Towards a Raw Materialism

  • Miles Coolidge, Coal Seam, Bergwerk Prosper-Haniel 1 (detail), 2013. Pigment inkjet print, 57 x 50 i
    Miles Coolidge, Coal Seam, Bergwerk Prosper-Haniel 1 (detail), 2013. Pigment inkjet print, 57 x 50 inches.
Miles Coolidge, Coal Seam, Bergwerk Prosper-Haniel 1 (detail), 2013. Pigment inkjet print, 57 x 50 inches.

Towards a Raw Materialism is an exhibition project with Patty Chang, Miles Coolidge, Ravi GuneWardena and David Kelley, four artists working across film, sculpture, performance, photography, and ikebana. Their work in this exhibition deal with the raw materials of the earth simultaneously as content and as forms of embodiment that exist in dialogue with “medium.” This double gaze on materiality and mediation is based on the premise that the tree stumps, dried branches and cut flowers in GuneWardena’s ikebana; the water processed through the human body evoked in Chang’s glass-imitating-plastic sculptures of “urinary devices; the coal seams depicted in Coolidge’s photographs that are partly printed, recursively, with the same material; and the minerals ravenously mined to enable the acceleration of technology ruminated upon in Kelley’s film, can all be seen, through a materialist lens, as objects of labor. At the same time, these extracted materials, as the physical or conceptual substrates of works of art that slow down both aestheticizing and functionalist drives in understanding “the natural world,” enter into other orders of time and imbrications beyond either idealist discourses of “nature” or a simple production concept of utility. Installed in a black box gallery to facilitate works in proximity to take turns coming to the fore in moments of dialogic mutual framings, engagements with “raw materials” here produce reflections on the poetic-aesthetics of essence and artifice; negotiations with the legacies of forms in art and forms in tradition; expansions in the thinking of categorical boundaries for matter; and the price, violence, and pleasure of extraction when things of “nature” are transformed into things “for us.” As such, Towards a Raw Materialism dwells in the entangled mise-en-abyme of our ethics and ecologies.  


This project was conceived and organized by Simon Leung, Professor of Art, UC Irvine, and developed in collaboration with the artists. Our assistants were Zack Benson and Hiroshi Clark, members of the UC Irvine MFA Program in Art.


Installed in Experimental Media Performance Lab (xMPL) February / March 2021


Exhibition Checklist

Download the checklist here. 



Patty Chang
Miles Coolidge
Ravi GuneWardena
David Kelley
Simon Leung
Exhibition Dates: 
Feb 15, 2021 to May 07, 2021
Tuesday, March 2, 2021 - 12:00pm

Ravi GuneWardena / Miles Coolidge 
Respondent: Bert Winther-Tamaki 

A double artist lecture by Ravi GuneWardena and Miles Coolidge, who speak on their individual work in ikebana and photography, respectively, with a response by Bert Winther-Tamaki.

Ravi GuneWardena, an architect by profession, is a practitioner of Sogetsu Ikebana, studying under ikebana teacher Haruko “Gyokushun” Takeichi, Riji, Overseas Eiyo Syo, Sogetsu School. He is a member of the Sogetsu Men’s Class, founded by Kaz Yokou Kitajima in 2012 in preparation for the Sogetsu Seminar the following year. Developing his practice as an ikebana artist over the past 15 years, GuneWardena worked simultaneously on learning the essential curriculum of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana and on researching the history of the school and its headmasters. As an architect and half of Escher Gunewardena Architecture, he and his partner Frank Escher has collaborated with artists such as Sharon Lockhart, Mike Kelley, and Stephen Prina; and designed exhibitions for the Carnegie International, LACMA, and the Kemper Museum. In 2013 they created the site-specific chamber opera, “ Pauline," based on the letters of Pauline Schindler, for the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in Los Angeles.

Miles Coolidge's artwork is often concerned with subject matter at the intersection of landscape and architecture. His work gained international visibility in the mid-1990's, standing out as a synthesis of his exposure to the post-studio ethos of his California Institute of the Arts experience as an MFA student, and his year of DAAD-supported post-graduate study in the class of Bernd Becher at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. His work has been shown internationally, including at venues such as NRW-Forum, Düsseldorf; the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao; Projekt Fabrika, Moscow; Kunsthaus Graz, Austria; the Shanghai Museum of Art, China, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, MOCA Los Angeles, the Albright-Knox Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Henry Art Gallery, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2015 and is Professor of Art at UC Irvine.  

Bert Winther-Tamaki’s scholarship focuses on the role of the visual arts in the construction of modern meanings of materials, especially in twentieth-century Japan. His forthcoming book TSUCHI: An Environmental History of Contemporary Japanese Art follows the plight of earthy materials such as loam, landfill, beach sand, potter’s clay, and riverbank pebbles in ceramics, photography, and installation art in Japan since the 1950s. Much of Winther-Tamaki’s work has focused on artists whose positions partly outside Japan complicated the artistic identities they developed in various media. He is the author of Art in the Encounter of Nations: Japanese and American Artists in the Early Postwar Years (2001) and Maximum Embodiment: Yoga, the "Western Painting" of Japan, 1910-1955 (2012). Winther-Tamaki is Professor of Asian American Studies, Visual Studies, and Art History and Chair in the Department of Art History at UC Irvine. 

