Here's the abridged syllabus for my new course at California College of the Arts, Advanced Visual Studies: Art <=> Animals, which begins today.
ADVANCED VISUAL STUDIES:
ART <=> ANIMALS
Visual Studies Program
CALIFORNIA COLLEGE OF THE ARTS
Course #: VISST-312-02 (1618)
Instructor: Matteo Bittanti
Dates and Times: Wednesday 12:00 - 03:00PM
Start Date: January 22, 2014
End Date: May 7, 2014
Campus and Room: Oakland Campus, B Building, Room 7
Prerequisite: Eye Openers
Office hours: By appointment only. Please contact me via email to arrange a meeting.
Table of contents
1 Course Description
1.1 Class Format
1.2 Learning Outcomes
2 Course Requirements
2.1 Course Content: Important Notice
2.2 Required Texts
2.3 Video Material
3 Course Work
3.1 Class discussion
3.2 Midterm (Due March 5, 2014)
3.3 Final Project Proposal (Due April 2, 2014)
3.4 Final Project Presentation (Due April, 30 2014)
4 Evaluation Criteria
4.1 Policy on Academic Honesty
5.1 Important dates
1. Course Description:
Advanced Visual Studies (AVS) provides students with “A tactic for studying the functions of a world addressed through pictures, images, and visualizations, rather than through texts and words” (Nicholas Mirzoeff). The course has three main goals: a) to illustrate a wide range of methods, approaches, themes, and paradigms that constitute image-based research; b) to invite students to rethink the role and function of the artist, the critic, the curator, and the scholar in a predominantly visual culture; c) to develop an innovative form of research that employs a mixture of visual methods and analytical approaches within one study. AVS is always monographic, never monolithic.
This year’s theme is “Art <=> Animals”. Over the past four decades, non-human animals have invaded the gallery space, from Joseph Beuys’ co-habitation with a coyote, Janis Kounellis' installation of twelve live horses at L’Attico Gallery in Rome, Damien Hirst’s creatures in formaldehyde, Maurizio Cattelan’s beasts, to Paola Pivi’s bears made of feathers. “Art is continually haunted by the animal,” wrote Deleuze and Guattari. How can one make sense of animals’ pervasiveness in galleries and museums? AVS specifically examines how animals are represented, discussed, hunted, consumed, and “traded” in the contemporary artworld. The course explores the work of leading artists who have produced thought-provoking, innovative, and often controversial representations of animals. This course provides a survey of the roles non-human animals have played in our cultural development and in the visual arts by discussing concepts like post-humanity, animality, reification, representation, simulation, and Otherness.
1.1 Class Format
AVS presents elements of both seminar and lecture courses. As such, students will be asked to provide relevant input during discussions and in-class critiques. Classes will consist of lectures, screenings of videos and documentaries, in-class exercises and discussions, and student formal and informal presentations. Students are required to read and discuss different texts, make full use of the course blog, lead a class discussion, write a detailed proposal, write and present in class a final research paper.
1.2 Learning Outcomes
The course’s scope is not limited to the study of representation alone as participants will extend their investigations into the material production, dissemination, and discussion of images and imaging systems in various contexts. Students will learn different strategies to approach these themes, develop a sharper critical eye, understand the vocabulary and methods of visual studies, recognize the interdisciplinary nature of visual studies and enhance their presentation & writing skills.
Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
Identify and discuss significant works of contemporary art and visual culture.
Understand the relationship between different agents and forces operating within the Artworld.
Develop an understanding about how and why artists represent other species in their works.
Engage with ideas surrounding aesthetic, social, political, and economic aspects of contemporary art.
Develop skills for analyzing an image-based culture from a critical perspective while recognizing that visual studies is, per se, an ideological practice.
Develop projects and presentations integrating knowledge from multiple disciplinary perspectives, methods, and insights to make sense of the complex relationship between animals and art.
Engage in academic research and organize content in a clear, concise, and logical manner;
- Demonstrate the ability to examine and compare artworks using principles of visual studies. Present projects in a professional manner as a written text and oral presentation with images, video, photographs, concept maps, and/or other visual aids.
