So you just got back from your Rome trip for Otis, how was it?

TN: The Rome trip was amazing! They are always great but this trip was really 
special, it was a really wonderful group of students. We had an excellent time and 
we had perfect weather. I haven’t seen such good weather in Europe in my life. 
It was beautiful. Which is strange for the students because they are used to this 
weather so when we went to Rome they were like “Oh! It’s like LA!” and so Renee 
and I were like “No! Appreciate it because its never like this!” But its was great. 
We had a great time, the students got a lot of work done and they had a lot of fun. 
Coming back was really rough. I felt bad for the students because I at least had a 
day while they had to go to school the next day. So the jet lag is always worse coming 
back, it kind of took me all of last week to sort of get used to it.

FU: Can you tell me what the Rome trip is all about for students who might not 
know about it?

TN: Sure. The Rome trip was started by Kali Nikitas and Renee Petropoulos. Renee teaches in the Graduate Fine Arts department and the Graduate Public Practices Department. So she and Kali organized the trip 4 years ago and she wanted some else to go on the trip with Renee and was kind enough to invite me along and we’ve been doing it ever since together. This year we decided to open it up as an LAS class to make it available for students to use the class as LAS credits that they needed which proved to be very popular amongst the students. She and I co-taught the trip, where she was working primarily on the studio class and I was working on the liberal studies class. But we completely co-did everything. So Rome is Rome! I’m at the point, if students don’t like it or they aren’t getting anything out of it, that’s no fault to my own, like, that’s something weird in their brain! Rome is an amazing city. I focus on it as a historical site that has really imprinted on everybody even if you haven’t been there. That’s with regards to issues of tourism and what it means to be an artist because we think of Rome as holding the master pieces of western art. So I take a critical stance on that with how I organize the class and we have built in a lot of interesting explorations into Rome as a tourist destination. It’s interesting for a student to go on the trip as tourist and as artist and to be critically aware of that position while they are on the trip itself. So a lot of the work the students have to do engage questions of what it means to be there now, or their expectations of going to the city that is one of the most reproduced cities, at least historically. Rome has a specific place in what it means to be an artist as well, which I think is why students want to go anyways. Because they want to see this thing they have expected to see and it’s sometimes surprising and sometimes not surprising how they react to it. My favorite thing is going to St. Peters Basilica and taking pictures of all the 
students’ faces the first time they see it. It’s just mouths dropped open and their eyes 
wide open in awe. It’s just amazing!

FU: So my final question for you would be: Are there things here at Otis that students should be more taking advantage of?  

TN: Hmm… that’s a really good question. I think I’ll give you two answers: One that’s 
over-arching and another that’s quite specific.The over-arching one is something I tell all students. While you are a student, you are given a license to be as obnoxious as you want when interacting and asking things of the outside world. So I’m very adamant that my students contact people that they want to meet while they are students here because Otis has a great reputation and a large creative field no matter what department you are in and to really take advantage of that while you are here and to get over the fear of people rejecting or ignoring you You have this amazing institution behind you, so just ask for what you want. Be persistent and you can get amazing things from this school. That’s why I really like that Otis has the academic mentor program that I work with because we are able to sort of guild students through that process and let them know that someone is always there.

At the same time specifically that Otis students should take advantage of, I am just always amazed that I don’t find students going outside. Right across the street 
there is one of the biggest parks in LA, one of the biggest skate parks in LA, there’s 
a public pool, there’s a golf course. If one had a bike you can bike to the beach. 
So it’s easy for students to get wrapped up in being here but I think where Otis is 
positioned geographically is really fantastic and I would like to see students take 
more advantage of that. Sometimes I’ll grade papers at the beach because we are 
right by the beach. Yeah, so I think things like that are really of a specific nature. Students should focus a little more on having more fun. It would be healthy for 
them and the school. 

I’d like to thank Tucker for letting me interview him even with his busy schedule and for being a valuable asset to both Otis and its students.

