Bard College Catalogue 2016-17
Film and Electronic Arts
Jacqueline Goss (director), Peggy Ahwesh, Ben Coonley, Ed Halter, So Yong Kim, Fiona Otway, John Pruitt, Kelly Reichardt, Richard Rowley, Jacqueline Soohen, Richard Suchenski
OverviewCritical thinking and creative work go hand in hand in the Film and Electronic Arts Program, which integrates a wide variety of creative practices with the study of history and criticism of the medium. All production majors take required courses in film history while pursuing filmmaking. A student writing a Senior Project in the history of film or video will have taken one or two production workshops.
Areas of StudyThe program encourages interest in a wide range of expressive modes in film and electronic arts. These include animation, narrative and non-narrative filmmaking, documentary, performance, and installation practices. Regardless of a student’s choice of specialization, the program’s emphasis leans toward neither fixed professional formulas nor mere technical expertise, but rather toward imaginative engagement and the cultivation of an individual voice that has command over the entire creative process. For example, a student interested in narrative filmmaking would be expected to write an original script, shoot it, and then edit the film into its final form. Students are also expected to take advantage of Bard’s liberal arts curriculum by studying subjects that relate to their specialties.
A student’s first year is devoted primarily to acquiring a historical and critical background. The focus in the sophomore year is on learning the fundamentals of production and working toward Moderation. For Moderation, each prospective major presents a selection of work in film/electronic arts or a historical/critical essay of 10 pages. In the Upper College, students choose one of two tracks: production (including screenwriting) or film history and criticism. The junior year is devoted mainly to deepening and broadening the student’s creative and critical awareness; the senior year to a yearlong Senior Project, which can take the form of a creative work in film/electronic arts or an extended, in-depth historical or critical essay.
Students majoring in the program are expected to complete the following courses prior to Moderation: Film 113–114, History of Cinema (or any other introductory-level film history course); two 200-level film or electronic media production workshops; and an additional history course in the program. Upper College students must complete a film-relevant science laboratory, computer science, or social science course; Film 208, Introduction to 16mm Film; a 300-level film or electronic media production workshop; an upper-level film history course; Film 405, Senior Seminar (no credit); and the Senior Project.
Recent Senior Projects in Film and Electronic Arts
- “The Career of Steven Soderbergh:Understanding an Elusive Director in Contemporary Hollywood”
- “The Chamber of the Red Dress,” a live installation involving light, paper pop-up art, and animation
- “Descending Night,” a short documentary about the fine art model Audrey Munson
- “Immunized," a film about the future of food
FacilitiesThe Jim Ottaway Jr. Film Center houses a 110-seat theater equipped with 16mm, 35mm, and digital projection; performance space with digital projection capabilities; shooting studio with control room; computer lab with current Adobe editing software; darkroom; two seminar/ screening rooms; editing suites for sound and video; studios for seniors; and a film archive. Visiting artist talks, screenings, symposia, and other public events are regularly scheduled in the theater. For production classes, students take advantage of the resources of the equipment office and have access to the various workrooms. The program also has an in-house media collection that consists of features, documentaries, experimental films, and past Senior Projects.
CoursesIn addition to regularly scheduled academic and production courses, the program offers advanced study on a one-to-one basis with a professor. Recent tutorials include Film Sound; Buñuel, Almodóvar, and the Catholic Church; and The Archive and Its (Dis)contents.
The descriptions below represent a sampling of courses from the past four years.
Introduction to the Documentary
Topics addressed include the origins of the documentary concept, direct cinema and cinema verité, propaganda, ethnographic media, the essay film, experimental documentary forms, media activism, fiction and documentary, and the role of technology. Vertov, Riefenstahl, Rouch, Flaherty, Pennebaker, Maysles, Wiseman, Spheeris, Moore, and Morris are among the filmmakers studied.
Aesthetics of Film
A broad, historically grounded survey of film aesthetics designed for first-year students. Key elements of film form are addressed through close analysis of important works by directors such as Griffith, Eisenstein, Dreyer, Hitchcock, von Sternberg, Rossellini, Powell, Bresson, Brakhage, Godard, Tarkovsky, and Denis; the reading of critical and theoretical texts; and discussions of central issues in the other arts.
