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Contest challenges writers to imagine futures shaped by climate change

September 18, 2015

ASU to award $1,000 to top climate fiction short story

The challenge with climate change is that it’s gradual — a pervasive, creeping calamity that can be difficult for people to accept or comprehend. But, what if people could understand it better by escaping their everyday realities? ASU Climate Fiction panel in April 2015 The ASU Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative hosted a climate fiction panel in April that included a flash fiction exercise to devise stories about Arizona's future water and drought scenario. Photo by: Jason Franz/Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives Download Full Image

Speculative fiction stories have the power to take policy debates and obscure scientific jargon and turn them into gripping, visceral tales. The emerging subgenre of climate fiction, epitomized by novels like Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam Trilogy, helps us to imagine futures shaped by climate change in deeply human terms.

The Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University, in partnership with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Council, invites writers to submit short stories that explore climate change, science and human futures for its first Climate Fiction Short Story Contest. The submission deadline is Jan. 15, 2016, and contest entry is free.

“Climate change is starting to appear as a character in all our stories, so there is no better time to invite creative visions of how humanity will face these challenges,” said Ed Finn, co-director of the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative.

The contest will be judged by science fiction legend Kim Stanley Robinson, the award-winning and New York Times-bestselling author of many foundational works in climate fiction, along with other experts from the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative.

"This contest is a wonderful idea and I'm happy to be part of it,” said Robinson. “There's a thrill to writing and reading fiction that can't be matched by any other activity. As we move into the climate change century, the stories we tell each other about coping with it are going to be a crucial part of our thoughts and actions, so I urge people to give this contest a try and see what happens.”

The grand-prize winner will be awarded $1,000, with three additional finalists receiving book bundles signed by award-winning climate fiction author Paolo Bacigalupi. A collection of the best submissions will be published in a forthcoming online anthology, and considered for publication in the journal Issues in Science and Technology.  

Stories are required to envision a future for Earth and humanity that is transformed in some way by climate change. They should also reflect current scientific knowledge about climate change and its consequences for human societies and the environment. The jury is particularly interested in stories that illuminate the political, ethical and technological challenges that individuals and communities must confront in the face of climate change. 

"Merging climate science and deeply human storytelling, climate fiction can be a powerful learning tool,” said Manjana Milkoreit, Walton Sustainability postdoctoral research fellow at ASU. “Taking the reader into a possible future, a story can turn modeling scenarios and temperature graphs into meaning and emotion. It can help us make sense of and respond to this incredibly complex problem."

For full contest rules and details, and a link to submit stories for consideration, visit

The Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative is a partnership between the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, and the Center for Science and the Imagination. It explores how imagination — or lack thereof — shapes humanity’s response to climate change, and how imagination merged with science can create solutions to climate challenges. The initiative hosts public events, offers courses at the intersection of art, literature and climate science as well as encompassing research projects uniting scholars and practitioners from a broad range of disciplines. 

Jason Franz

Senior manager, Marketing and Communications, Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives


ASU News

Community art exhibit celebrates the world of food

September 15, 2015

Throughout history, food and culture have met in art. We have an incredible connection to food through our senses — we love the taste, texture, colors, smells and even the sounds food creates. Wide-open farmlands, colorful produce and the buzzing of a beehive are all aspects of food and its vital importance to our lives.

Arizona State University has launched its Action, Advocacy, Arts Fall 2015 exhibit, transforming halls and spaces on the Downtown Phoenix campus into hubs of conversation and social and cultural engagement. Alexandra Brunet-Giambalvo ASU environmental biology and ecology student Alexandra Brunet-Giambalvo stands by her painting "California Roll.” Each semester's Action, Advocacy, Arts exhibit invites professional and amateur artists to contribute works that are displayed on the first through third floors of University Center on the Downtown Phoenix campus. Photo by: Adrianna Ovnicek/ASU Download Full Image

Organized in collaboration with ASU’s College of Public Service & Community Solutions, the College of Health Solutions and the School of Letters and Sciences, the exhibit provides community organizations and individuals the opportunity to share valuable visual-art stories with students and community members in the downtown ASU community.

The exhibit, "Feast Your Eyes," includes works of various media — including paintings, collages, pencil drawings and sculpture — that explore the role food plays in our lives.

