This graduate level course is designed as a critical exploration of computational art history, theory and practice. Through artistic explorations, readings, seminar discussions, writing and concept design, students will learn to identify and explore some of the major issues that artists and designers who are working at the intersection of computing and art face in the milieu surrounding what is variously termed interactive and computational art and its discourses.
This course prepares students to critique and contextualize emerging ideas in media art, computational art, biological art, generative art, speculative design and the aesthetics of interaction. It enables students to question assumptions, to locate values and influences, and to determine design tools, artifacts and strategies through which they can communicate, express, perform, generate, represent and/or embody their artistic ideas. Issues such as gender, culture, virtuality, narrative, presence, identity, biology, computation, space/time and cognition will be explored in relation to the diversity of computational art practice and theory.
Particular focus is on the intersection of computation and artistic practices through comparative discussions and enactments of knowledge construction and so-called embodied practices. This includes emerging interdisciplinary, philosophical and cultural influences that currently shape and/or reflect interactive and computational art communities.
This semester a particular focus will be on the intersections of aesthetics, technology, and society––what Mitchel and Hansen (2010) call ‘the technoanthropological universe’. Participation in the course this semester will include gallery visits and active critical writing about contemporary curation and exhibition in the greater Vancouver region.
- Participate in seminar discussions,
- Select and investigate a topic relevant to their research/practice,
- Present a conceptual framework for their findings and
- Will submit a final project that build on individual research interests and technical skills, and results in a conference-ready ISEA-style paper and presentation (see ISEA 2015 Proceedings for an example). Papers may include a production component (to be approved in advance).
Alternative and speculative final projects are encouraged, and work in small teams is possible, but students who wish to pursue these options must first obtain the instructor’s permission to do so.
- Critical Terms for Media Studies (2010). W.J.T. Mitchel and M. B. Hansen, eds). University of Chicago Press. (CTMS)
- Art and Electronic Media. Edward Shanken (2010). Phaidon. (AEM)
- Weekly additional ‘Suggested Readings’ and case studies (see weekly assignment details, these may be added as the course goes along)
Participants are expected to demonstrate a critical engagement with the course readings and case studies. Attendance is essential, as is participation in seminar discussions and online contribution via the course website/blog (http://hennessy.iat.sfu.ca/wp/co2017/). All assignments must be submitted on the date listed.
Response Paper (1000 words + media) 15% (Due Week 5)
A response to the use of digital media in a Vancouver/Surrey area museum exhibition that critically reflects on introductory course readings. The paper should be based on personal field notes and documentation, including observation of exhibit visitor interaction with digital media and/or a critical reading of a related virtual exhibit or institutional website. These papers should be posted/archived on the course blog and will be shared and discussed in the seminar.
Seminar Presentation 15% (to be assigned in class)
The presentation should consist of a summary of the readings that have been assigned for that week, with a focus on identifying and commenting on the theoretical issues that define the week’s topic, and a critique/discussion of an art-precedent. An exploration of an additional suggested reading is strongly suggested. Presenters will moderate a class discussion based on the themes and issues that they have identified. Presenters should prepare a visual presentation and a set of questions for discussion. Questions and relevant links and media are to be posted on the course website by Wednesday of the week of the presentation, in advance of the seminar.
Project Proposal (Abstract and Bibliography) 10% (Due Week 8)
A 350-500-word abstract and bibliography that outlines your individual research project for the course. This project can have a production component as well as a significant written component, in the style/format of an ISEA proceeding (production component to be approved in advance). The bibliography should include readings from the course and from individual research. You have two options for this project: 1) a theoretical exploration of a topic (long paper); 2) an analysis and contextualization of an artwork that you create (artwork + short paper).
Term Paper + Presentation 30% (Due Week 14)
Term papers will build on individual research interests and technical skills, and result in a conference-ready ISEA-style paper and presentation. This project can have a production component as well as a significant written component, in the style/format of an ISEA proceeding (production component to be approved in advance). You have two options for this project: 1) a theoretical exploration of a topic (long paper); 2) an analysis and contextualization of an artwork that you create (artwork + short paper). 5% of the grade is related to a final class presentation and installation, if applicable.
Class Participation 30%
This mark will be assessed on weekly preparation of discussion questions as blog posts (weeks 2-11, 2% each), and attendance and participation in in-class discussions (10%).
Weekly Blog Posts: these should do the following––1) show your engagement with the week’s readings by referencing particular passages, themes, or questions raised; 2) relate this theme/question to a work of contemporary electronic art, from Shanken’s text, or another work you have found interesting. These should be short posts (less than 500 words), and can be narrative, exploratory, unpolished. Ideally they will include an image or embedded video if appropriate. Contemporary issues in art, politics, and technology are also great points of reference for these posts.