Art and Business Students Team up on Film Exhibit

Professor Peter Freund and former student production assistant, Sean Chacon '14Last spring, Saint Mary’s students majoring in business, English, communication, and sociology joined art and art history majors to launch Surplus|Lack, a one-night art installation in San Francisco’s Mission District, a multicultural neighborhood with a rich tradition in the arts. Co-curated by Peter Freund, professor of art theory and practice and a filmmaker, and Jaime Baron, assistant professor at the University of Alberta, the exhibit looked at how filmmakers captured their voices without creating a blockbuster, feature-length film. The show’s 21 films ranged from two seconds to 13 minutes and explored themes of loss, absence, and excess.

Surplus|Lack was an interesting kind of test case to see how the humanities could collaborate with the business department,” Freund said. He is hoping for future cross-departmental collaborations that merge art and culture with the business and technological aspects of the 21st century. Meeting with Freund once or twice a week, the students developed a marketing plan and marketing materials, researched venues, and built a website. The business students learned artistic concepts and terminology to communicate between artists, venues, and news outlets. The humanities students learned relevant business tools to market creative work and succeed in a competitive art world.

In 2012, Freund featured work in the Festival of [In]appropriation. A yearly showcase of contemporary, short, audiovisual works, the festival was directed by Baron and sponsored by the Los Angeles Filmforum. At the time, Baron was teaching Film Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She decided to re-mount the show at the college and invited Freund down to give a talk about his work as part of the festival presentation.

Freund was intrigued by the festival Baron launched, and soon the two began talking about doing a collaborative project. In 2014 the pair put out a call for submissions for an experimental film exhibit. They received 200 films and they selected and curated 21 for exhibition. During this time, Baron headed north for an assistant professor position at the University of Alberta, and Baron and Freund agreed that they had a great show in the works; they just needed help organizing it.

Organizing the exhibit presented the perfect opportunity to bring together SMC students from SOLA and SEBA. The collaboration multiple Saint Mary’s students to get involved with launching a full-scale arts exhibit. “Students in business and the humanities were exposed to and instructed on how to talk about the challenging and vital art work that was being presented at the venue,” said Freund “They weren’t just learning the practical aspects (contracts, producing, and marketing) but they were getting insight on how to speak to various audiences about art.” This cross-departmental collaboration allowed students in the arts to experience the more business side of art while giving business students valuable exposure to the vitality of the art form.

Knowing the show’s core concepts of “surplus” and “lack” (organizing principles of making meaning) are key components of the works of psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, Freund reached out to the Lacanian School of Psychoanalysis in Berkeley. The school was excited about the project, especially with the idea of how the art form of short film can be used as kind of an analogy to the process of psychoanalysis itself. The Lacanian school was able to contribute funds to support the exhibit. Freund also reached out to the graduate programs in the Counseling Department Saint Mary’s who were also happy to get involved. Additional sponsorship for the project came from the Art and Art History Department, the Department of Communication, and the Kalmanovitz School of Education.

Surplus|Lack was presented for one night on April 22 at The Lab, a long-standing avant-garde arts venue, well-known in the San Francisco arts community as a space for presenting dance, performance, installations, and films. “The venue is in the heart of the mission. It’s a very interesting place for students to go as it gets them way from Moraga, in a more multi-cultural environment,” Freund said. The exhibit had a full house; audience members included students from the Saint Mary’s, the San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco State University, California College of the Arts, and Diablo Valley Community College. After the films were shown, the audience discussed the work with some of the filmmakers. Freund said he was incredibly happy with the result. To see a list of the films and artists exhibited, visit the Surplus|Lack website at


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