Guide to the Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts collection, 2012-2018
Collection contains masters theses submitted by graduates of Duke University's Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts program. Written theses exist in both analog and electronic form; many include handmade books, digital video, or audio files. Creative theses portfolios include three-dimensional artwork or artifacts; photobooks; color and black-and-white photographic prints; digital still images; digital film, audio, and video; and images and film of multi-media performances and exhibit installations. Subjects include U.S. and Southern cultures; cultures around the world; street photography; environmental narratives and documentaries; city and rural communities; themes of social justice, memory, and identity; and abstract constructs. Submission of work to the archival project is voluntary. Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.
- Collection Number
- Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts collection
- 20.5 Linear Feet, 4 upright boxes; 1 record carton; 22 flat boxes; 2 shoeboxes; 2 oversize folders, 602 Gigabytes, Electronic files
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
- Materials in English
Collection contains masters theses submitted each year by graduates of Duke University's Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts program (MFA/EDA), beginning with 2015.
The collection is arranged by program year, then in two groups, Written These and Creative Theses. Written theses exist in both analog and electronic form; many include handmade books, digital video, or audio files. Creative theses portfolios include three-dimensional artwork or artifacts; photobooks; color and black-and-white photographic prints; digital still images; digital film, audio, and video; and images and film of multi-media performances and exhibit installations.
Themes range widely, and include U.S. and Southern cultures; cultures around the world; street photography; environmental narratives and documentaries; city and rural communities; social justice, memory, and identity; and abstract constructs.
Some authors have contributed both creative and written theses; others have elected to contribute only one or the other. Not all authors have both written and creative theses. Participation in the archival project is voluntary; not all graduates of the MFA EDA program submitted their work for inclusion in this archive.
Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts.
The collection is arranged into series by program year. Within each series, theses are separated into two types, written and creative. Within those two groups, authors are listed in alphabetical order by name, and the contents of their theses files are described. Many authors have entries in both groups. Author abstracts and artists' statements are included when available.
Access to the Collection
Collection is open for research, but some authors have outlined specific restrictions regarding use of their work.
Electronic formats are open for research and may be accessed in the reading room only. Original media such as optical discs are closed to use; file copies may be made in advance and used in the reading room only.
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.
Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.
Use & Permissions
The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
How to Cite
[Identification of item], Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Series contains Duke University Master of Fine Arts in Experimental Documentary Arts theses from the class of 2013. The projects are listed in two groups, Written Theses and Creative Theses, and within are listed in alphabetical order by the students' last names.
Written theses collected from the MFA EDA Class of 2013. Theses are typescripts unless otherwise noted. Titles are included when known.
Play Track One: written thesis and compact disc meant to accompany written thesis.
Distances and Relativities: Reimagining History as Allegory and Archive as Process
A Monument to the Risen: Emotional Labor, Intimacy and the Spaces of Sex Work
Untitled thesis. Thesis includes corrugated cardboard underneath last page, packaged with perpendicular strips of 5/8-inch wide film strips that are stapled closed; top page has color reproduction of Liahon, NOVIEMBRE 1951.
This subseries contains the creative theses submitted by the MFA EDA Class of 2013. Artists' statements and abstracts are included when provided.
Lisa McCarty's MFA thesis MDCCCXXXIX includes 15 20x24" color LightJet prints made from 4x5" film sheet exposed with handmade camera; 8 11x14" matted color LightJet prints made from 120mm negatives; 6 11x14" matted silver gelatin prints; and 1, handmade box camera.
McCarty provided the following abstract: "MDCCCXXXIX (1839) is a narrative of how photography came about, and how it continues to. In Latent Image: The Discovery of Photography, curator and historian Beaumont Newhall states, "Photography has no single inventor. At the same time, distantly removed from one another, experimenters were working on the same problem unaware of each others work until, in January of 1839, an announcement was made in Paris by the Academie des Sciences of the success of one of them."
Though the 1839 announcement publicly illuminated the discovery of the method to fix images, experiments to this end have been documented as early as 1802 and have never ceased. Consequently, 1839 is both a fixed date and an idea. It signifies the moment photography was born, though this is a moment that repeats with every generation of imagemakers. With the emergence of every new method for fixing images the medium is reborn, persisting much like a phoenix, cyclically regenerating from its own ashes. Therefore, one could say it is the project of every photographer to reinvent the medium whether by technical, formal, and/or conceptual means.
MDCCCXXXIX is an account of one such project. My particular experiments have involved pilgrimages to document sites where Fox Talbot, Daguerre, and Niépce worked, reading and generating facsimiles of their instructions for building cameras and fixing images, and finally the creation and systematic testing of my own cameras. Through this process I have discovered photography yet again, and have the pleasure of rediscovering it each and every time I make an image.
And so, still distantly removed from one another across geographic and temporal expanses, the cycle endures. Experimenters are still working on the same problem and MDCCCXXXIX continues to unfold."
Philip Brubaker's MFA thesis film "envisional minds" is a file made from original HD video master.
Brubaker provided the following abstract: "envisional minds explores the rich inner lives of three children, all of whom profess devotion to an imaginary friend. Catalina, Avery and Averie talk to and interact with their imaginary friends, albeit in different ways. The film alternates between subjective and objective depictions of playtime with imaginary beings."
Contents: Brubaker_envisionalminds.mov file: Digital video, 22 minutes, audio
Talena Sanders' multi-part thesis includes 56 digital image files documenting the MFA thesis exhibition. "Return to Virtue" includes 23 images documenting Sanders' installation, "Keep Sweet" includes three images documenting Sanders's performance, and "Dressed in White" includes 30 images documenting Sanders's installation and performance.
