A pandemic that has drastically redefined “normal.” Months of demonstrations protesting the historic racial injustice woven into American society. The year 2020 has brought everyone to a reckoning point as we reconsider our day-to-day lives, our community values, and our places of privilege and disadvantage in society.
But how do we explore seemingly unanswerable questions about the nature of justice, power, hope or kindness when our exposure to other people is severely curtailed by COVID-19?
Enter the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture’s “10 Questions,” a combination academic course and public event series that brings together leading minds from across campus. This year’s third iteration is titled “10 Questions: Reckoning,” and this fall organizers seek to offer attendees the opportunity to synthesize the world as we are experiencing it today.
“With this particular moment in mind, we have formulated a set of questions that we believe will offer a meaningful lens through which to grapple with COVID-19, the climate crisis, profound and intrinsic inequity and injustice — particularly as it relates to Black lives — and, of course, a presidential election,” says Victoria Marks, associate dean of academic affairs at UCLA Arts. In 2018, Marks co-created the series with Anne Marie Burke M.Arch. ’98, the school’s executive director of strategic communications.
Students who attended 2019’s courses raved about them in their evaluations:
- “It helped me realize the importance of questions, even if there aren’t clear answers.”
- “It made me reflect a lot about my personal values and the way I interact/engage with a diverse group of people.”
- “I’ve referenced this class in other lectures and in conversation with my friends and family. It’s truly been my favorite class. This class gave me hope in the limitless possibilities interdisciplinary collaborations can achieve.”
This year’s “10 Questions” will be held virtually, every Monday evening from Oct. 5 through Dec. 7. Marks will moderate discussions among three faculty/UCLA-affiliated speakers: one professor from one of the campus arts units — UCLA Arts; UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music; or the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television — and the other speakers from different departments across campus or alumni.
Among the highlights of the previous two years:
- a call-and-response spoken word performance by Bryonn Bain, associate professor in the departments of world arts and cultures/dance and African American studies, who interrogated the historical oppression that is part of the U.S. higher education system
- a tear-inducing soliloquy about “What Matters?” from Kristy Edmunds, executive and artistic director of UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance
- the revelation that the human body isn’t all human (think of the microbes that live in your gut)
Marks and Burke say that the class’s design — to probe humanity’s historically big-idea questions and be OK with not arriving at a consensus — makes it especially suited for our current environment.
“In these extremely unsettled and too divisive times, we have learned that ‘10 Questions’ is a critical forum for discourse for our students and our faculty,” Marks says. “It’s a place where we hold space for, honor, and grapple with differing and sometimes conflicting perspectives, while expanding our individual and collective capacity for empathy, compassion and tolerance.”
Though she knows some things will be lost by not gathering in person every week — especially those alchemic minutes after the evening formally ends, but people linger to keep talking — Marks says she is excited about how the class will work virtually.
“As much as the power of gathering together in real space and time can create a shared and even revelatory experience with others, in which you are always yourself but also part of a spontaneous collective other,” Marks says, “the online format of ‘10Q’ allows for a kind of inclusivity and access that we could not have imagined before. Commitments to travel and parking are eliminated. Yay!”
“10 Questions: Reckoning” will explore the following questions:
Oct. 5: WHAT IS PRESENCE?
Oct. 12: WHAT IS JUSTICE?
Oct. 19: WHAT IS POWER?
Oct. 26: WHAT IS KINDNESS?
Nov. 2: WHAT IS HOPE?
Nov. 9: WHAT IS RESILIENCE?
Nov. 16: WHAT IS HUMOR?
Nov. 23: WHAT IS LOSS?
Nov. 30: WHAT IS LOVE?
Dec. 7: WHAT MATTERS?
For more information about the series, how to register and past sessions, visit: arts.ucla.edu/10questions