Fall 2020 – Performance and Performance Studies MFA
Required Courses and Electives

Required Courses

First Year:


PPS 650A – Introduction to Performance Studies

01 – Julia Steinmetz; Tu (9:30 AM–12:20 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to performance studies and theory. We will develop basic theoretical, critical, literary and performance skills that will improve understanding of creative work in performance studies and cultural studies. We will put theories into practice by presenting performed work every other week. This class is foundational for the Performance and Performance Studies program.

PPS 651A – Introduction to Performance Practice

01 – Jennifer Miller; Th (2–4:50 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

This class explores the art, play, technique and rigorous fun involved in bringing a strong presence to the unique space of performing. The class begins with a focus on physical and vocal training, moving through improvisation, generating material, and working with prepared material. Time and timing, space, tenderness, chaos, intention, perception, lying, and the imaginary are examples of the kinds of ideas we will be using as tools to move us into exploratory spaces.

PPS 649S – Workshop with Visiting Artist in Residence

01 – TBD; M (5–7:50 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

In this course, students of performance and performance studies will have the opportunity to work with a visiting artist for a 5-week session during the fall or spring semester, and for the remainder of the semester on (1) studying the work of the visiting artist and other relevant work prior to the visit, and (2) developing relevant performance and/or critical work of their own. This class will consist of lectures, seminars, studio work and studio visits. May be repeated for credit with new visiting artists; Performance and Performance Studies MFA students are required to take three semesters.

PPS 550A – Performance Across Cultures

01 – Jenny Romaine; Th (9:30 AM–12:20 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

This class is designed to introduce students to theater and dance companies in New York City performing in a wide range of international styles and traditions. The course is meant to offer students wide knowledge-- across a range of cultures and communities-- of what performance is. We will look at traditional forms as well as contemporary work. Most classes will feature lectures and demonstrations by guest artists. We will watch samples from their work, hear about their process and be led in some embodied work of our own. Students will participate in workshops and complete weekly readings and independent projects.



PPS 652A – Critical Writing for Performance and Performance Studies

01 – Julia Steinmetz; Th (2–4:50 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

In this course, we will examine and practice the analytical, critical, and writing skills needed to compose essays suitable for publication. In workshops we will engage in writing exercises, peer evaluation, revision, and editing with a focus on completing one review essay and journal article for publication. We will learn how to create pressing arguments, to integrate textual and other evidence, and to engage in sustained reflection. We will review relevant readings in Performance Studies in order to participate in current debates within the field. By doing so, we will learn how to make important disciplinary Interventions in the field of Performance Studies through writing.

PPS 659A – Thesis /Project Workshop I

01 – Jennifer Miller; W (5–7:50 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

This course will help students prepare for the production of a final projector thesis. The class will be run as a workshop for student work, facilitated by a faculty member. Students will engage with readings relevant to their topics; examine relevant critical texts; select a thesis advisor; assemble an annotated bibliography, a precis and literature review; prepare outlines and preliminary or preparatory statements of purpose, and begin the work at hand. Instructor and peers will respond to work in progress and help the student reach the point at which they can take the project or thesis to fruition during the current or following semester.

PPS 649S – Workshop with Visiting Artist in Residence

01 – TBD; M (5–7:50 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

In this course, students of performance and performance studies will have the opportunity to work with a visiting artist for a 5-week session during the fall or spring semester, and for the remainder of the semester on (1) studying the work of the visiting artist and other relevant work prior to the visit, and (2) developing relevant performance and/or critical work of their own. This class will consist of lectures, seminars, studio work and studio visits. May be repeated for credit with new visiting artists; Performance and Performance Studies MFA students are required to take three semesters.


HMS 631S – The Border Event: Art and Theory on the Edge

04 – Karin Shankar; W (9AM–11:50 AM)
3 credits

This interdisciplinary seminar explores conceptual approaches to borders, borderlands, and border identities through art and theory. Taking different border contexts into consideration—from checkposts on clandestine Mediterranean migration routes, to gated communities in Sao Paolo; from Gaza, to the US- Mexico border—students will grapple with key concepts in critical refugee, diaspora, migration, transnational, and queer and feminist studies to examine questions of territoriality, citizenship, (im)mobility, and imaginaries of openings and closures. Through engagement with theory, literature, art, film, and performance works, we will gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which borders transform, disappear, and multiply. Assignments for this course include a mix of analytical writing and creative and project-based exercises. Theorists and artists that we will consider this semester include: Jacques Derrida, Giorgio Agamben, Gloria Anzaldua, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Seyla Benhabib, Jose Munoz, Postcommodity, Ursula Beimann, Tania Bruguera, Ai WeiWei, Bhukra Khalili, amongst others. 