2 Course Requirements
Attendance is mandatory. Students are required to attend the full length of all classes and consult the blog. All papers, assignments, presentations, and final projects must be completed on time and in full. No exceptions. At some point in the course, students will be asked to lead and moderate in-class conversations. To do it effectively, students will need to be able to summarize the key arguments of a specific reading and suggest how they connect to themes in our ongoing discussion. Students will also need to propose key questions for subsequent discussions. Try to think of class meetings as a resource session in which you can get your questions answered and at the same time, learn what concerns are driving your colleagues. Please be aware that Advanced Visual Studies carries a significant workload. If you plan to attend this course be prepared to devote several hours per week.
2.1 Course content: important notice
The visual culture artifacts we will be covering in AVS include some works that may be considered ethically 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, shared moral values, standards of beauty, and definitions of culture. You will not be asked to subscribe to any particular definition of visual culture, nor will you be required to admire all the works presented. However, if you choose to take AVS, you will be expected to understand the issues involved, why and how they matter. By remaining in this course, a student is understood to have given their informed consent to exposure to such materials. If you have any special concerns, please discuss them with the professor. In all cases, common courtesy is expected in this course and disruptive and disrespectful behavior, especially during in-class conversations, will not be tolerated. Debating different points of view is the foundation of academic inquiry, but under no circumstances will personal attacks or insults be tolerated.
2.2 Required texts
The course e-reader includes selected essays/chapters from the following books:
Agamben, Giorgio (2004). The Open. Man and Animal. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
Aloi, Giovanni (2012). Art & Animals, London: I.B. Tauris.
Baker, Steve (2013). ARTIST/ANIMAL, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.
Baker, Steve (2001). Picturing the Beast: Animals, Identity, and Representation. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. [Originally published: Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993.]
Baker, Steve (2000). Postmodern Animal. London: Reaktion Books.
Baudrillard, Jean (1998). Simulacra and Simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 
Becker, Howard (1982). Art Worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Berger, John (1980). About Looking. New York: Pantheon.
Broglio, Ron (2011). Surface Encounters. Thinking With Animals and Art. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Cashell, Kieran (2009). Aftershock. The Ethics of Contemporary Transgressive Art. London: I.B. Tauris. 2009.
Cox, Christopher and Nato Thompson. (eds). 2005. Becoming Animal: Contemporary Art in the Animal Kingdom. Cambridge, Ma: MIT Press.
Eisenman, Stephen F. (2013). The Cry of Nature. Art and the Making of Animal Rights. London: Reaktion Books.
Haraway, Donna (1989). Primate Visions. Gender, Race and Nature in the World of Modern Science. Routledge, London.
Julius, Anthony (2002).Transgressions. The Offences of Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lenain, Thierry (1997). Monkey Painting. London: Reaktion Books.
Malamud, Randy (2012). An Introduction to Animals and Visual Culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Poliquin, Rachel (2013). The Breathless Zoo. Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania, Penn State University Press.
Smith, Terry (2009). What is Contemporary Art?. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Wolfe, Carey (ed.) (2003). Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
2.3 Video Material
The course material also includes documentaries and videos, some required and some optional, including:
- Denis Côté, Bestiaire, 2012
- Brian Hill, Slaughterhouse: The Task Of Blood, 2005.
- Chris King, Damien Hirst: Thoughts, Work, Life, 2012.
- Ben Lewis, Art Safari, 2009.
- Morgan Neville, The Cool School, 2007.
- Maurizio Radice, The Taxidermist, 2009.
- Peter Rosen, Who Gets to Call it Art?, 2006.
- David Thewlis, Relics, 2014.
- Frederick Wiseman, Zoo, 1993.
- Frederick Wiseman, Meat, 1976.
- Olly and Suzy: Wild Art, 2008.
- Shaun Monson, Earthlings, 2005.
Additional videos will be announced on the blog.
3. Course Work
“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” (E. L. Doctorow)
During the course of the semester, students will develop three written projects, lead one class discussion and give one formal presentation. The written assignments are: a Midterm Paper (4 pages), a Final Project Proposal (4 pages), and a Final Project (10 page essay). In order to complete these tasks successfully, students will be required to undertake rigorous and thorough research of the chosen topic. In order to complete these tasks successfully, students will be required to undertake rigorous and thorough research of the chosen topic. Students are expected to:
a) Develop a clear and original thesis.
b) Present the thesis and organize the supporting evidence in a logical manner in the form of a critical essay.
c) Give a clear, compelling, and persuasive in-class presentation of their research/findings to their peers.
