Syllabus

This studio is an introduction to video production, performance, sound design and animation within the artistic context. Through a combination of screenings, discussions, examples, and hands-on tutorials, we will be building a strong base comprehension of the history and issues related to the field. We are all surrounded by media much as we are surrounded by fast-food and the impact on our health is not much different. This course promotes healthy media consumption habits, and cultivates the confidence to cook up your own media.

Carnegie Mellon University School of Art
Term:
Spring 2019
Course number: 60210 Section A
Classroom: CFA 318 – CFA 307
Days / time: Tuesday and Thursday 01:25 – 04:15 PM
Professor: Paolo Pedercini – paolop [at] andrew [dot] cmu [dot] edu
Graduate Assistant: Jules (Julianna) Johnston juliannj [at] andrew [dot] cmu [dot] edu
Office:
School of art 419A – 4th Floor
Office hours: By appointment

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

Upon completion of the course you will be able to:

> Work creatively with digital cameras, and software like Premiere, Audition, Adobe After Effects.

> Approach critical issues related to art and cultural production in the networked age.

> Discuss your works in the context of new media art and in relation with pop culture.

> Question authority and challenge conventions.

REQUIRED MATERIAL

External Hard Drive: In this class you will be working with big video files that can’t be stored on the lab computers or in the cloud. Having an external hard drive (NOT a USB key) will be essential to backing up your work and transporting it from home to school.
LACIE is a reliable manufacturer and produces rugged portable hard drives.
The minimum specifications are: USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt 2, 7200rpm or SSD, 1TB of capacity.
Make sure it works with your personal computer and on the computer labs. If you work on mac and win and it’s empty, format it to exFat (it will erase the contents).

UNITS

Every unit takes about two weeks, and it revolves around a conceptual/technical topic coupled with an assignment.

For each assignment you’ll be asked to write at least a paragraph of text explaining the strategy you adopted (the ones listed below are only suggestions).

Units might change and there may not be time for all the listed screening, what follows is the best case scenario.

Remix

Assignment: create a found footage work by appropriating and remixing audio, text, images, and video material. You are not allowed to shoot new footage or use well known sources. Max duration: 2 min.

Strategies
> Formal: use unconventional editing techniques radically transforming the source.
> Documentaristic: recombine and juxtapose the material in order to make it say something different.
> Music video: edit the material to a found soundtrack (instrumental only)

Topics: Online and offline archives, appropriation, fair use, downloading, ripping, Premier, Kuleshov effect, editing, resolution, codecs, exporting for streaming, basic compositing, time remapping, text on video.

Reading: Hito Steyerl, In Defense of the Poor Image.

Screenings:
Dara Birnbaum – Technology Transformation (1978)
Craig Baldwin – Tribulation 99: Alien anomalies under America (1991) (excerpt)
Matthias Muller Dirk Schaefer – Home Stories (1990)
Martin Arnold – Alone (1998)
Bill Morrison – Decasia (2002) (excerpt)
Takeshi Murata – Monster Movie (2005)

Lyn Elliot – The Boy in the Air (2005)
Arthur Jafa – APEX (2013)
Cory Arcangel – Arnold Schoenberg op 11 – I (2009)
Natalie Bookchin – Mass Ornament (2009)
Chris Beckman – Oops (2011)
Alison Nguyen – Dessert-Disaster (2017)
Peggy Ahwesh -The Falling Sky (2017)
Penny Lane – The Voyagers (2010)

Video Performance


Assignment: Create a performance art piece for the camera, either in a private or public setting, either alone or in collaboration with somebody else. Use no or little editing. Duration 1-5min. If it’s a durational performance document everything but make an edit for critique.

Strategies:
> Rule-based performance: devise a set of rules that can force the performer(s) to challenge behavioral scripts, achieve an aesthetic effect, or push your body or mind to a limit.
> Re-enactment: find an iconic cultural reference you find problematic or under-examined. Re-enact it in a transformative way, incorporating your criticism or proposing a better alternative.
> Prop-driven: create or find an object to act upon, or a costume to act in. Explore its affordances and activate in public or private.

Topics: basic camera functions, importing video, tripod, modes of address, mise-en-scène, risk taking.

Reading: Roselee Goldberg – Performance: A Hidden History (1984).

Screenings:
John Baldessari – I will not make any more boring Art (1971)
Yoko Ono – Cut Piece (1965)
Bruce Nauman – Bouncing in the Corner no1 – (1968)
Dara Greenwald – Bouncing In the Corner #36 DDD (1999)
Marina Abramovic and Ulay – Relation Work (1976-1979)
Martha Rosler – Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975)
Liza Steele – Birthday Suit – with scars and defects (1974)
Paul and Marlene Kos – Lightning (1976)
Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gómez-Peña – The Couple in the Cage (1992)
Francis Alÿs – Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing (1997)
Nick Cave – Soundsuits
Kate Gilmore – anything (2006)
Kate Gilmore – Between a hard place (2008)
Kate Gilmore – with open arms clip (2005)
Jill Magid – Trust (2004)
Will Lamson – Monument Valley Flight Attempt (2007)
William Lamson – William Tell (2006)
Alex Da Corte, Chelsea Hotel No. 2, (2010)
Martine Syms – Notes on Gesture (2015)

Sound Design

Assignment: Create a sound composition incorporating at least one original field recording, at least one original vocal recording (it doesn’t have to be your voice), and as many additional sounds from an assigned library. Duration 1-3 min.

