Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Justin Botz

Get the student perspective!

I’m an interdisciplinary artist, and I’m excited to be in Columbia College Chicago’s Interdisciplinary Arts & Media MFA program. Currently, my work explores the relationship between performance and new technologies.

Tell us a little bit about what you were doing before you came to Columbia.

I received my first acceptance letter to Columbia College Chicago’s Interdisciplinary Arts MA program while living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I was making promotional videos for a few N.G.O’s that were helping provide clean water, housing, food, and education to communities that did not have access to these resources. At the same time, I was teaching music with a local artist named Rin Yame who started an art school for children in the city.

I was super excited to have been accepted into Columbia’s Interdisciplinary Arts program. I felt like it would provide me with the perfect preparation for starting this art school with my friend Rin in Phnom Pehn. The MA program was amazing, and in the end, I decided to apply to the Interdisciplinary Arts & Media MFA program. I then received my second acceptance letter to Columbia College Chicago. In the year between finishing my MA and starting my MFA, I have had a number of amazing opportunities to work with some incredible artists here in Chicago because of the connections I made at Columbia.

Why did you choose Columbia for your graduate study?

I was hanging out with my friend Bobby, talking about some of the art projects I was involved in and how much fun they were when he stopped me and said, “Justin, You should check out Columbia’s Interdisciplinary Arts program. You would absolutely love it. You should just apply. What’s the worst that could happen?”

Bobby told me more about his experience in the program and what it was like living in Chicago, and I knew I wanted to go through this program.

Now, having completed my MA, I can say that it was even better then I expected. I chose to work on my MFA at Columbia because my MA experience was so positive. I have never experienced as much support in an academic environment as I have in Columbia’s Interdisciplinary Arts Department. I am super excited to be working with this faculty again in the fall.

Tell us about a project you’re working on that you’re excited about.

My interest in travel and exploration has led me from anthropological endeavors to my current artistic pursuits. In my site-specific performance piece, A Difficult Situation, I discuss the global food shortage as I eat a delicious meal behind a group of dumpsters in an alley.

In a recent performance piece entitled Windows Mind Window, I explore what might be an over dependence on technology in our culture. In this performance, Microsoft’s Office Assistant “Clippy” leads an individual through a series of psycho-therapeutic exercises. The patient’s “thoughts” are projected on a screen behind him, and his internal voices are heard through a multi-speaker sound system. I also use electroencephalographs to monitor my brainwaves, and that data generates an eerie soundscape.

In my class Code/Language, I am excited to be building a software drawing machine that will incorporate several different programming languages.


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