Courses

CMST 10100 Introduction to Film

(ARTH 20000; ARTV 20300; ENGL 10800)

This course introduces basic concepts of film analysis, which are discussed through examples from different national cinemas, genres, and directorial oeuvres. Along with questions of film technique and style, we consider the notion of the cinema as an institution that comprises an industrial system of production, social and aesthetic norms and codes, and particular modes of reception. Films discussed include works by Capra, Dash, Deren, Keaton, Hitchcock,  Kubrick, Riggs and Sirk.

2019-2020 Autumn

CMST 10100 Introduction to Film

(ARTH 20000; ARTV 20300; ENGL 10800)

This course introduces basic concepts of film analysis, which students will discuss through examples from different national cinemas, genres, and directorial oeuvres. Along with questions of film technique and style, students will examine the cinema as an institution that comprises an industrial system of production, social and aesthetic norms and codes, and particular modes of reception. Films discussed will include works by Dorothy Arzner, Vera Chytilová, Julie Dash, Alfred Hitchcock, Barry Jenkins, Wanuri Kahiu, Akira Kurosawa, and Agnès Varda. 

2019-2020 Winter

CMST 14400 Film and the Moving Image

This course seeks to develop skills in perception, comprehension, and interpretation when dealing with film and other moving image media. It encourages the close analysis of audiovisual forms, their materials and formal attributes, and explores the range of questions and methods appropriate to the explication of a given film or moving image text. It also examines the intellectual structures basic to the systematic study and understanding of moving images. Most importantly, the course aims to foster in students the ability to translate this understanding into verbal expression, both oral and written. Texts and films are drawn from the history of narrative, experimental, animated, and documentary or non-fiction cinema. Screenings are a mandatory course component.

Attendance in first class is mandatory to confirm enrollment. Open only to non-CMS majors; may not count towards CMS major requirements. For non-majors, any CMST 14400 through 14599 course meets the general education requirement in the arts.

2019-2020 Autumn

CMST 20703 Trans-bodies in Horror Cinema

(GNSE 20103; REES 26024)

Films presenting trans bodies or “psyches” have historically often othered these as "monstrous," and compelled a sense of the inevitable tragedy of living in sexual fluidity. To fully contemplate such expressions of horror, tragedy, or pity, the course will screen and discuss films such as Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960), Dressed to Kill (Brian DePalma, 1980), Sleepaway Camp (Robert Hiltzick, 1983), Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991), The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almadovar, 2011), Predestination (Michael and Peter Spierig, 2014) but also considers films of the trans body made ostensibly more calculable, at least in terms of moral and ethical stability, such as Robocop, the Alien films of Ridley Scott, Ghost in the Shell (Sanders, 2017), and the online choice map game Detroit Become Human. The course is dedicated foremost to rupturing binary thinking (as a form of nonage) and the critical theory that will ballast our readings includes selections from Haraway, Halberstam, Garber, Benschoff, Reese’s The Fourth Age, Schelde’s Androids, Humanoids, and Other Science Fiction Monsters, and Foucault’s Abnormal.

This course counts as a "Problems" course for GNSE majors.

Malynne Sternstein
2019-2020 Spring

CMST 23907 Production Thesis Workshop I

This seminar will focus on how to craft a production thesis in film or video. Works-in-progress will be screened each week, and technical and structural issues relating to the work will be explored. The workshop will also develop the written portion of the production thesis. 

2019-2020 Winter

CMST 23908 Production Thesis Workshop II

This seminar will continue to focus on how to craft a production thesis in film or video. Works-in-progress will be screened each week, and technical and structural issues relating to the work will be explored. The workshop will also develop the written portion of the production thesis, and help students finish their thesis projects.

2019-2020 Spring

CMST 24605 Topics in EALC: East Asian Cinema

(EALC 10512)

The course offers panoramic views as well as close-ups of cinematic landscapes of East Asia and Southeast Asia. We will cover a variety of films—including animation and documentary—from Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Malaysia, with a focus on site-specific works and trans-regional co-productions, circulations, and exchanges. Combining critical readings with truly close analyses of films, this course seeks to develop: (1) solid understandings of cinema’s peculiar and intricate relations to space and time; (2) conversations between cinema and other art forms, such as photography, painting, and calligraphy; (3) methods and skills of conducting film analysis. Proficiency in East Asian languages is not required.

