Courses / Fall 2020

Fall 2020

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    Course Number: R1B Section 4 | CCN: 21917

    Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Work and the Idioms of Space, Movement, and Materials

    William Stafford

    Tuesday, Thursday: 12:30-2:00pm

    In this course, we will explore engagements with ‘work’ and ‘worksites’ through visual means and media. We will aim to navigate the stakes, ethics, and affects expressed in and through work as a mode of knowing, making, and performance. We will discuss how the meanings of “work” are constituted through representations of proximate social practices to which it is often related, including labor, servitude, service, art, craft, and performance. How are hierarchies of work, and differences between workers and managers, made visible? How are visual media used as both modes of control and instruments of resistance? How is the toil of work concealed through the aesthetic display of working bodies? How is work imbued with ethical and religious significance through its association with civic and sacred images? How do tools such as hammers, keyboards, and handguns visually encode and indicate modes of action and their meanings? We will work through texts in anthropology, philosophy, social history, art history and critique–and examine ethnographies, films, performances, artefacts, and image-based artworks–in order to understand concrete and abstract figurations of work as a polemical, rhetorical, antagonistic, or comradely field, and our own possible places within it.

    Writing assignments will include analytical summaries, analysis of visual forms, and research papers that cite secondary sources. The goal of the course will be to produce a 10-12 page paper based on a visual archive and annotated bibliography that the student will develop over the course of the semester. The hope is that at the end of the course, the student will have developed a critical eye for how things, oneself, and others are emplaced by virtue of how and what one sees, and be able to bring this ability to other and future work.

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