VTP Course List

VTP Course List 2020-21 academic year  

A/Core Courses (students have to take 4 credits in total)

Core courses taken beyond the 4 credits requirement will be counted as Electives.

FALL 2020

ICONO/GRAPHY: INTERACTIONS OF IMAGE AND TEXT (online)

Ulrich Meurer (VSP visiting faculty)

Cultural Heritage Studies Program cross-listed with Gender Studies (2 credits)

Baroque allegory and urban graffiti, scientific illustration and captioned press photo, music video and typographic film, ancient pictogram and digital hypertext … the intersections of image and writing are numberless. The course will explore this heterogeneous field of cultural practices and media techniques by focusing on selected instances of ‘textual imagery’ or ‘pictorial script’ from prehistory to contemporary software. On the one hand, it addresses the genealogy of mechanic, photographic, electronic, and digital devices (stone tablet, typewriter, video, computer code …) as a series of material operators that pass on immaterial information and cultural knowledge in ever-changing icono/graphic forms. On the other hand, the course links this techno-history of image and letter to wider theoretical reflections on the two modes of representation. We will discuss their philosophical foundations, conceptual contact zones and their impact on cultural discourses with reference to semiotics, post/structuralism, media archaeology and the history of science & knowledge. Finally, the course will deepen the students’ awareness of their own media reception and output, including their use of academic text and image sources.

FUNDAMENTALS OF DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING (I)

Jeremy Braverman

University-Wide Course (2 credits) cross-listed with History, Legal Studies, Medieval Studies, Gender Studies, Political Science, Sociology and Social Anthropology and Cultural Heritage

This introductory documentary filmmaking course is designed to fit the interests and needs of students from a wide range of programs and departments. The course provides students a grounding in the craft of documentary filmmaking, and the creation of moving images, instructing them in fundamental skills that they can apply to projects in their respective research, and beyond.  These skills cover all phases of the documentary production process, from idea development, through pre-production and preparation, cinematography, sound and editing.   Through learning to create moving images, in concert with formal analysis of documentary examples, students gain valuable, versatile skills, and gain literacy in this increasingly important mode of communication.  Class sessions combine lecture on relevant concepts, viewing and analysis of documentary examples, technical instruction on equipment, hands-on exercises, and critique of class projects at each stage of completion.  Outside of class, working in small groups, students will complete the final project, a 5-8 minute documentary film, as well as two short, video-based exercises exploring and developing specific production skills. 

WINTER 2020

IMAGES: KNOWLEDGE, HISTORY, POLITICS

Ulrich Meurer (VSP visiting faculty)

Department of History (2 credits)

“It is a commonplace of modern cultural criticism“ – states W. J. T. Mitchell – “that images have a power in our world undreamed of by the ancient idolaters.“ In fact, the force and multitude of images are at the core of current notions of the visual; they inform its theoretical understanding, its social & political impact, and its epistemological potential. Against this background, the course addresses the image both as a representational sign and as an experience or visual event in its own right: After a concise exploration of selected contemporary image concepts, it will focus on the use of photography, film and electronic media to analyze, in a series of case studies, their capacity for producing (scientific) knowledge, their ability to reconstruct the past (e.g. as historical source material) and also their entanglement with issues of political power and equality. Beyond delineating the many historical shifts and inter/media transformations of the pictorial, the course aims at deepening the participants’ critical awareness of their own idea, reception and employment of imagery in an academic context.

FOUNDATIONS OF VISUAL PRACTICE

(tbc, 2 credits)

The course acquaints students with the principles of visual language from a combined theory and practice perspective across a variety of media, with a focus on the film essay. It provides an understanding of visual perception, the basic elements and structure of visual language and grammar, and the relationship between the two. The course enables participants to apply principles of visual grammar in their own scholarship and creative work, and empowers participants to develop their own unique visual voice.

FUNDAMENTALS OF DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING (II)

Jeremy Braverman 

History department (2 credits)

SPRING 2021

PRACTICE-BASED RESEARCH

(2 credits)

The course acquaints students with the principles of artistic research and is designed to expand on their work by way of producing knowledge via visuality. If artistic research is – whether in its silent or verbal, declarative or procedural, implicit or explicit form – is sensual and physical, “embodied knowledge”, then the knowledge that artistic research strives for, is a felt knowledge (Klein, 2011). The course thus aims to expand on this notion and finds modes of expressions that are ‘felt’ knowledge and complementary to the written components of students’ academic research. Students will explore the different concerns of various artists, and consider their particular relationships to performance, sound, surveillance, social practice, and the politics of aesthetics. The practice component of the course is designed to understand, analyze, and confront in practice various aspects of art’s relation to social research. To this end, the course employs various modes encompassing blogs, photography projects, filmmaking as well as visual presentations of the research projects at hand.


