Performance Art: Denise Uyehara @ Pitzer College

Howard Diep | 10209864

A few weeks ago, our class had a field trip to Pitzer College to listen to a presentation and watch a performance by Denise Uyehara, an award-winning performance artist, writer, and playwright. Due to traffic a few students that I was carpooling and myself were a little bit late. Luckily we arrived when she was presenting about the Japanese Internment Camps and a few videos of different works of performance art. I remember the first few video’s that she showed; I didn’t really understand what was happening. I had been exposed to performance art before, but generally it’s hard to follow for me. I thought some of the works that she showed were very intriguing and had multitudes of meanings within them, and although I didn’t interpret it correctly or understand, I still found them enjoyable to watch and interesting to analyze. I remember in one of the works that she showed, it addressed issues pertaining to internment of Japanese during the World War II period and how she labeled that as enemy, and correlated that to the attacks of September 11th 2001 and how the American Muslim community faces the same racism, discrimination, and hate that the Japanese did because they were simply labeled as the “enemy”. Another piece that she showcased that I remember distinctly was herself working with James Luna. I believe the piece was called Transitions, but I thought that piece was entertaining and fun to watch towards the end, but I still didn’t really follow it. It was also nice to see Professor O’Brien in some of her video’s too assisting and managing the stages.

Aside from her discussion and videos, at the very end of the presentation Denise herself performed for the audience. I remember for that performance, Denise acting about a mother and Holocaust survivor with blue scars visible on her arms. The character would also sing and dance out “Dancing Queen” every few moments. This piece was particularly engaging not only because it was live and she drew on herself with marker (something I wasn’t expecting), but it also addressed different issues and made it feel real such as war and disease. Also watching Denise, she was a very good actor and I felt she really captivated the audience. After her performance I had a chance to briefly talk to her and it was nice getting talk to her and to thank her for an amazing performance and presentation.

Denise Uyehara’s live performance art was one of the few types that I had encountered with performance art. I had not known much about it and found that certain pieces were hard to follow, but after watching her performance I became much more interested in it and considered if I could try and somehow make something along the lines of performance art and share it with other people. I think art is a great tool that you can use to creatively express yourself while entertaining and teaching others.


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