History of Cinema
This one-year sequence provides an introduction to the history and aesthetics of film from a roughly chronological perspective. The first semester traces the medium of film from its origins to the end of the silent era, with an emphasis on American silent comedy, German expressionism, and Soviet and European avant-gardes. The second half begins with crucial films in the transition to the sound film, including works by Lang, Sternberg, Buñuel, Vertov, and Vigo. Discussion then turns to the evolution of the long-take, deep-focus aesthetic in the films of Renoir, Welles, and Mizoguchi; Hollywood genres (Ford, Hitchcock, Hawks, Sturges); the rise of neorealism (Rossellini, DeSica, Visconti); the American avant-garde (Deren, Peterson, Brakhage, Anger, Smith, Conner, Breer); the French New Wave (Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer); the northern tradition in Dreyer and Bergman; Asian filmic practice (Ray, Kurosawa, Ozu); and finally, further European innovations by Antonioni, Varda, Pasolini, and the Taviani brothers.
Survey of Electronic Art
An introduction to the history of moving-image art made with electronic media, with a focus on avant-garde traditions. Topics include video art, guerrilla television, expanded cinema, feminist media, net.art, music video, microcinema, digital feature filmmaking, and video games.
Performance and Video
cross-listed: experimental humanities, theater and performance
How does video technology mediate between on-screen performer and audience? How can artists interested in creating critical and self-reflexive media respond to video’s immediacy and “liveness”? How can performance artists use video playback devices, displays, projectors, and interactive elements to shape and enhance live art? Participants develop ways of using video’s most fundamental property, its ability to reproduce a stream of real-time synchronized images and sounds.
Gesture, Light, and Motion
This filmmaking workshop considers the narrative form through the qualities of gesture, light, and motion on screen, rather than through dialogue and literary approaches to storytelling. Various approaches to visual storytelling are explored, as are solutions to practical and/or aesthetic problems, as they are encountered in the making of a film.
Electronic Media Workshop
In addition to camera and editing assignments designed to familiarize students with digital video technology and various aesthetic and theoretical concepts, participants complete a single-channel video piece.
Introduction to 16mm Film
An introduction to filmmaking with a strong emphasis on mastering the 16mm Bolex camera. Assignments are designed to address basic experimental, documentary, and narrative techniques. A wide range of technical and aesthetic issues is explored in conjunction with editing, lighting, and sound recording techniques.
Special Topics in the History of Cinema
This seminar offers an in-depth examination of a particular period, style, filmmaker, or national school of filmmaking. Weekly screenings of acknowledged and influential masterpieces and related lectures make up the bulk of the course.
Film and Modernism
An exploration of the relationship between a cinematic achievement labeled avant-garde and the major tenets of modernist art, both visual and literary. Many of the films studied were made by artists who worked in other media or whose work manifests a direct relationship with various artistic movements, such as surrealism, futurism, and constructivism.
Graphic Film Workshop
This course explores the materials and processes available for production of graphic film or graphic film sequences. It consists of instruction in animation, rephotography, rotoscoping, and drawing on film. Films screened are primarily concerned with the visual.
Ethnography in Image, Sound, and Text
Film 224 / Anthropology 224
cross-listed: experimental humanities
The relationship between the self and others, the problems and pleasures of cross-cultural encounters, the sensory aspects of culture—all are themes found in a range of productions that might be called ethnographic in nature. This course, taught by an anthropologist and a filmmaker, uses the tools of anthropology (observation, interviews, immersion) to create ethnographies in different media, including film, video, audio, and experimental writing.
Character and Story
An introductory screenwriting course that focuses on character-driven short pieces. In addition to writing and research exercises, there are screenings, discussions, readings, and script critiques. The course covers story structure and story design in relationship to character development.
Film among the Arts
cross-listed: art historyAn exploration of the ways in which cinema has been informed and enriched by developments in other arts. Attention is paid not only to the presence of other arts within the films, but also to new ways of looking at and thinking about cinema through its relationships with other media. Directors studied include Antonioni, Bergman, Duras, Eisenstein, Godard, Hitchcock, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Kubrick, Marker, Pasolini, Resnais, Syberberg, and Watkins, among others.
