Approved Elective Courses

The elective courses provide students the opportunity to delve more deeply into a specific topic or practice of their choosing. They are an opportunity for students to individualize their path of study and to develop the specific knowledge and skills they believe are most integral to their practice and growth.


Department: COURSE # COURSE Faculty
Perf. Studies Art and Activism Diana Taylor
Perf. Studies PERF-GT 2746 Embodiment and Performance Diana Taylor
Perf. Studies PERF-GT 2122 Performances of Great Magnitude Richard Schechner
Art/Pub Policy ASPP-GT 2048 Imagination and Social Change: The Art of Organization Building Kathy Engel
Art/Pub Policy ASPP-GT 2070 Language as Action: Public and Private Lives of Poetry Karen Findley
Art/Pub Poicy ASPP-GT 2009 Exit Strategies: Funding your Work Elizabeth Mikesell
Art/Pub Policy ASPP-GT 2060 Cultural Equity and the Community Artsimperative Marta Vega
Art/Pub Policy ASPP-GT 2082 The Cultural Imperative: Intersections in Cultural Equity, Cultural Art and Public Policy Marta Vega
Art/Pub Policy ASPP – GT 2051 Interventionist Art: Strategy and Tactics Todd Ayoung
Anthropology ANTH-GA 1215 Culture and Media I: History and Theory of Ethno Film Faye Ginsburg,

Teresa Montoya

Cinema Studies/Anthropology CINE-GT 2001 Cultural Theory and the Documentary Louis Massiah
MCC MCC-GE 2027 Media in the Environment Nicole Starosieleski
MCC MCC-GE 2175 Political Communication Charlton Mcllwain
MCC MCC-GE 2270 Communication/ Political Propaganda
MCC MCC-GE 2201 Mediating the Bio-Political Body Allen Feldman
MCC MCC-GE 2145 Methods in Interpreting Popular Culture Martia Sturken
MCC MCC-GE 3110 Special Topics in Cultural and Visual Studies Nick Mirzeoff
MCC MCC-GE 2420 Visual Culture Methods Nick Mirzeoff
Gallatin CORE-GG 2018 Pro Sem: Popular Objects/Popular Subjects Karen Hornick
Gallatin CORE-GG 2015 Community Studies in Action David Moore
Gallatin/MCC MCC-GE 2153 Media Activism Paula Chakravarty
Gallatin ELEC-GG 2745 Democratic Persuasion Stephen Duncombe
Art and Art Professions ARTED-GE 2015 Contemporary Art and Critical Pedagogy: Identity, Representation, and Multiculturalism
Art and Art Professions ARVA-GE 2121 Praxis in Contemporary Art and Community Museum Partnerships
Art and Art Professions SOC-GA 2153 Social Movements
Art and Art


ART-GE 2381 Projects in Digital Media David Darts




Embodiment and Performance                

EMBODIMENT will consider a number of topics related to embodiment and performance. Has embodiment come to serve as a fruitful new term replacing the tired paradigms of race, class, gender and sexuality? Has the rise of digital technologies changed the ways in which we think of the body and presence? Focusing on embodiment in virtual and actual spaces, we will explore such issues as embodiment and affect, memory, biopolitics, medicine, technologies of reproduction, globalization, migration, activism, and resistance.


Performances of Great Magnitude

Most orthodox theatrical performances last 2 to 4 hours and take place in a single venue. Performances of great magnitude extend for weeks, months, or even years. They can take place in large spaces or small. They occur often in multiple locations. Some performances of great magnitude are rituals, some are artworks, some are sports, some are political, and some are warfare. Examples of performances of great magnitude are the medieval cycle plays of Europe, Carnivals in Trinidad, Rio, Venice, and New Orleans, the monumental installations of Cristo and Jean-Claude, Burning Man, the One Year Performances of Tehching Hseih, some pieces of Marina Abramovic and other performance artists, Dance Marathons, the Olympic Games, the Lent- to-Easter Waehma of the Yaqui, the Ramlila of Ramnagar, India…and many more.

We will examine representative examples — and underlying theories of spectacle and the sublime. Performances will be examined in their ritual, social, historical, and aesthetic contexts.

Possibly, students will construct their own performances of magnitude.


