California College of the Arts
EYE OPENERS: INTRODUCTION TO VISUAL STUDIES
San Francisco, California
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Eye openers are flashes of insight. As an introduction to Visual Studies, this course will relate the historical and theoretical study of visual culture - from painting, photography, graphic design, architecture, and film - to contemporary life, popular culture, mass media, new media, advertising, and communication. Topics we will discuss in class are the effect of consumer culture on our habits and surroundings; the impact of communication technologies such as the internet and television on our understanding of and approach towards the world; the question of identity in subcultures and as it is expressed in visual media such as graphic novels (e.g. Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis); and the effect of the politics of art production, display, and criticism on contemporary artists. The goal of this class is to develop techniques of critical analysis and interpretation of visual phenomena and to learn to understand the complex social, cultural and political power structures that govern them.
Classes will consist of lectures, screenings of videos and documentaries, in-class discussions, and student presentations. Students are required to read and discuss various texts, submit weekly written responses, take two in-class quizzes, create and present a mid-term visual culture critique, and present a final project.
Required Textbook and Class Blog
a) Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-19-531440-3 [Amazon]
Note: We will use the second edition of Practices of Looking, published in 2009. The book was originally released in 2000.
b) Marjane Satrapi, The Complete Persepolis, New York: Pantheon, 2007. ISBN 978-0375714832 [Amazon]
Additional essays and articles will be available on the class blog.
Course Content: Important notice
The visual culture artifacts we will be covering in this course include some works that are sexually explicit, culturally controversial and/or politically provocative. Some individuals may find these works disturbing or even offensive. Such works are included because they represent significant aspects of visual culture. They present important challenges to artistic conventions, social norms, standards of beauty, and definitions of culture. Students will not be asked to subscribe to any particular definition of visual culture, nor will they be required to like all the works shown. However, if you choose to take this course, you will be expected to understand the issues involved and why they are important. If you have any special concerns, please discuss them with the professor.
Students will be required to contribute to the online discussion that supplements in-class participation. Such contribution will take the form of weekly entries to the Eye Openers blog. Each contribution will consist of a weekly posting of approximately 1 page minimum (at least 500 words) reflecting thoughtfully and critically upon the weekly assignment. By thoughtful and critical I mean that your analysis of a text or cultural artifact (e.g. image, website, installation, artwork, advertising, video etc.) should make full use of the concepts and ideas expressed in the readings. In other words, mere evaluative comments (“I like this”, “I think it’s boring”) based on personal opinion are discouraged. Additionally, the posting should not be a summary of the reading. Rather you should use this opportunity to construct a solid, convincing argument closely related to the topics explored and discussed in class. Written assignments must be submitted by email to Matteo Bittanti no later than Mondays at noon in typed, double-spaced, and spell-checked with complete references (footnotes, bibliography, and illustrations, if available) formatted according to a writing manual of style. Late submission will receive a lower score. All contributions will be posted and the blog to encourage transparency and to foster the conversation. Your blog contributions will be graded on the quality of content, cleverness, and imagination displayed in your commentary. Links to other sources and contextual information will be highly appreciated.
The blog will be a central feature of this class. Participation does not end in the classroom.
- Contributions to the Eye Openers blog are at least 500-word long.
- Contributions are due each Monday by noon.
- Please send them via e-mail to Matteo Bittanti at firstname.lastname@example.org, preferably as .DOC or .RTF attachments.
- Late submission will receive a lower grade.
Each student will take two quizzes during the course of the semester. Each quiz will cover course vocabulary terms from Practices of Looking and other course readings. A study list of terms will be provided in advance. No make-up quizzes.
Mid-Term Project: Visual Culture Self-Portrait Class Presentation & Paper
Each student is required to produce a Visual Culture Self-Portrait. This self-portrait should include aspects of visual culture (artworks, images, advertisements, objects, places, spaces) that you find compelling, exciting, frustrating or provocative – aspects of visual culture that you feel helps inform and constitute your sense of identity. This self-portrait can take the form of a collage, book, song, poem, webpage, video, infographics, or whatever else you can create and present in class.
1. Write a two-page written explanation and visual analysis of this work. This writing should describe what is happening in the self-portrait and analyze the messages and meaning conveyed by the images. This paper should also include a printed representation of the self-portrait.
2. Each student will bring in their visual culture self-portrait a give a 5-minute presentation of it in class. If the work is a digital image or a website, students must email the image or website link to the professor at least 24 hours before class presentation. No make-up presentations.