“I wanted the goal of the exhibition to be the exploration of art and culture surrounding food and to examine the various meanings associated with something that is at the very core of living,” said Carrie Tovar, curator of art in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“This is a theme that every living thing can relate to. … I received paintings that were close studies of fruits or vegetables; I received art works focusing on the foods of other cultures. … I also included thought-provoking images on the lack of food, sustainable farming and the necessity of food banks,” Tovar said.

One of the artists featured is ASU student Alexandra Brunet-Giambalvo.

“My work is inspired by my interests in small details, nature and bright colors,” said Brunet-Giambalvo. One of her featured works is an oil painting titled “Avocado,” painted on a wooden panel.

“I really love the way blues and greens look in the natural world. To open an avocado and see dozens of different greens is fascinating to me,” she said.

Flagstaff-based artist Rhonda Thomas-Urdang submitted two sushi-themed works inspired by the semester’s theme. Her two collages, “Sushi Goddess No. 2” and “Mama-san Nymph No. 4,” explore links between female principle, union, love, fertility and growth.

The artist incorporated original paper dolls from 1940, decorative rice papers, paper umbrellas, lace and other printed elements in the works.

She coined the term “femmages” to describe her work, which she defines as art made from a feminine perspective through a combination of paint and fabric with deliberate references to feminine imagery and icons.

“It's a pleasure to make a difference by participating in this group art exhibition at the ASU Downtown campus — a central hub of significant conversation, social change and cultural engagement,” Thomas-Urdang said.

The exhibit is on display through Dec. 5 on the first, second and third floors of the University Center building on ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus. The gallery is free to view and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except for holidays.

Guided tours may be arranged by contacting Carrie Tovar at For more on Action, Advocacy, Arts, visit

Written by Adrianna Ovnicek

Heather Beshears

director marketing and communications, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


ASU News

Program reconnects Spanish speakers to language

September 14, 2015

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of stories to mark Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs Sept. 15-Oct. 15.

Nobody in Craig Mahaffy’s family speaks any Spanish, so it might seem odd that he is enrolled in the Spanish heritage language program in Arizona State University’s School of International Letters and Cultures. Craig Mahaffy makes fellow Spanish heritage language students laugh. Business major Craig Mahaffy makes fellow students Maria Alejandra Felix (left) and Maria Fernanda Felix laugh as he describes his use of music to build his Spanish skills during an ASU Spanish heritage language course on Aug. 27 on the Tempe campus. The courses are meant to help native speakers and others with a firm grasp on the language to polish their skills. Photo by: Deanna Dent/ASU News Download Full Image

The junior in business with a focus on global politics said he discovered the program — aimed more at native speakers or those who already have a firm grasp on the language — when he found general second-language Spanish classes weren’t challenging enough for him. He had picked up the language while dating a girl from Mexico whose mother spoke only Spanish.

“I would make us speak only in Spanish for like a month just so I could practice it,” said Mahaffy said of that relationship.

That’s one of the things Spanish heritage class instructor Roberto Ortiz Manzanilla loves about the program: He said the heritage classes are a great mix of people from different cultures, including Spanish-speaking countries and American Spanish speakers.

Secondary education junior Hayden Ballesteros is a native Spanish speaker, having come to the United States from Panama as a child, and was excited to find the heritage program at ASU:

“It made me feel a lot more comfortable because I definitely was not looking forward to sitting through a class of how to say ‘hola,’” Ballesteros said.

Sara Beaudrie, associate professor of Spanish linguistics and head of the Spanish heritage language program, said it’s the mission of the program to “promote Spanish language development and maintenance in the Southwestern United States.”

“Unfortunately a lot of [Spanish heritage program students] grow up ashamed of speaking Spanish and are forced to speak only in English. … A lot of them are already losing the language,” she said. “This program gives them the opportunity to regain those skills that they once had.”

Spanish Heritage Courses at Arizona State University from Arizona State University on Vimeo.

Manzanilla said the heritage program is different in many ways: Spanish-as-a-second-language classes usually consist of several short vocabulary-type activities, whereas the Spanish heritage classes focus on a few larger language concepts.

“Heritage learners’ needs are different from traditional second-language learners, who have not been in constant contact with Spanish while growing up,” Beaudrie said. “We offer these separate courses as a recognition of heritage learners’ unique abilities and needs within our classrooms, and as a way to expand our Spanish-speaking community at Arizona State University.”