PPS 660S – Artists' Sustainability

01 – David Thomson; W (9:30 AM–12:20 PM) ONLINE
02 – David Thomson; F (9:30 AM–12:20 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

We have consistently seen that artists are lacking certain skill sets, tools and resources that would empower and strengthen their ability to create work, develop personal stability and envision longevity in a realistic way. How can we approach these issues in a holistic way that addresses the person and well as the artist? This course covers a range of topics that addresses the ability to create a quality of life, share access to resources, and redefine concepts of success. This class is open to artists in all artistic disciplines.  Covered topics include: Healthcare & Personal Wellness, Financial Literacy, Housing & Homeownership, Artist Statements & Mission, Fundraising & Grant writing, Residencies, Time Management, Conflict Resolution, and Principles for building a sustainable life.

PPS 660S – Feminist Performance:  From #metoo to F-you

04 – Julia Steinmetz; Th (5–7:50 PM)
3 credits

Explicitly feminist performance art turns 50 this year, and it is more fierce, necessary, and relevant than ever. Moving from the gallery, the theater, and the nightclub to the courthouse, the media, and the streets, feminist performance speaks a language that is at once aesthetic and activist, personal and political, symbolic and material. From the #MeToo movement to feminist anthems voicing a collective “F*** you,” this course looks at both the performance of politics in the public sphere and the politics embodied by feminist performance in art, theater, and music.   

This course will combine readings of feminist theory with immersion in feminist performance practices from 1970 to the present; these will include performances by Yoko Ono, Yayoi Kusama, Andrea Fraser, Adrian Piper, Pauline Oliveros, Linda Montano, Nao Bustamante, Tania Bruguera, Hannah Wilke, Valie Export, Cassils, Jibz Cameron, Xandra Ibarra, Autumn Knight, Paula Vogel, Bikini Kill, Janelle Monae, and Tourmaline, among others. We will attend exhibitions and live performances, host a collective Judy Chicago inspired dinner party, write and publish a collection of manifestos, and develop original performance pieces culminating in an evening of solo and collaborative final performances. 

PPS 661S – Human (Dis)figuration

05 – Marielle Pelissero; Tu (5–7:50 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

Is there any possible thing like a proper image of "The Human being"? How and why do artists insistently work on disfiguration, especially in live performance? What are the stakes of human (dis)figuration today, when it comes to issues of technology, ecology, or postcolonial humanity? This seminar will explore this topic through a combination of readings and workshops. 

Reading a series of excerpts, we will look at the history of (dis)figuration in performance, from masquerades and rituals to posthuman strategies. Considering disfigurations as performative strategies to resist normative power and authority of human figuration, we will discuss the current stage of this history, looking at performance artists such as Ana Mendieta, Tanaka Min, Orlan, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, and Narcissister. Our critical lens will combine Michel Foucault’s Order of things, Denise Da Silva’s Towards a global idea of race, Hortense Spiller’s concept of 'flesh' and other aspects of theory from black studies.  A workshop will invite students to experiment on how to blur, distance, and trouble the human figure in live performance, through tactics such as prothesis, costumes, and makeup FX. Assessment will rely on creative responses to the subject matter, in-class discussion, and critical writing (paper or journal).

PPS 9603 – Performance Studies Internship

01 – TBD, by appointment ONLINE
3 credits

This course allows Performance and Performance Studies MFA students to work as interns in venues relevant to their studies and career paths. and for the internship to appear on their transcripts. The proposed assignment and a specific program of hours and supervision have to be approved by the Internship Coordinator.

HMS 501S – Future Worlds & Other Science Fictions

01 – Jayna Brown; Tu (9:30 AM–12:20 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

In this class students will explore science fiction, art, music, film and video that envision other worlds and ways of being. Some of the works we consider are wild bio-technological fantasies. Others are dystopian critiques, as they imagine worlds destroyed by the impact of humans on the planet. Others contemplate humanity itself: the possibilities of biological life, human ‘nature,’ and subjectivity. All of these speculative aesthetic practices and philosophies profoundly disrupt notions of space, time, and matter. They create future and other dimensional worlds and forms of existence that reach outside our current paradigms of knowledge.

HMS 540E – Poetics of Cinema

01 – Amy Guggenheim; M (2–4:50 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

In this course we will view films that invent a poetic cinematic vocabulary to represent the strange, unpredictable and counter-intuitive behavior we call reality.  We will also use exercises and creative projects to question and utilize the tools and perspectives of the same event, montage, blurring of memory, reality, past and present, etc. to become familiar with these possibilities in our own work as artists and designers.  Selected works include, Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon”, Cronenberg’s “The Fly”. Sally Potter’s 'Orlando', Hiroshi Kurosawa’s 'Bright Future', Bergman’s “Persona”, Michael Haneke,  "The Time of the Wolf" Claire Denis, "Intruder and Beau Travail", and Wong Kar Wai’s Chung King Express.  Class discussions will also be informed by readings from the Poetics of Cinema, and The Emergence of Cinematic Time.

