'Performing the Self' - Final Exam At UCSD Visual Arts Course Requires All Students To Be Naked

A course at UC San Diego has been causing a bit of a controversy because it requires students to undertake their final exam completely naked. It's a visual arts course which covers body art and performance art and is run by associate professor Ricardo Dominguez, and is called Performing the Self.

The final, which the professor says students know about when they sign up to the voluntary course, is called Erotic Self and requires the students to strip naked, along with the professor, in a candlelit room.

It's been taught for the past 11 years but has recently hit the headlines after people have been getting riled when a mom of a student complained her daughter was being forced to get nude. "There’s a perversion going on here," she fumed. "Shame on him, and shame on the university."

There seems to be some confusion about the whole getting naked thing though. Professor Dominguez told 10 News that, "At the very end of the class, we’ve done several gestures, they have to be nude gestures. The prompt is to speak about or do a gesture or create an installation that says, 'what is more you than you are.'"

But chairman of UCSD’s Visual Arts Department Jordan Crandall issued a statement trying to quell people's outrage, saying they don't actually have to remove their clothes it can be metaphorically nude:

The concerns of our students are our department's first priority, and I’d like to offer some contextual information that will help answer questions regarding the pedagogy of VIS 104A. Removing your clothes is not required in this class. The course is not required for graduation.

VIS 104A is an upper division class that Professor Dominguez has taught for 11 years. It has a number of prompts for short performances called “gestures.” These include “Your Life: With 3 Objects and 3 Sounds” and “Confessional Self,” among others. Students are graded on the “Nude/Naked Self” gesture just like all the other gestures. Students are aware from the start of the class that it is a requirement, and that they can do the gesture in any number of ways without actually having to remove their clothes. Dominguez explains this — as does our advising team if concerns are raised with them. There are many ways to perform nudity or nakedness, summoning art history conventions of the nude or laying bare of one’s “traumatic” or most fragile and vulnerable self. One can "be" nude while being covered.

There are many comments from former students that are visible online. These comments clarify the matter quite directly. It is important to listen to students who have actually taken the class. Again, the concerns of our students are our department’s first priority.

It seems then that this might just be another tempest in an internet teacup. No doubt it will blow over soon so we can all move onto the next outrage.

UCSD