That’s important to students like Ballesteros, for more than one reason: “This program allows us to build on the knowledge we already have,” while also acknowledging the importance of the Spanish language in today’s society.

“Spanish is one of the most spoken languages throughout the world. I can almost guarantee you that you will meet at least one person a month who only speaks Spanish, and it is an awesome feeling to be able to connect and communicate with that person on a different level,” said Ballesteros.

The School of International Letters and Cultures is a unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

ASU News

ASU professor named Navajo Nation poet laureate

September 11, 2015

Growing up in a tiny town on the Navajo reservation, Laura Tohe relied on comics, fairy tales and books to stimulate her mind — even if that meant a four-hour round-trip drive to the nearest library.

“Since we didn’t have television, reading was a way out of the rez for me,” said Tohe, an English professor in Arizona State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Books took me to other places in the world and to other time eras.” Laura Tohe weaving Arizona State University English professor Laura Tohe is being named the poet laureate of the Navajo Nation for 2015-2017. She finds writing to be like weaving; she’s continuing the legacy traditions of her mother, aunt, grandmother and great-grandmother, using some of their tools as well. Here she weaves in her Mesa home on July 13. Photo by: Charlie Leight/ASU News Download Full Image

Today, the Tohe era will commence when she is named the new poet laureate of the Navajo Nation at an official ceremony in Crownpoint, New Mexico. Tohe succeeds Luci Tapahonso, who was named the nation’s first ever poet laureate in 2013.

The goal of designating a chief poet is to encourage other Navajo writers and artists and to underscore their contributions to Navajo culture.

Tohe has already contributed much to the Navajo Nation and the literary world.

She has written four books, published hundreds of poems and has had several translations of her work ­­— including into dance and music. In 2008, Tohe wrote the commissioned libretto for “Enemy Slayer: A Navajo Oratorio” for the Phoenix Symphony.

Tohe credits a vivid imagination and the lack of a family television to her success.

“I was introduced to reading with the ‘Dick and Jane’ series at school,” she said. “I gravitated to fairy tales, and when my mother could afford it, she bought me ‘Little Lotta,’ ‘Richie Rich’ comics and later my brothers reluctantly let me read their comics — ‘Superman,’ ‘Batman’ and others.”

Tohe grew up on the reservation in Crystal, New Mexico, near the Chuska Mountains on the eastern border of the Dine/Navajo homeland. The town’s population hovered just above 300 people, and outside of attending school, there wasn’t much to do. Storytelling was not only a way to pass the time, but an art form among her people.

“One time I drove with my grandparents down Highway 666, and they recounted all of the places where a relative died or some incident happened. It was a highway of stories,” Tohe said. “I grew up with an oral tradition, and that has been my biggest influence in developing my voice and my work as a poet and writer. ‘You don’t have anything if you don’t have stories,’ is what my mother used to say.”

Tohe said as a child she told such captivating stories that a family friend would come over to listen to her when she’d go on a tear. Her stories eventually grew into poetry and sometimes prose poetry.

“Dine people, like many indigenous peoples, have always had great reverence for language, for sacred words and how they are used in meditations,” Tohe said. “For example, prayers and song meditations are used to heal and restore health and wellness for someone suffering from a certain illness. It can also uplift the human spirit.”

In her duties as poet laureate, Tohe wants to help uplift the Navajo people, specifically the next generations.

“I would like to see our younger generation continue the tradition of writing poetry, what we call ‘Saad Naazhch’aa,’ which translates to ‘pictures with words,’ ” Tohe said. “We didn’t have a word for poetry a few years ago. Since our language has diminished with the boarding-school era, poetry can be one of the ways to revitalize and save the Navajo language.”

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU News

Vet uses ceramic art to reflect on war

September 10, 2015

“They’re just cups,” he says. “Just cups.”

He goes on to say that they’re not that special, and that they shouldn’t be considered fine works of art. But Ehren Tool knows better than that. Ehren Tool shapes a ceramic cup Visiting artist Ehren Tool shapes the final small ceramic cup out of a block of clay at the Arizona Artists Guild in North Phoenix on Wednesday morning on Sept. 8, 2015. The ceramic artist is featured in a show that will have an opening evening on Sept. 11 at the ASU Art Museum Brickyard in downtown Tempe. Download Full Image

Deep down, the ceramic artist from Berkeley, California, knows they’re an invitation to a conversation about the unspeakable and irreversible effects of war.