American Avant-Garde Film
This course focuses on the pioneers of experimental film in the 1940s (Deren, Peterson, Menken, Broughton); the mythopoeic artificers of the 1950s and early 1960s (Anger, Brakhage, Baillie); and the formalists of the late ’60s (Frampton, Snow, Gehr). Attention is also paid to the graphic/collage cinema of artists like Cornell, Conner, Smith, and Breer, and to the anarchic improvisations of Jacobs, Kuchar, and Maclaine. The class concludes in the mid-1970s, touching on the revitalization of storytelling through autobiography (Mekas) and feminist/ critical narrative (Rainer).
Art and the Internet
cross-listed: experimental humanities, sts
This production course considers the Internet as a source of creative material, an exhibition context, and begetter of new art forms. With reference to electronic media history and theory, the class surveys the origins of net.art, hypertext narratives, social networks, surf clubs and group blogging, web video, machinima, hacktivism, online games, online performance, and digital ready-made and assemblage art, among other topics. Students complete independent and collaborative creative projects designed to respond to and engage with Internet technologies and online networks.
A study of video installation as an evolving form that extends the conversation of video art beyond the frame and into live, hybrid media, site-specific, and multiple-channel environments. Presentations, screenings, and readings augment critical thinking about temporal and spatial relationships, narrative structure, viewer perception, and the challenges of presenting time-based work in a gallery or museum setting. Workshops hone technical skills and problem solving.
Students explore the manifestations of Romanticism in cinema from the silent era to the present. Topics include the development of Romantic thought, the impact of 19th-century aesthetic paradigms on 20th- and 21st-century film practices, and changing meanings of Romantic tropes and iconography. The course is synchronized with a program by the Center for Moving Image Arts that features a retrospective of work by Jean-Luc Godard and Werner Herzog.
Cinema under Communism
cross-listed: human rights
The course showcases films made in countries under communist regimes, from the end of World War II until the late 1980s. Some of the works studied are overtly propagandistic (Eisenstein); others are subversive, in the sense of taking a critical stance (films by Forman and Menzel during the Prague Spring, by Makavejev in the former Yugoslavia); and some are not so much political as humanistic. Issues discussed include censorship, propaganda, and dissidence; the response of artists to authoritarian rule; and contrasts to cinema under fascism.
Script to Screen
A live-action film workshop that concentrates on the narrative form as a means of exploring visual storytelling strategies. Students produce a dramatic recreation of the 1929 Hitchcock film Blackmail. Each student produces, directs, and edits a sequence of the feature-length film.
cross-listed: experimental humanities
This course examines the means and creative forms used to make videos and still images for smart phones, YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, Tumblr, and Vine. How do we think about scale of display and duration in these environments? Are there new types of images that exist between moving and still? Does our knowledge of dataveillance change our creative work online? Students also make individual and collective works for these platforms.
War Crimes in Film
Film 252 / Human Rights 252
Subjects explored in this course include legal definitions, as applied in war crime trials; the political use made of historical atrocities; the way the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals changed the way we look at war crimes; and the question of genocide. Japanese, German, French, and American films are screened, including Judgment at Nuremberg and Battle of Algiers. Readings include Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men, Paul Aussaresses’s The Battle of the Casbah, and Seymour Hersh’s My Lai 4.
Writing the Film
Film 256 / Written Arts 256
This course looks at creative approaches to writing short films and dialogue scenes. Writing and research exercises are supplemented with screenings, discussions, readings, and script critiques. The course focuses on researching and developing ideas and structure for stories; building characters; poetic strategies; and writing comedic and realistic romantic dialogue.
Asian Cinematic Modernisms
cross-listed: asian studies
This seminar explores permutations of modernism in and between the cinemas of East, Central, South, and Southeast Asia. Attention is paid to the ways in which directors from different traditions use formal innovations to mediate the dramatic changes taking place in their societies. The course is structured around 35mm retrospectives of India’s Ritwik Ghatak and Japan’s Kenji Mizoguchi.
