Attendance and Participation
We need everyone to show up regularly, on-time, and prepared to ensure that we have sufficient time for discussion and that everyone is contributing meaningfully to the class exhibition project. You will be permitted one excused absence (“excused” means that you must have contacted me prior to class to inform me of your absence) for the semester. Additional excused absences – and any unexcused absences – will negatively affect your grade. More than three absences, excused or unexcused, will result in failure of the course; if you anticipate needing to miss several classes, you are advised to drop the course. A pattern of late arrivals is likewise detrimental.
I do not require you to complete weekly reading responses, as I do in most of my other graduate courses, simply because your work on the individual and group projects should keep you plenty busy. That said, I still do encourage you to take time before class to annotate the weekly readings, abstract them, and reflect on how they contribute to our understanding of materiality.
Because our final project will be an online exhibition, we’ll spend some time at the beginning of most classes reviewing and critiquing some exemplary exhibitions, both onsite and online, encompassing the world of art, history, and science exhibition. Each student must present one review over the course of the semester. In choosing your exhibition, you’re welcome to draw inspiration from our Exhibition Gallery on the website, or you can make your own selection; you’re encouraged to choose an exhibition that both raises practical questions that we’ll need to address as we curate our own exhibition and pertains, ideally, to the readings for the week, or more generally to our overarching class themes.
Start by quickly strolling through your chosen site to get a sense of its overarching theme or objective, its general aesthetic and presentational style, the types of individual exhibits it includes, as well as how they’re positioned in relation to one another. Then take some time to closely examine each piece in the exhibition. Ask yourself these questions: What seems to be the overall mission of the exhibition? Where and when is/was it hosted, who curated it and funded it, what contributors are/were involved – and how does all of this make a difference? How is each piece introduced, analyzed, and contextualized? What linguistic registers, styles of communication, rhetorical and pedagogical strategies, and modes (media) of communication are used? Who are the exhibition’s audiences? How is each piece materially presented: what lighting, framing, cropping, and other display choices were made? What are the relationships between the material and immaterial dimensions (e.g., the physical object vs. its photographic or textual representation, the concretization of an abstract concept, the material exhibition of immaterial artworks, etc.) of the exhibition? What is this exhibition saying about the (im)materiality of media? And what practical lessons, both positive and negative, can we learn from this exhibition?
Before class on your presentation day, post your ~1000-word review to our class blog. Please incorporate relevant media (with appropriate captions) and proper citations. You’ll have five minutes for your individual presentation, but then we’ll take 10 or 15 minutes to discuss all the week’s presentations collectively (and you can take comfort in knowing that your fleshed-out review is posted online for others to reference later!). You’re encouraged to show photos, videos, audio, catalogues, guides, maps, etc., but please be sure to have this material loaded/booted/hung/distributed before class begins so we can start on time. Your review is worth 20% of your final grade.
Individual Exhibit Proposals
You should begin thinking about potential topics early in the semester, and you’re welcome to explore project ideas on our class website or in conversation with me and your classmates. Before our class on March 26 I’d like for you to submit via Google Docs a formal 900- to 1200-word project proposal (you’ll then post your revised proposal to our course blog; see below*). This proposal must include (1) a problem statement, research question, or topic description; (2) a discussion of your topic’s relevance, significance, and/or timeliness (in other words, why is it worth studying, and why now?); (3) a discussion of your proposed research methodology, including primary resources you plan to consult; and (4) a tentative bibliography containing at least ten sources, half of which must be scholarly sources. You’ll be expected to deliver a two-minute presentation in class on the day your proposal is due. You’ll have an opportunity to revise and resubmit the proposal if necessary. Your proposal is worth 15% of your final grade.
*After you’ve received feedback on your project proposal, and before April 6, please post to our class website (choose the “Project Abstracts” category) a 150-word (maximum!) synopsis of your proposed project. Please explain succinctly the things and theories you plan to address and the exhibition formats and strategies you might like to employ.
A Word of Advice About Process:
You should consider maintaining a dossier of the secondary and primary research you conduct throughout the semester. This dossier would essentially bevyour “multimodal” notebook or research database; it would show all the “behind-the-scenes” work you’ve done that either will or won’t manifest itself in your exhibition. The dossier could contain abstracts of relevant secondary sources you’ve read/viewed/listened to; scans of original documents you’ve discovered; clips of relevant time-based media you’ve either collected or created; etc. And it’s imperative that each item be thoroughly cited and annotated, since you will be expected to cite your sources in your final exhibitions.
Even though our final projects represent an alternative to traditional text-based scholarship, text (written, typed, audio- or video-recorded, etc.) will still be an integral component of our work. Your exhibition text will still have to adhere to the standards of written scholarship (e.g., based on rigorous research, citing sources properly, etc.), but it should be written to serve our distinct purposes and audiences (e.g., do we want dozens of distracting footnotes, or an extensive lit review?). Please share with me via Google Docs, no later than April 30 (earlier is better!), a roughly 600-word sample of text that you’ll be using in various segments of your exhibition – in the overall introduction; in the introductions to and transitions between various sub-sections; or in navigational cues (particularly if you’re designing a structurally complex project). Please label the various segments so I know how they’ll be used in your final project. This text should demonstrate that you’ve carefully considered how to contextualize the material “on display” and how to manifest an argument and/or proposition in “exhibition form.”
While the point of this submission is to allow you to receive feedback and revise accordingly, the work you submit should still reflect careful planning and polish. The submission is worth 20% of your final grade.
You’ll work independently to create your own final project, but you’re welcome to organize into groups based on shared topical (e.g., media objects in the workplace, forms of recorded music, filing technologies) or theoretical (e.g., obsolescence, miniaturization, immaterial labor, reuse) interests and collectively curate and “install” an online exhibition.
Regardless of whether you choose to work independently or collectively, you should decide upon an institutional identity (are you an arts organization featuring creative work, a science education organization, a history museum, etc.?) and choose a site platform (e.g., blog, Flash site, Omeka site, etc.) with a physical and symbolic architecture that suits your purposes. Consider how your exhibition’s form and content support one another.
All exhibitions are to be completed by Monday, May 7, although presentations of these final projects will extend across our final two class meetings. All students are expected to be present for both weeks. I will provide more details on these presentations as the end of the semester draws near. The exhibition is worth 40% of your final grade.
In addition, by Monday, May 14, at 8pm, you are expected to submit, via Google Docs, a 600-word self (and, if applicable, group) assessment. You should assess your project’s success in meeting our class’s and your own evaluative criteria, discuss your work process, and, if applicable, address the contributions of each group member, including yourself. Your assessment is worth 5% of your final grade.