Language as Action: Public and Private Lives of Poetry       

“Poetry is a political act because it involves telling the truth…” – June Jordan

“Work, love, build a house and die. But build a house.” – Donald Hall

In this class we will explore the multiple ways in which poetry manifests in everyday life. We will debunk the notion that poetry is rarified or only on the page or in conventionally identified poetic performance spaces. We will look at questions of (and conflicts between…) silence, solitude, voice, sound, alone-ness, community, interaction, movement, singular and pluralistic expressions of music, rhythm, story, utterance, form and disruption of form. We will explore craft, form, structure and freedom, ranges of language, definition, translation, as well as understandings of “public” and “private” and how those interpretations affect expression, connection, aesthetics, access, and more. We will explore historic and contemporary relationships between poets/poems/poetry/language and public spaces, including “protest” poetry, poetry as survival, poetry as healing, poetry as community, poetry as/in building and making…

An intensive reading and writing class, students will engage in a 30/30 poem writing process for the month of April, National Poetry Month, in which they will each write and electronically share a new poem each day. They will practice revision and reading the work of others in depth and detail, sharpening original and critical exchange/discussion.

Each student will research a public poetry project; i.e. Pop Up Poets/Poets in Unexpected Places; PolicePoems.com; veterans’ poetry projects and more…

Readings will include, but are not limited to, the poems and essays of June Jordan, Mahmoud Darwish, Cornelius Eady, Aracelis Girmay, Anna Akhmatova, Aime Cesaire, Wendell Berry, Patrick Rosal, Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal, Muriel Rukeyser, Jane Hirshfield..


Exit Strategies: Funding your Work

In this course, students will develop the skills they need to fund their creative projects—both projects they’re working on right now, and those they plan to develop in the future. This writing-intensive course has the goal of producing effective project proposals and compelling artist statements in order to garner funding from sources as diverse as private foundations and Kickstarter. In the first half of the course, students will engage meaningfully with their own work, as well as that of their classmates. We will undertake a series of reading, writing, and research assignments designed to get you thinking about the art you make—its content and its form, as well as your creative process and sources of influence and inspiration. We will work together to develop the skills you need to craft language that accurately and effectively represents you as an artist and thinker. We will review a variety of personal statements, examining them for their relative strengths and weaknesses with an eye towards the most effective expressive strategies for getting funded in today’s competitive marketplace.

In the second half of the course, we will examine the landscape of public and private funding sources in the US, and you will learn to effectively use the resources available in searching for grants (such as the Foundation Center and various philanthropic databases). You will then use these resources to research and identify several grants that would be appropriate for your own work. Over the course of the semester, you will hear from four guest speakers: two artists and two foundation representatives.

You will use the writing you generated in the first half of the course as the groundwork for writing your final project: two grant applications: one for the New York Foundation of theArts (NYFA), and one of your choosing (in consultation with your professor). You will receive feedback on your applications from a mock panel of judges from the NYFA, as well as from your professor and peers. You will exit the course with writing that you might revise and reuse for many different purposes in your professional creative life.


Cultural Equity and the Community Artsimperative

This course provides the opportunity for students to historically contextualize the growth of the community cultural arts movement grounded in the social and cultural equity activists movements that grew out of the Civil Rights Movement. The continuing mission and work of multidisciplinary community based cultural arts organizations challenge cultural and social inequities framing their creative work and organizational practices to assure equitable inclusion of the varying aesthetic criteria and expressions that reflect the multiethnic communities that are integral to the nations cultural identity. The first section of the course will take place in advocacy cultural arts community based organizations in the city. Community arts leaders in the field in collaboration with the class instructor will teach the course. This team teaching approach will afford students direct exposure and learning experiences with practitioners in the field within the communities they serve. In the second section of the course students will develop a project in collaboration with staff of one of the participating institutions. Students will have direct immersion within the community and the community organization understanding the operational and programmatic realities of the field as well as direct engagement in advocacy creative work. Students will be exposed to teaching strategies for working within communities that include readings, open discussions, as well as working on multidisciplinary collaborations in the field.


Interventionist Art: Strategy and Tactics 

“It is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism”

- Mark Fisher

Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative (2009)

Chantal Mouffe’s brief, but relevant remarks about art, neo- liberalism and the political in an essay and interview entitled:

“Artistic Activism and Agonistic Spaces” (2007), and “Every Form of Art has a Political Dimension” (2001), will define our framework for discussing the contemporary complicity, or challenge to capitalism, of two fairly recent art movements known as Relational Aesthetics and The Interventionist.  Specifically, we will unpack Mouffe’s notion of hegemony, democracy, neo-liberalism and agonism, in conjunction with Alain Badiou’s re-visioning of the Communist idea, as a way to understand, to what extent, these two art practices engage with capitalist domination, or it’s overthrown.

Along with introducing Chantal Mouffe’s key notions in political philosophy, investigating Badiou’s bigger political picture, through the Communist Hypothesis, and defining art readings on Interventionist Art, this course will also re-view, though the lens of agonism and the “Communist idea”, the cultural production of Situationist, Hans Haacke, Martha Rosler, Conrad Atkinson, Mierle Ukeles, Suzanne lacy, Group Material, Interim Sites, PAD/D, RepoHistroy, Guerrilla Girls, Act Up, Alfredo Jaar, Dennis Adams, Krzysztof Wodiczho, Critical Art Ensemble, Temporary Services, microRevolt, Santiago Sierra, N55, Yes Men, Superflex, DJ Spooky, Reclaim the Streets, Critical Mass, The Church of Life After Shopping, John Carpenter’s “They Live” (1988) and Michael Moore’s “Capitalism, A Love Story” (2009).