Three (3) color digital files documenting the performance Keep Sweet, exhibited at the Power Plant Gallery in Spring 2013 as part of Sanders' MFA thesis exhibition. Images by EB Landesberg. Sanders provided the following abstract:
"A performance based on interactions with women who were members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sect based in Colorado City, AZ and Hildale, UT. Performers were provided with dresses that FLDS women are required to wear in their daily lives and a set of instructions of how to behave as they moved through the MFA thesis exhibition space.
Thirty (30) color digital image files documenting the installation and performance Dressed in White, exhibited at the Power Plant Gallery in Spring 2013 as part of Sanders' MFA thesis exhibition. Images by Laurenn McCubbin. Sanders provided the following abstract:
"This endurance performance explored the textiles imbued with meaning through Mormon marriage rituals. A hand-sewn sculptural object composed of four Mormon gowns used in temple marriage rites was deconstructed dress by dress, then further deconstructed to raw materials over the course of the exhibition. Each dress was deconstructed while on my body, revealing a set of Mormon temple garments underneath. The revelation of the infamous "Mormon magic underwear" demystifies a source of public titillation, while approaching the profane in disclosing something held so sacred to the faithful."
23 color digital image files documenting the exhibition at the Power Plant Gallery as part of Sanders' MFA thesis exhibition in Spring 2013. Sanders included the following abstract:
"Return to Virtue is a staging of a Mormon teenage girl's fantasy bedroom, examining how material culture displayed in domestic space projects ideals of faith and identity. A Mormon youth's bedroom can become a platform for projecting pious ambition. This extensive collection of Mormon ephemera formed a display of fanatical devotion and desire."
Series contains Duke University Master of Fine Arts in Experimental Documentary Arts theses from the class of 2014. The projects are listed in two groups, Written Theses and Creative Theses, and within are listed in alphabetical order by the students' last names.
Written theses collected from the MFA EDA Class of 2014. Theses are typescripts unless otherwise noted. Titles are included when known.
Written thesis titled "a photograph is a letter is a story." Housed in book-shaped box labeled CHECK REGISTER JOURNAL No. 2, The Hamilton Autographic Register Company and measuring 17 1/2 inches by 13 inches by 3 1/2 inches and including an internal painted wood box measuring 12 1/16 inches by 16 inches by 2 15/16 inches.
Thesis titled "Soil Stories"; title sewn in upper case cursive onto tag attached to string that packages archival/non-archival box, which also contains a small sample of dirt.
This subseries contains the creative theses submitted by the MFA EDA Class of 2014. Artists' statements and abstracts are included when provided.
"Every body hit somebody" is a multi-media project created by Amanda Berg from 2012-2014 that explores the world of women who play football. Fifteen black-and-white images in poster format and a documentary film portray players from the Carolina Phoenix, based in Durham, North Carolina, as they travel across the United States. The posters are on newsprint; folded, they measure 8 3/4 x 11 3/8 inches; unfolded, they measure 22 3/4 x 35 inches. Please handle carefully.
From the artist's abstract: "'There's a piece of yourself you can express on the football field... It is so emancipating, it's indescribable.' (#27 Tamara Jarrett, LB/TE) 'Every Body Hit Somebody' explores issues and expectations around gender, identity, and equality through the documentation of the Carolina Phoenix, a semi-professional women's tackle football team based in Durham, North Carolina."
"Still photographs comprise the backbone of a corresponding film. Accounts from players on the team and observations of them throughout their 2013 season testify to their strength and resilience in the face of barriers still imposed on women."
"The 43-minute documentary film is constructed from archival media combined with 16mm film, still photographs, and photo-elicitation interviews. It is edited in a formal structure inspired by chapter XIX in Adventures of Ideas by Alfred North Whitehead. The corresponding still photographs chronologically document the Carolina Phoenix on and off the field during their 2013 championship season. The photographs were reproduced on newsprint to visually underscore the relationship between American football, masculinity, and mass media culture. The prints were then used to facilitate a public forum around issues of gender identity and empowerment."
Amanda Berg is a documentary photographer and filmmaker who combines conventional and experimental approaches to nonfiction storytelling in search of shared experiences. Her work tends to explore themes of identity formation, gender equality, and togetherness in America. She has worked as a newspaper photographer, documentary arts educator, and tennis coach, among other things. Amanda holds a BFA in Photojournalism from Rochester Institute of Technology and a MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts from Duke University.
One set of 15 posters is designated for public access; another preservation set of 15 posters is closed to general use.
The 46 color prints in "Post Script," taken in 2012-2013, portray the exteriors and interiors of small post offices and the people connected with them, in rural Southern states such as Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Selected text from the photographer's abstract: "The post office serves as town center in rural communities. Often acting as a town's sole address, this location embodies the numerical identity of place. Without its presence in the landscape, a ZIP code is lost. Yet residents remain anchored in place. In spite of post office departure or a vanished code, the home stands. Attachment to land lingers, rooted deeper than digits."
"I was initially intrigued by the dilemma of the Postal Service because of the parallel to my own field. Like the letter, the analog photograph seems threatened at present. Digitization has rendered aspects of my own practice obsolete — even entirely extinct. As remains of the analog world coexist with the emergent digital technology, this moment of change begs consideration."
Erin Espelie's MFA thesis was a 70-minute film titled The Lanthanide Series.
Espelie provided the following abstract: "The Lanthanide Series is a poetic experimental documentary that considers the history of black mirrors, the Periodic Table, and rare-earth mining, as related to the progression of imaging technology. The piece is shot almost entirely in reflection of either a defunct tablet or an obsidian disc."
No restrictions, but please notify the filmmaker via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) if the work is used in a classroom or public setting.
Vida Propia is Sarah Garrahan's 50-minute documentary film. Garrahan provided the following abstract: "Vida Propia chronicles the story of first-generation Mexican immigrant Nora Mendez as she finds herself working in a busy restaurant kitchen in North Carolina and struggling to support her family in the United States. The film's observational style follows Nora through everyday moments -- from working long hours, to spending time with her family, to reflecting upon the meaning of a life narrative itself."