2019-2020 Autumn

CMST 24621 Topics in EALC: The Family in East Asian Cinemas

(EALC 10799)

How would you describe your family? Who do you count as its members? Nuclear family, extended family, socialist commune, totemic kinship—the list goes on. Despite the etymological affinity, it turns out that little about the family is familiar. From its inception, cinema has participated in the project of imagining different ways of constructing family life. Sundry families have been rendered on screen, soliciting our physical departure from the confine of domiciles into the movie theater where they appear. This is particularly true and prominent in contemporary films produced across East Asian societies and diasporic communities—places that are often perceived to foreground familial connection as the primary source of identity. Indeed, while the ideological ordering of these regimes frequently presumes a standard model of the family life for which they can legislate, families on the ground hardly cohere to any single structure. From feature film to documentary; from home video to animation—all the films we will study in this class pivot around the negotiation between conformity and rebellion, predictability and strangeness, the urge to integrate and the force of diffusion behind family formation. In them, the idea and ideal of the family have routinely been pursued, interrogated, destroyed, and, occasionally, rebuilt. Approaching East Asian cinemas (in the plural) through the prism of the family, this course seeks to address the following questions: How has the family as a figure informed the formulation of certain filmmaking traditions? How can we rethink existing accounts of East Asian film history through the family as a figure? In what ways can the culturo-historical conditions of these societies help us think about their screen families? And, conversely, what possibilities of family life does cinematic imagination open up? Through what narrative and stylistic devices have families been rendered on screen?

2019-2020 Spring

CMST 25522 The Revelationist Tradition in Cinema: Science, the Occult, and Modernity

This class sets out to complicate French sociologist Max Weber’s famous notion of modernity as the “disenchantment of the world” by reconstructing and re-evaluating what we will call the revelationist tradition in film theory and practice, which is predicated upon cinema’s alleged utopian potential for revealing the ineffable, irrational, invisible, and unrepresentable aspects of reality. As simultaneously art and technology, cinema seems to offer, to many filmmakers and theorists, the potential for the re-enchantment of modernity by transforming the way we sense, perceive, and understand the world. This course will offer a historical survey of this tradition, study the contexts of its emergence and development, and speculate on its implications for contemporary film theory. To do so, we will take up seriously theoretical concepts and aesthetic strategies such as revelationism, vibration, synaesthesia, abstraction, and ecstasy, which are the results of the interactions between the cinematic imagination, modern science, and various occult/esoteric/mystical traditions. Our inquiry will trace a trajectory from the formation of revelationist film theory during the silent period, to the American “visionary” avant-garde, to “transcendental” styles in modernist film, and to contemporary documentary and horror cinema. 

Readings will consist of historical film theory and criticism as well as secondary texts from other disciplines which will help illuminate their intellectual context. Films are not considered as mere illustrations of the readings but as equally important primary materials for the class’s discussion, and close formal analyses of films are integral to the objective of the course. No previous knowledge of film theory or film history is required, but students will find a preliminary acquaintance with the process and vocabulary of film analysis advantageous. 

Alex Zhang
2019-2020 Winter

CMST 25820 Film and Fiction

(ENGL 20720)

This course addresses three distinct but related critical problems in the contemporary understanding of film and fiction. The most general is the question of how we might go about linking the practice of criticism in the literary arts with that of the screen arts. Where are the common issues of structure, form, narration, point of view management, and the like? Where, on the other hand, are the crucial differences that lie in the particularities of each domain—the problem that some have labeled “medium specificity” in the arts? The second problem has to do more specifically with questions of adaptation. Adaptation is a fact of our cultural experience that we encounter in many circumstances, but perhaps in non more insistently as when we witness the reproduction of a literary narrative in cinematic or televisual form? Adaptation theory has taught us to look beyond the narrow criterion of “fidelity” a far too limiting in scope? But when we look beyond, what do we look for, and what other concepts guide our exploration? The third and final problem has to do with the now rampant genre of the “film based on fact,” especially when the facts derive from a particular source text, as in the recent case of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman? What has this genre become so popular? What are its particular genre markings (e.g., excessive stylization, the use of documentary footage of the actual persons and events involved)? How does fictionalization operate on the facts in particular cases?

2019-2020 Spring

CMST 26810 Agnès Varda

(FNDL 26506; FREN 26811; GNSE 26810)

This course examines the work of one of the most significant directors working in France today. From the 1960s to the present day, Varda's films have been crucial to the development of new film practices: both in the past—as with the birth of the French New Wave Cinema—and in the present by exploring new forms of visual narration and by working with moving images in gallery spaces.

2019-2020 Autumn

CMST 27840 Videogames and Genre Storytelling

(MAAD 25630)

Historically, the genre categorization of videogames has been based around what the player does. In place of iconography or thematic content, videogame genres are typically defined in terms of actions: shooting, jumping, pointing, clicking. This course takes a sideways approach to videogame genre, examining the ways in which games have taken inspiration from, and put their own unique mark on, genres borrowed from popular literature and cinema. The aesthetic formulas for popular genres such as horror, romance, comedy, science fiction, and the detective story will be examined using examples in literature and cinema, before turning to games and examining the unique challenges and interactivity brings to these genres’ typical plot beats and affective techniques. How does the player-avatar relationship complicate point-of-view and identification in the horror genre? What happens to the literary rules of “fair play” in detective stories as they are adapted into actual game form? Can the performative pain of slapstick be successfully adapted into interactive form? How do dating games re-structure the traditional forms of intimacy of the romance novel and cinematic rom com? This course will take advantage of the resources of the Weston Game Lab of the Media Arts, Data, and Design Center, and will be structured around played examples, in addition to examples from popular literature and film.