Students for the first half of the term are required to critically research an interventionist collective/artist of interest, then present in class this work through, a re-imaging of progressive politics, using the philosophy of Agonism, or the Communist hypothesis.  For the second half of the term, students will give form to their findings, an interventionist ontology (Manifesto), in conjunction with an individual, or collective interventionist act(ion).


Culture and Media I: History and Theory of Ethno Film

This course offers a critical revision of the history of the genre of ethnographic film, the central debates it has engaged around cross-cultural representation, and the theoretical and cinematic responses to questions of the screen representation of culture, from the early romantic constructions of Robert Flaherty to current work in film, television, and video on the part of indigenous people throughout the world. Ethnographic film has a peculiar and highly contested status within anthropology, cinema studies, and documentary practice. This seminar situates ethnographic film within the wider project of the representation of cultural lives, and especially of ?natives.? Starting with what are regarded as the first examples of the genre, the course examines how these emerged in a particular intellectual context and political economy. It then considers the key works that have defined the genre, and the epistemological and formal innovations associated with them, addressing questions concerning social theory, documentary, as well as the institutional structures through which they are funded, distributed, and seen by various audiences. Throughout, the course keeps in mind the properties of film as a signifying practice, its status as a form of anthropological knowledge, and the ethical and political concerns raised by cross-cultural representation


Cultural Theory and the Documentary

This course considers the actual and possible forms of relation between theories of culture and society and the mode of nonfiction cinema known as (social) documentary. From one perspective, theory is a discourse of explanation that is applied, concurrently or retroactively, to the images of culture presented in documentary films: films present raw material of culture to be theorized aesthetically, sociologically, psychologically, historically, politically, and so on. But at the same time, documentary filmmaking can be conceived as an intellectual discourse, what its founders called “a method of philosophic reasoning” (Paul Rotha), one meant to reflect or challenge certain cultural and social ideas. Despite the order of terms in the title of this course, what theory means to documentary, and vice versa, has always been an open question. This course explores various ways to answer the question.


Media and The Environment

This course investigates the ways human & natural environments have been shaped by media representations & technologies, extending from newspapers, photography, & popular literature, to film, television, & video games. Integrating eco-cinema, eco-criticism, environmental communication, & environmental studies, the course explores how environments are represented in visual media through different historical & social contexts, beginning with the rise of landscape photography, scientific representations of nature, & “fictional” wildlife films, to environmental media works in the 1960s to the role of contemporary interactive & “recycling” based aesthetics.


Political Communication

Communicative aspects of American government, including the preparation of candidates, the electoral process, political advertising and public relations. The use of strategic communication to influence political agendas, the formation of public policy, and the process of political debate


Mediating the Bio-Political Body

This seminar seeks to build media theory within the material histories, philosophy and political culture of embodiment/disembodiment. The body is situated as the interface of our era’s most contentious political terrains including human rights violations, epidermal stigma, gendered gazes, targeting gazes, and confinement in refugee, detention, torture and concentration camps. For Foucault the formation of the political subject is isomorphic to the formation of the body as a communicative, mediating and mediated site. The body has become the screen, the archive and the stylus for political inscription and encryption. For Foucault, Agamben and Esposito the political is concerned with producing forms of life as biopower– the governing of life and death through subject forming and deforming body-media from surveillance to violence. Previously Hegel, Kojeve, Lacan and Fanon theorized political domination as the spectral occupation and remediation of one body by another. Derrida described the current war on terror as the shift from communitas to immunitas, to auto-co-immunity in which the body-politic sacrifices its actuality to protect itself as virtuality. In the above theories the body unfolds as the place where our current historical actuality


Methods in Interpreting Popular Culture

Popular culture as both a producer and reflector of cultural meaning and a means of communication. Introduction to the fundamental theories and methods for understanding the construction of meaning in film, television, music, advertising and practices of everyday life, tracing the study of popular culture through film theory and mass media analysis to cultural studies.


Special Topics in Cultural and Visual Studies

This course examines specific topics within the fields of cultural studies and visual culture, with the aim of delving into particular theoretical concerns within these overlapping and interrelated fields of study. It is the aim of Special Topics courses to incorporate historical theoretical frameworks and to examine important recent scholarship on these issues.