From the artist's description: " 'Please Call Me By My True Names' is a portraiture project with women living with HIV and AIDS throughout the United States. Each woman was photographed in her home or other space personal to her. Her surroundings are as much a part of the portrait. Each image is inscribed on the bottom of the photograph with her name, age, and date she was diagnosed HIV positive. No other information or story is given. This is an intentional choice by the artist in response to 'expected narratives' surrounding women living with HIV.
The title of the work is derived from a poem of the same name by Thich Nhat Han."
Caitlin Margaret Kelly (b. 1973) grew up in New England in a family full of women. She earned a BS in Journalism from Boston University in 1991, focusing on photojournalism. Kelly then spent the next 17 years of her life as a newspaper photojournalist, both as a staffer for various Southern California newspapers or as a freelancer. During that time she returned to school to complete an MA in Anthropology from California State University in 2002. After living and working internationally in Buenos Aires, Argentina for five years, Kelly returned to complete her MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts at Duke University in 2014. Kelly continues to use her skills and knowledge of the news industry to address representation and perception through her artwork. She is currently the Director of the Power Plant Gallery at Duke University and a member of the Committee on Women in the Arts for the College Art Association (2015-2018).
Series contains Duke University Master of Fine Arts in Experimental Documentary Arts theses from the class of 2015. The projects are listed in two groups, Written Theses and Creative Theses, and within are listed in alphabetical order by the students' last names.
Written theses collected from the MFA EDA Class of 2015. Theses are typescripts unless otherwise noted. Titles are included when known.
Between the Mountains/Plateau: Stories, dreams, pictures, and drawings from a life in the North Carolina piedmont
Thesis titled "thoroughly known," printed on dot matrix pages attached to clipboard.
Subseries contains the creative theses submitted by the MFA EDA Class of 2015. Artists' statements and abstracts are included when provided.
Plateau by Aaron Canipe includes 20 photographic prints (color and black-and-white) in various sizes from the exhibition: 17x22, 11x17, 8x12, and 5x7. Includes a finished book project measuring 8.5" x 9.5" of 88 pages with (1) 7" flexi vinyl record from the series and featuring various ephemera and promotional items that coincide, and the book's maquette completed before the final printing. In addition are (3) 11x17 risograph posters, (1) maquette of the book project, and (6) 8.5x11 documentations of the exhibition space at the Power Plant Gallery.
Canipe provided the following abstract: "Plateau is documentation of the North Carolina piedmont told through various ways of seeing: through cell phone imagery, the view camera, and the lens of Thomas Wolfe's novella THE LOST BOY. These images were made during 2012-2015, in a number of counties through the state, as a part of the completion of the MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts. The title, Plateau, refers a topographical feature found in the piedmont of North Carolina, between the mountain and coastal region of the state."
Tracy Fish's thesis Autogeography includes 32 color digital photographs taken between 2013 and 2015 printed on Epson Premium Luster 13"x19" photo paper and corresponding digital image files. In addition are digital images documenting solo exhibition at the Jameson Gallery in the Friedl Building of Duke University (2015).
Fish provided the following abstract: "Autogeography is a personal observation that suggests both the ambiguity of place and interchangeability of landscape."
If any material is used for research papers, please cite photographer. If possible, contact email@example.com so photographer can keep bibliography.
Contains materials from Kipervaser's thesis, titled "A deer hunt and no mistake." Includes the program of part one, in both print and PDF, as well as three videos which are representative of the program. The program premiered in March 2015 at the Full Frame Theater, Durham.
1. Kipervaser_Golden-Racecar(s).mp4; .mp4 file of GOLDEN RACECAR(S), running 2 minutes and 15 seconds, color, sound.
2. Kipervaser_Instrument.mp4; .mp4 file of INSTRUMENT, running 5 minutes and 50 seconds, color, sound.
3. Kipervaser_He-Begins-She-Returns.mp4; .mp4 file of HE BEGINS, SHE RETURNS, running 2 minutes and 15 seconds, color, sound.
Kipervaser provided the following abstract: "In addition to the PDF and printed versions of the program of A deer hunt and no mistake, the three experimental short moving image works included are described individually below.
GOLDEN RACECAR(S): Inside out and counting. Plus.
INSTRUMENT: Connecting time and place through undiscovered empty space between hemispheres. Shot in Indonesia, Hawaii, Alaska, Louisiana, and North Carolina – specifically at the History of Medicine Artifacts Collection, Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
HE BEGINS, SHE RETURNS: It all ends in tears. And then."
Only to be viewable on location at the Rubenstein Library, not downloadable, nor transferrable to any organization or individual. Not to be screened publicly outside of the library without prior consent from the artist.
As a Matter of Things contains photographs taken by Haodong Li at Duke University and UNC, 2014-2015. Includes 50 color digital photographs printed on Premium Luster 13"x19" photo paper. Each image has caption written on reverse. Images #1-29 and #49 were dated 2014. Images #30-48 and #50 were dated 2015.
From the artist's statement: "As an international student from China arriving two years ago in Durham to begin my study for a Master of Fine Arts degree at Duke, besides my clothing, I brought only my camera backpack with various digital cameras, lenses, a supply of film, and one book: Understanding Movies. At Duke I became fascinated by the fact that other international students brought with them many more items from home and I wondered about the meaning of these possessions to them. 'As a Matter of Things' features international students and the things they brought to Duke from their countries along with their own explanations of the significance of their most meaningful possessions from home."
Any photographs used from this collection must conceal the names of the photographers.