HMS 541A – Global Cinema

01 – Amy Guggenheim; M (9–11:50 AM) ONLINE

In this course, we will explore visions of iconic contemporary filmmakers from global cinema notable for their innovative cinematic representation of modern life. Through their works, selected for their capability to go beyond national and cultural boundaries, we will examine how the invention of new cinematic language is used evoke poignant insight into human experience, and potentially bear influence on our perceptions of reality. In modules organized by genres, we will develop methods of analysis through in-depth formal and thematic study of several films, extend our investigation in small research projects by students, and based on these studies and integrate theory with practice in applied creative workshops. A guest filmmaker may be invited to hold a post-screening master class with students. Advance viewing of films is expected. Requirements include a midterm essay project and a final creative or theoretical project based on the films from the course.

HMS 590A – Electronic Music Production

01 – Chris Vitale; W (2–4:50 PM) ONLINE
02 – Chris Vitale; W (5–7:50 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

This course will introduce students to the theoretical and practical tools needed to produce electronic music in a studio environment. Students will learn basics of the physics of sound and music theory, and from there learn about the history and practice of electronic music production. In the process students will learn how to program analog subtractive hardware synthesizers, various forms of digital samplers and synthesizers (FM, additive, wavetable, granular, etc.), learn about modular synthesizers, use modern digital studio recording tools (ie: DAWs including Logic and Ableton, various plugin instruments and effects), how to apply various effects in recording processes (ie: reverbs, delays, compressors), music production tools (ie: sequencers, arpeggiators, chording tools), and basics of audio recording (ie: sound treatment, mic placement, etc.). Mid-term and final projects will allow students to experiment producing small compositions of their own, with a goal of students leaving the course with the tools to be able to compose and grow their own electronic musical practice on their own. 

HMS 592A – Animating Narrative

04 – Ellery Washington; M (2–4:50 PM) ONLINE
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 630S – Photographic Theory:  Race, Gender, Imperialism

01 – Jon Beller; Th (2–4:50 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

This course considers the exponential expansion of photographic practices over the last two centuries through the lens of the most recent theoretical writings on photography. For the first few weeks we consider some foundational texts: Talbot, Bazin, Benjamin, Barthes, Sontag, before looking at the post-visual turn writings of Vilem Flusser, Nicole Fleetwood, Simone Browne, Tina Campt, Ariella Azoulay, Kaja Silverman, Jacquelyn Goldsby, Lorna Roth, Lily Cho, Michele Pearson Clarke, Aria Dean and many others. Particular attention will be paid to escalating role of the photographic image (the "technical image") in the political organization of society ranging from the experiential and the psychic to the geopolitical and genocidal. Our study entails a rigorous elaboration of the complex relationship between photography, racialization, imperialism, gender, sexuality, commodification, financialization and the ubiquitous cybernetic interface known as the screen. Final projects: A theoretically informed research paper and/or a photographic project.

HMS 630S – Freedom Archipelagos: Black/Women/LGBT*/Immigrant Perspectives on Arts, Language, and Spacetime

03 – Layla Zami; Tu (2–4:50 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

How do creative thinkers and artists identifying as Black and/or Women and/or LGBT* and/or Immigrants invent(ed) and imagine(d) freedom in the 20th and 21st centuries? What can we learn from minoritarian perspectives on major topics of society? And what do archipelagic islands have to do with cultural theory? In this course, students will learn about feminist, diasporic, and decolonial perspectives on arts, culture, language, space and time. We will sharpen our interdisciplinary skills, engage in discussions and embodied research, and expand our cultural horizons. Students will creatively reflect upon readings, music, videos, and art works. The class also includes occasional guest artists and the production of a collaborative podcast.

HMS 630S – Situationists:  Adventures in Psychogeography

04 – Ethan Spigland; Tu (5–7:50 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

A revolutionary, theoretical, political, aesthetic, social movement that originated in Europe in the late 1950s, the Situationist International was concerned with conducting a penetrating critique of post-war capitalist consumerism. This course will seek to critically address and re-frame the relevance of the SI within the context of contemporary debates surrounding aesthetics, media, urban studies, the notion of everyday life, and the transformation of urban space by the international forces of globalization. Along the way we will examine such Situationist notions/practices as the dérivedétournement, constructed situations, and psychogeography. Students will be encouraged through practical exercises to apply these practices to their own contemporary urban experience. We will read key Situationist texts such as Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle and Raoul Vaneigem’s Revolution of Everyday Life and screen Lettrist and Situationist films by Debord and others. We will also look at contemporary interventionist movements that that have been influenced by the SI’s spirit of revolutionary urbanism.