“My wife calls my work, ‘War Awareness Art,’ and it’s not necessarily for or against war but you’d better be aware of its long-term impacts,” Tool said on Thursday as he spun a potter’s wheel in front of a group of veterans and the general public.

“I don’t question my service. I still love the Marine Corps. It’s just that there’s a gap between the stated goal and the outcome. Rhetoric breaks down real quick after you’re in the battlefield or in the zone, and rounds are going both ways.”

Tool promises there will be no rhetoric at the exhibition, “Statement Piece: Erik Gronborg and Ehren Tool,” which opened in August and will run until Nov. 21 at ASU’s Art Museum Brickyard, located at 7th Street and Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe.

A free and open reception for the exhibition will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Friday, when Tool will make cups in the museum’s gallery and give them away.

Over the past decade, Tool has given away more than 14,000 of his handmade cups. He does this as a statement against the large cost of war.

The exhibition features some of his cups, but it also brings together two socially engaged artists from different generations.

Denmark-born Gronborg, who will not be present for the opening reception, spent several years in a work camp for conscientious objectors before moving to the United States, where he made his mark with a series of functional pots addressing the Vietnam War.

Tool joined the Marine Corps in 1989 and served in Operation Desert Storm as part of the Military Police. Upon his return, Tool began to study ceramics, using functional pottery as a way to explore his revolving views about military service and the human toll inflicted by warfare.

“Gronborg and Tool have been paired for this exhibition because of similarities in their work and parallels in their personal histories,” said Garth Johnson, ASU Art Museum’s curator of ceramics. “Both artists harness the power of images pressed into wet clay. Both create approachable, functional pottery with social content built in that causes the person using the artwork to contemplate their own relationship with the U.S. Military.

Tool says he’s had a lot of time to contemplate his reasons for joining the marines — he thought it would make him a man. But he says his gung-ho attitude going into the service was quickly blunted by the horrors of war.

“When I told my grandfather that I was going to join the Marine Corps, he laughed and then said, ‘They’re going to steal your soul,’ ’’ Tool said. “It wasn’t the Kodak moment I was looking for.”

The picturesque moments Tool experienced were mostly grisly and cynical, which are stamped and emblazoned on the side of his cups. They feature skeletons, bullets, bomber planes, flowers, dollar bills, war medals and the occasional quote – “It’s just business” or “Worst religion ever.”

The exhibition also features 393 broken cups, which Tool created and glazed, and then shot at close range with a pistol. The broken cups, he says, represent the number of U.S. combat casualties at the end of the second Gulf War.

“Each one of those cups had the potential to live 500,000 to a million years, but a little piece of lead found them,” Tool said. “Those soldiers could have gone on to have kids and grandkids, or they could have been engineers, doctors, lawyers or could have gone on to do great things.”

“I think peace is the only adequate war memorial.”

For more information about “Statement Piece,” call 480-965-2787 or visit

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU News

Phoenix writer explores impact of community art in ASU lecture

September 10, 2015

Phoenix native Joey Robert Parks believes in his hometown.

“I believe Phoenix will become one of the world’s greatest cities in which to invest, innovate and live,” said Parks, the writer and social entrepreneur whose community art project “26 Blocks” will serve as the launch point for an ASU panel discussion at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sept. 17. The event kicks off the Arizona State University College of Letters and Sciences’ annual Humanities Lecture Series and is co-sponsored by ASU’s Project Humanities, "26 Blocks," and the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel. 26 Blocks Phoenix logo A panel of professional Phoenix photographers and writers organized by Joey Robert Parks, the founder of the "26 Blocks" community art project, kicks off the 2015-2016 Humanities Lecture Series at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 17, at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel. Photo by: "26 Blocks" / Joey Robert Parks Download Full Image

“Phoenix is on the rise in a big way. The amount of innovation going on here is astounding,” continued Parks, who finds the change in the downtown and midtown areas over the past decade especially energizing. “The growth is not hype. Our time in history is tangible and real.”

In 2010 Parks set to work on a community art project that would draw people in to celebrate and interact with the city from fresh perspectives — and would contribute to the sense of community among those who are passionate about Phoenix and its revitalization.

“I’m driven by wanting to pull people together and also want people to be inspired by their city,” he said.