Queer Home is a photographic series of 18 color photographs measuring 8.5 x 10 by Mendal Diana Polish. Polish states Queer Home "is about charting an authentic hand-made path that foregrounds the intentional building of inter-generational queer family. The initial images depict my family of origin. The images then shift into moments with my chosen family. Additional themes influencing this exhibit are home, ritual, embodiment, selfdetermination, and celebration. As a new photographer, this series was an accident. I brought the camera 'home,' to learn how to use it, and didn't even realize at first that I was telling a story, as I captured important moments that held me through this past year and a half."
Tracing Sycamore, a MFAEDA thesis by Windrose Stanback, comprises 15 medium format color photographs printed on Innova FibaPrint Ultra Smooth Gloss 24"x24" archival paper, 1 scanned snapshot printed on Epson Ultra Premium Presentation Matte Paper 5"x7", and 2 text documents 7"x7".
Stanback provided the following abstract: "Windrose Stanback draws from the enigmatic mist of personal memory to reimagine a fractured childhood. Centered in the dynamic realm of place and family, she uses photography to create a nurturing landscape in which to remember and reinvent the past."
Includes 1 short digital video work titled Thoroughly Known which was shown at SPECTRE Arts in Spring 2015.
Striegl provided the following abstract: "This video is one of the generative works that served as the visual portion of libi rose striegl's MFA thesis. The video Thoroughly Known is an animated work created through manipulation of the text of the Asperger's Syndrome diagnostic description using data gathered through Natural Language Processing applications."
Alina Taalman's MFAEDA thesis includes one digital file of the 38 minute film "Quiet Title," and 10 artist proof prints on Hahnemuhle paper representing the larger-scale edition of prints which were shown in a solo exhibition at Spectre Arts from April 6-18th, 2015. The film screened at the Full Frame Theater and at Spectre Arts in downtown Durham as part of Alina J. Taalman's MFA thesis exhibition in Spring 2015.
Taalman provided the following abstract: "The project Quiet Title uses the personal and the public archives to investigate a particular place across a continuum of time, drawing on traditions of documentary, experimental film and geographic research.
'A certain tract or parcel of land, with all buildings thereon, situated Southerly of the Cemetery Road, in the town of Scotland…'
When multiple parties claim ownership of land or property, it is said there are "clouds" on the title of the deed. Like clouds on a title, our memories are full of ambiguities and lingering attachments. The legal process for clearing clouds is referred to as a quiet title action. During this process, the disputes of all the former inhabitants need to be voiced and addressed.
In a double exposure, time takes on a new dimension. Between the moments that each image was taken, a third element of time exists as a trace of what happened in between.
As in memory, certain details are obscured and others are brought to the forefront, embedded in the grain.
Satellite sensors collect energy across a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum, and allow us to visualize the unseen. The superimposition of thermal and infrared energy along with the shorter wavelengths of the visible spectrum creates another form of double exposure."
To all the people to whom these Presents shall come, Greeting.
10 artist proof prints on Hahnemuhle paper representing the larger-scale edition of prints which were shown in a solo exhibition by Alina Taalman at Spectre Arts from April 6-18th, 2015.
Series contains Duke University Master of Fine Arts in Experimental Documentary Arts theses from the class of 2016. The projects are listed in two groups, Written Theses and Creative Theses, and within are listed in alphabetical order by the students' last names.
Days and Details of Death and Devils (companion book to movie, housed in Creative Thesis series).
How To Not Find What You Weren't Really Looking For / Western Disturbances
Electronic records in this series have been migrated to a library server and digital use copies can only be accessed onsite in the Rubenstein Library Reading Room. To request access, please contact Research Services before coming to use these records.
Days and Details of Death and Devils. The collection consists of one digital file of the 50 minute film "Days and Details of Death and Devils" and a companion 306 page paperback book of the same title. Baker's abstract: "Days and Details of Death and Devils follows drug addiction in a country club community and the demise of religion in the Catholic school system juxtaposed against the rise of mental illness in one of Forbes' Multi-Year Winner for Most Miserable City in the Nation."
The Colour Purple and other works. Campbell's abstract: "The Colour Purple Exhibition includes selections from the photographic series "The Colour Purple" and a three channel video installation "There's Just Something About Death That Makes Us Dance: the revival." The images included in this exhibition are of a two-day burial ceremony of Zion Revival Churches in the vicinity of Kingston, St. Andrews and Long Coffee, Manchester on the island of Jamaica in 2015. Both projects are auto-ethnographies, exploring themes of Creolization and religious syncretism. The exhibition is a part of a larger body of work exploring the representation of African and Afro-Caribbean culture and identity, by presenting counter frame[s] to the accepted narratives of the African diaspora in Americas."
Campbell's thesis is closed to research until May 2021.
Western Disturbances, and Ice Brought down from the High Mountains. This collection includes a digital file of the video documentation of the performance Multimedia documentary Western Disturbances, which premiered at the Full Frame Theater in Durham, NC on April 16, 2016, as well as the original source video file for the performance. It also includes digital transferred video files of the four 16mm films that premiered as part of a collection called Ice Brought down from the High Mountains on April 17, 2016. The titles of these films are: twentyfive, Raining Ragas nos. 16, Borderlove, and Zeniths and Nadirs: the oscillations of beginning and so always.
Cunningham's abstract: "The project Western Disturbances began as a fairly convention documentary project focused on the Indian Monsoon. However, while spending the 2015 summer in India attempting to document the rains that never came, the project shifted focus. It became a project about the specifics of the 2015 monsoon, the personal struggles in the making of the film, and the general ideas of failure, expectation, anxiety, and patterns. The end result of the project is a live documentary performance film. The film is narrated by the filmmaker live in the theater, and includes different media (including VHS played on a VCR/TV and 16mm footage projected) as well as objects and props such as newspapers, books, and lamps that give the film the feeling of a stage production. The expanded and chaotic physical nature of the performance creates an experience essential to the viewing of the work.
