Fields of Vision: Images between Art and Archiving

Course Instructors: Oksana Sarkisova (OSA) and Ioana Macrea-Toma (OSA)

This course offers a forum for discussing the role of visual imagery in the construction and circulation of historical narratives. It explores the problems of medium-specificity and the social context of image production, exhibition, and circulation, and seeks to train students to reflect on the social and historical conditioning of seeing. The course also deals with the embeddedness of images within certain archival contexts, either as artifacts within collections, snapshots within films, or objects within online databases. From this point of view, the course looks at visual material within different time spans and fields, ranging from early photography and cinema through Cold War social sciences to post-socialist art practices and research. It addresses larger questions about the contextualization of images within the mechanical and digital age as reflected by the archival and pictorial turns in humanities. Students will have the opportunity to discuss the patterns of archiving images as well as the metamorphosis of archival practices within new forms of interactive story-telling and information-extraction.

Topics for discussion include relationship of the image with the notion of objectivity, the problem of interpretation, as well as the appropriation and redefinition of visual imagery in different historical narratives. The course aims at developing skills for critical analysis of visual material and historical narratives, advancing students’ analytical and argumentative capacities as well as expanding knowledge of contested historical issues in the region in a comparative perspective. Students develop their analytical and argumentative skills through participation in class discussions; oral presentations, and independent research.