There is no denying that in the digital age our lives are increasingly mediated by images. From print to social media, from billboards to online advertisements, from smart home to virtual interfaces, visual media saturate both our online and offline existences with images. Visual culture, however, ”is not simply the total amount of what has been made to be seen” (Mirzoeff, 2016:10); rather, it is an assemblage between what is visible and what is invisible. Visual culture is both socially determined and politically contested; marketed and debated; subjected to norms and productive of resistances. While exploring a wide range of visual media, including painting, photography, advertising, online videos and film, the seminar will focus on the production and reception of visual culture in the late modern and contemporary society. The first half of the seminar will examine the production of visuality through visual media and techniques (as diverse as photojournalism, selfies, and painting), while the second half will be concerned with the ”construction of visuality as a social field” (Mitchell, 1995:211). Key themes and concepts we will address in the course include:
Mechanical and digital reproduction of images
Self-representation, from portraits to selfies
The (art) history of vision
Spectatorship and the gaze
Critique of Mass Culture
Image and power
The main goals of the seminar are
to gain an understanding of visual culture as both an object and a field of study in its own right,
to develop a critical perspective toward the visual culture of the late modern and contemporary society, and
to sharpen the vocabulary and analytical tools to discuss and analyze images.
There will be mandatory weekly readings including seminal theoretical texts from the fields of philosophy, media theory and art history, as well as excerpts from introductions and readers of visual culture. Videos and visual content will also be discussed and analyzed in class.