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Course Information

Fall 2020

Faculty have provided information regarding their courses to assist students in selecting courses that are the best fit for their skills and interests. For a full list of Visual Arts courses, please review the Visual Arts Catalog.

VIS 1- Introduction to Art Making- Two Dimensional Practices

Lecture- Remote, Studio Sections- Remote

An introduction to the concepts and techniques of two dimensional Art Making with an emphasis on drawing. Lectures and studio classes will introduce skills and concepts of contemporary drawing practice in relation to a variety of genres such as illustration, comics, advertising, animation and other forms of visualization.

VIS 121C- Art and Bible in Middle Ages: Sign and Design


From the dramatic creation and fall of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis to the spectacular end of the world foretold in the Apocalypse of St. John the Divine, the Biblical text was a potent source of inspiration for artists and architects of the Middle Ages across a wide variety of media and contexts.  This course will look at the many and different ways the Bible was deployed in medieval visual culture--from images to architecture; from narrative and symbolism to ritual.  Our path will be charted by the major monuments of medieval art that take up our theme of the Bible, which will serve as exemplary guideposts in our trajectory through the Middle Ages.


  1. Relationship between Text and Image
  2.  Visual Vocabulary of the Early Church
  3. The Bible, the Classical Tradition and Holy Sites after Constantine
  4. The Bible and the Liturgy
  5.  Byzantine Traditions in Church and Court
  6. Monasteries and Monastic Life
  7.  Gothic Majesty
  8.  The Arena Chapel

VIS 128C- Faces and Powers


    Faces and Powers is a wide-ranging class introducing key aspects of the history and theory of the representation of the face, raising questions about identity, selfhood and the portrait genre. We begin by looking at Non-western, Greek and Roman representations of the face and then examine the problem of the Face of God and the conditions of the secular "grotesque." The class will discuss the Renaissance portrait, and especially challenges to it by the writer Miguel de Montaigne and the eccentric court artist Arcimboldo. We will address physiognomy and related sciences of the face, and the rise of the caricature, as they were developed in the 18th and 19th centuries, and adapted for use in anthropology, criminality and the discourses of insanity and hysteria; as well as examining the role of the face as a metaphor for cities and places.
   The second half of the course proceeds more chronologically, examining the fate of the face in 19th and early 20th century visual art, with special attention to the work of James McNeil Whistler, Paul Cézanne, Vincent Van Gogh, Odilon Redon, Henri Matisse, Fernand Léger, Salvador Dalí, Antoni Tapies, Jean Dubuffet, Andy Warhol, Nancy Burson, Barbara Kruger, Mike Kelley and Tony Oursler.

   We will also consider the role of the face in the development of film and video, especially around the technology of the close-up.

VIS 133A- Studio Topic in Speculative Design

Topic: Cinematic Essay/ Theory and Fiction


Course can apply towards the Emphasis or Advanced Elective requirements for Spec Design Majors

In this course, students will learn studio techniques for the construction of the cinematic essay as a research and speculative design method. The relations between text and the moving image are continuously remade with the advent of new tools and cultural contexts. Similarly, the relations between research versus proposition in design are also in continual shift. That is, both text and the moving image can be used to explicate research or conjecture, one in relation to the other. In the context of speculative design, the distinction between theory and fiction, past and future, can be manipulated in the service of the bigger argument. We will first consider precedents from literature, film, theory, design that have used these in compelling ways. In this course students will develop an original research project, compose a written text, shoot and edit footage, and integrate these into an original cinematic essay. Knowledge of Final Cut Pro (or Adobe Premiere) helpful but not required. Topics will relate to students current research interests and will be developed in close consultation with the Professor. The course is open to students from related majors. 

VIS 141B- Computer Programming for the Arts II


VIS 141b will be delving into the distributed memory parallel compute systems that are the basis of most supercomputing applications, including big data and AI. Topics include, construction and administration of clusters, programming, and creating art projects with clusters.

