Reimagining Education

December 1, 2020

As an artist and mom, trying to negotiate kids in school, the current state of the world, and my work, I’m honored to be part of this panel hosted by Pangea World Theater. This is a series of conversations with educators, students and families who are actively reimagining education through arts and social justice–as a community and a society. Free, but you have to register here.

This panel will features artist-parents, teachers and students:

  • Juma B. Essie – playwright, performance artist, video maker; parent
  • Sir Curtis Kirby III – Program Manager and Theater Director, Ikidowin Youth Theater Ensemble, Indigenous Peoples’ Task Force
  • Kiyoko McCrae – multidiscipline artist, producer & consultant; parent
  • Denise Uyehara – interdisciplinary performance artist, writer and playwright; parent

Being in a distance-learning environment has made way for new discoveries, new ways of working and different strategies for connecting to each other amidst the various challenges. Addressing questions like: how are we staying connected? How are we centering social justice? How can art allow us to engage meaningfully with one another?

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Marquee Project

June 4, 2020

Click on image for video

In May 2020, I began a series of installations and videos that superimpose phrases onto abandoned marquees in Tucson, responding to the times in which we live: the pandemic and its impact on Indigenous communities, and Communities of Color, police violence toward Black people. I began the project as part of the “Notes from the Motherfield,” Kore Press’s ongoing series, also developed it for Anti/body: There in the Distance, curated by Natalie Nguyen, in collaboration with Amanda Meeks and Tucson Art + Feminism. @Kore Press #AntibodyAF2020 @ArtAndFeminism

Notes from the Motherfield LIVE Online / May 8

May 8, 2020

Friday, May 8, 2020: 6pm MST / 8pm CST / 9pm EST

This Mother’s Day special edition of Notes will celebrate in story, music, and performance. Join us for a new kind of listening session and intimate online experience. Travonne Smith, Latrina Lewis, Rameen Ahmed, Jaime Schuhmacher, Denise Uyehara, Vikki Brown. This event is ASL interpreted. more

UCI Illuminations

January 28, 2020

Radical Time Travel

UCI Illuminations Presents
Denise Uyehara: Radical Time Travel
Interdisciplinary performance artist and director Denise Uyehara shares insights into her recent collaborative projects: Shooting Columbus, Suenos y Siluetas, and the Hanagasa Triptic.  Using projected light over the body as a metaphor for how our memories change and drift over time, she explores immigration, Indigenous sovereignty and our cultural collisions with one another. She is a fourth-generation “settler” in the Americas, of Okinawan and Japanese descent. Through her dreamlike, haunting and sometimes funny performances, Uyehara invites us into a universe where we can grapple with our contradictions and re-imagine social change. Details

  • When: Wednesday, January 29, 7-9:50 p.m.; Open to UCI students. No RSVP needed.
  • Where: Social Science Plaza A (SSPA), Room 1100
  • Organizer: Ketu Katrak (email)

Sharing Shooting Columbus

June 11, 2019

I’ve been sharing Shooting Columbus (2017) one of my collaborative endeavors, in Humboldt and Frankfurt Universities, Germany, UC Santa Cruz, and forthcoming at UC Irvine. So honored to have worked on this project with Indigenous and non-indigenous artists. Video demo.

Teaching, Hate Crimes and Performance

May 9, 2019

I teach what I want to learn.

This year I felt compelled explore the Maori haka — tradition, gender, and cultural appropriation — with my students in my “Cultures in Motion” class at CSU San Marcos. Perhaps as a sign of the times, after the mosque shootings in Aotearoa/New Zealand, we discussed how the NZ students rose up to perform the haka in public forums. My class wrote papers about how the dance took on new meanings, depending on the situation and who was performing it (e.g., Muslim-New Zealand boys, a mixed group of students, Maori bikers, a man performing alone at a nighttime vigil at the mosque; or pre-game rugby, weddings, traditional settings.

Then, a few weeks ago, a man walked into a synagogue in San Diego, near our campus and opened fire, killing one woman and injuring many more.  Sadly, the shooter was a student from our campus.  There have been several vigils and peace rallies on campus, including a rededication of the White Rose memorial, in memory of the students who protested Nazism at the University of Munich in 1943.

I’ve learned so much my students and my artistic colleagues about how we need each other, and how we can respond to these critical times in which we live.  I remain open, and carry on.

Special Election Night Performance at UC Santa Barbara

November 5, 2018

Denise performs at UCSB Tuesday, Nov. 6th, 7:30pm

“Paper Kimono” on the cover of The Routledge Dance Studies Reader

September 27, 2018

Routledge Dance Reader coverI’m honored that my performance “Paper Kimono” is featured on the cover of The Routledge Dance Studies Reader!

This 3rd Edition, edited by Jens Giersdorf and Yutian Wong, is available in December.  Special thanks to Andrea Zittlau, University of Rostock, who arranged the performance — and also participated in it — on the sand dunes near the sea, northern Germany.  Photos by fabulous Emiliano Leonardi.


