MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts Class of 2021
We showcase the work of this year’s graduating cohort in the MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts program in this special series of interviews. Fellow artists, MFA EDA alumni, faculty, and mentors interviewed each graduating student about their thesis exhibitions, which are on view at Duke, in Durham, and online May 7 through June 5.
In the 10th year of the Duke MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts, we are thrilled to celebrate our 9th graduating class.
The MFA|EDA has always been about working around the edges of artistic convention, merging analog and digital language and techniques into appropriately rich forms of narrative. With the work of these graduates, we witness the power of diverse mediums to tell necessary stories with poignance, lyricism, and relevance.
Our MFA program has always attracted documentary makers from diverse backgrounds, who over the two-year program explore widely. It’s perfectly natural for filmmakers to learn from photographers, for photographers to learn from writers, and so the currents of ideas and influences ripple through our learning. We learn by watching and listening to those across from us at the studio table, then turning to the making to see what comes next.
Our common ground is to tell stories from observation, engagement, research, and experience, prompted by investigation into worlds familiar and uncommon, beautiful and troubling. COVID-19 has marked us and our artistic work throughout the last year. However, despite the plethora of pandemic challenges, the work of these nine MFA graduates speaks with eloquence to our collective moment while simultaneously declaring universal and timeless truths beyond our current time.
Director, MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts
Professor of the Practice of Art and Documentary, Art, Art History, and Visual Studies
Katelyn Auger: “Paradise in the Pines”
Katelyn Auger's thesis film “Paradise in the Pines” is the culmination of two years exploring complicated feelings around family, environment, and memory. Auger shares how she reappropriated home movies alongside 16mm footage to create a meditation on forgiveness and understanding.
Jayne Yu Wang: “The Unfinished Utopia”
Jayne Yu Wang's “The Unfinished Utopia” is an installation of a fictional city, Fangchuan, at the border of China, Russia, and North Korea. Following a foreign flaneur’s diary, viewers will have the opportunity to explore the city through audio, photography, architectural design, Instagram posts, and ordinary objects in this city.
Bree von Bradsky: “Lavender Vista”
Bree von Bradsky's “Lavender Vista” is a short experimental film that depicts the disorientating effects of coming out. Through the style of collage, the film weaves together archival home movies, educational films, and commercials to create a landscape that spans from the suburban USA to the celestial.
Yang Xu: “Outset”
Yang Xu’s exhibit “Outset” explores her feelings about and understanding of the college entrance examination, which is taken by tens of millions of Chinese students each June. The exam is not only the starting point for students to realize their dreams, but also a battle that requires all-out efforts.
Jade Chuyu Xiong: “Mutual Players”
Jade Chuyu Xiong’s film “Mutual Players” juxtaposes movie clips from early English films that feature actors of Chinese descent in Chinese roles. By reediting the original footage, Xiong aims to craft a new narrative that challenges the stereotypical ways in which Asian and Asian American actors are portrayed in Western cinema.
Moriah LeFebvre: “by & by”
Moriah LeFebvre's thesis film “by & by” uses hand-animation techniques to juxtapose the story of LeFebvre’s great-grandmother’s twin boys, whose lives were lost to eclampsia in China in 1919, with that of her own twin boys, who survived the same fate a century later in the United States. She discusses her use of drawing and animation to tell highly personal stories.
Archer Boyette: “we breathe each other in and out of existence”
Archer Boyette’s “we breathe each other in and out of existence” is a multimedia installation that weaves together analog, digital, sculptural, and sonic components to celebrate the magic of plant life and create a space of environmental reverence. All botanicals in the installation were harvested in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
Mingyong Cheng: “Water or More”
“Water or More” is an interactive installation inspired by the reflection of water from literature, poems and films, using facets of water to describe the wide-ranging emotions of human existence. The project explores how to optimize space, combine the real and virtual, and provide the audience with an immersive experience.
Julie Platner: “Third Alternate Executor”
Julie Platner's short film ”Third Alternate Executor” explores the life, mortality, and ephemera of her Uncle Kenny, a human deeply entrenched in an eccentric version of normative, white, lower-class social structures. The piece seeks to elaborate on performative masculinity, objecthood, class and the American Dream.