Parks enlisted the collaboration of 26 photographers and 26 writers, who were paired off and challenged to showcase something about the past, present or imagined future of one of 26 randomly selected blocks in downtown Phoenix. Using the final picture and accompanying story for each city block, a sculptor then created yet another layer of meaning by creating 26 small wooden blocks inspired by each of the 26 displays.

For the Humanities Lecture Series, Parks has invited three of his collaborators and another photographer to discuss their craft, community art in general and lessons from “26 Blocks” specifically.

John Beckett, advertising, catalog and fashion photographer
Sally Ball, poet and associate professor of creative writing at ASU
Scott Baxter, fine art photographer
Ellen Barnes, fashion/lifestyle photographer

Ball, Baxter and Barnes all participated in the “26 Blocks” project.

Panelists will address questions such as: What does it take to make a community art project fly? Why are there so few women in the world of commercial photography? Why were there no black creatives in “26 Blocks”? What lessons from the Phoenix program should Parks consider as he works to establish parallel projects and identify creative talent in other cities?

The “26 Blocks” exhibit debuted in May 2010, toured extensively in downtown Phoenix for 14 months, and has been on display in the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel’s lower lobby since January. It will remain there for hotel guests and the general public to enjoy through January 2018.

“For Phoenix visitors, the free exhibit offers a glimpse into the heart and soul of the city, beyond what they might have time to experience, and may also inspire exploration of the blocks and spaces featured in the exhibit,” said College of Letters and Sciences’ principal lecturer Mirna Lattouf, who organizes the Humanities Lecture Series.

“For those of us who live here, the project invites us to make meaning of our own experiences with Phoenix and think about the history, energy and juxtapositions that make life here special,” she said.

When the exhibit opened at the hotel, a “Renaissance Bonus Block” was added to the installation, centered on the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel. It featured a new photographer, new writer and the same sculptor. Parks is now working with an illustrator to create postcard-size art that connects to each of the 26 blocks, adding them every few months to a large downtown Phoenix map on one wall of the exhibit.  

Parks’ continued passion, indeed obsession, for this work might best be summed up in the words of “26 Blocks” contributing writer Walt Lockley, whose piece for Block Z of the project described an innate longing: “People need to know their cities. They gravitate to the center, looking for something to hold on to, an emotional center to wrap their arms and minds around.”

Other upcoming lectures in this series:

In October and November, the ASU’s Humanities Lecture Series will feature:

•Oct. 22, Matthew McCarthy, ASU W. P. Carey School of Business:
“Technology, eBooks: A Story of Redemption and Meanings”

•Nov. 5, Robert Bjork, ASU Department of English:
“Epic of Beowulf of the Many Faces and Meanings”

The October and November lectures will be held on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication/KAET Channel 8 (CRONK), room 128. The lectures begin at 6:30 p.m. and are free and open to the public.

Maureen Roen

Editorial and communication coordinator, College of Letters and Sciences


ASU News

Miguel Angel Rios wants you to view his art at ASU with an open mind

September 9, 2015

Miguel Angel Rios doesn’t mind if you love or hate his art, he just wants you to view it with an open mind.

“Art has many different levels of understanding and interpretation. It doesn’t bother me at all if someone doesn’t like my work as long as they have their own interpretation and feel something,” said the 72-year-old Mexico City-based artist. "Piedras Blancas" by Miguel Angel Rios "Piedras Blancas," by artist Miguel Angel Rios, is a visual project that involved Rios throwing ceramic spheres down a mountainside and documenting on camera. Download Full Image

Well, people will get a chance to feel as his show “Miguel Angel Rios: Landlocked” will open Sept. 12 in the ASU Art Museum and remain up through Dec. 26.

An opening reception for “Landlocked” will be held 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Sept. 11, with Rios present. The event is free and open to the public.

The exhibition is a video survey that follows Rios’ journey into an artistic practice which addresses issues of power, migration, apathy and violence. His work incorporates social and political narratives and state-of-the-art production techniques. Four of these pieces will be exhibit exclusives as the museum commissioned the works.

“Landlocked” is part of the Contact Zones series of exhibitions at the ASU Art Museum which focuses on contemporary migration and its intricate uncertainties within border culture. The series includes new commission-based installations, public engaged programs, guest-curated exhibitions and artist initiated projects.

