Visual culture explores the role of visual media in everyday life and its critical function in the dissemination of ideas in the public sphere. Emphasizing comparative critical approaches to the convergence of art, popular media, science, and technology, the minor engages globalized visual media ranging from photography, television and film, to new media (the web, digital imaging, and social networks), architecture, design, and art (painting, sculpture, and multimedia forms) in the context of such social arenas, as art, news, science, advertising, and popular culture.
Notes about this minor:
Posting of the minor on the student’s academic transcript requires a minimum GPA of 2.0 in the minor.
The program code for Visual Culture Minor is VISCULT-MN.
Visual culture studies recognize the predominance of visual forms of media, communication, and information in the contemporary world, investigating both high cultural forms such as fine art, design, and architecture and popular low cultural forms associated with mass media and communications. Visual culture studies represents a turn in the discourse of the visual, which had focused on content-based, critical readings of images, and has since broadened its approach to additionally question the ways in which our consumption and production of images and image based technologies are structured. Analyzing images from a social-historical perspective, visual culture asks: what are the effects of images? Can the visual be properly investigated with traditional methodologies, which have been based on language, not imagery? How do images visualize social difference? How are images viewed by varied audiences? How are images embedded in a wider culture and how do they circulate?
Choose three of the following:
In this course we examine representations of queer sexuality in art, film and popular culture beginning in the repressive 1950s, followed by the Stonewall Riots of 1969. We situate the birth of gay liberation in the U.S. in the context of the civil rights struggles, feminism and the anti-war movement. We turn to the work of Andy Warhol that looms over the post-war period, challenged subsequently by the onset of AIDS and the work of General Idea and Act-Up, on the one hand, and the more graphically provocative work of Robert Mapplethorpe, on the other. We examine the diversification of the queer community as transgendered identity asserts itself and the opening of popular culture to issues of diverse sexual identities. We explore expressions of queer sensibility outside of North America and Europe. We turn finally to the issue of gay marriage, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Introduction to Museums & Collecting
This course examines the history, theory, ideology, and practice of collecting within the institutional context of the museum. It considers the formation of the modern museum, and focusing on the American context, investigates the function and varieties of museums, ranging from natural history, anthropology, science and technology, history, and art. The course explores the history of the museum and its evolution institutionally, ideologically, and experientially. The course also considers the operations of museums from accessioning through deaccessioning, examining museum management, collections management and collections care. The course also explores museum governance and the professional ethics and legal constraints that affect museum professionals. The course examines how a museum carries out its mission of public education through its collections and exhibitions, as well as through its educational programs and community outreach and visitor studies. Current issues in the museum world are also considered, including: the museum's educational function versus its entertainment function; the problems of staying solvent in an era of diminishing governmental and corporate subsidies; de-accessioning collections to support the museum operations; issues of art theft and repatriation (ranging from colonial era and Nazi era plunder, the disposition of human remains and sacred objects, and illicit trafficking); the evolving responsibilities of the museum to its public and the cultural heritage; and the rise of the virtual museum. Throughout the quarter, the course examines museums and their practices through the perspectives of colonialism, nationalism, class, race, age, gender, and ethnicity. The course includes field trips to local museums and collections throughout the term.
Historic Photographic Processes
This is a studio-based class in which student recreate a number of different nineteenth century photographic processes. Students will explore the history of photographic technology through use of primary sources and hands on projects. The chemistry and deterioration of the materials will be reviewed through the use of primary texts, projects, and discussion.
History & Theory of Exhibitions
Art exhibitions are organized around a curatorial premise, a statement that articulates an idea allowing for the selection of work included in an exhibition. This course begins with an overview of exhibition history, starting with the transformation of the Louvre into the first public art museum following the French Revolution, where art history, a discipline developed in the 19th century, was enlisted to organize exhibition. The course then examines the proliferation of types of exhibitions that accompanies modernism, up to the present, paying close attention to the curatorial premise animating the exhibitions.
This course examines the history and practice of exhibition design. It reviews the history of exhibitions within the development of museum-like institutions. In this course the following aspects of exhibition design are considered: curatorial premise or theme, exhibition development timeline, exhibition site, contracts and contractual obligations, budgets and fundraising, publicity material, didactic material, and exhibition design. The course includes field trips to local institutions and collections throughout the semester.
A survey of the style and meaning in American paintings from the colonial limners, through the 19th and 20th centuries, to contemporary artists. It centers on what distinguishes painting of the colonies and of the United States from the European counterpart.