Queer Performance Salon at Kore Press May 23

May 9, 2018

T Loving, photo by Eddie Diaz

T Loving, photo by Eddie Diaz

May 23: Queer Performance Salon

As part of the Kore Institute Salon Series at the Dunbar, join us for this pop-up evening of love, new performance, food, and conversation. The evening may ask, How do we enter into performance? How do we “queer” it? Are the terms “Queer” and “Performance” synonymous? Micro performances by T Loving, Greg Colburn, Natalie Nguyen, Eugenia Woods, Leticia Gonzalez, TC Tolbert.  Curated by Denise Uyehara.

Wed, May 23, 5:30-7:30pm (performances 5:45-6:30pm)
At the new home of Kore Press in the Dunbar Cultural Center

325 W 2nd St
Tucson, AZ 85705 – second floor
It’s a potluck! Bring food or drink to share, or $5 for the artists.

James Luna – In Memoriam

March 29, 2018

James and Denise at Stanford

James and me, Stanford University

As many of you already know, my collaborator, James Luna, passed away in March of this year.  The American Indian Art Institute, where his papers are archived, made this beautiful tribute to him.  All of us in the art community are  so saddened by his sudden departure – he has left us all too soon.  I am honored to have collaborated with him, first when Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) invited me to research James’ and his work for the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time.  This ultimately lead to our first collaboration, Transitions (2012) about us both growing up as people of color the suburbs of Orange County.  James approached me a year later to begin a new collaboration, Ancestral Cartographic Rituals, in which we tested our DNA and explored what makes an “authentic” Indigenous person, and also.   We showed an in-progress version of it at Stanford in November of 2017. In planning for the Stanford showing, I kept envisioning us in a room full of sand, which we would move, like shifting continents, across venue floor.  For various reasons, we decided to pre-shoot a video in Tucson instead, and James asked me to take the lead on our collaborative action. Special thanks to our fantastic Tucson crew: Cait NiSiomon (videographer/editor), Wesley Creigh, Genevieve Heron, Heather Gray, and my family and Ivan Vasquez for their generosity and support of this project.

Ancestral Cartographic Rituals, Stanford Nov. 2017

November 21, 2017

Click for video of “Continental Drift,” which opens our performance

Ancestral Cartographic Rituals
A work-in-progress by James Luna and Denise Uyehara
Wednesday, November 29, 2017

7:30pm to 8:30pm
Oshman Hall, McMurtry Building
Stanford University
Free and open to the public – come early, it may fill up quickly!  Details here

What happens when Indigenous artists test their DNA? How do their findings confirm, authenticate, or contradict traditional creation stories? In this new interdisciplinary work-in-progress, award-winning performance artists James Luna and Denise Uyehara investigate “cultural authenticity,” as it relates to Pacific Rim, evolution and migration, and the here and now.

With animation by Wesley Creigh, video design by Cait NiSiomon

Shooting Columbus (2017)

May 15, 2017

Shooting Columbus image

Upper photo: Ryan Pinto (on ground), Jules Grantham.  Lower photo, L to R: Sara Haro, T Loving, Ryan Pinto, Tessai Velasquez-Thurman. Photos by Julius Schlosburg.

Click here for PBS feature
Click here for 10 minute highlight video

“If settlers never arrived in this land, how would your life be different?”

Borderlands Theater proudly presents Shooting Columbus, written and performed by the Fifth World Collective, a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists from the state of Arizona. The work examines the consequences of time travel and the current resistance of Indigenous people in the face of continual oppression by the United States government.

Shooting Columbus is an immersive site-specific performance in which the audience walks through La Pliita Cultural Center, encountering theater, movement, soundscapes and video projection that re-imagine history and memory. The show presents poetic imaginings of a radically different past to foster dialogue about a radically different future.

Fifth World Collective:
Adam Cooper-Teran (Yaqui, Chicano)
T Loving (Black, Cherokee)
Ryan Pinto (Hopi, Omaha, Dine, Northern Ute)
Rachel Bowditch (European American)
and Denise Uyehara (Okinawan, Japanese American)

Over the past three years, the Collective has researched issues affecting Indigenous communities in the Southwest, including how the U.S.-Mexico has created an arbitrary line through Tohono O’Odham and the Yaqui (Yoeme) nations, making it difficult to travel for tribal ceremony. They also visited the Black Mesa and the Kayenta coal mine, interviewing Diné (Navajo) community members who reside there. Lead artists held multiple devising retreats in at the Global Justice Center in Tucson, Arizona State University, Tempe, and Outta Your Backpack Media, Flagstaff.

Rachel Bowditch directs, with dramaturgy and playwriting by Denise Uyehara, in collaboration with the Collective. Script informed by interviews with Marie Gladue, Fern Benally, Ross Canyon, Rosemary Tona-Aguirre, Alex Soto, and Tygel Pinto. Community insights and collaboration with Klee Benally.

Performance ensemble: Matthew Saraficio, Julianna Grantham, Gertie Lopez, Brett Boyce, Tessai Velasquez-Thurman, Sarah Haro. Borderlands Theatre (Marc David Pinate). Greg Houston (lighting), Adam Cooper Terán (sound/media), and Genevieve Heron (set), and Andy Gonzalez (stage manager).

This project is made possible, in part, through support from: MAP Fund; the Network of Ensemble Theaters’ Travel & Exchange Network (NET/TEN), supported by lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Art Works/National Endowment for the Arts.