This Fall 2021, the Department of Art, Film, and Visual Studies will offer courses in Studio Art and Filmmaking, including photography, animation, video art, painting, drawing, printmaking, sound, and sculpture, as well as film and visual studies, critical theory, and the study of the built environment. To view our full list of courses, visit our Courses page, and see a few highlights below.
Most of the courses offered in AFVS are limited to 10 or 12 students because many are “making” courses, meaning students create artworks or films. The optimal way to conduct these courses is in small groups. Some seminars are also limited-enrollment.
Clear instructions about class admissions procedures during Course Preview Period will be listed on each AFVS course Canvas site, accessible via the Course Search tool at my.harvard. You can read about the AFVS Department’s Values for Admitting Students into Limited Enrollment Classes here. Contact course instructors with any questions or email our Manager of Academic Programs Paula Soares.
Below are a few course highlights from the upcoming semester. Keep in mind that 2-digit classes welcome absolute beginners, and that no experience is necessary. For more detail and links to each course’s Canvas site, use the Course Search tool on https://my.harvard.edu.
AFVS 39: Letters to a Young Artist, Part 1
Studio course in interdisciplinary art with a focus on Institutional Critique– a form of conceptual art that questions the power structures underlying the circulation and display of art. Through assignments in sculpture, installation, mixed media, moving image and performance, students experiment with form and content and are introduced to critical methods and practices, as well as the pragmatics of exhibition-making. The course covers a social history of the studio, gallery, museum and artist-run spaces, with attention to art collectives and social justice movements that have challenged institutional structures. To complement our studio work, we look at 20th and 21st century art movements, highlighting BIPOC and LGBTQ+ artists of the canon. Guest artists, curators, and gallerists give presentations on their distinct roles in the field. Through a series of independent projects, students take practical and experimental leaps from art student to art world (one institution to another) and test the possibilities for shaping the terrain as artists.
AFVS 51s: Introduction to Documentary Production: The Camera Stylo
Akosua Adoma Owusu
Film critic Alexandre Astruc created the term “camera-stylo” in 1948 to suggest a new form of filmmaking in which the camera would function with the creative versatility of a pen: creating arguments, reflecting, querying, and telling stories. He was calling for a new genre of filmmaking. This production course is an introduction to the foundations of documentary storytelling and focuses on modes of filmmaking that defy classification. We will discuss the filmmaker as detective/examining evidenced material, the art of wandering/ straying, voice and text in films, and the camera-pen/action image as writing. Working individually or in small groups students are expected to complete three video assignments including a 5-7 minute final project. Students are also expected to view and discuss weekly screenings and keep a reflections journal.
AFVS 120: Thinking With Your Hand: Intermediate Painting
This studio class will support developing painters in their explorations of oil paints as powerful materials for connecting to and questioning the world around them, guided by the engagement of the senses. A willingness to commit to the studio as a lab for an expansive painting practice will be encouraged through directed prompts and open-ended project work. The class is designed for students who have had some studio art experience.
AFVS 137P: Political Action as Art: A Survey of Artistic Activism (Studio Course)
"As political artists with real-world political goals, we need to engage with government systems. That's legislative art." - Why Artists by Laurie Jo Reynolds and Stephen F. Eisenman
“...the search for justice is a long durational performance.” - Artivists (Artist-Activists), or, What’s to Be Done? by Diana Taylor
Political Action as Art examines the work of contemporary Artist-Activists, with attention paid to the deployment of creative tactics in response to a wide range of systemic inequities. Our scope of study includes protest, rebellion, public policy, policing, border security, urban planning, political theory, as well as art historical perspectives of art and activism.
AFVS 54S: Animating Science
Ruth Lingford and Alain Viel
This hands-on class will investigate the cross-overs between science and animation. How can animation communicate abstract ideas? How can science inspire the artist? Students will acquire some fundamental animation skills, and will work on individual and group projects. This class will be suitable for students with an interest either in science or visual art, or both.
AFVS 142W: The Real World (Intermediate Photography)
This class will focus on photographic and image-based work that is made outside of the studio, in the world. We will investigate ideas such as construction/the constructed image, documentary aesthetics, truth/fiction, neorealism (in film), and reliability in image-based works. We will look closely at photography, film and video works to investigate the conditions of their making and the effects the works have on us as individuals. This is not a documentary photography course.
Students will work on independent, image-based projects for the duration of the semester, sharing their work and progress in weekly critiques. Photo, video and other image-based works are welcome. Technical tutorials will be included as necessary.
This class will be structured around critiques, screenings, readings, lectures, visiting artist talks, and hopefully trips to galleries and museums.
AFVS 154J: Observation and Intervention: Filmmaking as Inquiry
This course will consider filmmaking as a means to interrogate and analyze the world. Bringing their own passion and topical expertise, students will learn how to use the techniques of filmmaking – including deep observation, montage, interviews, instigation, staging, and narration – to gain understanding around a line of inquiry. We will work individually and in small groups through a series of exercises culminating in final projects. Throughout the course, we will screen examples of successful works and scrutinize the ethics and aesthetics of our roles as researcher/filmmakers.
AFVS 161L: Enter the Mediaverse: Studio Course
Enter the Mediaverse will function like a think tank to investigate media through perspectives of psychology, linguistics, technology, aesthetics, and practice to seek an answer to a fundamental, metaphysical question: What *is* media, what does it mean to have so much of it, and what is it leading to? The course covers topics including media convergence, the magic of filmmaking, early video art, reality TV, televangelism, the Internet, pulp media, the poor image, satellite networks, and hyperobjects, amongst others. Throughout the semester, we will be joined by guest lecturers from different visual and media fields. Students will complete 4 projects throughout the course, which systematically map and decode the various visual and auditory structures of commercials, news, Youtube videos, reality TV, etc., and recombine those structures to deliver information in surprising, effective, optimistic, and useful ways. These projects will be designed to be uploaded onto a public website from the class. The final project for each student is a trend forecast for the future of media.
AFVS 168T: Invisible Adversaries: Video Course
The name of the course is taken from a film by Austrian artist VALIE EXPORT, whose protagonist believes her mind and those of others around her are being colonized by invisible extraterrestrial forces. Imagined or not, these threats come to symbolize the myriad adversaries we all face, opponents that are a part of the various hegemonic and patriarchal systems that govern our lives. This class will look at moving-image artists whose work questions entrenched structures of power and authority, and will encourage students to think about how their own work can function as a space for radical imagination that has the potential to disrupt or transform. The need to respond to various forms of antagonism has always been artistically generative, and students will create video/moving-image works that thoughtfully respond to the issues they care most about. This class will show how artists have approached their adversaries not simply as enemies to overthrow, but as complex relationships that are deeply embedded within our personal and collective histories. Students should have some familiarity with shooting and editing video, though refresher tutorials will be offered. Class sessions will be used towards presentations, individual meetings, group discussions/critique, and general studio/post-production work, while supplemented by regular visits from guest artists/speakers working in video. Students will be expected to be deeply engaged with the course materials, and also in each other’s work in order to create a space for mutual learning.
AFVS 173: Visual Music
This course explores the history of visual music throughout the 20th century. By bringing together experimental and popular approaches to this new art form, we will survey early avant-garde experiments with color music alongside Disney animations and musical choreographies in the 1920s and 1930s. Second, we will dive into the post-war art scenes and pioneers of electronic music while simultaneously tracing the rise of jukebox films in the 1950s and 1960s. Third, we will enter into the history of music videos and crossovers with video art since the early 1990s. Weekly video blogs and three visual music projects will further contribute to our survey of the multi-layered history of the interplay between film, video, animation, and music.