VIS 147A- Electronic Technologies I

Lecture- Remote, Sections- Remote with some opportunity for in-person support with TA and/or Envison Lab

Students will need Arduino Starter Kit for beginner (~$100), a multi-meter ($10-20 dollars), soldering iron kit ($20-$30) and variable supplies such as small tools and safety glasses. Other purchases may be required. The multi-meter, tools and safety equipment are usually provided by the EnVision lab: at this time vis 147A access to this valuable workspace is planned, EnVison should open with Covid-19 safety precautions in the Fall. Many projects may depend on campus resources like the library as well, so residency is recommended at this time. The lectures will be held in remote format for social distancing, and TA section format is TBD, but could be small group or one on one meetings at the EnVision Lab.

VIS 149- Artificial Intelligence and the Autonomous Future


Topics relevant to computer-based art and music making, such as computer methods for making art/music, design of interactive systems, spatialization of visual/musical elements, critical studies. Topics will vary. May be taken for credit three times. Recommended preparation: VIS 145A or MUS 171. Program or materials fees may apply.

VIS 154- Animated Films: Fairy Tales to Science Fiction (1990-2020)

Will waive VIS 84 prereq for upper division students

Lecture- Remote, Discussion Sections- Remote

Animated films permit to visualize stories that are not grounded in the physical world, so people can fly or leap into a void without any injury but the leap brings them a new wisdom. In the last thirties years, graphic novels, Japanese anime as well as traditional comic strips and fairy tales have transformed the narrative of many animated feature films expanding the audience to adults as well as children. The techniques used by animators has also expanded widely with digital tools that have revolutionized the drawings of the past that used cell animation while recent films are primarily made with computer animation (CGI). The course will focus on the diversity of characters and philosophical musings that animation incite as unlike live action films the audience appeal is primarily triggered by the curiosity to discover new worlds.

VIS 161- Artificial Worlds


Prerequisite: VIS 135 can be waived for students who have completed VIS 30 and VIS 41

What does it mean to design an artifact? How have Modern dichotomies between the natural and the artificial confused what is possible, necessary and valid? Indeed, in the context of the “Anthropocene” what does it mean to compose a planet, accidentally or deliberately? This course will introduce several forms of artificiality, not just as artifacts but as systems that can be redesigned: artificial matter, artificial bodies, artificial food, artificial intelligence, artificial vision, artificial linguistics, artificial environments and ecologies. The course will consider disciplines such as bioengineering, nanoengineering, medicine, computer science as forms of design, but ones that require a social and ecological program for long-term development. Students will develop an original research project on one form of ‘artificiality’ in accordance with their current research interests. Students will develop written, diagrammatic and still/moving image articulations of this research in close consultation with the Professor. As a group we will align each ‘layer’ of artificial forms into composite worlds and systems and develop a meta-analysis of their interrelations, contradictions and potentials. The course is open to students from related majors. 

VIS 172- Motion Design and Visual Effects


Course can satisfy Intermediate Art Making for Media Majors

Artists and filmmakers have been visualizing the impossible since the inception of motion-pictures and photography. Motion design and visual effects allow artists to interrupt reality, instead presenting ingenious illusions that propel and inspire our imaginations. Students will learn foundational motion-graphics and visual effects strategies and theories, including image compositing, matte-design, and fundamentals of 3D modeling and animation.

VIS 179- Intermediate Projects in Media


Course can satisfy Intemediate Art Making requirement for Media Majors

Section A00 with Prof Ruben Ortiz-Torres (VIS 60 prereq)

After the End of Photography

Photography has been presumed dead since digital photography enabled the unnoticed alteration of the direct representation of reality. Artists, photographers and people in general have been doing collage, photomontage and retouched photography in more or less noticeable and unnoticeable ways since long before. In this class we will explore and learn this history from its Dadaist and cubist origins to popular culture, contemporary art and the meme. As well as different techniques from analog to digital photography in order to produce, recycle and distribute images.

Section B00 with Prof Babette Mangolte (VIS 174 prereq)

Building Community and Privacy

The topic of this special project class is about how to build communities that are based on the acquisition of specific knowledge and desires. How to foster this quest will encourage students to collaborate on certain projects as well as producing personal projects. Discussion about how to address multiple approach to building community from the past to the present will be presented during the first weeks of class. The present has seen an increase in the loss of privacy and that aspect of this trend will be discussed as ell in class.

The students can use different practices like photography, video, film and sound as well as installation in a virtual gallery setting. Your final project can be a photo show, a film, a sound piece with photographs or a multi-media installation.