Ian Jones
2019-2020 Spring

CMST 27916 Critical Videogame Studies

(ENGL 12320; GNSE 22320; MAAD 12320; SIGN 26038)

Since the 1960s, games have arguably blossomed into the world’s most profitable and experimental medium. This course attends specifically to video games, including popular arcade and console games, experimental art games, and educational serious games. Students will analyze both the formal properties and sociopolitical dynamics of video games. Readings by theorists including Ian Bogost, Roger Caillois, Nick Dyer‐Witheford, Mary Flanagan, Jane McGonigal, Lisa Nakamura, and Katie Salen will help us think about the growing field of video game studies. This is a 2019-20 Signature Course in the College. (Theory)

2019-2020 Autumn

CMST 29200 Advanced Seminar

This seminar emphasizes disciplinary methodologies in the history and theory of cinema and media, and close film, image, and media analysis. The topics covered in the Advanced Seminar are intrinsic to BA-level training in Cinema and Media Studies, and are central to building the skills necessary for completing the B.A. thesis, as well as the written portion of the creative thesis option. The Advanced Seminar will be offered during both the fall and spring quarters (taught by James Lastra and Jacqueline Stewart, respectively). Students who wish to study abroad during spring quarter of their third year must meet with the Director Undergraduate Studies no later than the beginning of their third year to discuss possible alternatives.

2019-2020 Autumn

MAAD 12360 Introduction to Video Game Music Studies

This course will offer an overview of current studies in video game music, a relatively new and interdisciplinary academic field. Through reading, listening, and playing, students will explore how and why music is incorporated into video games, as well as the relationship between games and other kinds of musical multimedia. Students will also have the opportunity to compose their own music. No background in music is required.

Julianne Grasso
2019-2020 Winter

MAAD 15630 Television in an Age of Change

As streaming options proliferate, we think of television today as a medium in flux, but the history of television—and American television in particular—has been one of change. This course will look at core television concepts both today and in the past, exploring major shifts in television history through its relationships to audiences, technology, and other media.

Ilana Emmett
2019-2020 Spring

MAAD 16210 Media Arts and Design Capstone Colloquium

In this capstone colloquium, students will prepare a portfolio of digital media artworks and/or historical and theoretical writing that reflects their interests. This course is required for students completing a minor in Media Arts and Design and must be completed no later than Winter Quarter of the fourth year. The course will meet weekly throughout the quarter.

2019-2020 Winter

MAAD 20500 ARTGAMES

(ARTV 25403)

Reset your expectations of video games! Video games can be political, experimental, and poetic. New media artists have been leveraging unconventional approaches to interactive media for decades. This studio course will playfully explore the methods, tools, and environments used to create artgames and machinima. Develop, hack, mod, and utilize video games as an artistic medium. Challenge the rules, mechanics, and interfaces of existing video games and consider the infinite possibilities of artgames.

2019-2020 Winter

MAAD 21500 Metamedia Design Studio

(ARTV 25402)

Computers dynamically simulate the details of any other medium. This course looks past traditional media and engages with the computer as a "metamedium"; an environment with infinite degrees of representation. Relationships between form and content will be explored and exploited through editing, augmenting, and deconstructing the data that makes up digital media. Students will digitally improvise with experimental and expanded approaches to creating new media art. Topics surveyed will include: aesthetics as filters, algorithms as art, metadata as content, glitches as tools, and hystorical dream machines. In addition to making new media art, we will consider our relationship to contemporary media and the politics of digital agency in an increasingly connected world.

2019-2020 Autumn

MAAD 23631 Introduction to Internet Art

This studio course examines the Internet as an artistic medium (computers, networks and code), as an environment (media ecology) and as "the masterpiece of human civilization" (à la Virginia Heffernan). Our focus will be on producing creative contributions to this collaborative space by learning the core coding languages of the web, HTML and CSS. While we will occasionally be discussing the contributions of self-identified artists (from the net.art movement of the 1990s for example) we will generally be taking a broader cultural view, exploring the histories, philosophies and practices of various online cultural niches. We will learn how hackers use the command line to break into networks and how the open source community use special tools that facilitate large scale collaborations. We'll learn about AI praised by singularity evangelists in the "age of spiritual machines" as well as the digital rights activists who protest against the algorithms of surveillance capitalism. Throughout this journey, we will be learning the craft of the Internet, and in particular browsers and the web. We will be borrowing techniques from demoscensters, meme-makers, cyberpunks and web designers as we learn to produce work with the web's generalized media format (HTML and CSS) as well as how to distribute that work online (deploying web sites).

