Spring 2020 Electives Course Offerings


CHI 503 -- Elementary Chinese II

01—Professor Echo Sun, NH 116; MW (6:30 PM - 7:50 PM)

3 credits

This is a course in conversational Chinese (Mandarin), including basic grammar and vocabulary, along with aspects of Chinese culture.  In addition to learning to speak Chinese, students will learn Hanyu Pinyin, a Romanized pronunciation system to aid Chinese learning, and will learn to recognize and write 200-300 Chinese characters.

HMS-531S -- Staging, Space, and the City

01 – Professor Christoph Kumpusch, Main 302; T (2:00 PM – 4:50 PM)

3 credits

This course is an experimental and research oriented study of space and performance space. The goal of the course is to explore new aspects of architectural thought and practice as it relates to performing and performance architecture.  We will study basic techniques of performance and architecture and will invent new ones.  We will remove conventional limits, understanding reality and projecting fantasy. We will not only design performing elements, but explore the design of systems, provocative visions of possible realities

HMS-531S – Fashion, Labor, and Justice

02 – Professor Minh-Ha Pham, DEK 006; W (9:00 AM – 11:50 AM)

3 credits

This course offers an overview of the political economy of the fashion industry from about the 1980s to the present. Focusing on specific examples of transnational supply chains, we follow the globalized production and consumption of garments and brands, and examine closely the debates about gender and globalization, economic and social development, labor standards, sustainability and activism. Some of the questions we will explore include: How do we account for the globalization of the garment industry? What are the politics of today's global “fast fashion” industry both in the global South and in the North? Do alternatives such as "ethical fashion" or "slow fashion" initiatives by designers, programs for corporate social responsibility, and campaigns of consumer activism offer meaningful interventions? What role do workers in the fashion industry—from garment workers to retail workers to models to bloggers—play in shaping discussions about a more just and sustainable future for fashion? We draw from interdisciplinary scholarship ranging from anthropology and sociology to media studies and race and ethnic studies.

HMS 531S -- Magic, Art, Religion, and Science

03—Professor Ira Livingston, ENGR 115; M (9:00 AM - 11:50 AM)       

3 credits

In this course, we will explore how magic, religion, science and art differ as practices and as belief systems, how they interact with each other-- and most importantly, the resonances, intersections, points of contact and hybrid formations that are possible among them.  The course will involve readings in all these areas, some short writings, and a final project in which students will be invited to invent their own religions.                               

HMS 531S -- Writing about Art and Culture

05—Professor Minh-Ha Pham, DEK 010; Th (9:30 AM - 12:20 PM)

3 credits

Today, everyone has a “hot take”—a piece of commentary that responds quickly to the latest political, cultural, or social event. It competes for public attention in a 24-hour news cycle where journalists, bloggers, and other commentators (amateur and professional) are vying for the public’s increasingly divided attention. Because of this, “hot takes” are often disparaged (sometimes deservedly) for substituting a personal opinion and shallow moralizing for thoughtful, deliberate criticism. This course focuses on “the cool take”—commentary that is timely but not hastily produced, based on individual perspectives as well as research and data. 

In this course, students will learn to identify what constitutes compelling arts writing and criticism, and employ those same standards while producing their own cultural criticism. Choosing their own medium and/or media, students will practice writing/performing pieces of criticism that put an exhibition, concert, television episode/series, theatrical production, fashion collection, food trend, or some other cultural production in greater historical, social, political, and/or cultural context. Throughout the semester, students will turn in drafts of their work and receive constructive feedback from the professor and their peers. In addition, we will read, watch, and listen to professional cultural commentators and discuss the ways in which a written review, a podcast, or a vlog is or isn’t successful. This writing intensive course will improve students’ writing, research, and thinking skills through the necessary art of rewriting.

HMS-540S -- Feminist Media Theory

01—Professor Jon Beller, DEK 010; Th (2:00 PM – 4:50 PM)

3 credits

This seminar examines media theory and various media platforms including Print/Language, Photography, Film, Television, Radio, Digital Video, Surveillance Technologies and Computing as treated by feminists, critical race and queer theorists, and other scholars and artists working from the purported margins of a self-presumed global center characterized by capitalist patriarchy and White supremacist ideologies. While media theory is a recently emerged and rapidly growing field, conventional (masculinist, Euro-American-centric) approaches, often assume the universal relevance of their claims, and threaten to define and overwhelm a diversity of critical endeavors that self-consciously hail from specific communities and locales. Eschewing universalism by provincializing it, we thus attend carefully to the specificities of embodiment, historical location and media platform in our studies.