This course provides an overview of African-American art, presented in three periods: from slavery through Reconstruction, from the Harlem Renaissance to the end of the 1930's, and modern and postmodern movements following World War II. There will be comparisons with representations of African Americans in film, music, and literature as we move through these periods. We will be sensitive to the development of artists' aesthetic language and the evolution of social and political points of view expressed in artists' work. We will examine the role of institutions in promoting African American art.
American Film of the Studio Era
This course examines the history and aesthetics of the motion picture in the United States between the 1890s and the early 1960s; emphasis will be placed on the analysis of both the work of major American filmmakers and the development of major American film genres during the Classical Hollywood Studio period. Among the filmmakers to be studied are Griffith, Chaplin, Hawks, Ford, Capra, Welles, Curtiz, Wilder, Donen, Sirk, Ray, Hitchcock, and Kubrick. Genres to be covered include the melodrama, silent comedy, screwball comedy, western, thriller, film noir, newspaper film, and the gangster film. The films will be studied within the context of contemporary cultural and political events, and will be discussed from several viewpoints, including aesthetic, technical, social, and economic. The ways in which gender and class are constructed through the movies will also be a major focus of study.
American Film Since the Sixties
This course examines the history and aesthetics of the motion picture in the United States since the late 1960s, when the classical studio era ended. Emphasis will be placed on the analysis of both the work of major American filmmakers and the evolution of major American film genres between 1967 and 2001. Among the filmmakers to be studied are Kazan, Cassavetes, Penn, Coppola, Scorsese, Spielberg, Allen, Seidelman, Lee, Burton, Altman, Tarantino, Coen, and Lynch. The course will consider the evolution of such traditional Hollywood genres as the gangster film, the romantic comedy, and the Hollywood movie, study the development of new, blended genres, investigate the rise of the blockbuster, explore the rise of the Independents, and follow the aesthetic changes that occurred since the 1967. The films will be studied within the context of contemporary cultural and political events, and will be discussed from several viewpoints, including aesthetic, technical, social, and economic. The ways in which gender, race, and class are constructed through the movies will also be a major focus of study.
Art in the Age of the New Deal
In this course we examine art in the age of the New Deal; that is, the art of the 1920's and the 1930's, with a particular emphasis on the artwork produced through the programs of the Roosevelt Administration's New Deal. These programs sponsored the visual arts, as well as film, theater, literature, music, and dance. We study the art produced through this sponsorship in the context of the evolution of twentieth century modernism, mostly European, that had begun to influence American art. We will look at the stylistic and ideological affinities of the figurative style, known as the American scene, with the Mexican muralists of the 1920's and examine other government-sponsored social realist art of the 1930's, notably German and Russian.
This course examines the role of women in the visual arts as both images makers and subject matter in order to see how gender plays a role in the conceptualization of creativity and art. Among the topics to be discussed are: the construction of femininity and gender in the patriarchy; art as an ideological practice; women, art, and society; art history, art education, and art evaluation; women artists and their contemporaries.
This course examines the ways in which culture, ethnicity, languages, traditions, governance, policies and histories interact in the production of the visual experience. We will approach the campus of RIT and the city of Rochester and their various urban spatial forms as image experiences, subject to interpretative strategies and the influence of other discourses. We will wander the well-traveled and the unbeaten paths, participating in and interrogating a wide range of our campus' and city's treasures and embarrassments, secrets and norms. In addition to these field trips, we will be reading from literature and cultural studies, as well as viewing films, advertisements and websites, and possibly attending theatrical and music performances or sporting events.
Memory, Memorials, Monuments
In this course we examine the public remembering and memorialization of historic events that leads to memorials and monuments in the fields of architecture, sculpture, and film. We begin by examining the nature of memory, and specifically of collective memory, and its relationship to historical events and its subsequent transformation in the process of memorialization. We then look at examples of the sculptural monument, a traditional form of memorial, and the evolution of its vocabulary in the second half of the 20th century. We also examine the memorial work undertaken by those museums whose primary function is to engage in remembering historical events, a recent phenomenon in the field of museum building. We screen films and examine how documentaries and dramatizations engage the spectator by remembering history differently, The course culminates by examining the debates surrounding the remembering of 9/11 and of more recent traumatic events.
