counterforce lab: people



rebeca méndez

chair, design media arts, founder, counterforce lab

rebeca méndez is an artist, designer, and tenured professor at ucla, design media arts, where she is director of the counterforce lab, a research and fieldwork studio for art, design and environment. her research and practice investigates design and media art in public space, critical approaches to public identities and landscape, and artistic projects based on field investigation methods. méndez’s immersive video art installations are driven by her interest in perception and embodied experience. since 1996, she’s led rebeca méndez studio in los angeles and has received significant recognition including her recent inclusion into the permanent collection of the los angeles county museum of art, the 2017 medal of aiga, induction into the one club hall of fame, new york, and the 2012 national design award in communication design. her diverse works have been exhibited widely in significant institutions including solo exhibitions at the san francisco museum of modern art, hammer museum, nevada art museum, museum of contemporary art, oaxaca, mexico, and group exhibitions at the 55th venice biennial, los angeles county museum of art, el paso museum of art, and the cooper-hewitt national design museum. méndez is known for her career-long commitment to ‘design and art as a social force,’ and was awarded the ‘2016 vision over violence humanitarian award,’ by peace over violence, los angeles. méndez was guest curator at the cooper-hewitt national design museum in ‘rebeca méndez selects’ 2018–19, reviewed in the new yorker magazine. she was co-chair for the 2018 national design awards, juror for the pritzker emerging environmental genius award, 2017 and 2018, was keynote speaker at the aiga conference 2019 / design educators, and member of the steering committee and co-curator of the 2019 aspen ideas festival. her interests and initiatives are a bridge between art, design and science, and demonstrate a commitment to the environment and a sustainable future.

erin cooney

artist / ucla design media arts, m.f.a., alumna, 2020

erin cooney is visual artist, educator, and activist. born and raised in houston, texas, she has lived in los angeles since 2000. her video, installation, and performance work centers around the embodied nature of point of view and strives towards a reconfiguration in the human relationship to the natural world. she received a ba in philosophy from the university of notre dame and studied graphic design at art center college of design. she is currently pursuing her mfa at ucla.

alvaro azcárraga

m.f.a. candidate in design media arts

alvaro azcarraga is a mexican artist focused on the relationships between biology, history, and culture. coming from a background in molecular and cellular biology he focuses on how the microscopic relates to the human and beyond. with an interest in food systems, he has previously worked on issues relating to corn, water, and soil.

andrew gonzales

m.arch. candidate in architecture and urban design

andrew gonzales is a san francisco bay area native working toward his m.arch degree at ucla. he previously received a ba in architecture with a minor in forestry and natural resources at uc berkeley in 2017. between his undergraduate and graduate studies, he worked at san francisco international airport in the architecture and engineering department. his work has been featured in ucla’s currents exhibition three times and placed as a finalist in non-architecture’s “dying” international design competition speculating on the future of death and burial practices. when not in school he enjoys long-distance backpacking trips and animal/plant identification.

eleanor diamant

ph.d. candidate in ecology & evolutionary biology

ellie diamant is a 3rd year ph.d. candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology at ucla. she researches urban evolution and behavioral ecology in the yeh lab. prior, she received her m.a. in ecology, evolution, and conservation biology at columbia university in 2017, studying sexual selection and variation in female plumage in hummingbirds in the rubenstein lab. she obtained a b.sc. in biology, with a minor in environmental studies from davidson college in 2015, having conducted research in nesting behavior and evolution of cavity-nesting songbirds. she has always been interested in the intersection of science and art, and connecting the needs of humans and other animals in our changing world.

jihun lee

design / ucla design media arts, b.f.a. alumnus, 2017


karina lopez

web development / ucla design media arts, b.f.a. alumnus, 2019

karina lopez is a mexican artist and researcher. while perpetually exploring human perception and representations through code and image, her focus revolves around concepts pertaining to virtual and physical connectivity, cyberfeminism, ethics of technology, and decolonization of archives and space. she holds a b.a. in design and media arts from ucla.

koby otsuka

intern / ucla design media arts, b.f.a. alumnus, 2019


maru garcía

artist / ucla design media arts, m.f.a., alumna, 2019

maru garcía is a transdisciplinary artist and researcher working across art + science + environment. her areas of interest are explorations on biosystems, interspecies relationships, and the capacity of living organisms (including humans) to act as remediators in contaminated sites. her work highlights the importance of eco-aesthetics, where relationships and community are proposed as a way of building a sustainable culture. at the same time, she questions the way science and technology have influenced the relationship of humans within nature. maru holds an mfa in design & media arts from ucla as well as an m.s. in biotechnology and a b.s. in chemistry both from tecnologico de monterrey, mexico.

sana jahani

m.arch. candidate in architecture and urban design

sana jahani is a los angeles-based designer working towards her m.arch degree at ucla. she received her ba in architecture with a minor in city & regional planning from uc berkeley in 2015. prior to starting at ucla, she worked as a designer at standard llp for three years. more recently, she worked on the superposition exhibition at ucla perloff gallery, which was featured in log 48. her work has been showcased in ucla a.ud’s currents exhibition four times and she has received a number of awards at ucla including the elaine krown klein fine arts scholarship and the carlin glucksman fellowship.

wonho lee

undergraduate student in design media arts

wonho lee is a designer and artist from seoul, korea and lives in los angeles for his ba degree in design/media arts at ucla. his works focus on the representation of poetic sentiments within various digital forms including typography and photography. he worked as a graphic design intern at rebeca méndez studio, and he is currently working as the 2019 - 2020 designer-in-residence at the ucla school of the arts and architecture. his recent work was selected as a final winner of the greyhound bus design competition, and he has received various awards including elaine krown klein fine arts scholarship award and tina and martin sarafa scholarship award.

yogan muller

ph.d. visiting lecturer, design media arts

yogan muller is a landscape scholar and photographer whose work is attuned to the epistemological repercussions of the anthropocene. after graduating from a ba math in 2007 at the university of bordeaux, france, he undertook and graduated from a practice-led phd in landscape photography and epistemology (ensav la cambre, université libre de bruxelles, belgium) in 2018. this 2019-2020 academic year, he moved to los angeles where he now works and lives. under the tutelage of ucla professor and designer rebeca méndez (ph.d. h.c.), he partook in the foundational projects of the counterforce lab, a research initiative led by professor méndez and entirely devoted to the ecological crisis and the response of artists, designers and scholars. he currently is a visiting lecturer at ucla (department of design media arts). his papers were published in les carnets du paysage (ensp versailles/marseille, france) and projets de paysage. as a landscape photographer, he worked in iceland between 2012 and 2017 and documented the transformation of the landscape of the reykjanes peninsula, southwest of the capital reykjavík. he is a finalist of la bourse du talent (no. 80) award in 2019. he was a french student photographer of the year in 2007 (3rd prize) and was selected for three masterclass workshops led by magnum photos in 2008 (brighton, uk), 2009 (gröningen, the netherlands) and 2011 (munich, germany). he interned magnum photos in london in 2009.