Activist Professor’s Nude Final Exam
For the past 11 years, University of California at San Diego students who take an art class taught by Professor Ricardo Dominguez perform their final exam nude, in a candlelit room, along with other students and their nude professor. The class is Visual Arts 104A: Performing the Self.
Nude classroom performance is one of several “gestures” or “performance pieces,” assigned by Dominguez in the course. Others include “describing their lives without using words” and “using trash found on campus to create a ritual.”
The school says students are told during the first days of the class about the nude assignment and are given the opportunity to request a different way to express their “creativity,” but most don’t choose that option. Prof. Dominguez told a local television station, “If they are uncomfortable with this gesture they should not take the class.”
In an effort to explain the assignment, Dominguez says, “I hope in the end that through these gestures, the artists will locate in one of them a sort of radical rethinking of what their aesthetic research and logic had been and what it might be afterward.” He continues, “They might be a sculptor, painter, new media artist, and they might find their body’s involvement in the work itself elicits or brings to the foreground something that might have already been lurking in their work, and making it somewhat more available,”
As to why the 55-year-old professor is also nude, Dominguez says, “For 11 years, all the students have voted that they’d rather not have me sitting around clothed while they do that particular gesture.”
The public became aware of the nude performance aspect of the class at the California public university when one student’s mother contacted the media. The parent and her student were never identified, but the nude class assignment gained worldwide media attention.
The public spotlight is not new for Dominguez, who is also a political activist whose specialty is “electronic civil disobedience.” He and his fellow activists use technology to block websites as a means to support causes such as illegal immigration and the Zapatista movement in Mexico. According to the L.A. Times, Dominguez’ “projects [are] political statements meant to agitate.” In 2010, he was the target of probes examining whether his work improperly uses public funds and violates security laws.
U.C. San Diego administrators say there are no plans to change the class syllabus, that the nudity will continue, and that they are in support of the professor.(L.A. Times, 5-7-10; ABC-KGTV, 5-12-15;Union Tribune, 5-16-15; Sun Times, 5-18-15)