“These new works are very much site-specific and grounded in a new approach to land art,” said ASU Art Museum curator Julio Cesar Morales. “Rios challenges traditional modes of representations within landscape.”

Rios has been challenging traditions ever since he became an artist, which he says commenced when he was “in the womb.” He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and has received numerous awards including the John Guggenheim Fellowship for his work exploring the mediums of painting, drawing and collage.

At the height of his career in the late 1990s, Rios put down the paintbrush and picked up a video camera, pushing the boundaries of an emerging art genre — like a 5-minute video called “The Ghost of Modernity” in which Rios uses a Plexiglas box as a “prism of privilege” to view the streets and landscapes of Mexico City.

“I’m constantly exploring different genres and video seems to have stuck with me for the last 15 years,” Rios said. “There are a lot of movements that go on with video that you cannot get in a drawing or painting. It’s like a small movie and outdoor space becomes the landscape. I can then use the landscape for any metaphor I wish to convey.”

In addition to the video installation, a portion of the exhibition is dedicated to Rios’ creative process, intended to give viewers a glimpse into the mind of the artist. The “studio of curiosities” includes research materials, photographs, works on paper, storyboards, production ephemera and video documentaries on the making of some of Rios’ most acclaimed works.

For more information about Landlocked, call 480-965-2787 or visit

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU News

From spy to Regents' Professor: The dao of Stephen Bokenkamp

September 3, 2015

Stephen Bokenkamp was a pacifist during the height of the Vietnam War. So the Army made him a spy.

This was in 1970 while he was taking a break from studying English literature and Japanese at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. He had run out of money to pay for his tuition, and that’s when Uncle Sam pounced. Stephen Bokenkamp Regents' Professor Stephen Bokenkamp is considered a top scholar in Daoism in the U.S. and is universally recognized as one of the world's leading authorities on Chinese religion. Download Full Image

Faced with the prospect of fighting a war he did not believe in, Bokenkamp looked for alternative forms of service.

His visits to recruiters paid off and Bokenkamp became a cryptographer, also known as a code breaker, for seven years with the Army Security Agency, assigned to the National Security Agency. The move not only preserved his pacifist ideals, but also set the stage for him to later become one of the world’s leading authorities on Chinese religion and literature.

“It was an interesting and very heavy job for a 22-year-old,” said Bokenkamp, who has worked in the School of International Letters and Culture since 2007 and was recently named by Arizona State University as one of four Regents' Professors for the 2014-2015 academic year.

“But I decided that studying language for the sole purpose of spying was wrong, and so rather than stay with the NSA, I went to graduate school.”

Bokenkamp made the transition from the military back to college in 1977, where he eventually earned his master's and doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley, the epicenter of the ’60s counterculture movement.

While at Berkeley, Bokenkamp studied Tang Dynasty literature, Daoism and Buddhism and read 1,500-year-old works and other ancient manuscripts. His period of study took place in the immediate aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, in which Chinese Communist Party Leader leader Mao Zedong tried to erase all vestiges of China’s past, killing millions of people and imprisoning millions more.

“During this period China was shutting down universities and doing away with a lot of its heritage, including religion,” Bokenkamp said. “It was without success, but China lost 10 years of culture.”

As a top U.S. scholar of Daoism, Bokenkamp has spent a majority of his career helping reconnect China with its past, including debunking the misperception that it’s the least religious country on Earth.

“It’s very hard for Westerners to comprehend how religion works in China. When Westerners think about religion, we say, ‘I am a Methodist; I belong to the Methodist Church. I am a Mormon; I belong to the LDS church,’ ” Bokenkamp said. “The Chinese don’t see it that way. They see religion as a tool that you can use in various parts of your life. The metaphors they often use are associated with the word ‘path.’ So religious conflict in China has been very rare throughout their history.”

Speaking of history, Bokenkamp believes his work is as relevant as ever given the U.S.’s economic dependence on China and the nation’s emergence from a secretive past.

“China has decided they are going to play a role in the world and the questions we need to ask ourselves is, ‘How do we understand their role? How do we interact and partner with them?’ ” he said. “The grounds for collaboration are all there. Their best and brightest are trained at American universities, including ASU.”

Bokenkamp said he has enjoyed his eight years at ASU, which have challenged him intellectually and professionally. He recently won a Guggenheim award for translation work on his new book, “Zhen’gao” or “Declarations of the Perfected,” a sixth-century Chinese book of celestially revealed material.