HMS 540S – Deleuze, Cinema and Time

02—Professor Chris Vitale, ENGR 309; W (5:00 PM - 7:50 PM)

3 credits

This course will provide a survey of one of the most influential film philosophies ever created, Gilles Deleuze’s monumental two-volume Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, and Cinema 2: The Time-Image.  In the process of learning to see the world anew with Deleuze, students will gain an overview of film history with Deleuze as guide.  Special attention will be paid to Deleuze’s theories of cinematic time, cinema as ‘time machine,’ his notion that ‘the brain is the screen,’ and his concepts of the time-image and movement image.  No prerequisites other than willingness to read some difficult texts and see some amazing films. 

HMS 540S – Studies of Racial Capitalism

03—Professor Jon Beller, NH 307; Th (5:00 PM – 7:50 PM)

3 credits

This seminar investigates cultural practices, technical forms, art, film, writing, poetry, social movements and critical theory in manners useful to the practical critique of racial capitalism. By necessity the course engages histories of enslavement, racialization, sex-gender normativity, settler colonialism, imperialism, globalization, financialization and contemporary media formations including "social media," surveillance technologies, and computation. Materials include films, poetry, literature and critical theory.

HMS-560S -- Site-Specific Performance and Institutional Critique

01—Professor Julia Steinmetz, DEK 010; M (2:00 PM – 4:50 PM)

3 credits

Performance is a powerful medium for illuminating the material, social, political, and economic conditions of particular sites and situations.  This hybrid theory-practice course explores the possibilities of site-specific performance, with special attention to site-specificity as an aesthetic strategy for enacting forms of institutional critique. We will explore performances developed for particular locations and physical sites including practices of environmental theater, street performance, site-specific choreographies, land art and architectural interventions, performances of political protest and direct action, and mobile performance forms. Our concept of “site” will also expand beyond the strict parameters of location to encompass performances specifically crafted for media platforms and virtual spaces, as well as community-based and social performance forms.

Our case studies will include works of institutional critique by Andrea Fraser, Michael Asher, Allan Sekula, Hans Haacke, Adrian Piper, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Harun Farocki, Walid Raad, Forensic Architecture, Renee Green, and Group Material as well as historical and contemporary acts of civil disobedience and direct action by the Standing Rock water protectors, Bree Newsome, ACT-UP, Occupy Wall Street, Anonymous, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Mattachine Society. We will also consider site-specific theater and immersive performances by Punchdrunk, This is Not a Theater Company, and Improv Everywhere, site-informed projects by Anna Deveare Smith, and location based performances by Papo Colo, William Pope L, and Eiko & Koma. Informed by history and theory, students will research, propose, and stage their own experiments in site-specific performance. 

HMS-560S – Race, Media, Performance

02—Professor Jayna Brown, MAIN 302; M (2:00 PM – 4:50 PM)

3 credits

This course explores the way ideas of race, gender, and sexuality, as intertwined concepts, are produced and performed through live performance, film, video, recording and various internet incarnations. We consider the circulation of images, ideas, memes and iconographica in historical perspective, from early film, documentary to on line content. We consider these media not only as formations through which dominant cultures reinforce oppressive systems and structures of feeling, but also as formations through which racialized and gendered subjects contest these ideas. 

Our discussions will kick up many questions, including: What are the politics of media circulation? What are the limits of a discourse of representation? To what ends do we seek such representation? What does visibility mean for people of color? What is spectacularizing and what is witnessing? Should certain images circulate at all? Is there such a thing as a public/private divide? Is it always about visuality—do we assume it to be the legitimating medium? What is possible in other sensual realms (aural, haptic?)