Ice Brought down from the High Mountains is a collection of four short 16mm films shot, edited, and projected on film. The four films chart the formal, thematic, and stylistic evolution of the artist over two years. Experiments with structure in filmmaking run parallel to the ideas of uncertainty and instability explored in the works. twentyfive is an camera film of 100 feet of film with superimposed text. Raining Ragas nos. 16 is a silent, in-camera rhythmic film which was made to help induce the beginning of the monsoon rains. Borderlove is a black and white handprocessed dissonant love and travel metaphor film narrated by an alien colonialist explorer. And Zeniths and Nadirs: the oscillations of beginning, and so always is an attempted documentary of the birth story of earth and of the human psychology, including footage of volcanoes, frozen waterfalls, and the night sky."
Hacking the Narrative: Telling Counter-Tropic Stories. This collection includes 25 artist proof prints representing photographs and 4x 3D printed Human Coral Hybrids, which were shown in a collaborative MFA thesis exhibition with Jon-Sesrie Goff at the Jameson Gallery, Duke University from April 11-24, 2016. Also included, is the film 'When the Lionfish Came' which screened at the Full Frame Theater in downtown Durham on March 27, 2016 as part of Tamika Galanis's MFA thesis exhibition in Spring 2016. Galanis's abstract: "Emphasizing the importance of Afro-Bahamian cultural identity for cultural preservation, this work documents the aspects of Bahamian life, which are not curated for tourist consumption. These art works counter the widely held paradisiacal view of the Caribbean, the origins of which arose post-emancipation through a controlled, systematic visual framing and commodification of the tropics."
This body of photographs represents the beginning of a lifetime of visual practice to intervene in the existing archive and accurately represent the Bahamas and Bahamian cultural identity. These images are representative of the Grants Town and Montagu constituencies. Grants Town is one of the original settlements established for the displaced post-emancipation. A marginalized community, it has historically suffered the socioeconomic effects of tropicalization — evidence of which is depicted in these photographs. Graffiti marked buildings bear witness to turf wars and memorials, while residents like Ms. Bernice will not cross the fence to hold conversation for fear of robbery. Despite its marginalization, Grants Town still embodies one of the strongest characteristics of Bahamian society: community.
While Emancipation Day is recognized as a national holiday throughout The Bahamas, it is not celebrated anywhere else in the country as it is in Fox Hill Village. Year after year the Junkanoo community convenes on the eve of the first Monday in August to "rush" in Emancipation Day in observation of the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the former British colony. Junkanoo is a tradition brought to these islands, from Africa, in the 17th century by means of the Atlantic Slave Trade. It is significant to note that Fox Hill Village was one of the first established land settlements granted to the newly liberated Africans post emancipation. Even more significant still, while other Junkanoo parades—during which participating groups are fully-outfitted in costumes of crepe paper and plumes— are much larger and monetized (albeit modestly), this parade is less a spectacle, more a labor of commitment to the Africans who settled this land. Junkanoo is perhaps, the largest cultural identifier for Bahamians, but despite its intrinsic value, it is largely undervalued by the community and the government. While Junkanoo has been the primary source of festival culture in The Bahamas, its lack of profitability is threatening its continued viability. The communities represented in these images celebrate this monumental, historic moment by honoring our ancestors through song and dance from 2am to sunrise despite the rainy weather conditions.
This collection of 3D-printed sculptural work embodies the parity between the Africans displaced to the Bahama Islands via the Atlantic Slave Trade and the ocean. Both suffered a substantial "taming" in the name of slavery, and again at the dawn of the plantation's offspring: tourism.
O'Brien's abstract on her multi-media thesis project on Love Valley, N.C.:
"Love Valley is currently listed on 'Visit North Carolina's' tourism website under the 'quirky' section of 'Things To Do.' Nestled in the foothills of the Brushy Mountains, the township, founded in 1954, allows only horse and foot traffic on its Main Street, a dirt road lined with less than a dozen buildings of rough hewn timber made to look a century old. This scene, that brings to mind a John Wayne movie, also conjures an eerie ghostliness at quieter times of day."
"Founder Andy Barker's boyhood dream of a cowboy haven is home to a population which hovers at about 100 people. Ellenora, his widow, preserves a record of his utopian aspirations in a rarely accessed, dusty, woodplanked room where cabinets are filled with reels of film, medium and large format photographic negatives and piles of scrapbooks."
"In this .2 square mile community, reenactment forms an important aspect of social life even as nostalgia contends with everyday realities. Residents attempt to shape and reshape the township around their founder's vision of a Western town full of 'good, clean fun.' In Love Valley, men, women, children, and animals each tussle for a place somewhere between an idealized past and an elusive future."
"My time living on Main Street resulted in this fragmented narrative of frontier freedom. This assemblage is an oblique museum, an impulse to document, and a document of that impulse. In Love Valley, the complete story is eschewed for the remains: a constellation of biblical and patriotic gestures, and what lies at the heart of it all, the desire to start over."
Most of the historical images used in the thesis were taken by Fred "Pop" Harris. Originally from Florida,he moved to Love Valley with his wife after he heard of it from those in the horse-show community. He became known as the town photographer. In his old age, he gave as a gift the negatives related to Love Valley to the founding family of Love Valley, the Barkers. He moved away from the valley in his very old age and passed away out-of-state. The negatives were cared for and stored by Ellenora Barker.
Onsite viewing of photographic work is open without restrictions. All requests for other use, including any form of reproduction, exhibition, or within publications and other works, require the prior written permission of the donor until 2026.
Metal edges of the two strips are sharp - handle with caution!
Subgroup contains fourteen color digital prints in varying sizes, created by Michaela O'Brien as part of her 2016 MFA thesis. For this project, O'Brien examines the tiny western North Carolina settlement of Love Valley, established by Andy Barker in 1954, through contemporary and archival photographs, and collages of still images, texts, and objects. The archival images and collages, in a separate subgroup, are derived from negatives and one contact sheet printed by "Pop" Harris," an inhabitant of Love Valley and its town photographer, in 1954 and 1956.