American Innovative Narrative
An exploration of unconventional, usually lowbudget narrative cinema that moves against the grain of standard populist work. Films studied are primarily from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, when there were a number of dynamic experiments in narrative, but the class also looks at relatively contemporary work. Filmmakers studied include Shirley Clarke, Michael Roemer, Adolfas Mekas, Curtis Harrington, Monte Hellman, Robert Frank, Yvonne Rainer, Charles Burnett, Julie Dash, David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Susan Seidelman, and Jim Jarmusch.
Documentary Film Workshop
A video production workshop for students interested in social issues, reportage, home movies, travelogues, and other forms of the nonfiction film. Working in small crews and individually, students travel locally to a variety of locations to cover particular events, people, and natural phenomena. A final project, which is researched, shot, and edited during the second half of the semester, is required.
Landscape and Media
Designed for junior film and video majors, the course compares film and painted representations of the American landscape to those of television and video. Students are required to complete a short film or video referencing these issues.
Contemporary Narrative Film
This course investigates a select group of prominent narrative filmmakers who are still active and whose reputation has emerged within the last 25 years or so. Screenings include works by Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch, Abbas Kiarostami, Aleksandr Sokurov, Peggy Ahwesh, Claire Denis, Guy Maddin, Michael Haneke, Lars von Trier, Chantal Akerman, Peter Greenaway, and others. Enrollment is limited to Upper College students.
An intensive workshop designed for students who plan to make a film for Moderation or the Senior Project. Participants work on script analysis, staging, and rewrites, with the goal of developing a concise and polished script that serves as the basis for a short film. Prerequisite: Film 256 or the successful completion of a sophomore-level production class.
Film as Art: Classical Theories
A survey of the major theories of film from the “classical period” (largely the first half of the 20th century), when critics and writer/filmmakers were establishing a groundwork for how to think of the medium as an expressive form worthy of serious consideration. Select screenings support readings of texts by, among others, C. S. Peirce, Benedetto Croce, Ferdinand de Saussure, Hugo Münsterberg, Erwin Panofsky, Sergei Eisenstein, Maya Deren, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Hollis Frampton, Andrei Tarkovsky, Walter Benjamin, André Bazin, Susan Sontag, Gilles Deleuze, and Umberto Eco.
Film Aesthetics: The Essay Film
The essay film, a major stylistic trend in nonfiction film production, is a hybrid form that traditionally includes the “voice” of the maker and operates on multiple discursive levels of political argumentation, intellectual inquiry, social engagement, and artistic innovation. Makers discussed include Renais, Farocki, Marker, Ruiz, Straub and Huillet, Baudelaire, Varda, Julien, and Steyerl. The class can be taken for film production or film history credit, with a different set of requirements to be fulfilled.
cross-listed: experimental humanities
Does art made with, on, or about the Internet require new evaluative models? Has the Internet altered the relationship between the artist, artwork, and audience? How should Internet art be curated and exhibited? This course examines critical and philosophical approaches to thinking about art’s relationship to the Internet as well as historical and contemporary examples of Internet art and work from related forms such as literature, cinema, and performance.
Science Fiction Film
A critical examination of science fiction film from the silent era to today, with a special focus on the relationship between science fiction and the avant-garde. Topics include visualizing technology; alien and robot as human countertype; utopia and dystopia; Cold War and post–Cold War politics as seen through science fiction; camp and parody; counterfactuals and alternative history; and the poetics of science fiction language.
Science Fiction and Adaptation
Students in this workshop explore the sci-fi genre and develop an original or adapted screenplay. Topics may include a wide range of possibilities within the genre, from biological threats to killer robots. Students read classic science fictions for adaptation exercises and analyze such films as La Jetée, Solaris, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Blade Runner. Prerequisite: Film 256 or completion of a sophomore-level production class.
In the Archive
cross-listed: art history
Starting with readings from Derrida, Benjamin, Enwezor, and Sekula, the class considers the impulse to preserve, the politics of collections, collective memory, and issues of guardianship and access. Various preservation models are examined through visits to film archives, discussions with film preservationists, and screenings. As a group, the class establishes dossiers (interview, filmography, bibliography, catalogue of works) on a number of contemporary film/ video makers, and begins to form an archive of significant experimental works and related materials.