B/Elective Courses in theory and practice tracks

FALL 2020

History in the Visual Mode: Methods and Practices of Documentary Storytelling 

Oksana Sarkisova (theory) and Jeremy Braverman (practice)

Department of History (2 credits)

Location: online weeks 1-6, onsite weeks 7-12 (Vienna campus)

The course focuses on representations of contested historical events in documentary cinema and combines theoretical and practical approaches. It introduces students to the basics of analyzing and producing moving images that use historical arguments and explore relationship between memory and public spaces. Theoretical part of the course surveys classical and experimental documentary films and addresses mechanisms of constructing historical narratives by visual means. During class discussions we will analyze the use of first-person testimonies, found footage, and the role of editing and sound design in documentary films as means of storytelling. In the practical component of the course students will learn the basics of camera work and editing and will do group exercises to develop their visual skills. The students will learn to film interviews, work with archival footage, and shoot observational scenes. Working on practical assignments, students are introduced to the basics of project development and organization, learn camera basics and basic post-production techniques. The course aims to develop analytical, rhetorical, visual, as well as a range of practical skills, including collaboration and communication skills. The course introduces students to the basics of visual literacy and develops their critical thinking and ability to design interdisciplinary research projects.

UNDERSTANDING MEMORY MEDIA: IMAGE, MATERIAL CULTURE AND SPACE

Dóra Mérai 

Department of Medieval Studies, Cultural Heritage Studies Program (2 credits)

This course will focus on the media of memory, specifically visual and material culture as well as space. The concept of memory inevitably crops up when interpreting any cultural product from the past — be they medieval documents or artworks, nineteenth-century literature, architecture and urban space, photographs, movies, or even environmental or natural features—and all these can be understood as media of memory. Media are essential in the creation of memories; they not only reflect the perception of the past by individuals and groups but also determine how we remember in manifold ways. What is more, the same object often contributes to the creation of diverse memories and memory communities who add new interpretations to the original meanings. The course will examine how different media are used and re-used in various socio-cultural contexts, and what they tell about the given community and society. To grasp the fundamentals of memory studies, the course will cover the main definitions and theories of memory as well as the current trends in memory research and its intersections with media, visual, and material culture studies. In addition, we will examine how the concept of memory relates to history and cultural heritage by analyzing selected pieces of secondary literature and case studies, examples of visual and material culture from various periods of history from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century. We will look at examples of how the media changed across time—from paintings, sculptures, and handwriting through printing to digital media and the internet. 

WINTER 2021

VISUAL ANTHROPOLOGY AND ETHNOGRAPHIC FILMMAKING

Vlad Naumescu

Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology (4 credits)

This course explores the ways in which the visual conveys and broadens ethnographic investigation. In a discipline dominated by words we came to think exclusively in terms of culture as text and ethnography as ‘writing culture’. Challenging anthropology's iconophobia the course proposes an alternative perspective focused on the role of vision and the moving image in anthropological research. It takes visuality as a mode of knowing and representing, looking at different ways of seeing and the cultural interpretations of such representations. It addresses critical issues related to knowledge production, reflexivity, ethics and aesthetics in ethnographic filmmaking and enables participants to explore these issues in their own visual work. 

DOCUMENTARY FOR SOCIAL CHANGE

Kate Coyer & Jeremy Braverman 

School of Public Policy (4 credits)

A documentary filmmaking course with an emphasis on creating advocacy documentaries, intended to influence societal opinion on a given issue. Many new forms of advocacy are incorporating video, mobile communications and social media. These enable enhanced engagement, mobilization and participation by concerned citizens -- both acting with formal NGOs and within formal structures, and increasingly in decentralized and ad-hoc networks. Aided by the spread in low-cost, high-quality technologies, video and moving image media are becoming increasingly ubiquitous and multi-form, and are playing an ever-increasing role in advocacy strategies.  

FEMINIST BIOPOLITICS AND CULTURAL PRACTICE

Hyaesin Yoon

Department of Gender Studies (4 credits)

What do memorial displays for those who died from AIDS tell us about public mourning as a political measure of the (disavowed) sexuality? How might performances of dancers and other artists with disabilities challenge the normative perception of gendered and racialized desire/desirability? How do artistic and scientific rendering of “life” reanimate certain mode of life? How do corporeal enmeshment among human and other bodies (such as fish, hormones, chemicals) refigure our understanding of sexual and reproductive bodies? This course examines how the biopolitical operations im/materialize through various forms of cultural practice – especially at the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, species, and disability. For the purpose, this course enters the conversation between feminist and queer theories and the theories of biopolitics, which traditionally concern the relevance of the biological life/death (and what exceeds such dichotomous conceptualization) to the realms of the political. We will pay particular attention to the entwinement between the biological, technological, and cultural as an important constituent of biopolitics, as most dramatically shown in – but not limited to – the emergence of bioarts and biomedia. From this perspective, the course explores a number of sites of cultural practice including performance, eating (and starving), tattoo, biometrics, prosthetics, reproductive technology, and graphic medicine as sites of feminist criticisms and creative interventions. 