Possible strategies:
> Soundscape: evoke a mood, sonify an imaginary place.
> Narrative: create a composition that develops in time, as in a movie soundtrack.
> Podcast: create a short podcast segment centered around a voice recording but also incorporating sound effects and documentaristic field recordings.
> Musical: if you have music skills, try to turn non musical samples into a composition.

Topics: Field recordings, microphones, sound editing in Audition, finding sounds online, extracting loops, sound effects and filters, noise reduction and voice treatment.

Screenings/Recordings:
Luigi Russolo – Risveglio di una Città per intonarumori (1913)
Kurt Schwitters Ursonate (1932) (performed by Blonk)
John Cage – Water walk (1959)
Delia Derbyshire – Reel-to-Reel Beat Matching clip
Hildegard Westerkamp – Cricket Voice (1987)
Hip Hop Evolution – S1E1 – (excerpt 22’45)
The history of the Amen Break – Mixmag
Matmos – Lipostudio and so on (2001)
Holly Herndon – Chorus – Platform (2015)
Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller – Forest (for a thousand years) (2012)
Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller – Alter Bahnhof Video Walk (2012)
Christina Kubisch – Electrical Walks (2004 – 2017)

Shooting Video


Assignment: create a video piece using original footage but no acting nor voiceover. Use the tripod and avoid camera movements, pay special attention to composition and light. Work in groups of 2, shooting together and editing individually.

Possible strategies:
> Visual essay: convey a theme through loosely connected images
> Formal: come up with a constraints that restrict what can appear on the screen, how you shoot, or how you link sequences together. The constrain can be arbitrary (e.g. each shot must be exactly 1 second, the images share certain visual qualities) or with an embedded theme (e.g. everything is shot in one room / theme: isolation).
> Mood piece: convey an emotional state starting from a soundtrack (instrumental only)
> Location-first: find a place that interests you due to visual, historical, personal, or political reasons.

Topics: knowing your camera, framing and composition, color theory, chroma key and basic video effects in Premiere, analog/digital, film/tv/internet video, self-referentiality,3 point lighting.

Reading: Trevor Paglen, Invisible Images (Your Pictures Are Looking at You).

Screenings:
Dziga Vertov – Man With A Movie Camera (1929)
Our Daily Bread – Nikolaus Geyrhalter (2005) (excerpt)
Doug Aitken – Migration (empire) (2008)
Lenka Clayton and James Price – People in Order (2006)
Everynone – Words (2011)
Cao Fei – Whose utopia (2006) (excerpt)
Rawane Nassif – Turtles Are Always Home (2016)

Compositing

Assignment: insert yourself into a video clip through chroma key (green screen). Try to achieve the most credible results by matching camera angle and lighting.

Topics: chroma key, color correction, masking, basic after effect workflow.

Screenings:
George Melies – L’homme orchestre (1900)
Hermine Freed – Art Herstory (1974)
Peter Campus – Three Transitions (1973)
Nam June Paik – Global Groove (1973)
Zbigniew Rybczynski – Tango (1981)
Michel Gondry – The Chemical Brothers – Let Forever Be (1999)
Marco Brambilla – Evolution (Megaplex) (2009)
Nation Estate – Larissa Sansour (2013)
Rashaad Newsome – Knot (2014) (excerpt)
Shana Moulton – the mountain where everything is upside down (2013)

Animation

Assignment: rotoscope a sequence of images from a Muybridge plate, infusing a personal style, and applying squash and stretch techniques.

Strategies:
> Transformative: can you completely alter the subject while keeping the motion patterns recognizable?
> Style-transfer: give the subject a different texture starting from a reference medium or existing style.

Topics: Disney’s principles of animation, animation in Photoshop, exporting sequence of images, brushes, tablets, adjustment layers, palettes.

Reading (screening): Alan Warburton, Goodbye uncanny valley.

Screenings:
Richard Linklater – Waking Life (2001)
Orgesticulanismus – Mathieu Labaye (2008)
Marina Zurkow – Poster Children (2007)
Joseph Pierce – A Family Portrait (2010)
Tal Kantor – In Other Words (2016)
Naomi Uman – Removed (1999)

Storytelling

Assignment: using any combination of techniques you learned this semester, create an experimental video piece centered around a text. The narrative can be a monologue, a diary entry, an essay, a poem, original or not. The text can be delivered through voice over or words on screen – avoid acting unless you are working with trained actors.