Nick Briz
2019-2020 Winter

MAAD 23632 Intermediate Internet Art

The web browser is a blank canvas, through code we can conjure up any kind of preexisting and not yet invented screen based media. It is also an art studio, equipped with tools for making hypertext, interactive video, 2D and 3D animation, electronic music, sound sampling and synthesis, mixed reality (AR/VR), artificial intelligence and so much more. The browser is also a place to share our work, collaborate with others and explore all manner of interesting cultural activity. In this course we will produce artware (software art) for any kind of Internet connected device (mobile phones, laptops, VR headsets, Raspberry Pi, IoT, etc) by learning to code in the Internet's de facto programming language: JavaScript. After examining (through screenings, readings and interaction) the work of artists, designers and developers who both celebrate and criticize the promises and perils of our digital age, students will conceive and pitch project concepts to each other. Students will then form groups to collaborate on open-source artware (software art) leveraging the same tools (git, GitHub) and processes (Agile, Scrum) used by professionals. We will learn how to properly document and present software projects online as well as how to maintain a professional creative code portfolio. We will also learn to use libraries/APIs (for virtual reality, artificial intelligence, hypermedia, etc) pertaining to the specific type of project we choose to work on.

Nick Briz
2019-2020 Spring

MAAD 23640 Embodied Data and Gamified Interfaces

We produce caches of data within our networked lives, from social media interactions to mass surveillance systems, mostly to the benefit of corporate or state entities. The aesthetics of many of these interfaces uses gamification as a guise to data collection, relying on dopamine rushes from “winning” likes, shares, and views to keep us coming back. Through a combination of lectures and workshops, we will explore data and games as artistic mediums and how they interface and exchange with each other. We will look at how the physical body is reduced to data, surveilled and analyzed through our online behavior, mobile devices, computer vision and machine learning algorithms. Students will learn how to incorporate the aesthetics of this embodied data into 2D and 3D gaming spaces, while considering how the physical body fits into the increasingly digitally connected world.

Jon Chambers
2019-2020 Winter

24405/34405 Kieslowski's French Cinema

Krzysztof Kieślowski's The Decalogue and The Double Life of Veronique catapulted the Polish director to the international scene. His subsequent French triptych Blue, White, Red turned out to be his last works that altered his image and legacy to affirm his status as an auteur and a representative of the transnational cinema. We discuss how in his virtual universe of parallel histories and repeated chances, captured with visually and aurally dazzling artistry, the possibility of reconstituting one's identity, triggered by tragic loss and betrayal, reveals an ever-ambiguous reality. By focusing on the filmmaker's dissolution of the thing-world, often portrayed on the verge of vague abstraction of (in)audibility or (un)transparency, this course bridges his cinema with the larger concepts of postmodern subjectivity and possibility of metaphysics. The course concludes with the filmmaker's contribution to world cinema. All along, we read selections from Kieślowski's and Piesiewicz's screen scripts, Kieślowski's own writings and interviews, as well as from the abundant criticism of his French movies. All materials are in English.

Bozena Shallcross
2019-2020 Autumn

28265/38265 Biography, History, Art: Documenting Blakelock

(ENGL 26522 / 36522; ARTV 20203 / 30203)

This Gray Center sponsored research practicum is tied to a film project with documentary-maker and Mellon Collaborative Fellow Ric Burns about outsider artist Ralph Blakelock. America’s van Gogh, Blakelock created art far ahead of his time, went mad, and spent nearly twenty years in an asylum before emerging into the glare of flashbulbs as the most sought-after painter of the 1910s, only to end his life as victim of a con game. In between, he sojourned with the Sioux, hobnobbed with Gilded Age millionaires, channeled Longfellow and Mendelsohn in his art, struggled in the emergent New York “art world”, played vaudeville piano, and became one of the first major figures in modern celebrity-driven mass media. How best to capture this kaleidoscopic life and Blakelock’s dizzying art in a documentary is the creative challenge of the seminar. 

Our focus will be on Blakelock’s Ghost Dance/The Vision of Life. Art Institute conservators, assisted by chemistry department Professor Steven Sibener, will use scientific imaging to see inside the painting, whose provenance and context of production and reception need to be researched.

Participants will be assigned to specific topics based on area of expertise. The course should be of particular interest to students in DOVA, Art History, History, English, Psychology, Chemistry, Cinema Studies, and Anthropology.

Lawrence Rothfield; Ric Burns
2019-2020 Spring

28703/38703 Video Art: The Analog Years. Theory, Technology, Practice

The course gives a critical introduction to early video and television art - from the proto-televisual impulses in the historical avant-gardes to the increasing proximity between analog and digital technologies in video art in the late 1970's and early 1980's. We will focus on the various technical aspects of analog video, as well as on artistic practice and early writings on the subject. Topics will include the technics and politics of time; video, feedback systems and ecology; the reconfiguration of the artist's studio; guerilla politics and alternative TV; video and autobiography; the relation between video and painting; the musical history of video; the invention of new machines; and video as a "television viewer".