“When I came to this university, President Crow said I’d be doing things I’d never done before, and he was right,” Bokenkamp said. “This has been a stimulating place to be.”

Much more stimulating, than say, being a spy.

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU News

Female empowerment drives ASU MainStage's latest theatrical season

August 31, 2015

When the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre set out to finalize its 2015-2016 MainStage season, the idea of female empowerment was at the forefront of the discussion.

And why wouldn’t it be? It’s no secret that gender diversity issues have plagued Hollywood and Broadway for years. The most recent Hollywood Diversity Report showed that only one in eight film directors is a woman. And earlier this month an article in The Guardian lamented Broadway’s continued lack of plays and musicals penned by women. MainStage Logo The MainStage 2015-2016 season logo reflects its content and diversity. Download Full Image

It’s not much better in the Phoenix metro area where some theater companies will not feature a single production written by a woman in their 2015-2016 seasons, as local theatre critic Robrt Pela noted earlier this year.

With these issues in mind, the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre decided to take action by programming a theater season featuring a majority of female playwrights. 

“There’s been a good deal of discussion about the miserably low number of plays by women getting produced in major U.S. theatres, as well as the dearth of women’s stories on stages and screens,” said Lance Gharavi, assistant director of theater in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre and artistic director of the MainStage theater season. “At the recent 2015 Oscars, all of the films nominated for best picture were stories about men, and all of the nominees for best original and best adapted screenplay were men.

“That will not do.”

Five of the seven theater productions in the upcoming MainStage season tell stories that focus on female characters, and the majority of plays were written by women.

“This is nothing to be smug about. This shouldn’t be the exception. It should be the rule. It should be the it-goes-without-saying normal,” Gharavi said. “But sometimes leading, sometimes innovating, can just mean doing the obvious.”

The MainStage theater season isn’t just about celebrating women. It will also focus on American culture. There are two productions for children. There’s even a world premiere of a play by one of the school’s MFA students. But the common thread is celebrating the work of female artists.

With that, here is the complete MainStage theater lineup. Find more information or purchase tickets here.

“A Streetcar Named Desire”
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16-17, 22-23, 24; 2 p.m. Oct. 18, 25
Where: Lyceum Theatre
Directed by Wyatt Kent
Written by Tennessee Williams

This classic of American theatre and cinema follows the fragile and refined Blanche DuBois, who has fled to her sister’s New Orleans apartment to escape financial ruin. There she is confronted by her own past and fresh calamity in this Southern Gothic tale of lust, lies, brutality and madness.

“Dry Land”
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30-31, Nov. 1, Nov. 6-8.
Where: Studio 133
Directed by William Partlan
Written by Ruby Rae Spiegel

The creation of up-and-coming playwright Ruby Rae Spiegel, “Dry Land” tells the story of two high school swimmers, Amy and Ester, who are drawn together by the need to secretly terminate Amy’s unwanted pregnancy. An intimate and searing portrait of teenage friendship and desperation set in a girls’ locker room. Mature content.

“Brooklyn Bridge”
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13-14, 19-20, 21; 2 p.m. Nov. 15, 22; 11 a.m. Nov. 20 (student matinee)
Where: Paul V. Galvin Playhouse
Directed by Ricky Araiza
Written by Melissa James Gibson

Meet Sasha, a 10-year-old with an impending essay deadline, absent parents and no pen. In her quest for a writing utensil and for company, she wanders through her apartment building, where she meets a variety of colorful tenants, who tell her stories about the Brooklyn Bridge and help her to confront her fears. Appropriate for families and young audiences.

“Lasso of Truth”
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12-13, 18-19, 20; 2 p.m. Feb. 14, 21
Where: Lyceum Theatre
Directed by Pamela Fields
Written by Carson Kreitzer

Bondage, Gloria Steinem and lie-detector tests all figure into this racy tale about Wonder Woman’s origins and the lasting effects of her legacy. This is a story about the nature of comic books, truth and love. Mature content.

“The America Play”
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19-21, Feb. 26-28
Where: Studio 133
Directed by Nia Witherspoon
Written by Suzan-Lori Parks

In this contemporary classic of the American theater written by a Pulitzer Prize winner, a character called the Foundling Father who bears a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln runs an attraction that allows passersby to  re-enact the president's assassination for the cost of a coin. This production will mark the 10th anniversary of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre’s Theatre & Performance of the Americas program.