HMS-560S – Walkscapes: (Re)mapping a City

03—Professor Jeffrey Hogrefe, NH 209; T (2:00 PM – 4:50 PM)

3 credits

The course focus is on New York City as a potential site of hospitality; which, can be observed, recorded, analyzed and reimagined through material practices in mapping. To assist us to appropriate the city on an experiential level, we will perform several different types of walking methodologies that will enable us to record bodily sensations, to collect anecdotal data, to visualize and verbalize spatial concepts and to conceive of interventions that promote hospitality. We will practice together as a class a genealogy of artist and writer’s walking practices from the historic avant-garde. In order that we may see that the relationship between human behavior and the city is dynamic, the concept of time and the manifestation of the past, present and future will inform our investigations and interventions.

HMS-560S – Creative Practices in Afrosurrealism

05—Professor Jeffrey Hogrefe, DEK 006; Th (9:30 AM – 12:20 PM)

3 credits

Afrosurrealism is a creative practice that spans across time and space for transformations in real lived experience. Through critical reading, writing and interpretive walking practices, the creative practices in Afrosurrealism presented in this class will introduce students to ways to reorder the events and objects of the everyday landscape and language for an alternative to the present. This theory praxis class will operate as a community that gathers collective and individual impressions in the landscape and language of Brooklyn for shared and individual projects. Customizable to accommodate individual approaches, for a final project each student will produce a twelve-page paper with additional media. 

HMS 590A -- Electro-Acoustic Music

01—Professor Chris Vitale, MACH 107; W (2:00 PM – 4:50 PM)

3 credits

This course will teach students how to create and record their own electronic music/sound projects in a recording studio environment. Assuming no prior knowledge of any sort, the course will center on a hands-on exploration of the tools needed for students to create their own electronic music/sound compositions, supplementing this with the basic physics of sound, music theory, songwriting tools, history of electronic music, and various contemporary online resources as helpful. Students will learn how to create their own sounds on various types of hardware and software synthesizers (analog subtractive, FM, granular, wavetable, modular, sampling, etc.), how to process sounds using various effects (eq, compression, reverb, delay, mod fx, distortions, etc.), basics of audio production (field recorders, monitors, mic placement, room treatment), recording and mixing in DAWs (digital audio workstation software platforms, Logic/Ableton), and how to use other tools (MIDI/CV, sequencers, arpeggiators) to organize compositions, including for live performance. Mid-term and final projects will be based around students recording/performing their own compositions, with a goal that students leave the course with the tools to be able to grow their own electronic music/sound practices on their own.

HMS 592A -- Animating Narrative

01—Professor Ellery Washington, NH 303; W (2:00 PM - 4:50 PM)

3 credits

With an eye towards short animation, Animating Narrative focuses on the fundamentals of storytelling and how to employ strong narrative elements in visual work. While analyzing and deconstructing archetypal narrative forms, from classical mythologies to modern stories and post-modern hyperrealist tendencies, students will write and workshop their own stories, emphasizing how these stories might translate to a concise visual format.

HMS-640S – Culture Jamming/Media Activism

04 – Professor Minh-Ha Pham, DEK 010, W (12:30 PM – 3:20 PM)

3 credits

This course provides a scholarly and hands-on exploration of a form of anti-commercial media activism called “culture jamming.” In the classroom, we will survey the history and politics of culture jamming in its many forms including ad busting, media stunts/hoaxes, billboard banditry, parody websites, and on-line viral campaigns. We will consider, in particular, the potential and limits of culture jamming as a means of creating social change in relation to racism, sexism, classism, labor exploitation, etc. Outside class, working individually or in small teams, and armed with a “toolbox” of creative tactics and techniques discussed in class, students will design and implement their own culture jams. Throughout the semester, students will have opportunities to workshop their culture jams with their classmates.

Case studies will be drawn from Adbusters, Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping, Billionaires for Bush, The Yes Men, Guerrilla Girls, Jonah Peretti’s Nike/Sweatshop stunt, Kristina Wong’s mock mail-order bride site BigBadChineseMama.com, Mendi + Keith Obadike’s eBay auction/action “Blackness for Sale,” and damali ayo’s website rent-a-negro.com, etc. Selected readings from Mark Dery, Naomi Klein, Rosemary Coombe and Andrew Herman, and others will provide background in the history, theory, and methods of anti-commercial media activism.