3. Students will submit a printed hardcopy of paper and presentation AND copies of the paper and presentation burned on disc (CD-ROM or DVD) with their name. Due Oct 13 at 4 PM. Late submissions will be penalized per day.
Each student is required to produce an essay that focuses on the topics/areas discussed in class or on the course central theme, Pirates & Remixers (full description available below). This essay should include aspects of visual culture (artworks, images, advertisements, objects, places, spaces) that you find compelling, exciting, frustrating or provocative—aspects of visual culture that you feel helps inform, constitute, or dispute your values and ideas on art, culture, and meaning. The essay should be supplemented by other audiovisual texts, such as collage, book, song, poem, website, video, or whatever else you can create and present in class.
The essay should be 10-15 page and should be critical in nature, that is, analytical and interpretative and not merely descriptive. This writing should analyze a visual culture artifact or artifacts using the essays read and discussed in class as a starting point for a poignant investigation. The essay must be submitted by 4 PM on December 8 2009. The essay should be submitted as a .DOC or .RTF file (no .PDF, please). If you wish to submit a paper copy as well, please do so before the deadline.
Each student will be required to give a 10-15-minute presentation of it to the class. If the work is supplemented by a digital image, video, or website, students must email the supplemental material at least 24 hours before class presentation or submit the material on CD-ROM/DVD before the deadline. NO make-up presentations.
Project Proposal due November 10: Students must submit a one page proposal that provides a detailed description of the final project and outlines plans for research as well as relevant questions and concerns. Like any solid proposal (for a grant or exhibition), this proposal should be persuasive and demonstrate why this project is innovative, compelling and worth pursuing. There is a “no-delay policy” for the submission of the proposal.
On November 17, we will have an in-class discussion, workshop and individual meeting related to your final project. Please bring drafts of final project, and work-in-progress material for review.
- The final project consists in a 10-15 page essay and an in-class presentation
- Proposals should be submitted no later than November 10 via email.
- November 17: in class workshop – bring your work-in-progress material and drafts for review
- The final project should be submitted no later than 4 PM on Dec 8 2009 via email (and in printed format, if you wish)
- The presentation material should be submitted in advance via email (or CD-ROM/DVD, if you prefer).
- No make-up presentations.
Course Theme - Final Project
“PIRATES & REMIXERS”
Remixing is the key theme for this semester’s final project.
One of the key traits of the digital age is the ability to easily and effectively ‘remix’, modify, alter other artifacts and texts such as videos, images, films etc. Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig and other copyright activists have coined the expression ‘Remix Culture’ to describe a society which allows and encourages derivative works. Such a culture would be, by default, permissive of efforts to improve upon, change, integrate, or otherwise remix the work of copyright holders. Lessig presents this as a desirable ideal and argues, among other things, that the health, progress, and wealth creation of a culture is fundamentally tied to this participatory remix process. Others, however, lament the death of creativity and argue that plagiarism and cloning have become the standard procedures of cultural and artistic production. As a result, our culture is suffering, they say. What is the difference between homage, remixing, plagiarism, and appropriation? Can remix and creativity co-exist? How are new technologies influencing the development of our visual culture?
Your paper should investigate these issues by examining a case study and illustrating how an artist, movement, or phenomenon has remixed specific instances of our visual culture in a creative, compelling, and thought provoking way.
The format of the final project is a 10-15 page essay. The project must be handed in typed, double-spaced, and spell-checked with complete references (footnotes or endnotes, full bibliography, illustrations) formatted according to the CCA writing manual of style.
The paper must be complemented with an in-class oral presentation. The presentation should not be a mere summary of the written essay: students could select and remix one (or more) text(s) in visual culture (image, advertising, film, video game, music video, art installation, venue, website, television show, fashion trend, sport, blog, magazine, etc.) to make their point. As for the format of the presentation: video montage, PowerPoint or similar, multimedia show and other are more than welcome.
In short, be creative!
Final Project Evaluation Criteria
The final projects will be evaluated on the following criteria: thorough research; clear, logical, and original arguments; critical and creative analysis of visual material supported by visual examples; serious effort, preparation, and engagement in the subject matter. The written component of the projects must be handed in typed, double-spaced, and spell-checked with complete references (footnotes or endnotes, full bibliography, illustrations) formatted according to the CCA writing manual of style. For additional information, see the Visual Studies Assessment Guideline.
Schedule & Readings
- This schedule is tentative and may change as needed
- Links, audiovisual material, and additional texts will be added on the class blog on a weekly basis
9/1 Introduction to Eye Openers
What is Visual Culture? And Why Does it Matter?