The prints were exhibited as part of "Love Valley," an experimental documentary installation held at Cassilhaus Gallery in Chapel Hill, NC in April 2016 as part of O'Brien's MFA|EDA thesis exhibition.
From the artist's description of the "Love Valley" project: "Built upon its deceased founder's boyhood dream of a cowboy haven, current residents must shape and reshape the township to keep their founder's utopian aspiration alive...My time living on Main Street resulted in this fragmented narrative of frontier freedom. This assemblage is an oblique museum, an impulse to document, and a document of that impulse. In Love Valley, the complete story is eschewed for the remains: a constellation of biblical and patriotic gestures, and what lies at the heart of it all, the desire to start over."
These six black-and-white archival images form part of the Love Valley project, and are derived from negatives and one contact sheet printed by "Pop" Harris," a long-time inhabitant of Love Valley and its town photographer, in 1954 and 1956. Unless otherwise noted, the prints measure 11 x 14 inches. A set of color prints are in a separately described subgroub.
The prints were exhibited as part of "Love Valley," an experimental documentary installation held at Cassilhaus Gallery in Chapel Hill, NC in April 2016 as part of O'Brien's MFA|EDA thesis exhibition.
Contact sheet, enlarged, with eleven images of horses and riders enjoying the waters at the falls.
This collection, entitled "The Free White Sea," includes one digital file of the 30:19 film with the same name.
Oppliger's abstract: "When you're lost in the rain in Juarez and it's Easter time too. And also of course: meat and the machine are the muscles of life. Ordinary eternal machinery. Like the grinding of stars. For even if we have the sensation of being always surrounded by our own soul, it is not as though by a motionless prison: rather, we are in some sense borne along with it in a perpetual leap to go beyond it, to reach the outside, with a sort of discouragement as we hear around us always that same resonance, which is not an echo from outside but the resounding of an internal vibration. We try to rediscover in things, now precious because of it, the glimmer that our soul projected onto them. Habit, after all, is a form of congealed remembering. An object. Like the free white sea."
A Mess of Feesh. Smith's abstract: "Since before there was a North Carolina, generations have lived off the waters of the Core Sound. Their way of life, their love of the water, their determination to survive, their culture, language and cuisine has fed the spirit and body of the state from one generation to the next. Now, awash in globalized seafood, amidst shifting political and economic landscapes, fishermen with one foot in the past are charting a new course for their future, steeped in tradition while looking far ahead, certain that they will make it Big.
For more than 15 months, MFAEDA Masters Candidate Dan Smith has followed the story of Eddie Willis, his wife Alison, their three year old daughter, Maggie and the dozens of family, friends and employees who work with them. Eddie, a fourth generation Harkers Island fisherman and Alison, currently appointed to the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission, are leading the effort to change the business model of how fishermen in North Carolina process and sell their catch, employing traditional fishing methods that have been passed down for generations amongst fishermen along the Core Sound. During this time, they have been embroiled in an ongoing political battle between the recreational and commercial fishing industries over the size of and science behind North Carolina's population of Southern Flounder. All the while, Maggie makes a playground of her parents' fish market and community sponsored fishery, which her father already envisions her inheriting, as soon as she is old enough to run a boat of her own.
For more information and recent updates, visit: http://heydansmith.com/feesh"
This collection comprises two digital films. One is the 30-minute thesis film, иномеханик [Images Into Arms], in .mov file format, installed in three parts in the exhibition. One is a six-minute digital movie file that documents the installation of the exhibit at the Power Plant Gallery in Durham, North Carolina from April 12-24th, 2016.
Thomas's abstract: "An attempt to visualize forces of technological progress and their effect on the political economy of images and information. киномеханик is rhizomatic exploration of the state of visual culture from the perspective of a laid-off movie projectionist. Influenced by Dada, Russian Constructivism, and Situationist theory, the experimental multimedia installation is shaped to simulate the 21st-century parallel acceleration of evolutionary progress and spectacle as well as the obsolescence of analog technologies and visual literacy."
Series contains Duke University Master of Fine Arts in Experimental Documentary Arts theses from the class of 2017. The projects are listed in two groups, Written Theses and Creative Theses, and within are listed in alphabetical order by the students' last names.
Shadows of Devotion
From the artist's statement: "Shadows of Devotion is the umbrella by which three independent art projects exist as a story on feminine spirituality from different points of view." The thesis includes images from her art installation and photographs, which explore women Muslims in China and their religious culture.
Companion piece to wax, ink, and paper collage art installation, and film on Kurdish refugees and society. From the artist's statement: "My work is a dialogue between so-called high culture and formal poetics and the popular culture of a selected group such as the Kurdish refugees." The written thesis includes color images of the artwork and stills from the video.
This is Mine
Companion piece to the filmed performance art, art installation, and photographs. From the artist's statement: "This is Mine is a four-part project that confronts the sexualization of the female form and the proliferation of the feminine ideal." The written thesis contains many color reproductions of photographs and diary pages.
A Path Seems Like a Place
In the written theses, the author discusses other multimedia performance and films dealing with women's sexualities and bodies, and compares them with her own work.
From the artist's statement: "This film is a way of theorizing how women reclaim everyday spaces, improvise through performance, and find female autonomy."
A companion piece to her film on conservation centers for gibbons in the U.S., India, and Thailand. "Huro huro" is the name for this primate in the Indian language Garo.
A companion piece to her film, which explores the relationships between twins, particularly the process of grieving when one twin experiences the loss of the other, and by extension, any great loss and its meaning to a person's future identity.
Companion thesis to the performance, film, and installation. The written thesis includes images of the installation and the performance piece, as well as archival and family photographs, photographs of a historical figure, Mary Wood, and excerpts from her diaries.