All papers must be formatted in Chicago Style. We will use Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference (7th Edition) as our Style Guide. The guide is available here: Download Hacker Writer Ref 7th
3.1 Class Discussion
Each week, a small group of students - 2 or 3 depending on the final enrolment numbers - will be responsible for leading a seminar-style discussion based on the assigned readings. The presenters are not expected to summarize the reading, but rather lead a discussion. Students leading the weekly discussion must provide a list of 3-5 discussion questions based on the themes and topics of the reading. Both presenters and responders will be graded on their seminar participation throughout the semester. All students are expected to read all the assigned material and be ready to discuss it in a sophisticated, critical manner, using the appropriate terminology. Students are invited to submit cogent, compelling arguments, not opinions. Thus, evaluative comments (“I liked this”, “I did not like that”) are highly discouraged.
3.2 Midterm Paper (Due March 5, 2014)
Students must submit a 1500 word (approximately 4 pages) critical review of Denis Côté, Bestiaire, (2012). Denis Côté described Bestiaire (2012) in these terms:
This film is no fiction, obviously. However, if it were a documentary, there would be a “subject.” Also, to describe it as an “essay” would entail a polemic or partisan implication, corresponding to the proper literary term. Cinema has come to label this genre of proposition as "object." I don't know how to label it myself, and even better, if this film is difficult to subsume but poetic at the same time. I started out with a naive desire to explore certain energies and to observe the relations or maybe even the failed encounters between humans and animals. In the end, this film is about contemplation — and something else. Something indefinable, something more obscure which I hope to find out more about with the help of the audience. (Denis Côté)
Critical review. Students are expected to write a 1500 word (4 pages, not including bibliography and footnotes) critique of Bestiaire. Such critique is not meant to be a journalistic, evaluative review. Students will be required to make full use of the ideas, theories, concepts encountered in the texts and discussed in class to build a cogent argument. The exercise is meant to help students develop, polish, harness their critical skills by engaging in an ad hoc examination, and to prepare them for their Final Project.
Things to consider: How does Bestiaire reflect, relate to, engage with ideas and concepts expressed by such authors as John Berger, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Giorgio Agamben, Steve Baker, Giovanni Aloi, Jean Baudrillard, and/or Randy Malamud? What roles do animals play in Côté film? What kind of "animal gaze" does the spectator encounter?
Technical requirements: The Midterm is a written document consisting of 1500 words (approximately 4 pages). It must be formatted in Chicago Style and use the following parameters: Arial Font, Size 12, Spacing 1.5. For the electronic version, the paper must be saved as a .RTF or .DOC format. Other formats, e.g. .PDF, are not acceptable. Students are encouraged to include images in the final essay, but to make a point, not for mere decorative purposes. Images must be fully examined and referenced in the text. All images must be properly accompanied with proper credits and captions.
Submission method: The Midterm paper must be submitted to the instructor both in printed form (brevi manu, in class) and electronic form (via email, to mbittanti[email protected]) by noon on Wednesday March 5, 2014. The electronic file must be saved in a format that allows the instructor to write comments/annotations (.DOC or .RTF.). In short, don’t use .PDF. A graded/reviewed version of the document will be returned to the student within a week.
3.3 Final Project (Due May 7, 2014)
Over the course of the semester, students will complete a critical paper of 10 pages minimum, excluding bibliography and footnotes. The paper is designed to help students reflect, analyze, and discuss core themes and ideas encountered in Advanced Visual Studies, engaging with primary and secondary materials, and develop a background in the area that will allow them to pursue more in-depth research projects in the future, e.g.a thesis, an essay, a show proposal, an art project or a dissertation.
Students are expected to design a critical project based on their own interest related to the course's themes and concerns. Students may choose to focus on a particular artist, artwork, medium, theme, type of representation of non-human species in contemporary art. The instructor will not assign a specific topic.
The essay must be critical in nature, that is, analytical and interpretative and not merely descriptive. Students are expected to critically engage with the theories, concepts, and frameworks discussed in class for a poignant investigation of an artwork, series of artworks by one or more artists, themes or issues related to the role played by non human animals in art.
Three things to consider:
1) Please note that although students can draw from different types of sources, a Final Project that does not consider academic books, journals, and websites will not considered appropriately researched and will be marked accordingly. Wikipedia is not considered an academic source. Like any encyclopedia or dictionary, this is an acceptable place to get basic information about a topic, however academic research requires sources that go beyond basic information. In short, Wikipedia should be considered a point of departure, and not of arrival.