This course investigates visual culture and its imagistic response to life's crises. Problems of identity and identification will be explored and confronted through works of photography, painting, mixed media, new media and film of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Beginning with the late 19th Century vogue for images of hysterical women, crippled black-sheep family members and dead loved ones (as corpses and as ghosts), we then move on to consider the last century's fascination with pain and suffering, disease and violence, struggle and survival and then the 21st century's emphasis on terrorism. Specifically, we will focus on the gendering of images and imaging as disturbing pictures work to defy the formal and theoretical distinction between private and public, personal, and collective experience and manage the often conflicting responsibilities to self, family, religion, race, nation, and society.
Art of Dying
This course explores the experience of dying a profoundly human and universal experience as it is represented by artists who are themselves facing immanent death. The unique and deeply personal process of each dying artist is crucially informed by social, cultural and historical as well as artistic contexts. The course will focus primarily on visual artists and writers living with and dying of disease - such as AIDS, cancer and cystic fibrosis as well as mortality and age. Topics such as aesthetics, artistic media, representation, grief, bereavement, illness, care-giving, aging, and the dying process will be considered within the context of issues of race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, gender and community values. Some of the artists covered will be Jo Spence, Hannah Wilke, Elias Canetti, Bob Flanagan, Herve Guibert, Tom Joslin, Laurie Lynd, Audre Lorde, Charlotte Salomon, Keith Haring, Frida Kahlo, Bas Jan Ader, Ted Rosenthal, Felix Gonzalez Torres, Keith Haring, Eric Steel, Derek Jarman, Eric Michaels, and David Wojnarowicz. We will also explore some of the critical theory of Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Elaine Scarry, Susan Sontag, and Ross Chambers.
Gender and Contemporary Art
This course traces the historical development of women’s activism in the art world from the 1970s to the present. We will interpret how this art activism, which artists and scholars alike have referred to as the feminist art movement, has examined how gender informs the ways art is made, viewed, conceptualized in history and theory, and exhibited in museums and visual culture, in a range of cultural contexts. We will also analyze how current artists, critics, and curators continue to build on this history, in particular how they use the concept of gender intersectionally to develop a variety of new creative practices, theories, modes of exhibition and social engagement.
Deaf Art & Cinema
Students will examine the context in which specific cultural groups have chosen to create works about their experiences. They will go on to explore a wide range of artistic works representing the Deaf experience in visual arts and cinema. Students will be expected to analyze works in terms of cultural symbols and themes. Attention will be given to historical context (personal and collective) that has helped to shape many of these works, motifs, and messages. Students will write and present in-depth papers examining specific works and artists/filmmakers. In addition, students will be expected to create an original artwork and a collaborative short film.
Choose one of the following:
Culture and Globalization
By exploring critical issues of globalizing culture, we examine how ideas, attitudes, and values are exchanged or transmitted across conventional borders. How has the production, articulation, and dissemination of cultural forms (images, languages, practices, beliefs) been shaped by global capitalism, media industries, communication technologies, migration, and tourist travels? How are cultural imaginaries forged, exchanged, and circulated among a global consumer public? How has the internationalizing of news, computer technologies, video-sharing websites, blogging sites, and other permutations of instant messaging served to accelerate cultural globalization? Students will be introduced to anthropological perspectives on cultural globalization, the transmission of culture globally, and the subsequent effects on social worlds, peoples, communities, and nations.
Native Americans in Film
This course will examine the parallels of anthropological works and resulting government policies in the late-19th and 20th centuries as they relate to the genre of Native Americans film, both popular and ethnographic works. In addition, an extensive regional and historical literature review will complement the possible films.
African Film and Popular Culture
Popular culture has a political dimension. Created and consumed by ordinary people, African popular cultures, including film and popular cinema, are linked to political processes as forms of expression, perspective, and critique. As a result of accessible digital formats for producing and distributing films and other popular genres, African film and cinema is literally exploding onto the global scene, dynamically affecting intercultural communication and African economies. Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry, for instance, is now the third largest film producer in the world, competing with Hollywood and Bollywood for audiences and market share. This course introduces students to African film as a genre of popular culture and explores the political contexts in which it is forged. Throughout the semester, we consider the diversity and complexity of African film as a creative genre and engage in debates about forms of intercultural communication that challenge contemporary African artists and consumers. By the end of the course, students will have gained an understanding of the enormous impact of popular cultures through which many Africans express political sentiments that might otherwise be suppressed.
Bodies and Culture
Our bodies are more than mere physical entities; they are conditioned by culture, society, and history. We will take a comparative approach to the cultural construction of bodies and the impact of ethnic, gender, and racial ideologies on body practices (i.e. surgical alteration, mutilation, beautification, surrogacy, erotica). We will critically investigate the global formation of normative discourses of the body (regarding sexuality, AIDS/illness, reproduction, fat/food) in medical science, consumer culture, and the mass media. The course features discussion, writing, and project-oriented research, encouraging students to acquire a range of analytic skills through a combination of text interpretation and research.
