2018–2019 Smart Scholars

Archive of 2018–2019 Smart Scholars projects

Juhi Gupta
2018–2019 Smart Scholar
Juhi Gupta is a new media and installation artist and progressive political organizer in Chicago who is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. She graduated from the University of Chicago in 2019 with a B.A. in Visual Arts and Public Policy. Her work strives to engage with contemporary sociopolitical issues, specifically dealing with technology as an apparatus of power and utopia/dystopia. During her tenure as Smart Scholar, Gupta studied the creative practice of Adrian Piper—an esteemed Black conceptual artist who has spent her decades-long career provoking political dialogue about Black stereotypes, internalized racism, and othering through her art. Piper utilizes a variety of hybrid artistic-political strategies in her work, including direct address, interactivity, installation, and the use of the body as a site of resistance. However, where Piper’s artwork focuses more on interpersonal manifestations of white supremacy, our fraught sociopolitical moment calls for a more institutional critique—one that engages with the online culture and digital discourse characteristic of the 21st century. Gupta’s project takes Adrian Piper’s artistic strategies as a point of departure to explore racial capitalism and structural oppression in the context of Chicago police forces, positing what Piper’s political art might look like when updated for 2019.

In Se (Mary) Moon
2018–2019 Smart Scholar
As a fourth-year Philosophy major and Creative Writing minor, Mary Moon plans to attend Harvard Divinity School after graduating from the University of Chicago to further pursue her interest in Buddhism. Moon’s Smart Scholars project was about inviting the religious experience into religious art exhibits, thereby transmuting the art objects’ status from the passive, viewed “object” into an interactive “subject” that is on par with the viewer. Moon researched the “Buddha image,” including Seated Buddha Amitabha (Amita) (The Buddha of Infinite Light) in the Smart Museum’s collection, and how the Buddha emerged as an icon in Buddhism despite central theories of anatta, or no-self.

Zachary Sherman
2018–2019 Smart Scholar
As a fourth-year student studying Media Arts and Design, Zachary Sherman plans to design and engineer decentralized, democratic software with Open Work Labs in New York City after graduating from the University of Chicago. The Hairy Who made funny art that, according to them, existed for its own sake. While the Funk artists in California were dropping acid and making ceramics and the Pop artists were trying to art-ify mass culture, Chicago was left feeling very lonely without cool, weird artists to call its own. So, the rich Chicago art collectors picked the Hairy Who, made them famous, and now we get to look at their cool, weird stuff fifty years later. Reflecting on this, the artwork resulting from Zachary Sherman’s Smart Scholars project attempts to pick up the Hairy-Who-thread of playful art and put it through the cultural meat grinder of the online.