THE ARTIST AS AN AGENT OF HISTORY. FROM SYMBOLIC POLITICS TO VISUAL ACTIVISM

András Edit 

Department of History (4 credits)

In turbulent times, artists have had various social roles and commitments to history, politics and ideology. These roles and commitments went far beyond the notion of their traditionally conceived role as visual entertainers, and as providers of pure aesthetic pleasure. The course will focus on modern, 19th and 20th century European history (with an emphasis on Central and Eastern Europe) through the lens of art. Participants will gain an understanding of how history is represented or invoked by state-sponsored official art, manifested in monuments and memorials in public space or by artefacts displayed in national museums in the service of a canonized historical narrative. In parallel, we will explore how this same history is interpreted or uncovered by socially committed, contemporary artists. The course will provide an interdisciplinary approach, combining the methods and perspectives of history, art history, visual, cultural and gender studies, as well as memory and nationalism studies, in order to provide a deep and nuanced understanding of specific historical phenomena, and how they operate behind the dry facts and dates. 

VISUAL CULTURE STUDIES 

György E. Szõnyi

Modern cultural theory distinguishes two major "turns" since the crystallization of the humanities as disciplines in the 19th century. These are the "linguistic turn" which occurred in the first half of the 20th century, primarily inspired by the concepts of Ferdinand de Saussure; and the "pictorial or iconic turn" which emerged in the last quarter of the 20th century. The chief theoreticians of the latter were the American W. J. T. Mitchell and the German art historian, Hans Belting. It is quite obvious that our contemporary, digitalized and visuality-oriented culture cannot be examined without taking into consideration the above theoretical concerns which then have to be completed by case studies, drawn from various media of cultural representations. The first few classes of the course establish the notion about the multimediality of culture and approach this phenomenon from various directions, such as classical rhetoric, semiotic concerns, and post-modern challenges. An important historiographical aspect of the course deals with the debates concerning "Old and New Iconology." Beginning with the modern founders of iconology (Aby Warburg, Erwin Panofsky, Ernst Gombrich) we reach post-structuralist iconology (Hans Belting, Thomas Mitchell, James Elkins), including its critique as well as other "hot topics": e.g. the politics of images, visual expression and gender, the rhetoric of visual evidence, the performance of visual artefacts, visual encounters with “the other,” collecting and displaying knowledge, and, last but not least, the interplay between texts and images in describing nature and the world.

HISTORY ON FILM/FILM ON HISTORY: POWER STRUGGLE, NATIONAL IDENTITY, CULTURAL MEMORY

György E. Szõnyi
History and Medieval Studies (2 credits)
Film studies has been gaining an increasing share and popularity among the disciplines of the humanities. Films are in manyways connected with historical studies; historical films represent history, contribute to building national identity, and help to maintain cultural memory. At the same time they raise a number of theoretical issues about representation, interpretation, hermeneutics, cultural pragmatics. The course will 1/ touch upon these theoretical aspects; 2/ briefly survey the technical basics of filmic representation; 3/introduce the generic aspects of historical films with a special emphasis on how they serve cultural memory and construct the national heritage; 4/ analyze several historical films dealing with the "representations of power struggle”. The goal of the course is to make students aware of the relationship between history and filmic representations. Additionally, it is aimed at explaining filmic techniques as well as basics of film 
analysis/appreciation. In sum: the didactic goals of the course can be condensed to the following questions: "How to look at an 'historical' film?" and "Looking at the past in a postliterate age."

SPRING 2020

SKILLS FOR IMPACT: DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING

Jeremy Braverman 

School of Public Policy (6 week-course, 2 credits, open to SPP students only)

An introductory documentary production course designed to fit the interests and needs of SFI students.  The successful execution of a documentary film requires intensive planning, organization and collaboration, and the course develops these skills which are essential to the SFI modules, along with providing students with a grounding in the craft of video production, and the creation of moving images, instructing them in basic skills that they can apply to their coursework and research, and beyond, in their careers.  These skills cover the primary phases of the video production process, including pre-production, cinematography, sound and editing.