Tuesdays and Thursdays 9-11:50am
UCLA Broad Art Center 4230

Professor: Lauren McCarthy,
(office hour: Th 12-1pm, Broad 3246)

TA: Carlos Garcia,
(office hour: W 11am-12pm, Broad 4230)


How do the technologies we use on a daily basis choreograph our actions, provoke us to perform, and open spaces for improvisation? Taking the concept of user as a jumping off point, we will create performative gestures that reinterpret ideas of the user interacting with a system. The course will be structured around four performance assignments, dealing with themes such as instructions, errors, remote presence, and anonymity. An important part of the course will be learning to critique each other’s work constructively—experiencing with an open mind, and thoughtfully and articulately responding. Performance activities will be supplemented with attending performance events in LA, study of prior performance art engaging technology, short readings, and technical workshops. The workshops will introduce technical tools the students may choose to incorporate into their work. However, the focus will be on considering the context, function, and meaning of these technologies and translating this into novel ways of performing with them. No technical experience is required, though students may incorporate existing skills into their work. A desire to take risks and step outside of one’s comfort zone is necessary.


Participation. You are expected to actively participate in class activities, critiques, and the presentation of gestures. This class is meant to be a space in which you feel encouraged and supported in learning and taking creative risks. This means being aware and considerate of different backgrounds, perspectives, and identities. Please respect each other and this space we are building together. If there are concerns please let instructors know as soon as possible.

Grading. Grading is based on the performed gestures, and on your preparation and active participation during class meetings. Gestures grades are based on preparation, commitment, design, and effect. Course evaluation will also consider your development and process over time based on the accumulation of the gestures.
Gestures will be graded on a A-F scale. Outstanding or exceptional work will receive As, good work will receive Bs, sufficient work that does nothing more than meet requirements will receive Cs.

  • Participation 25%
  • Gesture 1 15%
  • Gesture 2 15%
  • Gesture 3 15%
  • Gesture 4 documentation 15% (this has been cancelled, you will receive an A factored into your course grade for this portion)
  • Final show 15%

Late work. If you turn in a gesture late you miss the opportunity to share during the review and receive feedback, an essential part of this process. If you don’t have a gesture done at the deadline, we will discuss an alternative deadline and one letter grade will be subtracted from that gesture. If you miss this second deadline, you forfeit credit.

Attendance. Attendance at all sessions is required, you are responsible for contacting instructors if extenuating circumstances arise to arrange to make up the missed session. Each unexcused absence will result in one letter grade deduction (ex: A+ to A). Three unexcused absences will result in a failed grade in the class. If there is an emergency and you must miss class, email before class. Absences will not be excused after the fact except in extreme circumstances. Illness requires a doctor’s note. If you are more than 10 minutes late, you will be marked tardy. Three tardies results in one unexcused absence. Your attendance can be viewed here, any disputes should be discussed with the TA within two weeks.

Performances. We have put together an extensive (and constantly updating) calendar of performances. You are responsible for picking one from the list (or another performance in LA you find) that you’d like to preview to the class. This means you research the artist and the performance, and prepare a 3-5 minute presentation for the class that gives some context about the performance and makes us want to go see it. You will then attend the performance and write a one page review. Email with your selection and he will add your presentation into the calendar. You should submit your review to Carlos via email within one week of the date of the performance. This counts for roughly 1/5 of your participation grade, or 5% of your final grade.

You are highly encouraged to attend as many performances as possible. If you feel like it’s too time consuming, treat the performances as brainstorming sessions for figuring out your next gesture. All of the CAP performances have discounted student tickets.

Reading. Every gesture assignment will come with an accompanying reading(s). It is highly suggested that you read it.

Writing. Please take some time after each gesture presentation to reflect in writing. Aim for at least one paragraph. This will be invaluable to you as you progress through the quarter and develop your ideas and performance practice. Writing does not need to be turned in, but we will talk about it in individual meetings and it is part of your participation grade. Some questions you answer in your writing:

  • How would you describe your gesture in a sentence or two?
  • How was the concept of “user” explored in your gesture?
  • What artists or themes were you thinking about as you formulated the idea?
  • How did you use your body? How did you use space? How did you use technology? How did you use sound? How did you use interaction? How did you use time?
  • What open questions did you have going in? What answers did you find?
  • What surprised you about the gesture? What questions did it provoke for you?
  • What did you learn from the reactions of the audience?
  • If you were to do this again, what would you change to clarify or intensify the gesture?

Commitment to Diversity and Safer Spaces

We understand the classroom as a space for practicing freedom; where one may challenge psychic, social, and cultural borders and create meaningful artistic expressions. To do so we must acknowledge and embrace the different identities and backgrounds we inhabit. This means that we will use preferred pronouns, respect self-identifications, and be mindful of special needs. Disagreement is encouraged and supported, however our differences affect our conceptualization and experience of reality, and it is extremely important to remember that certain gender, race, sex, and class identities are more privileged while others are undermined and marginalized. Consequently, this makes some people feel more protected or vulnerable during debates and discussions. A collaborative effort between the students, TA, and instructor is needed to create a supportive learning environment. While everyone should feel free to experiment creatively and conceptually, if a class member points out that something you have said or shared with the group is offensive, avoid being defensive; instead approach the discussion as a valuable opportunity for us to grow and learn from one another. Alternatively if you feel that something said in discussion or included in a piece of work is harmful, you are encouraged to speak with the instructor or TA. (Thank you voidLab!)

Disability Services

UCLA strives to make all learning experiences as accessible as possible. If you anticipate or experience academic barriers based on a disability, please let me know as soon as possible. It is necessary for you to register with the Students needing academic accommodations based on a disability should contact the UCLA Center for Accessible Education at (310)825-1501 or in person at Murphy Hall A255. In order to ensure accommodations, students need to contact the CAE within the first two weeks of the term. After registration, make arrangements with me to discuss how to implement these accommodations.