From the artist's statement: "By entwining the stories of Mary Blood and myself and expanding the cinematic possibility into an interactive installation made in part of objects sculpted with direction from the divined spirit of madness, taming it enough to give it shape from unknowable form, I hope to show how art can repurpose trauma and turn it into something else: an entirely different memory and history and into the conjoined sensations made transferable to audiences."
From the artist's statement: "My written thesis...is an annotated script of my final thesis performance. The script is in bold...My thesis focuses on the last weeks of my godmother Sue Henry's life and her ongoing role in my life, particularly as a spiritual guide during a time of crisis in the year following her death." The memoir includes color images from the performance film.
Great Dismal Swamp
From the artist's statement: "The passages that follow are a tangle of fugitive texts, representing a web of social, historical, and aesthetic approaches to documenting and inhabiting the Great Dismal Swamp and ohter contested landscapes. In conjunction with the film, they aim not to memorialize, criticize, or contextualize the past, but to transform the materials of the past into resources for the future; to reclaim territories that have been hiding in plain sight."
Companion piece to an art and video installation exploring the landscapes and lives of people living in a small town near Beijing, China, the effects of modernization, and the expose` of a pyramid scheme. The written thesis includes images from the installation, as well as stills from the film.
Best Time: An Autobiographical Insight and Other Stories
From the artist's statement: "My thesis project, 'The One,' examines the turning point of China's grand government family planning at the end of 2015, and discusses the influence of the former One Child Policy on the younger generation born in the 80s and 90s. It is an integrated project that employs digital film, photography, archives, print, and writing."
The written thesis includes color images of the installation and photographic content.
This uniquely constructed photobook explores expressions and interpretations of art in conjunction with modern life in China, Singapore, the U.K., and the United States. Measuring approximately 11x17.5 inches, it contains reproductions of photographs as well as still images from events and a short videofilm. From the artist's statement: "I am concerned with technologies of display and presentation. My attempt to bridge dream and reality lie in the combination of the physical exhibit of the book object, my bodily interaction with the book that creates a temporal flow of still images, as well as the virtual images that constitute a participatory and observatory experience."
Electronic records in this series have been migrated to a library server and digital use copies can only be accessed onsite in the Rubenstein Library Reading Room. To request access, please contact Research Services before coming to use these records.
From the artist's statement: "The 11 photographs in "Nests of the Nu Ahong" were taken in women's mosques (nusi) in China's Henan province (Zhenghzhou & Kaifeng) and the community of Hui Muslim minorities they serve. Under the echoes of the call to prayer, whispering women gather under the leadership of the nu ahong. The nu ahong carry on the 300-year-old tradition of educating Muslim women in their communities through teaching Islamic jurisprudence, reading and interpreting the Quran, performing the Friday sermons and initiating the five daily prayers. This series explores the predominantly aging community of women that congregate, and the future of the nu ahong as they struggle to attract a younger generation."
These digital photoraphs (available in file format only) document embroidered panels created by the artists.
One digital video file. From the artist's description: "prayers is a performance piece that explores converging existing and non-existing prayer poses that mold over time...Inspired by the women's mosques in China and their women-led leadership, Al-Ismaili employs religious gestural performance as a means of accessing internalized spiritual memory as traveled through generations of women before her."
Sarah Elizabeth Borst (born 1993, Long Island, New York) is an internationally exhibited feminist artist working in the mediums of photography, film, installation and performance art. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design, and is a 2017 graduate of the Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts program at Duke University. In addition to her credits as an artist, she is the curator for the Provost's Hall Gallery at Duke University working under the Provost, Sally Kornbluth, as well as the Director of the Center for Documentary Studies, Wesley Hogan. She is also an Editorial Assistant for Aint-Bad Magazine, an independent publisher of new photographic art. In 2017 Borst taught the Black and White Photography summer course at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke.
Inkjet prints were produced using an Epson 9900 printer and Epson Ultrachrome HDR ink on Museo Silver Rag paper.
These 13x19 inch color inkjet photographs belong to Part IV, "Milk," and portray women breastfeeding in their homes.
Haoyang Zhao was born and raised in Xi'an, China. After four years of high school in Singapore, he moved to London to study Economics, while also working as a freelance photographer and cinematographer for a student feature film ACT I. In 2013 Haoyang attended Georgetown University as an exchange student, studying photography and film studies alongside courses in economics and political science. He served as the Project Manager for Social Practice Lab at Franklin Humanities Institute. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from University College London, and graduated from the Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts program at Duke University in May, 2017.
Comprises one digital film file, running time 23:08 minutes, titled Companion. The film was screened at Shadowbox Studio on March 26, 2017 as part of Pesci's MFA thesis exhibition.
The artist writes: "Companion is a look into the complicated process of grief. The film features four individuals speaking about the death of their twins. These losses occurred at various ages and under diverse circumstances; in their retelling, the spectator is brought into moments or rawness lined with hope. Weaved in and out of the individuals' reflections is a personal letter to my own twin, touching on the fragility of life."
Huro Huro, which means "gibbon" in Garo, the language of the indigenous people of Tura, presents three conservation centers in India, Thailand and the United States committed to preserving gibbons. The film (running time 60 minutes) explores their disparate perspectives on conservation and raises questions about the effectiveness of varied practices and philosophies.
Thesis consists of an experimental documentary film (running time 20 minutes) exploring through improvised movements and physical gestures the perceptions of women and animals in landscapes.
Series contains Duke University Master of Fine Arts in Experimental Documentary Arts theses from the class of 2018. The projects are listed in two groups, Written Theses and Creative Theses, and within are listed in alphabetical order by the students' last names.
Subseries contains the written theses submitted by the MFA EDA Class of 2018.
Includes a paper copy of the inventory for his digital media work described in the Creative Theses subseries.