9/8 Images, Power and Politics
Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. 9 -47 (chapter one)
Susan Sontag, On Photography, New York: Delta, 1977 (Excerpt)
9/15 Viewers Makes Meaning
Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. 49-91 (chapter two)
Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author”, in Image, Music, Text, New York: Hill and Wang. 2008. 142-48.
Michael de Certeau, “Making Do. Uses and Tactics, in The Practice of Everyday Life, Berkeley: University of California Press. 29-42.
Shepard Fairey, "Bansky", SWINDLE, Issue 8, 2006.
9/22 Modernity. Spectatorship, Power, and Knowledge
Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. 93-140 (chapter three)
Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, Screen 16.3 Autumn 1975 pp. 6-18.
9/29 Realism and Perspective. From Renaissance Painting to Digital Media
Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. 141-182 (chapter four)
Excerpt from Anne Friedberg, The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. 2006. Excerpt.
Excerpt from Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. 2001.
In class quiz#1: Course Terms
10/6 Visual Technologies, Image Reproduction, and the Copy
Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. 183-222 (chapter five)
Benjamin Walter, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” in Illuminations, New York: Shocken Books, 1969. 217-251.
Sven Lütticken, "Viewing Copies: On the Mobility of Moving Images", e-flux, Sept 2009.
Excerpt from Mapping Benjamin: The Work of Art in the Digital Age, Hans Gumbrecht (Ed.), Michael Marrinan, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003.
10/13 Media in Everyday Life
Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. 223-261 (chapter six)
Henry Jenkins, “Photoshop for Democracy. The New Relationship Between Politics and Popular Culture” in Convergence Culture, New York: New York University Press, 2006. 206-239.
Slavoj Zizek, Welcome to the Desert of the Real, New York: Verso. Excerpt.
Screening: The Examined Life (2008). Selection (Zizek).
Due: All Mid-term Projects and Papers (email - or hardcopies with a disc – CD-ROM/DVD) at 4 PM
10/20 Advertising, Consumer Cultures, and Desire
Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. 265-306 (chapter seven)
Dick Pountain, David Robins, Cool Rules. Anatomy of an Attitude, London: Reaktion Books, 2002. Excerpt.
Screenings: Selections from The Persuaders, and The Merchants of Cool (PBS) + Mad Men (ACM).
10/27 Postmodernism, Indie Media, and Popular Culture
Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. 307-345 (chapter eight)
Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra et Simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1981.
Auge’, Marc. Non-places. Introduction to an Anthropology of Surmodernity. London: Verso. 21995. Excerpt.
Screenings: Selections from The World (Zhang-ke, 2004), Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino, 1997)
In class quiz#2: Course Terms
11/3 Pirates and Remixers!
- Matt Mason, The Pirate’s Dilemma. How Youth Culture is Reinventing Capitalism. New York: Free Press, 2008 => “The Art of War, Branding, and the Battle for Public Space”. 103-134.
- Lawrence Lessig, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy, New York: Penguin Press => “RW, Revived”. 51-82.
- Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky, Rhythm Science, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. => “DJ-ing is writing, Writing is DJ-ing” and “Rhythmic Cinema”. 56-60 - 77-89.
- Mimi Ito, “Technologies of Childhood Imagination. Yugioh, Media Mixes, And Everyday Cultural Production”, in Joe Karaganis and Natalie Jeremijenko Ed., Structures of Participation in Digital Culture.Duke University Press, 2005.
Screening: RIP. A Remix Manifesto (Brett Gaylord, 2008); The Yes Men (Dan Ollman, Sarah Price, Chris Smith, 2008). Selections.
11/10 The Global Flow of Visual Culture
Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. 389-429 (chapter ten)
Screening: The Corporation (Jennifer Abbot, Mark Achbar, 2004) and Outfoxed. Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism (Robert Greenwald, 2005). Selections.
Due: Final Project Proposals
11/24 Comics and Visual Culture
Marjane Satrapi, The Complete Persepolis, New York: Pantheon, 2007. ISBN 978-0375714832
Screening: Persepolis (excerpts), Scott Mc Cloud’s Understanding Comics presentation (excerpt)
11/17 In-Class Final project Workshop and Individual Meetings
Due: Bring drafts of final project for in-class discussion, workshop, meetings, and exchange
12/1 Final Project Presentations (1 of 2)
Students are required to attend all final presentations
12/8 Final Project Presentations (2 of 2)
Students are required to attend all final presentations
Due: All Final Projects and Papers (email and/or hardcopies with CD-ROM) on Tuesday December 8 at 4 PM.