Ina Blom
2019-2020 Autumn

47815 Media Atmospheres: Art, Technology, and Environment in the 21st Century

(ARTH 41315)

In the late 1990's and early 00's contemporary art seemed to turn towards design and architecture, leading many critics to claim that the boundaries between the practices of art and design were eroding. This course proposes a different line of inquiry, based on the fact that so many of the artworks in question were in fact hidden media machines, improvisations on a life environment increasingly suffused in the dynamics of networked media technologies and their various modes of time production and -control. Elements of design and architecture were in other words enlisted in the construction of what we may call media atmospheres, everyday sensorial surrounds that addressed the intimate integration of bodies and real-time technologies in the information economy, a new modality of the capture of life forces that Michel Foucault called biopolitics. The course will be oriented around a close study of a select number of artistic positions, in addition to reading theoretical and critical texts that are important to the artists in question as well as to the larger field of discussion. Ultimately, the course is about a form of new media art less invested in technical invention than in new aesthetic techniques of social/environmental production.

Ina Blom
2019-2020 Autumn

57200 Film Semiotics: Toward a Linguistic Anthropology of Cinema

(ANTH 57400)

In this seminar we explore a series of topics in the semiotics of film as approached through the semiotic theory developed out of linguistic anthropology: topics will include revisiting questions of structuralist film semiology; iconicity, textuality, and the poetic function; indexicality and ontology; deixis and enunciation; voicing and structures of looking; performativity and image-acts; aesthetic style and enregisterment; rigid designation and stardom. The larger aims of the course are two-fold: one, to articulate a pragmaticist account of the evenemential semiotics of cinema as institutional and textual form—as broached both through ethnographic and close textual methods of analysis—and in doing reconceptualize certain key film theoretic issues; two, to expand and rethink linguistic anthropology’s semiotic theory and analysis beyond language/through cinema; in short, to think both film studies and linguistic anthropology with and against each other so as to further a semiotics of moving images.

Constantine Nakassis
2019-2020 Autumn

CMST 21801/CMST 31801 Chicago Film History

(ARTV 26750 / 36750; HMRT 25104 / 35104)

This course will screen and discuss films made mostly by Chicagoans, concentrating on the period after WWII, until 1980 when Hollywood began using Chicago as a location. By examining various genres, including those not normally interrogated by academics, such as educational and industrial films, we will consider whether there is a Chicago style of filmmaking. Technological advances that enabled both film and video to escape the restrictions of the studio and go hand-held, into city streets and homes, will be discussed.  If there is a Chicago style of filmmaking, one must look at the landscape of the city—the design, the politics, the cultures and labor of its people and how they live their lives.  The protagonists and villains of Chicago stories are the politicians and community organizers, our locations are the neighborhoods, and the set designers are Mies Van Der Rohe and the Chicago Housing Authority.  

2019-2020 Spring

CMST 21806/CMST 31806 The New Latin American Cinema

(LACS 21806 / 31806)

This course will introduce students to Latin American film studies through an assessment of its most critically celebrated period of radical filmmaking. The New Latin American Cinema (NLAC) of the late 1950s–70s generated unprecedented international enthusiasm for Latin American film production. The filmmakers of this loosely designated movement were defining themselves in relation to global realist film traditions like Italian Neorealism and Griersonian documentary, in relation to—mostly failed—experiments in building Hollywood-style national film industries, and in relation to regional discourses of underdevelopment and mestizaje. Since the late 1990s, a reassessment of the legacy of the NLAC has been taking shape as scholars have begun to interrogate its canonical status in the face of a changed political climate. In the sphere of filmmaking, contemporary Latin American new wave cinemas are also grappling with that legacy—sometimes disavowing it, sometimes appropriating it. We will situate the NLAC in its historical context, survey its formal achievements and political aspirations, assess its legacy, and take stock of the ways and the reasons that it haunts contemporary production.

2019-2020 Autumn

CMST 23930/CMST 33930 Documentary Production I

(MAAD 23930; ARTV 23930 / 33930; HMRT 25106 / 35106)

Documentary Video Production focuses on the making of independent documentary video. Examples of direct cinema, cinéma vérité, the essay, ethnographic film, the diary, historical and biographical film, agitprop/activist forms, and guerilla television will be screened and discussed. Issues embedded in the documentary genre, such as the ethics and politics of representation and the shifting lines between documentary fact and fiction, will be explored. Pre-production strategies and production techniques will be taught, including the camera, interviews and sound recording, shooting in available light, working in crews, and post-production editing. Students will be expected to purchase a portable FireWire. A five-minute string-out/rough-cut will be screened at the end of the quarter. Students are encouraged to take Documentary Production II to complete their work.