Strategies:
> Surreal: write a screenplay using surreal techniques: automatic writing, randomness, dream diary, exquisite corpse, cut-up.
> Video essay: start from a text (e.g. a manifesto, a diary, a theoretical essay, a non-fictional story), record a voiceover, and assemble the accompanying visuals by association or contrast.
> Personal: start from a personal/biographical theme, a musing or reflection.

Topics:  pre/post production, screenplay, storyboarding, continuity editing, soviet montage theory, “Save the Cat” beats, tropes.

Reading: AAVV, Future Fictions

Screenings:
Maya Deren – Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
Matthew Barney – Cremaster 3 pt.II (2002)
Mika Rottenberg – Squeeze (2010)
Jorgen Leth – The Perfect Human (1967)
Duke and Battersby – Being fucked up (2000)
Sondra Perry – Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation: Number One (excerpt) (2015)
Propeller Group – Television Commercial for Communism (2011)
Nuotama Bodomo – Afronauts (2014)

Jorge Furtado – (Island of Flowers) (1989)
Matt McCormik – the subconscious art of graffiti removal (2001)
The Violence of a Civilization Without Secrets – Adam and Zack Khalil Ojibway (2018)
Oliver Laric – versions (2012)
Hito Steyerl – How not to be seen (2013)
Forensic Architecture – Triple-Chaser (2019)

GRADING

Qualitative feedback during in-class critiques is the most important form of evaluation, but we live in a quantified society so grades need to happen. You will be evaluated on both technical and conceptual execution. Here’s a handy checklist:

> What did you intend to achieve with the work? Was it successful in your own terms?
> Did the class “get it”? Did it spark an interesting conversation during critique?
> Did the project demonstrate an understanding of the medium, its history and the contemporary practices associated to it?
> Did you do original research, looked for references beyond what you’ve seen in class?
> Did the project demonstrate a mastery of the techniques and tools employed?
> Was the project’s form suited to its concept and vice versa?
> Was it formulaic and derivative? Did you take risks?

Readings
Aside of the creative assignments above, you’ll be asked to read a few short text and post a response.

Movies watching
We won’t have time to watch entire full length movies in class but you’ll be required  to watch a movie you haven’t seen every week among the ones I selected on Kanopy and post a short personal response (not a summary).

Final grade composition
15% Remix
15% Video Performance
10% Sound Design
15% Shooting Video
10% Animation
10% Compositing
15% Storytelling
10% Class Participation/readings/movie

POLICIES

> Attendance: three or more unexcused absences result in the drop of a letter grade.

> Absences: you are responsible for what happens in class whether you’re here or not. Organize with your classmates to get class information and material that you have missed.

> Tardiness: students who arrive late over three times without an excuse will have their class participation grade lowered to z e r o.

> Participation: you are invited, encouraged, and expected to engage actively in discussion, reflection and activities.

> Net addiction: you can exist for few hours without tweeting, facebooking, snapchatting, texting, sexting or emailing. Any device for mediated communication is banned during theory classes, crits and discussions. A participation grade reduction will result from being found using them.
During the lab hours you will be allowed to network as long as your behavior is not disruptive.

> Assignments: late assignments are only accepted with permission of instructor. You lose 10% of your points per day late up to a max of 7 days late.

INCLUSIVITY STATEMENT

It is my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well served by this course, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is my intent to present activities that accommodate and value a diversity of gender, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and culture.
I will gladly honor your request to address you by your preferred name and gender pronoun. I commit to make individual arrangements to address disabilities or religious needs (e.g. religious events in conflict with class meetings). Please advise me of these preferences and needs early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my plans and records.
Debate and free exchange of ideas is encouraged but I will not tolerate harassment, i.e. a pattern of behavior directed against a particular individual with the intent of humiliating or intimidating.

CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Being in an art school, you should expect to be exposed to content that challenges your moral, ethical, and aesthetic values. In case of extremely graphic content I will warn the class in advance, but if you have a history of PTSD please let me know privately if there are types of content that are known to act as trauma triggers for you.

STRESS CULTURE

Collaborative work and projects also fulfilling other classes’ requirements are encouraged as long as it makes sense, and the other professors agree.

Official university language: Take care of yourself. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress.

All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at http://www.cmu.edu/counseling/. Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.

COVID 19

In order to attend class meetings in person, all students are expected to abide by all behaviors indicated in A Tartan’s Responsibility, including any timely updates based on the current conditions.

In terms of specific classroom expectations, whenever the requirement to wear a facial covering is in effect on campus, students are expected to wear a facial covering throughout class. Note: the requirement to wear a facial covering is in effect for the start of the Fall 2021 semester. If you do not wear a facial covering to class, I will ask you to put one on (and if you don’t have one with you, I will direct you to a distribution location on campus, see https://www.cmu.edu/coronavirus/health-and-wellness/facial-covering.html). If you do not comply, you will be referred to the Office of Community Standards and Integrity for follow up, which could include student conduct action. Finally, please note that sanitizing wipes should be available in our classroom for those who wish to use them.