PPS-661S – Deep Listening

01—Professor Julia Steinmetz, NH 210; M (5:00 PM – 7:50 PM)

3 credits

Originally developed by composer Pauline Oliveros, Deep Listening is a practice of “listening in every possible way to everything possible to hear no matter what one is doing.” This practice leads to an extended consideration of the involuntary process of hearing contrasted with the voluntary, selective act of listening. How do we perform listening? What can listening do? This course is an introduction to the practice of sonic meditation, cultivating the deeply listening body through somatic listening, sonic improvisation, and listening by dancing. We will develop and alter our attunement to the sounds of daily life, the sonic register of dreams, and our capacity to imagine and create sounds. Deep listening is engaged as resource for creative practice across media and disciplines, as well as a method for artists working with sound and thinkers interested in sound studies.

HMS 663A -- Postcoloniality and Aesthetics

01—Professor Karin Shankar, MAIN 302; W (2:00 PM – 4:50 PM)        

3 credits

Through film, dramatic texts, performance, visual art, and theory, this course will explore the legacies of colonialism, as well as the sites of exclusion and exploitation created by global capital today. We will ask how aesthetic tools may challenge binary systems of value (First World/Third World, developed/underdeveloped, center/periphery) and allow for the emergence of art and politics of “borderlands” and “in-between worlds.” We will begin by delving into the discourses, film and performance works of prominent artists (circa 1960s-1990s) of independent nations of Asia and Africa to understand the distinguishing characteristics of postcolonial aesthetic praxis (canonical counter-discourses, non-linear temporality, carnival logics, and various “languages” of resistance—hybridity, folklore, silence, rhythm etc.) We will also study the relationships between art and memory following years of sustained political violence and dictatorship in Latin America. Then

we will turn our attention to more recent performance works from within the United States that engage with contemporary global politics and aesthetics of "home," sovereignty, surveillance, and borders.

HMS 696A – Creative Writing for Art and Design Practice

01—TBA, ENGR 117; M (10:00 AM – 11:50 AM)

02—TBA, NH 106; M (2:00 PM – 3:50 PM)

03—TBA, NH 303; T (2:00 PM – 3:50 PM)

04—TBA, NH 211; T (2:00 PM – 3:50 PM)

05—TBA, NH 106; W (2:00 PM – 3:50 PM)

06—TBA, NH 108; W (2:00 PM – 3:50 PM)

07—TBA, NH 116; W (2:00 PM – 3:50 PM)

1 credit

This course is a one-credit writing workshop designed to support artistic and design practice and provide students with creative approaches to meet writing required of them in school and more generally. Students will read and write about visual art, design, dance, money, news and politics, science, poetry. They will also write first person essays and collaborative texts about their own practice of making. Students will complete weekly assignments and cooperatively review work in class. Students will be given the opportunity to publish their work on a class blog or print anthology. For a final assignment, students will prepare a writing portfolio and present a revised artists statement.

PLAB 699 – Poetics Lab

02—Professor Ira Livingston, MAIN 402; W (9:00 AM - 11:50 AM)                                          

3 credits

Poetics Lab is a 3-credit seminar, play-space and transdisciplinary think-tank involving faculty and students (undergrad and grad) from across the Institute.  We will be exploring the topic of PLAY; experimenting, thinking and creating together on a range of relevant problems and provocations, as determined by our mutual interests.  Topics may include play as a design and writing process, digital play and gaming, improvisation, performance, theories of play, and others.  Admission to the class is by application; students will receive the Poetics Lab Fellowship, allowing them to draw on a special $10,000 fund for project expenses and resources.

To apply for admission, contact Poetics Lab Director Ira Livingston at livings@pratt.edu; please include (1) your name, major, class year, email, student number, (2) a very short statement as to how PLAY as a creative process-- and/or how interdisciplinary or collaborative processes-- relate to your own work, and (3), if you wish, any ideas you might have for collaborative projects that relate to the topic at hand.  These might be spur-of-the-moment ideas or things you've been dreaming of doing for a long time, and we welcome ideas that might be experimental, serious, whimsical, absurdist, defiant, activist, epic and impossible, small and easy, etc.