2019-2020 Autumn

CMST 23931/CMST 33931 Documentary Production II

(MAAD 23931; ARTV 23931 / 33931; HMRT 25107 / 35107)

This course focuses on the shaping and crafting of a nonfiction video. Students are expected to write a treatment detailing their project. Production techniques focus on the handheld camera versus tripod, interviewing and microphone placement, and lighting for the interview. Postproduction covers editing techniques and distribution strategies. Students then screen final projects in a public space.

2019-2020 Winter

CMST 25531/CMST 35531 Framing the I: Autobiography and Film

Cinema offers almost endless ways of telling one’s own story—diaries, confessions, album, travelogues, accounts of a distressing period, letters, searches for one’s origins, autobiographies, self-portraits, work notes, autofictions—and filmmakers continually create new hybrid forms that innovate or transgress former “genres.” This seminar examines film history’s various modes of autobiographical discourse in the context of philosophical and psychoanalytic considerations of the self as well as of experiments in literary and pictorial self-representation.

2019-2020 Spring

CMST 27011/CMST 37011 Experimental Captures

(MAAD 21011; ARTV 27923 / 37923)

This production-based class will explore the possibilities and limits of capturing the world with imaging approaches that go beyond the conventional camera. What new and experimental image-based artworks can be created with technologies such as laser scanning, structured light projection, time of flight cameras, photogrammetry, stereography, motion capture, sensor augmented cameras or light field photography? This hands-on course welcomes students with production experience while being designed to keep established tools and commercial practices off-kilter and constantly in question.

2019-2020 Winter

CMST 27020/CMST 37020 Live Cinema

This production-oriented class will examine contemporary approaches to the performed digital moving image. Through studying the range of tools and conceptual frameworks that have sought to fuse live visuals in performance in contexts spanning theater, dance, music, installation and public art, students will complete a series of critical sketches leading towards a final project using custom software developed in and for the class. Film production, music composition, and computer programming experience are welcome (but none are prerequisites for the course). Students will be expected to ultimately use the techniques they learn in a final performance.

2019-2020 Spring

CMST 27207/CMST 37207 Film Criticism

A workshop and seminar for both graduate students and undergraduates devoted to reading, writing, and (in the cases of some audiovisual essays and features) watching and listening to various forms of film criticism, including historical, journalistic, academic, and experimentally and artistically shaped examples of this practice. Weekly screenings and readings will help to focus the discussions, along with writing assignments that will be read aloud and critiqued in class. Part of the overall direction of this course will be determined by the particular interests of the students and their willingness to articulate them. A workshop and seminar for both graduate students and undergraduates devoted to reading, writing, and (in the cases of some audiovisual essays and features) watching and listening to various forms of film criticism, including historical, journalistic, academic, and experimentally and artistically shaped examples of this practice. Weekly screenings and readings will help to focus the discussions, along with writing assignments that will be read aloud and critiqued in class. Part of the overall direction of this course will be determined by the particular interests of the students and their willingness to articulate them. 

Jonathan Rosenbaum
2019-2020 Autumn

CMST 27220/CMST 37220 Classical Film Theory

This seminar will present a critical survey of the principal authors, concepts, and films in the classical period of film theory.  The main though not exclusive emphasis will be the period of silent film and theorists writing in the context of French and German cinema. We will study the aesthetic debates of the period in their historical context, whose central questions include: Is film an art?  If so, what specific and autonomous means of expression define it as an aesthetic medium?  What defines the social force and function of cinema as a mass art? Weekly readings and discussion will examine major film movements of the classical period—for example, French impressionism and Surrealism—as well as the work of major figures such as Vachel Lindsay, Hugo Münsterberg, Rudolf Arnheim, Jean Epstein, Germaine Dulac, Béla Balázs, Erwin Panofsky, Hans Richter, Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, André Bazin, and others.

2019-2020 Spring

CMST 27920/CMST 37920 Virtual Reality Production

(MAAD 24920; ARTV 27920 / 37920)

Focusing on experimental moving-image approaches at a crucial moment in the emerging medium of virtual reality, this class will explore and interrogate each stage of production for VR. By hacking their way around the barriers and conventions of current software and hardware to create new optical experiences, students will design, construct and deploy new ways of capturing the world with cameras and develop new strategies and interactive logics for placing images into virtual spaces. Underpinning these explorations will be a careful discussion, dissection and reconstruction of techniques found in the emerging VR "canon" that spans new modes of journalism and documentary, computer games, and narrative "VR cinema." Film production and computer programming experience is welcome but not a prerequisite for the course. Students will be expected to complete short "sketches" of approaches in VR towards a final short VR experience.

2019-2020 Autumn

CMST 28006/CMST 38006 Minimalist Experiment in Film and Video

This multilevel studio will investigate minimalist strategies in artists’ film and video from the late 1960s to the present day.  Emphasis will be placed on works made with limited means and/or with “amateur” formats such as Super-8 and 16mm film, camcorders, Flip cameras, SLR video, and iPhone or iPad. Our aim is to imagine how to produce complex results from economical means. Important texts will be paired with in class discussion of works by artists such as Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, Kurt Kren, Jack Goldstein, Larry Gottheim, Bruce Baillie, James Benning, John Baldessari, Morgan Fisher, Stan Douglas, Matthew Buckingham, Sam Taylor-Wood, and others.