“She Kills Monsters”
When: 7:30 p.m. March 25-26, 31, April 1-2; 2 p.m. March 26, April 3
Where: Paul V. Galvin Playhouse
Directed by Lance Gharavi
Written by Qui Nguyen

To rediscover the younger sister she lost to a tragic car accident, Agnes must embark on a quest into deepest, darkest geekdom in this action-packed, ’90s-themed romp through the fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons. The line between fantasy and reality blurs as Agnes battles her own demons and learns to embrace the unordinary. Appropriate for families and young audiences.

“on display”
Where: 7:30 p.m. April 15-16, 20-21, 23; 2 p.m. April 17, 24.
Where: Lyceum Theatre
Directed by Phil Weaver-Stoesz
Written by John Perovich

Jack, a shut-in artist who lives on the Lower East Side, is faced with tough choices when his mother unexpectedly passes. Mary is determined to get his work into a gallery with the help of a curator, but their innocent partnership develops into a dangerous dance of exploitation. Splatter paintings are a grisly metaphor in this play about art, abuse and revealing the unseen in this world premiere by ASU MFA playwright John Perovich.

Communications Program Coordinator, ASU Art Museum


ASU News

Summer residency turns ASU students into rock stars

August 27, 2015

Michaelangelo once said that he never created sculptures; he simply chipped away at stone to reveal what was already inside.

Now two ASU students have given a millennial spin to that idea, using a digital program and robots that make it easier for artists to find what’s inside these slabs of rock. two men talking MFA graduate Eric Clausen listens as MFA student Alvin Huff talks about the Digital Stone Project in which they participated this past summer in Italy, while gathering in a sculpting lab in Tempe on Aug. 14. The project used robots to roughly sculpt digital sketches into blocks of marble. The artists still needed to do the fine precision work including sanding, polishing and buffing. Download Full Image

This past summer Eric Clausen and Alvin Huff, graduate students in the School of Art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, participated in the Digital Stone Project, an international arts initiative based in Tuscany, Italy. It’s where they engaged with several master sculptors learning the time-honored tradition of carving marble, and where a state-of-the-art robot did most of the heavy lifting — or in this instance, carving.

The project used five- and seven-axis robots wielding diamond tool bits to roughly sculpt digital sketches into blocks of marble. The artists then do the fine precision work, including sanding, polishing and buffing their 300- to 400-pound marble sculptures.

“The use of a robot allowed me to experiment in a way where I didn’t have to deal with the laws of nature if the marble got cracked or chipped,” said Huff, who is working on his master’s degree in sculpting.

He used his time in Italy to sculpt “Shelter,” an abstract piece with ornate details.

“The robot also allows your abstract mind to create any object you can think of without having to pay for the materials, mess up your clothes or rough up your hands.”

The Digital Stone Project was founded in 2005 by sculptors who wanted to create a new way of working in stone by leveraging digital technologies. The monthlong residency is held each June at the foot of the mountains of the Garfagnana region of central Italy, where marble has been quarried for more than 2,000 years. These mountains provided the stone canvas for Michaelangelo’s iconic sculpture, “David.”

“The setting was inspiring because it was outside at the foot of these mountains and inside of a tent,” said Clausen, who earned his Master of Fine Arts degree this year. “I was completely removed from all of the trappings of a big city. It was just me and a slab of marble.”

His slab contained a small face tucked away inside a pair of exaggerated ears. He called it “Noise.”

Clausen and Huff were accompanied by Mary Neubauer, an art professor the Herberger Institute, as well as staff and students from a handful of other universities. 

“One of the missions of ASU is to be interdisciplinary in our approach to almost everything, and that does include the arts,” said Neubauer, who also worked on a marble piece while in Italy. “We’re well-positioned to accept new technologies while still teaching the fundamentals. Students will need to have these skills in order to be employable.”

This was Neubauer’s second trip to Italy. She spent the month working on an intricate, ribbed ring sculpture dubbed “Monsoon.”

Her piece, as well as Clausen’s and Huff’s, was on exhibit for the month of July in Villa Strozzi in Florence, Italy, not far from the home of Michaelangelo’s “David.”

Reporter , ASU Now