- Froi -

Welcome back everyone! This week I had the opportunity to interview the fabulous Leslie Ross-Robertson, a Letterpress Lab Technician and teacher here at Otis.
KS: Who are you?
LR : Artist/Printmaker who loves music, gardening, architecture, and eating good food. 
KS: What do you do?
LR :  I am the owner and designer of Modern Optic, a contemporary design studio established in Los Angeles in 2001. Inspired by modernism and contemporary art, I create work integrating contemporary technology and the traditional art form of letterpress printmaking. I have produced two lines of stationery, one printed on my Vandercook SP-20 as well as a series of prints. I have collaborated with artists, architects, and designers to provide custom work. In 2012, I started Wavelength Press, focusing on collaboration with contemporary artists producing special edition prints. I also work at Otis Laboratory Press as a lab technician, and I am currently teaching Advanced Digital Letterpress for Otis Continuing Education Program.
KS: Who are you listening to?
LR : I was happy to get used copies of Ratatat Classics and Mission of Burma, Signals, Calls, and Marches EP at Other Music in NYC last week. Listening to everything from Charlemagne Palestine, hauntteddd!! n huntteddd!! n daunttlesss!! n shuntteddd!!, 2013. Twelve-channel sound installation on stairwell landings at the Whitney Museum, an old favorite---Gang of Four Entertainment! The amazing---A Ray Array a film by Sarah Rara with a soundtrack by Lucky Dragons, and Panda Bear Person Pitch among a variety of other artists.
KS: What have you been watching?
LR : I like watching my plants grow. Oh, do you mean on television? Vikings, Portlandia, Anything Project Runway related.
KS: What have you been reading?
LR : Cinema Stories by Alexander Kluge, on the plane to and from NYC.
KS: What projects are you working on right now?
LR : I am working on a collaboration of five letterpress prints with the artist Lecia Dole-Recio for Wavelength Press, and two series of my own prints, one on succulents and the other on crystal formations. If I have time, (!?) some new card designs, and another architectural print.
KS: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
LR : If I was to take this question seriously: The power to heal the planet and raise consciousness. Not-so-seriously: The ability to create green arrow left-turn signals at will.
KS: What motivates you?
LR : Learning about something new, creating new work, helping out in some way.
KS: What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
LR : Is this a job interview? 
KS: What is something you would like to see more of?
LR : liberté, égalité, fraternité" (liberty, equality, fraternity).
KS: Where do you go for inspiration? LR : My studio, bookstores, outdoors.
KS: What Art publications do you read?
LR : ArtForum, Frieze Magazine, X-tra Magazine. (When I actually have time to read them!)
KS: What are you excited for right this instant?
LR : Myself: Spring; Working on new prints with Lecia Dole-Recio. In the Art World: Mike Kelly at MOCA, the upcoming Los Angeles Biennial Made in L.A. curated by my partner, Michael Ned Holte and Connie Butler at the Hammer Museum opening in June 2014.
KS: Do you have workdays outside of school? If so, describe a typical workday?
LR : Get up, drink some coffee, answer emails, go out to my studio and print on my Vandercook SP-20 for a period of time (depending on how much needs to get done), water plants/bonsai, work on new designs, answer more email…work on new designs…
KS: I heard that you used to be a DJ, is this true? If so could you tell us about it?
LR : Yes, and I used to play in some obscure noise and industrial bands, But I have been mainly interested in writing music, and started at an early age recording found sounds with a portable tape recorder. I was fortunate to have a Lowrey TLO-K organ as a young child that had the incorporation of "automatic accompaniment" features that included the capability to record your tracks and you could play along with it, which was my introduction into multi-tracking. My music evolved as the technology evolved.I am interested in the combination and the collision of sound. My goal is the transformation of raw auditory material into music. My initial exploration of these ideas, through cutting and splicing tape, perhaps seems primitive now, but in direct physical manipulation of the medium I discovered the essence of my work: the structural possibilities of sound and the power of juxtaposition.The sample is a building block. It is the assemblage of these discrete units that matters. I try to create a structure from this raw material: industrial clamor, cinematic snippets, hip-hop beats. Disparate elements are woven into an organic whole into the form of a song. In particular, the human voice is vital to connecting with the listener. Divorced from its original context, the voice assumes an elemental quality, as charged as any note or percussive strike. It becomes an instrument, and it becomes a narrative thread connecting the listener to its source through a new musical framework. My desire is the creation of that which does not already exist. Ultimately, the tools are less important than the depth of imagination. All sound is potential. An indecipherable collection of fragmented noise becomes a beautiful act of music.I have been thinking a lot about this lately--- I completely immersed myself in printmaking and did not have time to work on music. I would like to get back into it again. I have a vintage Moog Prodigy that needs repair!