Cultural Images of War and Terror
This course critically examines the visual culture of war and terror in a global world from an anthropological perspective. Representations of violence are endlessly transmitted on television, on the internet, in print media, in cinema, and in recreational games to become part of our everyday visual culture. Whether disseminated as news, documentary truth, or entertainment, the ubiquitous encounters with images of violence require a new form of visual literacy that not only highlights the intersection of the local and the global, but also recognizes the ways in which visual technologies, cultural politics of memory and history, media practices, and national ideologies intervene in the formation of a visual culture of war and terror.
Native American Cultural Resources and Rights
Indian nations have substantial interests in access to and control of their cultural resources. In addition to land, those resources may include objects, traditions, and symbols. Many of those interests may be treated under tribal, federal, and/or international law as forms of property (including access to sacred sites, possession of funerary objects, masks), intangible resources (such as intellectual property of tribal names, symbols, stories), and/or liberty interests (including religious freedom, preservation of tribal languages, customs, Indian arts and crafts). Classroom lectures will be supplemented with roundtable discussions and instructions by museum professionals, guest speakers, and Native American representatives. At the conclusion of the course, students will comprehend the breadth of federal legislation regulating tribal cultural resources as well as the complex legal and social issues facing museums, academic institutions, and the community.
By exploring issues of gender and sexuality in a global context, students will be introduced to anthropological perspectives on the experience of men and women, as gendered subjects, in different societies and historical contexts, including colonialism, nationalism, and global capitalism. In turn, we will explore how cultural constructions of masculinity and femininity are configured by race, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Course materials are drawn from an array of sources, reflecting various theoretical perspectives and ethnographic views from different parts of the world.
We see others as we imagine them to be, in terms of our values, not as they see themselves. This course examines ways in which we understand and represent the reality of others through visual media, across the boundaries of culture, gender, and race. It considers how and why visual media can be used to represent or to distort the world around us. Pictorial media, in particular ethnographic film and photography, are analyzed to document the ways in which indigenous and native peoples in different parts of the world have been represented and imagined by anthropologists and western popular culture.
The Archaeology of Death
Death and burial are how most individuals enter the archaeological record and one could say that deliberate burial of the dead is the first direct evidence we have for the emergence of ethical and religious systems of thought. Human remains, their mortuary treatment, and associated material culture illuminate past patterns of social organization, economics, belief systems, health, and the negotiation of gender, status, and identity. In this course we explore the scientific and theoretical tools used to analyze and interpret past mortuary practices, how archaeologists create new knowledge about the past through the formulations and testing of hypotheses, survey mortuary practices from their first occurrence in the archaeological record, and what human remains can tell us about changes in the human experience over time and space. We will learn how human remains are identified, how determinations of age, sex, biological affiliation, health, and injury are made, how to interpret formation processes, to interpret associated material culture to understand the negotiation of gender and status; how humans have cared for the deceased members of their societies at different times and places in the human past; and the ethics of studying human mortuary remains.
This course is an introduction to the study of visual communication. The iconic and symbolic demonstration of visual images used in a variety of media is stressed. The major goal of the course is to examine visual messages as a form of intentional communication that seeks to inform, persuade, and entertain specific target audiences.
Visual Communication of Technical Information
This course introduces students to the principles, conventions, and ethics of communicating technical information in graphs, tables, and illustrations. A secondary focus is on writing text to complement graphs and illustrations in technical documents.
This course familiarizes students with a number of different critical approaches to film as a narrative and representational art. The course introduces students to the language as well as analytical and critical methodologies of film theory and criticism from early formalist approaches to contemporary considerations of technologies and ideologies alike. Students will be introduced to a selection of these approaches and be asked to apply them to a variety of films selected by the instructor. Additional screening time is recommended.
The Graphic Novel
This course charts the development of the graphic novel, examines that history in relation to other media (including literary works, comics, film, and video games), and reflects on how images and writing function in relation to one another. Primary readings will be supplemented with secondary works that address socio-historical contexts, interpretive approaches and the cultural politics of the medium, such as representations of class, race, gender, and ethnicity.
