UW–Madison Division of the Arts to host Sri Vamsi Matta and Marlon F. Hall as 2023–24 Interdisciplinary Artists-in-Residence

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Division of the Arts is excited to announce two artists selected for the Interdisciplinary Arts Residency Program (IARP) for the 2023–24 academic year: Sri Vamsi Matta and Marlon F. Hall. Sri Vamsi Matta (Bengaluru, India) is the inaugural academic-year-long Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence. Marlon F. Hall (Tulsa, OK) is the Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence for the Spring 2024 semester.

While in residence, each artist will teach an interdisciplinary course and participate in public programming with campus and Madison communities. The Interdisciplinary Arts Residency Program provides students with extended learning experiences with a working artist, increases diversity of teaching staff on campus and strengthens programmatic ties among individual departments, programs and other campus and community arts entities.

Beginning in August 2023, the Division of the Arts and the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures will welcome Sri Vamsi Matta, a Bangalore-based theater and visual artist, to UW–Madison through May 2024. For the Fall 2023 semester, Vamsi’s residency will include teaching a 3-credit course, Whose Art Is It Anyway? Explorating Folk Performance from South Asia structured around central questions such as: What are some rules that govern performance culture globally? Who set these rules? Can they be broken? How? Throughout the course, students will examine the appropriation, weaponization, dilution or valuation of particular performance practices from historically marginalized South Asian and American artistic communities by dominant groups. The course will also juxtapose the history of these performance styles with models of contemporary artists in South Asia and the US who have subverted these “classical” forms for activism and political assertion.

Vamsi’s residency will continue during the Spring 2024 semester with public programming with campus and Madison communities, and a residency-long engagement with a UW–Madison based theater and storytelling group, leading to a final production entitled “BLUE.” An original musical written by residency lead Zara Chowdhary and Vamsi, “BLUE” will be devised in collaboration with First Wave Scholars, Indian and Indian American poets, Black, Brown and white musicians and artists. Dates for public programs are to be announced.

The residency is presented in partnership with the Division of the Arts and the Department Asian Languages and Cultures, with Jamal Jones, Assistant Professor, as lead faculty and Zara Chowdhary, Lecturer in Hindi, as residency lead. Co-sponsors for the residency are the Department of Theatre and Drama, Department of History, Center for Visual Cultures, Center for South Asia, Center for Humanities, International Learning Community, Center for Research on Gender and Women, and the Human Rights Program.

In January 2024, the Division of the Arts and the Art Department will welcome Marlon F. Hall as the Spring 2024 Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence, concurrently with Sri Vamsi Matta. Hall’s residency will include teaching a 3-credit course, The Olive Tree; Growing Community Engaged Storytelling from Irritation to Intrigue, centered in community art that nourishes social healing in Madison. The olive tree nourishes the soil it’s planted in just as much as the soil nourishes it. From social irritation to ethnographic intrigue to art-making innovation, the course will provoke questions like: What irritates you about society? How can we develop purposeful listening in the community? How can the responses to these questions become an art-making process?

Throughout the course, students will explore topics such as the power of community meals, listening to community stories and creating ethnographic films, audio narratives and large-scale photography as community-based healing installations. The residency will also feature public programming with campus and Madison communities throughout the semester, including site-specific installations and film screenings to be exhibited in public spaces all over the city.

The residency is presented in partnership with the Division of the Arts and the Art Department, with Faisal Abdu’Allah, Professor and Associate Dean of the Arts, as lead faculty.

About the Artists

Sri Vamsi Matta headshot
Photo courtesy of the artist

Sri Vamsi Matta, or simply Vamsi, is a Bangalore-based Theatre and Visual artist. His practice is influenced by his Dalit identity, experience and location. Dalit is the political identity of communities formerly known as “untouchable” and considered the lowest within the Hindu Caste System, and thus oppressed by its discriminatory scriptures, social structures and norms. The identity and histories of his community and family inform the questions, topics and mediums that Vamsi engages with through his work. As a student of science, Vamsi’s work is rooted in rigorous research. As the child of a writer, he has grown up around stories and finds that they are his route to not only entertain and educate but to organize people and challenge hegemonic and oppressive structures of power.

Marlon Hall headshot
Photo: Payton Ruddock

Marlon F. Hall is an artist and anthropologist whose work is rooted in social practice and grown from anthropological listening. Marlon integrates community engagement and storytelling as a process for cultivating healing in communities that have experienced political, cultural or systemic trauma. As a renowned art-making storyteller, he has served as a Lecturing Fellow for Duke Divinity Leadership Education, an Artist-in-Residence for the Princeton Theological Seminary and the Visual Anthropologist and Social Media Archivist for the Greenwood Art Project. He was recently named a Fulbright Specialist by the U.S. Department of Educational and Cultural Affairs and a 2021 Tulsa Artist Fellow. Currently, Marlon is engaged in Cultural Amnesia Therapy in Tulsa where he is working with local creatives and community advocates to help communities rebuild after the 1921 Race Massacre. His latest project features one of his carefully curated Amnesia Therapy Salon Dinners in partnership with The British Council and The Kenya Pavilion at the 2022  Venice Biennale. Through socially engaged art-installations, large-scale photography, ethnographic films shaped as visual poems and carefully designed salon dinners, his work focuses on revealing the resilient nature of the human spirit, using memory to inform imagination and helping communities reclaim their identity.