HMS 631S – Critical Game Design

01 – Basem Aly; W (5–7:50 PM) HYBRID
3 credits

This course is designed for highly motivated active learners interested in exploring both the theory and practice of game design. You will rapidly prototype successive iterations of a game as you grapple with overarching ideas about play. Play is a fundamentally human trait manifested in spontaneous creativity, transgressive or appropriative actions, or the suspension of conventional norms. Playfulness is an attitude ideally suited to critical inquiry, while games are rule-based arenas for experimentation and social rituals of all sorts. Students will have ample choice in determining the focus of their classroom experience. You will mix theory and practice, analog and digital, theme and mechanics to your own specifications. No prior experience in game design or programming is necessary, and the extent of your technical, artistic or theoretical focus will be up to you. Ideally you'd be interested in exploring new ground, traveling just beyond your comfort zone, and prepared to have fun. 

Students will develop the ability to design, prototype and critique both digital and analog games through various lenses of critical theory. You will learn to use game design engines like Unity3D to rapidly prototype and play-test each others’ games. Students will deploy theories undergirding procedural rhetoric and playful engagement embodied in games such as enactments of power, fairness, narrative, and simulation. You will be assessed on the basis of your individual progress in learning implementing, and risk-taking as you develop games rooted in your own interests and experience. 

HMS 631S – The Art & Politics of Public Writing

02 – Minh-Ha Pham; W (12:30–3:20 PM) ONLINE
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 631S – Mutating Cities

03 – Youmna Chlala & Christoph Kumpusch; Tu (2–4:50 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

Mutating Cities is a spatial investigation of contemporary cities as sites of exchange. How is the periphery addressed in architecture film, art, performance and literature? How do we understand malleable and transient boundaries? What are the socio-economic and geo-political effects of cultural production? In this course, we will use research, drawing, video, discussion & writing to develop experiential work about historical, contemporary and future mutating cities.

HMS-631S – Race, Media, Performance

05 – Jayna Brown; M (9:30 AM–12:20 PM) ONLINE
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 631S – Money as Medium:  Crypto-Economic Design

06 – Jon Beller, ENGR 115; Th (5–7:50 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

This class reviews highlights of the history of the emergence of the money form and the social relations which constitute it in order to consider the importance of crytpocurrencies as a new medium. We will analyze existing and conceivably possible cryptocurrencies from the standpoints of both the theoretician/political-economist and the designer. Course keywords include: money, capital, value, production, circulation, representation, attention economy, post-fordism, cognitive capitalism, blockchain, securitization, derivative, colonization, racial capitalism, computational capital. Readings include Karl Marx, Rosa Luxembourg, Robert Miester, Benjamin Lee, Posner and Weyl, Satoshi Nakamoto, Vitalik Buterin, and contemporary publications in Medium, Coindesk, and other venues publishing on crypto. Crypto case studies include Bitcoin, Ethereum, Economic Space Agency (platform cooperative), Sphere (global performance), Smashboard (feminist/anti-patriarchy) and ArtWork (anti-racial-capitalist). Students are strongly encouraged to bring their own interests, knowledge, references and socio-political aspirations regarding this nascent field of endeavor. Final course project can be a theoretical paper or a crypto-economic design project.

HMS 640S – Deleuze, Cinema & Time

01 – Chris Vitale; Tu (5–7:50 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

This course will pose the question of the relation between cinema and time. Starting with philosophies of time, emphasizing that of Henri Bergson and Gilles Deleuze, the course will examine how cinema has been theorized in relation to time, and how various works of cinema explore time in different ways. Along with various supplemental readings, Gilles Deleuze's crucial work Cinema II: The Time-Image, will help guide much of the course along the way, moving from works of early cinema to various works of the international post-war avant-garde, to more contemporary experiments, including those of recent time-travel cinema. 

Films to include works by Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Chantal Ackerman, Ozu Yasujiro, Samira Makmalbaf, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Roberto Rosselini, Andrei Tarkovsky, Andy Warhol, Alain Resnais, Chris Marker, Maya Derren, and much more. 

HMS 696A – Creative Writing for Art and Design Practice

01 – TBD; M (10–11:50 AM) ONLINE
02 – TBD; M (2–3:50 PM) ONLINE
03 – TBD; Tu (2–3:50 PM) ONLINE
04 – TBD; W (2–3:50 PM) ONLINE
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.

CHI 501 – Elementary Chinese I

01 – Echo Sun; M/W (6:30–7:50 PM) ONLINE
3 credits

This is a course in conversational Mandarin, including basic grammar and basic functional vocabulary of the Chinese language, and aspects of Chinese culture.