Hou Hsiao-hsien and East Asian Cinema
cross-listed: asian studies
This seminar looks closely at the work of Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien, whose films feature formal sophistication and precise observation of everyday experience. Special attention is paid to Hou’s treatment of history, film style, and the relationship between his work and that of other filmmakers, including Edward Yang, Fei Mu, Zhang Yimou, Jia Zhangke, Yasujir-o Ozu, Hirokazu Koreeda, Robert Bresson, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Olivier Assayas.
cross-listed: art history
An exploration of the aesthetics of color in cinema and the related arts. Topics include the development and impact of color processes; the perceptual, cultural, and historical registers of color; changing theoretical approaches to color and light; the relationship between figuration and abstraction; the preservation, restoration, and degradation of filmic color; and the effects of digital technologies and methodologies.
Stereoscopic 3D Video
This course introduces methods for producing three-dimensional video using stereo cameras and projection systems that exploit binocular vision. The class examines moments in the evolution of 3D technology and historical attempts at what André Bazin called “total cinema,” considering the perceptual and ideological implications of apparatuses that attempt to intensify realistic reproductions of the physical world. Creative assignments challenge students to explore the potential of the 3D frame while developing new approaches to shooting and editing 3D images. Weekly screenings of a broad range of 3D films.
Sound and Picture Editing
The focus of the course is on the principles and practices of sound design in motion pictures. Through analysis of existing narrative sound works and through the student’s own sound creations, the class examines the mutual influence of sound and picture. Over the semester, students have the opportunity to thoroughly explore the editing process and discover how sound comes into play when making a cut.
Students consider approaches to storytelling and the narrative form with the goal of identifying the subtext within given dialogue scenes. They locate “the lie” in the spoken word and “the truth” through visual indicators, and explore the impact of camera placement, blocking, use of narrative beats, and editing on a particular scene. They also discover how their filmmaking choices support, undermine, or contradict what their characters are saying.
cross-listed: experimental humanities
In this course, students create cinematic works using digital technologies that simulate the real world and replace/enhance live production environments. Topics include 3D modeling and animation, machinima, motion-capture, 2D to stereoscopic 3D postconversion, and other methods for compositing real and virtual sources. Readings reflect on the psychological and cultural impacts of the increasingly prevalent use of computer-generated imagery in contemporary media. Prerequisite: previous course work in video production or permission of the instructor.
An exploration of the history, theory, and practical concerns of film curating, both in and out of the context of the art world. The course looks at precinematic technologies of the projected image; various models employed in the silent era; early alternatives to the Hollywood system, including cine-clubs, “small cinemas,” and road shows; cinematheques, film festivals, and microcinemas; expanded cinema and projection performance; different attempts to introduce film and video into spaces traditionally devoted to visual art; and the role of collections and archives.
Auteur Studies: Hitchcock, von Sternberg, Powell
The course is oriented around three European-born directors who began in the silent era: Alfred Hitchcock, Josef von Sternberg, and Michael Powell. These filmmakers returned to the same genres and forms repeatedly over the course of their careers, and mobilized the unique resources and production conditions of the commercial film industries of their countries to make deeply personal statements. Key films by each director are studied, using 35mm prints; supplementary readings include works of criticism, history, and literature.
Asia in Western Eyes
cross-listed: asian studies, human rights
This course focuses on Western movies featuringAsia (defined as any country between Indiaand Japan) and Asians. The idea is to show howstereotypes and cultural prejudices, not all ofthem negative, change with time. These includethe “exotic” Asian, “spiritual” Asian, “wise man”Asian, “Geisha” or Madame Butterfly Asian, and Asia as a treacherous place full of potential violence.Screenings include Jean Renoir’s The River, Max Ophüls’s Yoshiwara, and Nicholas Ray’s 55 Days at Peking.
This seminar, a requirement for all program majors, allows students working on Senior Projects to share methods, knowledge, skills, and resources. The course includes sessions with visiting film- and videomakers, who discuss their processes and techniques; a life-after-Bard skills workshop; a review of grant opportunities; and critiques of works in progress.