Subseries contains the creative theses submitted by the MFA EDA Class of 2018. Artists' statements and abstracts are included when provided; if there are only digital files and no physical location in the Creative Theses box, the artists' statement can be found in the Written Theses folder for that student.
Collection includes one 65-minute digital video, titled How Bluebirds Are Born. The film was screened at Full Frame Theater in Durham, North Carolina on March 30, 2018. One still image from the film, in jpeg format, is also included.
The artist writes: "...overall, whether I am creating imagery with Mordançage-processed silver prints, foam board masks, fallen tree branches, or light, my work is always a deep analysis of the damaged psyche and the transformation of a suffering identity to one that transcends its suffering by naming its own changing shape."
This collection includes the March 31, 2018 screening cut of Low Hanging Fruit, and the original audiovisual and audio files used to edit the piece for the thesis screening edition. It also contains additional footage that was shot for this ongoing project, but not used in the thesis screening version.
The film follows avocados as a commodity in Michoacán, the only state in Mexico allowed to export the product into the USA. It uncovers the influence of cartels and related violence; social conflicts; and environmental problems spurring migration into the United States.
This collection explores black families and individuals descended from enslaved people on Stagville plantation in northern Durham County, North Carolina. It comprises 38 black-and-white archival pigment prints measuring 16x16 inches, from Dooney's thesis exhibition at the Carrack in Durham, N.C., Spring 2018, chiefly portraits but also street scenes in Durham. These are accompanied by 54 audio files with oral history interviews of Stagville plantation descendants. Finally, there is also one moving image piece (running time 15:49 minutes), digitized from 16mm film that is designed to run on a projector in a loop.
GIRL WRESTLE is a visual exploration of girls' youth wrestling in North Carolina. The project series consists of a six-image portrait series showcasing individual wrestlers shot on a 4x5 field camera; a working edit of 40 to 50 smaller photographic prints from club practices and team tournaments, captured with digital and analog mediums; and an abstracted moving image piece which explores the intimacy and sensuality inherent to the sport, shot on 16mm film. Scenes captured from practice and meets combine with portraits of wrestlers to create a holistic view of the distinct individuals that have been brought together by love of the sport.
Collection includes one 116-page photobook and four digital moving image files from the exhibition A tangle of branches. A tangle of branches was exhibited at SPECTRE Arts in downtown Durham, NC from March 16-25th 2018.
The artist writes: A tangle of branches explores interiority and communication using mental health as lens and landscape. In this multimedia installation, text, film, photographs, and audio combine to collapse boundaries between interior selves and exterior lives.
Collection contains 52 color digital inkjet prints from the thesis exhibition After Golden Leaf, as well as a trade version of a book produced from the same work. Lange's project, in his own words, "...explores the changing physical and cultural landscape of North Carolina as it attempts to accommodate the realities of the post-tobacco economy. The photographs investigate the history of tobacco farming as well as the future of the communities it has built."
Sonne's creative thesis, entitled Man from Iota, comprises a digital film (running time 50 minutes), original drawings on paper and copies of drawings, and small sculptures of bones.
In the artist's words, her project investigates the correspondence of time and the instance of man's existence in it, the desire for the unattainable freedom of flight within this instance, while being tethered to the rock of time and history, his own doing within it and his desire for quantifiable knowledge.
Stevens' thesis, Dream of Angels is a body of work which consists of two short films, one video installation, a collection of 21 diptychs, and a photobook. The films, Historic Moments (12 min) and Kilonova (17 min), premiered as one program in that order. The diptychs, titled Familiar Aches, are a retroactive collaboration with Stevens' mother; half of the 35mm black and white photographs were made by her mother in 1985, the other half were made by the artist in 2015. Twenty-one diptychs are composed of 42 individual photographs, paired and presented as single images. They were installed in the Duke University's Rubenstein Arts Center's main gallery, along with a site-specific installation utilizing a symbolic funeral shroud, piled-up earth, and projected images of gravestone rubbings. Also included is a photobook documenting the paper trail of Stevens' family's tax-exempt Social Club (1975-1987), aptly named Family United, as well as a postcard used to publicize the screening and gallery reception.
First awarded in the 2012-2013 academic year, the Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Art degree program at Duke University brings together two forms of artistic activity - the documentary approach and experimental production in analog, digital, and computational media - in a unique program that fosters collaborations across disciplines and media as it trains sophisticated, creative art practitioners. The philosophy of the program is guided by a belief in the intersection of personal artistic work with interpretive knowledge and of the relevance of the individual documentary/experimental artist within the cultural history and life of communities. A key component to the program is the notion of creative engagement through the arts and the role of the artist in society. Graduates are expected to generate work that has impact both within and outside the academy.
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Artists' books
- Culture in art
- Documentary films
- Documentary Photography
- Identity (Psychology)
- Nature -- effect of human beings on
- Performance art
- Southern States -- Photographs
- Southern States -- Social life and customs
- Southern States -- Social conditions
- United States -- Photographs
- United States -- Social conditions
The Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts collection was received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a transfer in 2015 and as gifts from 2016-2018.
Processed by Beth Morris Weiss, November, 2015.
Addition 2016-0011 processed by Paula Jeannet Mangiafico and Leslie Hayes.
Addition 2016-0120 processed by Meghan Lyon, Matthew Farrell, and Paula Jeannet Mangiafico.
Additions 2016-0309, 2016-0314, and 2016-0324 processed by Paula Jeannet Mangiafico.
2017-0081 processed by Paula Jeannet Mangiafico and Matthew Farrell, July 2017.
Addition 2018-0052 processed by Paula Jeannet Mangiafico and Matthew Farrell, June 2018.
Accessions described in this collection guide: 2015-0070; 2016-0011; 2016-0120; 2016-0309; 2016-0314; 2016-0324; 2017-0081; 2018-0052.