2019-2020 Autumn

CMST 28700/CMST 38700 History of International Cinema, Part III: 1960 to Present

(MAAD 18700)

This course will continue the study of cinema around the world from the late 1950s through the 1990s. We will focus on New Cinemas in France, Czechoslovakia, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries. We will pay special attention to experimental stylistic developments, women directors, and well-known auteurs. After the New Cinema era we will examine various developments in world cinema, including the rise of Bollywood, East Asian film cultures, and other movements.

2019-2020 Spring

CMST 28921/CMST 38921 Introduction to 16mm Filmmaking

(ARTV 23808; ARTV 33808; MAAD 23808)

The goal of this intensive laboratory course is to give its students a working knowledge of film production using the 16mm gauge. The course will emphasize how students can use 16mm technology towards successful cinematography and image design (for use in both analog and digital postproduction scenarios) and how to develop their ideas towards constructing meaning through moving pictures. Through a series of group exercises, students will put their hands on equipment and solve technical and aesthetic problems, learning to operate and care for the 16mm Bolex film camera; prime lenses; Sekonic light meter; Sachtler tripod; and Arri light kit and accessories. For a final project, students will plan and produce footage for an individual or small group short film. The first half the course will be highly structured, with demonstrations, in-class shoots, and lectures. As the semester continues, class time will open up to more of a workshop format to address the specific concerns and issues that arise in the production of the final projects. This course is made possible by the Charles Roven Fund for Cinema and Media Studies.

Thomas Comerford
2019-2020 Winter

CMST 28922/CMST 38922 Intermediate 16mm Filmmaking

(ARTV 28001; ARTV 38001)

This course will allow students to continue working on projects begun in the Intro to 16mm Production course (or developing a new small-scale project), in addition to developing skills with the following: sophisticated approaches to cinematography (comparative and reflective light metering, color negative exposure); varying workflows for post-production editing (analog and digital); and sound recording and design. Students will meet as a group for lectures, technical demonstrations and a shooting workshop. Course meeting time will also be set aside for individual conferences with the instructor to address project development and completion. Students should expect to budget between 120.00-500.00 for their filmstock and processing costs, depending on the project. This course is made possible by the Charles Roven Fund for Cinema and Media Studies. Instructor permission required.

Permission from instructor is required for registration. Students will bid for entry to the class by emailing tcomerford@uchicago.edu, listing their year, major and previous production experience. Priority will be given to students who have previously completed the Intro to 16mm course, followed by CMS and DOVA majors, from graduate students to first-years. Students whose bids are accepted will be registered officially by the instructor at the first class meeting.

Thomas Comerford
2019-2020 Spring

CMST 40000 Methods and Issues

(MAPH 33000; ENGL 48000; ARTH 39900)

This course offers an introduction to ways of reading, writing on, and teaching film. The focus of discussion will range from methods of close analysis and basic concepts of film form, technique and style; through industrial/critical categories of genre and authorship (studios, stars, directors); through aspects of the cinema as a social institution, psycho-sexual apparatus and cultural practice; to the relationship between filmic texts and the historical horizon of production and reception. Films discussed will include works by Griffith, Lang, Hitchcock, Deren, Godard.

2019-2020 Autumn

CMST 28500/CMST 48500 History of International Cinema, Part I: Silent Era

(MAAD 18500; ARTH 28500 / 38500; ARTV 20002; CMLT 22400 / 32400; ENGL 29300 / 48700; MAPH 33600)

This course provides a survey of the history of cinema from its emergence in the mid-1890s to the transition to sound in the late 1920s. We will examine the cinema as a set of aesthetic, social, technological, national, cultural, and industrial practices as they were exercised and developed during this 30-year span. Especially important for our examination will be the exchange of film techniques, practices, and cultures in an international context. We will also pursue questions related to the historiography of the cinema, and examine early attempts to theorize and account for the cinema as an artistic and social phenomenon.

2019-2020 Autumn

CMST 28600/CMST 48600 History of International Cinema, Part II: Sound to 1960

(MAAD 18600; ARTH 28600 / 38600; ARTV 20003; CMLT 22500 / 32500; ENGL 29600 / 48900; MAPH 33700; REES 25005 / 45005)

The center of this course is film style, from the classical scene breakdown to the introduction of deep focus, stylistic experimentation, and technical innovation (sound, wide screen, location shooting). The development of a film culture is also discussed. Texts include Thompson and Bordwell's Film History: An Introduction; and works by Bazin, Belton, Sitney, and Godard. Screenings include films by Hitchcock, Welles, Rossellini, Bresson, Ozu, Antonioni, and Renoir.