2) Students are STRONGLY encouraged to include images in the final essay, but to make a point, not for mere decorative purposes. Images must be fully examined and referenced in the text. All images must be properly accompanied with proper credits and captions.
3) The instructor will not read or review drafts.
The Final Project requires a Proposal and a literature review (see 3.4). It is essential to discuss your ideas with the instructor before developing and submitting a full proposal. It is also a very good idea to look ahead in the syllabus and get started early.
Technical requirements: The Final Project is a written document consisting of 3500 words (approximately 10 pages). It must be formatted in Chicago Style and use the following parameters: Arial Font, Size 12, Spacing 1.5. For the electronic version, the paper must be saved as a .RTF or .DOC format. Other formats, e.g. .PDF, are not acceptable.
Submission method: The Final Project must be submitted in two ways: 1) as a printed document handed brevi manu to the instructor on the last day of class and as 2) an electronic file, sent to the instructor via email no later than noon on April 30, 2014. Late papers will not be accepted. Failure to submit the paper on time in both printed and electronic format will result in a “F” grade. All papers will be reviewed and graded within a week.
3.4 Final Project Proposal (Due April 2, 2014)
The Final Project Proposal is a written document consisting of 1500 words (approximately 4 pages). Such document 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 book, article, grant or exhibition), this proposal should be clear, specific, and persuasive. It should demonstrate why this project is creative, critical, and worth pursuing.
The four essential elements of the proposal are:
1. A title, subtitle, and description of your object of study, its significance, and the key issues or questions you want to address in your research. What topic do you want to focus on? Why? What interests you about this topic? Do you have a novel approach or hypothesis? If so, describe it.
2. A concise, tightly-focused review of the scholarly literature on your topic. What are the most significant scholarly contributions in your area of investigation? What is the state-of-the-art in this field? What kind of resources that you have encountered in AVS are you going to use? How? You must explain how your work will relate to the works you cite.
3. A brief discussion of research methods. What kind of research methods will you use to answer the questions you have posed or to test your hypothesis? Why are those the methods best suited for this case? What will they allow you to discover? Will you need to visit an art gallery, museum, library or access to a specific archive? What do you hope to learn by doing this research?
4. A (realistic) timetable. What are the key parts of your project (research, writing, etc.) and by when will you have them completed? What are the milestones? What are the limits and constraints of your project?
Technical requirements: The Final Project Proposal is a written document consisting of 1500 words (approximately 4 pages). It must be formatted in Chicago Style and use the following parameters: Arial Font, Size 12, Spacing 1.5. For the electronic version, the paper must be saved as a .RTF or .DOC format. Other formats, e.g. .PDF, are not acceptable.
Submission method: The Final Project Proposal must be submitted on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 no later than noon in two ways: 1) as a printed document handed brevi manu to the instructor and as 2) an electronic file, sent to the instructor via email.
A graded/reviewed version of the document will be returned to the student within a week.
On April 23, 2014, we will have an in-class discussion, workshop and individual meeting related to your final project. Bring your essay drafts and work-in-progress material for review.
3.5 Final Project Presentations (April 30 & May 7, 2014)
During the last two weeks of the semester (April 30 and May 30, 2014) students will give a 15-20* minute formal presentations of their final projects. These presentations must include visual material and should make full use of presentation tools such as Keynote, Powerpoint, SlideRocket, Prezi or other available digital tools. The presentations will be followed by a Q&A session and class discussion. Students are required to make appropriate arrangements for showing visual material in advance. Students are expected to use their own computer equipment for the presentation: the instructor will not provide a laptop. Students are expected to rehearse and practice their presentations. All students are required to attend the presentations. No make-up presentations.
* The duration of the presentation depends of the number of students enrolled.
Final grades will be determined as follows:
Attendance, participation, in-class discussion: 20%
Midterm Paper: 20%
Final Project Proposal: 10%
Final Presentation: 20%
Final Project: 30%
Please note: If the Final Project is not submitted, previously assigned grades for both the Final Proposal and Final Presentation will be considered null.
Written assignments will be evaluated on the basis of the Visual Studies Assessment Grid (available here) which includes 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.
Visual presentations will be evaluated on the basis of the students ability to look critically and express their ideas in oral and visual form. The assessment guide is available online.
Each area of assessment corresponds to the following numeric evaluation:
2 developing skills
3 proficient skills
4 exceptional skills
TO GET THINGS STARTED...
FULL QUOTE (via Steve Baker)