Discussion moderated by Simon Leung.

This event is made possible by UCI Illuminations, and is co-sponsored by Department of Art & Department of Asian American Studies.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021 - 3:00pm

David Kelley
Respondent: Bill Maurer

Lecture by artist David Kelley, with a response by Bill Maurer.

David Kelley works with photography, video, and installation. His recent projects draw attention to the effects of global capitalism, resource extraction, and shifting physical and political landscapes. Influenced by a range of visual traditions, Kelley draws upon elements of experimental documentary, ethnography, performance, and avant-garde cinema. By working at the intersection of these strategies, he encourages an understanding of his subjects that is simultaneously direct and speculative. His recent exhibitions include the Louvre in Paris, Museum of Modern Art in New York, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. Other exhibitions include Commonwealth and Council in Los Angeles, The Bank in Shanghai, the de Cordova Biennial in Boston, BAK in Utrecht, MAAP space in Australia, and the Jim Thompson Art Center in Bangkok. Kelley received a Master of Fine Art from the University of California, Irvine, and was a 2010 -11 resident at the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program. He is currently Associate Professor of the Practice of Fine Arts at University of Southern California, and was named a Cultural Trailblazer 2020-2021 by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

Bill Maurer is a cultural anthropologist and sociolegal scholar whose most recent research looks at how professional communities conceptualize and build financial technology or “fintech,” and how consumers use and experience it. More broadly, his work explores the technological infrastructures and social relations of exchange and payment, from cowries to credit cards and cryptocurrencies. As an anthropologist, he is interested in the broad range of technologies people have used throughout history and across cultures to figure value and conduct transactions and has particular expertise in alternative and experimental forms of money and finance, payment technologies, and their legal implications. He is the Director of the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion (, and his numerous curatorial projects includes an ongoing exhibit on the past, present and future of money at the British Museum. Prof. Maurer is a fellow of the American Association of the Advancement of Science and Dean of the School of Social Sciences at UC Irvine.

Discussion moderated by Simon Leung.

This event is made possible by UCI Illuminations, and is co-sponsored by Department of Art & Department of Asian American Studies.

Friday, May 7, 2021 - 2:00pm
UCI VISITING ARTIST LECTURE SERIES presents: Patty Chang / Milk Debt

Lecture by artist Patty Chang, with Simon Leung as respondent. 

Please join us for a lecture by artist Patty Chang, who will speak on her recent work Milk Debt, with respondent Simon Leung (Art, UCI). 

Milk Debt, Artist Patty Chang’s most recent work, explores the deep relationship between the body, the psyche, community and ecology. The title of the work comes from the concept in Chinese Buddhism that a child can never repay the mother for raising and feeding it with her breast milk. Developed in 2019 and 2020, Chang collected lists of fears from people in different geographical regions, which were then turned into a script and read by different lactating performers each pumping her breast milk. Although the recitations of fears are performed by the women on film, they are not originating with that person, but from greater communities, contexts, and atmospheres. These fears take many forms and register on many levels, ranging from relational insecurities and private terrors to systemic oppression and collective trauma. The project arises from the artist’s environmental anxieties, and looks to feminist strategies to reconsider the relationship between body and land. As the overarching fear of climate change bubbles up multiple concerns around global unrest, changing geographies, crumbling democracy, and the future we leave for our children, this project makes visible the internal or invisible, and explores how acts of love and empathy (like the giving of breastmilk to a child) help us think expansively and beyond ourselves. The artist writes: “I believe that the act of producing breast milk and lactation is an empathetic act. Biologically, breast milk is created when the body starts to produce the hormones of prolactin and oxytocin.  Oxytocin is a hormone that is produced when someone is in love. The act of producing breast milk allows the woman to engage in this state of being, which some might describe as being more connected, being more open and accepting, and not thinking of oneself first.”

Milk Debt can be viewed between Monday May 3, 12PM and Friday May 7, 6PM at (password: rawmaterial )

Patty Chang is a Los Angeles based artist and educator who uses performance, video, installation and narrative forms when considering identity, gender, transnationalism, colonial legacies, the environment, large-scale infrastructural projects and impacted subjectivities. Her work has been exhibited nationwide and internationally at such institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; New Museum, New York; M+ Museum, Hong Kong; BAK, Basis voor actuele Kunst, Utrecht; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, England; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Times Museum in Guangzhou, China; and Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. She has received a United States Artist Fellowship, a Rockefeller Foundation Grant, a Creative Capital Fellowship, short listed for the Hugo Boss Prize, a Guna S. Mundheim Fellowship in the Visual Arts at the American Academy in Berlin, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and an Anonymous Was a Woman Grant. She teaches at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

This event is made possible by UCI Medical Humanities, UCI Illuminations, and is co-sponsored by Department of Art & Department of Asian American Studies.