2019-2020 Winter

CMST 67103 The Camera and Other Creatures

Since the advent of photography, artists and commentators have likened the camera to an eye. Immediately, it became apparent that the eye in question was not quite human. The nature of the “creature” incorporating the camera eye has been the subject of speculation and disagreement ever since. In this class we will examine the relationship between human and machine perception, and the possibility of non-human filmic subjectivities. Epstein’s “the Bell and Howell is a metal brain,” Vertov’s “Kino-eye,” Benjamin’s optical unconscious, theories of the animistic camera, the possessed cameras of Jean Rouch and Maya Deren, Michael Snow’s mechanical landscape cinema will all be important points of reference. We will screen films by these filmmakers as well as surveillance, microscopic, and underwater films. This class is dedicated to interrogating and celebrating the manners in which the camera (and the microphone as well) allow us access to an expanded perception.

2019-2020 Spring

CMST 67204 Cinema and Experience

This seminar will be devoted to close reading of Miriam Hansen’s path-breaking book, Cinema and Experience. As the most influential exponent of Critical Theory in cinema and media studies, we will discuss Hansen’s major contributions to the field, including her important reassessments of concepts of the public sphere and experience, modernity and mass culture, aesthetics and politics, the play-form of second nature, utopia and counter-utopia, and alternative accounts of spectatorship among others. We will also read in parallel and discuss the major texts of Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and Siegfried Kracauer that are the basis of her unique reconstruction of Critical Theory as a philosophy of cinema, photography, and visual culture.

2019-2020 Spring

CMST 67404 Cinema/Labor

As recent dossiers, books, and essays devoted to labor in film studies and in literary studies suggest, contemporary anxiety over structural transformations in the sphere of work has prompted a renewed interest in the intersection between labor and aesthetic production. This seminar will explore-- through both historical and formal approaches--the encounter between the topic “labor/work” and the varieties of its poeticization in cultural expression across genres, media, and media platform—but particularly in cinema. Topics will include the aestheticization of labor; labor and gesture; automation and machine aesthetics; anti-work politics; commodity fetishism and industrial film; cultural evolutionism and ethnographic cinema; pictorial instructions and educational cinema; absorption and the process genre; craftsmanship and skill; affective and other forms of immaterial labor; the operational aesthetic; and leisure.

2019-2020 Winter

CMST 67814 Cinema Without an Archive

(CDIN 67814; CMLT 67814; NEHC 40711)

This seminar takes a comparative approach to issues of archival precarity with particular attention to cinema, memory, and materiality. We will investigate the fraught and contested histories and problems of the archive and the limitations of archival thinking and practice in a comparative context, focusing on post-colonial and post-conflict sites in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, as well as the low rates of survival for minoritarian film practices in the United States. Some of these problems are about gaps: how do we attend to the absence and instability of the film artifact? How do these problems surface—and how are they mediated—in postcolonial sites that grapple with conflict, weak state structures, and contested commemorative practices and issues? Other questions concern definitive versions, remediation, degraded extant material, and barriers to archival access. Topics include the use of extrafilmic evidence and primary paracinematic evidence, fiction and speculative approaches to history, theories of evidence, archival theories and practices, commemorative practices, and the role of state and nongovernmental institutions in the formation of cultural memory.

Allyson Nadia Field, Ghenwa Hayek
2019-2020 Winter

CMST 67827 Politics of Media - From the Culture Industry to Google Brain

(CDIN 45327; ENGL 45327; GNSE 45327; SOCI 50119)

Media theory frequently focuses on issues of technology as opposed to, or at the cost of, politics and culture. This course reorients attention to the intersection of media and cultural theory. We begin by reviewing key media theories from the Frankfurt School and the Birmingham School. Following a historical introduction, we explore the contemporary field of cultural media theory as it has unfolded in both the humanities and the social sciences. Students will think through how the sites of race, class, gender, and sexuality might frame and always already influence the ways that we think of media — from the broadcast media of Adorno and Horkheimer’s culture industry that included radio, film, and television to contemporary pointcasting that is made up of digital and networked technologies. Alongside readings in an expanded media theory, we will engage artistic and cultural works, including literature, films, television serials, smart phone apps, video games, social media, and algorithms. We also explore methodological differences in media studies between the humanities and the social sciences.

2019-2020 Winter

CMST 67922 Data Driven Dystopias

This course will look at our current relationship with technologies of mass data collection from both the inside and the outside. From the inside: students will be given the opportunity to sharpen their understanding of the possibilities and limits of surveillance by testing contemporary algorithms against datasets of their own design and curation. From the outside: we’ll ask how cultural frameworks have driven these technological and social shifts, conditioned our responses to them, or directed us away from their inner mechanisms. In doing so, this experimental course seeks to close the critical and cultural distance between technical, industrial and commercial advances in artificial intelligence, the scientific writings behind this field, and conceptions and uses of data traditionally available to the arts and humanities. 

Undergraduate students may enroll with permission of instructor. 

2019-2020 Autumn