Visual Culture Methods

This course is an introduction to the history and theory of vision and visuality, with a particular focus on research methods in the study of visual culture. The course focuses on the research methods and approaches specific to the field of visual culture and related fields of study, its scholarly literature, its theoretical genealogy, and the stakes in interdisciplinary research.


Pro Seminar: Popular Objects/Popular Subjects

Historical and technological developments have changed the way we think about cultural consumption. Is the mass audience itself a product of the goods and entertainment it consumes (as midcentury ideology theorists believed) or is it an outmoded concept lost in the wake of globalization, the sharp focusing techniques of digital marketing, crowd sourcing, and participatory culture? What are the implications of these developments for aesthetic appreciation, the formation of pleasure and desire, the relationship between culture and politics? Where do we ourselves stand as critics, scholars, and artists in relation to such questions? This proseminar attempts to reach students with interests, practical or theoretical, in one or more of the following fields: media studies, literary and art criticism, history, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, and philosophy (particularly aesthetics). Among the topics to be discussed are: the history of asserted differences between high and low art; the mass reproduction and commodification of art; critical judgement and the differences between fans and experts. Class readings will include a mix of major theoretical writings, histories, and a variety of primary materials including literary texts, films, and performances. Authors may include Charles Baudelaire, Willa Cather, Walter Benjamin, Dwight Macdonald, Linda Williams, Henry Jenkins, and Carl Wilson.


Pro Seminar: Community Studies and Action

This proseminar is designed for students interested broadly in social theory and practice, or more narrowly in community studies and/or community-based action, whether in the social services, education, the media, urban planning, grassroots organizing or political movements. It introduces them to interdisciplinary inquiry and action by using ‘community’ as an example of a complex idea in the social domain: exploring its varied meanings and manifestations from the perspectives of different kinds of theorists—sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists and historians, for example—and examining the ways different kinds of activists and professionals attempt to shape it. Readings, discussions and projects will engage students in understanding some of the dominant paradigms in social thought and approaches to social action. They will also be encouraged to apply these modes of inquiry and practice to their own goals and plans for the graduate program.


Media Activism

This participatory and discussion-oriented course explores the politics of media activism: its tactics, its strategies and its goals. The course will rely on both a survey of the existing theory and scholarship on media activism, as well as close analyses of actual activist practices within both old and new media and on a local, national and global scale. Special attention will be paid to questions of creativity and efficacy, addressing questions concerning the value of media activism as both an aesthetic and political activitsm.
Democratic Persuasion

This course begins with the controversial premise that persuasion and propaganda are a necessary part of modern politics. With this approach we reject the simple project of critique and condemnation of propaganda and set for ourselves the far more difficult task of rethinking how one might create methods of mass persuasion that build democracy instead of undermining it and facilitate political discussion instead of closing it down. We begin by exploring the history of rhetoric and persuasion, and defining what we mean by propaganda. Next, we will study classic examples of propaganda produced by advertising agencies and totalitarian states. Then, as an extended case study, we will explore how photographs, speeches, architecture, murals, guidebooks and even material projects of the New Deal in the United States might suggest an alternative model of propaganda. Finally, we will use what we have learned to sketch out a set of principles for democratic mass persuasion. Authors, artists, and sites we will look at include Plato, Aristotle, Susan Sontag, Stuart Ewen, Walter Lippmann, Lizabeth Cohen, Michael Denning, Michael Schudson, Lawrence Levine, Alan Trachtenberg, Leni Riefenstahl, Joseph Goebbels, Edward Bernays, Lewis Hine, Dorothea Lange, Pare Lorentz, Woody Guthrie, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Timberline Lodge, Bonneville Dam, and Coit Tower.


Contemporary Art and Critical Pedagogy: Identity, Representation, and Multiculturalism

This course addresses philosophical, historical, and sociopolitical contexts of multiculturalism in the United States, with an emphasis on relationship to critical pedagogy and contemporary art practices. Current ideas about representation and identity are considered specifically in relation to a critique of mainstream notions of multiculturalism and art. Topics may include the history of multiculturalism. The course addresses pedagogy and curriculum in a variety of educational settings, including schools, museums, and alternative spaces.


Praxis in Contemporary Art and Community Museum Partnerships

Course investigates art museum education. Topics include social justice, object-based learning, & the broader cultural context surrounding non-school art education. Through critical reading/discussion students form an approach to “serious play” & situate themselves into practitioner debates about museums as a site for re-inventing object-based learning. Other topics include community-based art theory, art education, museum studies as well as praxis-based activities.


Projects in Digital Art

Focus on particular subjects or techniques allows students to broaden the range of their skills & expression. Projects are chosen as a result of both faculty & student interest. Students will be required to register for a non-credit lab section (hours TBA), which will allow them to work one-on-one with the instructor in the Advanced Digital Print Studio to experiment with techniques & materials.