KS: Who critiques your work for you?
LR : As it happens, I live with an art critic. He has a great sense of design, and I appreciate his input tremendously. Personally, I think as an artist one must be open to criticism, but in the end you must go with what you think is right, otherwise, what is the point of doing it?
KS: Do you have any hobbies?LR : I have been taking bonsai classes and working with bonsai since 2000, at Kimura Bonsai Nursery in Northridge. The trees are like living sculpture. They are very relaxing to work on, and are a lesson in patience and focus. I also enjoy learning about the growth cycle of the different tree species. It is a hobby where I will always be learning new things. 
KS: What is your favorite thing about Otis?
LR : I think the thing I like most about Otis is the sense of community. It is also very fulfilling to help students with their projects, to empower the students by giving them the ability to technically conceive a project and teaching them the skills to successfully realize what they envisioned. We are very fortunate to have amazing facilities at OTIS, which make it all possible!
KS: What is/are your favorite movie(s)?
KS: What would you take with you on a desert island?
LR : Questions arise: Is this for a day, a week, a month, eternity? OK, I will play along…Lots of music, a partner, chocolate and other treats, and perhaps a good computer that somehow has internet capability, depending on the length of my stay on this deserted island.
KS: Why are you at Otis?
LR : I was running an Art/Architecture/Interior Design/Landscape Design bookstore in the Pacific Design Center called Potterton Books, and a combination of a horrible economy, Amazon, and ibooks made it extremely tough times for independent bookstores. I saw the writing on the wall for my beautiful bookstore, and decided to take the leap from the bookstore world and focus on my art work and printmaking. I do not have regrets, and I am happy to be at Otis. Otis has opened up a whole new world for me. (I do miss seeing all the new design books before they are released!) The moral of this story: Take the leap --- and support your local independent bookstores!
KS: Who are some of your favorite artists?
LR : It is impossible to narrow it down to just a few! Some of the classics: John Cage, Agnes Martin, Ed Ruscha, John McLaughlin, Some contemporaries: Lesley Vance, Steve Roden, Paul Seitsema, Shio Kusaka, Charles Gaines.
KS: Where have you worked?
LR : I have worked at Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival in Pittsburgh making costumes, briefly as a film scenic artist in North Hollywood, I managed and worked at many different bookstores throughout Los Angeles, such as Hennessey + Ingalls, Potterton Books at the Pacific Design Center, including bookstores in downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, also as a graphic designer... 
KS: Did you consider any other career paths before becoming what you are?
LR : I studied Theatre/Theatre Design and Fine Art, and I thought I would be working in theatre, but ended up on a detour and did not return. I also considered working in the music industry and studying landscape architecture--- both I am still interested in, but not as a career.
KS: What are some of your favorite art pieces?
LR : Where to begin? 
Box in a Valise (From or by Marcel Duchamp or Rrose Sélavy) 1935-1941, Marcel Duchamp (American, born France. 1887-1968) Medium: Leather valise containing miniature replicas, photographs, color reproductions of works by Duchamp, and one "original" drawing [Large Glass, collotype on celluloid, 7 1/2 x 9 1/2" (19 x 23.5 cm)] Dimensions:16 x 15 x 4" (40.7 x 38.1 x 10.2 cm) Museum of Modern Art, New York
Velocity Piece (Impact Run – Energy Drain), Ohio State University,1969. Two speakers at opposite ends of the 17-metre-long gallery played a recording of the artist running into the walls for 90 minutes, Barry Le Va (born 1941 Long Beach, California).
Repetition Nineteen III, 1968 Eve Hesse (born Germany January 11, 1936 – May 29, 1970) Fiberglass, polyester resin, Installation variable, 19 units.Museum of Modern Art, New York.

- Katherine -