Maps, Spaces and Places
This course takes as its premise that spatial thinking is critically important. Spatial thinking informs our ability to understand many areas of 21st century culture, as mobile interfaces and geospatial technologies enable us to engage with our surroundings in new ways. The study begins with the history maps and mapmaking, and explores how maps work. As students create representational, iconographic, satirical, image-based, informational, and other map forms, the course emphasizes the map as narrative. The course develops into an exploration of the ways, particularly in texts, that mapmaking creates cultural routes, mobile forms of ethnography, and ways of imagining travel and tourism in the era of globalization. The diverse writers represented in this course are rethinking space as a dynamic context for the making of history and for different organizations of social and communal life.
Get hands-on experience researching, interpreting, and writing history. The class will tackle a common historical theme (announced in the subtitle), then do original historical research on a topic of your choice within the overall theme. Our themes do not just rehash old topics with little new information to uncover. Instead, we focus on relatively unexplored areas of the past, where your research can shed new light on unknown topics. You will learn about history by doing it! All majors are welcome.
French Films and Hollywood
A comparative study of French films and their American remakes from the 1930s to the 21st century to determine what these films reveal about the cultural and cinematic contexts from which they emerge. The course examines differences as well as similarities in the construction of identities in France and the United States. Devotes particular attention to the (re)construction of race, space, gender, and national histories. Conducted in English.
Gender and Sexuality in Hispanic Studies
This course introduces students to the study of gender and sexuality in cultural production from the Hispanic world. Students will read, view, and discuss diverse works from a variety of historical periods and geographical regions that deal with gender identity, sexuality, and interrelated social movements. This course refines students' skills through discussions, presentations, and writing exercises on readings, lectures, and film screenings. Students will also develop research skills as they complete a project on a topic chosen in consultation with the instructor. The critical approach that will inform this course is feminist thought.
This course provides an introduction to Hispanic Caribbean culture through cinema studies. We will study the role of film in Hispanic Caribbean societies as well as the unique artistic and technical achievements and obstacles of Cuban, Dominican, and Puerto Rican filmmakers. Topics covered include: The Basics of Film Analysis; An Introduction to Caribbean Film History; The Social Context of the Hispanic Caribbean Film Industry; Art and Revolution; Race, Ethnicity, and Religion; Occupation, Dictatorship, and War; Gender, Sexuality and Exile; Transnationalism and Migration, and Hispanic Caribbean Film in a Global Context. This course will take a cultural studies approach to the study of film as a social practice. Weekly films (1.5-2 hours in length) must be watched outside of class hours. All films with dialog have English subtitles.
Philosophy of Art/Aesthetics
This course introduces students to thinking philosophically about the nature of art and its relation to other human experiences. Among the topics considered are the aesthetic experience, the relation between morality and art, ugliness in art and truth in art.
This course examines the main currents in contemporary feminist thought. Feminist theory explores the nature and effects of categories of sex and gender upon our ways of living, thinking and doing, while also challenging how gendered assumptions might shape our conceptions of identity and inquiry more generally. Different conceptions of sex and gender will be discussed, and the course will investigate how these concepts affect our lives in both concrete and symbolic ways. Special attention will be paid to how gendered assumptions color our understanding of knowledge production, experiences of embodiment and emotion, public and private activities, and the nature of ethical decision making.
Philosophy of Film
Introduces students to models of film interpretation and critique that arose in pre-war Europe and that have burgeoned since; these models combine philosophical, aesthetic, economic and psychoanalytic methods of analysis. Among the topics considered are the nature of the image, ideology and alienation, trauma, fetishism, magical realism, realism and anti-realism in film.
Philosophy of Vision and Imaging
This course examines how philosophers and others have understood the nature and primacy of sight. It explores how technologies of seeing and imaging have influenced theories of sight and our most dominant and authoritative practices of seeing and representing in the humanities and the arts, as well as in the natural and social sciences. The course will focus on the impact these theories and practices of seeing and representing both analogue and digital have on the nature of knowing, as well as on how they shape and mediate our experiences of personal and social identity and agency more generally.
Politics Through Film
This course explores the enduring issues facing the American and global political order through the lens of film. Particular attention will be paid to the principles of sound political deliberation, the limitations of political leadership and the theory and practice of American political principles both at home and abroad.
Face of the Land
Based on field trips and critical readings, this course explores how the land around us has been shaped and reshaped through a variety of geological forces and historical developments. By considering the natural landforms of the United States (and other countries, as appropriate), students see how the nature of land has determined its value. As technological innovations occur, old relationships with the land have been altered. Thus the course offers students a historical approach to the relationship of technology and society, as evidence by the landscape. The seminar format for this course will also advance students' writing, speaking, and research skills.