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COURSE NAME: "Special Topics in Modern and Contemporary Art: Film in Art From the 1950s to Today"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2020

INSTRUCTOR: Ilaria Gianni
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 11:30-12:50 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: One previous course in Art History or permission of the instructor

Specialized courses offered periodically on specific aspects of the art of the modern and contemporary world. Courses are normally research-
led topics on an area of current academic concern.
May be taken more than once for credit with different topics.



The course will focus on video art from experimental visual art practices of the mid 20th century to the present. Adopting an overarching chronological format, the course will examine the gradual transformation of the filmic medium and its development into an independent creative, formal and conceptual medium. The course will also address how contemporary video art is intended as large-scale installations, and how multi-screened works dialogue with existing museum spaces, often questioning the idea of traditional display. The course will finally take in consideration a new generation of artists, often defined as Post-Internet artists, who engage with digital culture and 21st-century imagery. Works by a selection of established artists working with video will be analyzed during classes. All classes will be grounded in current visual art debates, expanding on issues dealing with the production of images, and the representation and interpretation of the contemporary world through the means of video art.




The course will guide the students through video art and its history. It will consider aspects from the early experiments in documentation (“real time”), to the “new narrative” movement of the 1980s, to the introduction of technology spurring new ways of using the medium.


The course will first examine the relationship between video art, as “images in motion”, and traditional means of making art, and the medium’s relationships with cinema, television and its different genres. Throughout the course, another principal concern is the consideration of the material display and reception of artists' film and moving image within a gallery and museum context, and the new viewing role and position of the audience. 


The history of video art will be investigated through direct analysis of the practices of different artists: starting from mid 20th-century pioneers such as Nam June Paik (one of the protagonists of the Fluxus movement), Steina and Woody Vasulka (founders of the NYC media arts mecca “The Kitchen”), Bruce Conner, Joan Jonas; Charles Atlas, Dara Birnabum, Jomas Mekas and Andy Warhol, who were all interested in the expanded eye of video.


The new visions in video art will then be analyzed through a number of artists who ,in the 1980s, 1990s as art theory began dealing with the idea of New Media, disrupted the medium conceptually and formally through immersive video installations: Bill Viola, Paul Pfeiffer, Pipilotti Rist, Doug Aitken, Matthew Barney, Douglas Gordon, Philippe Parreno, Pierre Huyghe, Christian Marclay.


The course will highlight the expanding field of moving image in its intellectual, aesthetic, social, political and technical processes by discussing works by Hito Steyerl, Raqs Media Collective, Chto Delat, William Kentridge, Mark Leckey, Jeremy Deller (among others). Viewing and debating the works in class will develop a reflective, informed and decisive analytical approach.


The course will also reflect on the new evolutions of video art at the turn of the millennium, addressing the digital revolution and how it affected the making of art, analyzing the term “post-internet” through the works of Cory Arcangel, Cao Fei, Paul Chan, Oliver Laric, Petra Cotright, Katja Novitskova, Ed Atkins, Rachel Rose, Jon Rafman, Jordan Wolfson (among others).


The course will further introduce students to leading professionals: practicing artists, video film festivals directors, institutional curators and producers. Hence, the course will provide an integration of theoretical and practical teaching and learning methods, that combine art historical analysis with viewing experience and with direct conversations with artists and video art experts.


Possible guest lecturers include:

·       Rä di Martino (video artist) http://www.radimartino.com/

·       Magic Lantern Film Festival (Video art festival) http://www.magiclanternfilmfestivalrome.org/

·       Beatrice Bulgari (In Between Art Film) http://www.inbetweenartfilm.com/it/about-us/

·       Damiana Leoni and Lorena Stamo (Videocittà) www.videocittà.com

·       Luca Lo Pinto (Director of MACRO)

·       Carola Bonfili (new media artist)


The course will provide students with:

·       An understanding of the development of video art, as well as with an in-depth knowledge of the main video art movements of the 20th century.

·       A familiarity with the evolutions and key discourses of video art of the recent decades.

·       The ability to analyze and interpret the moving image within the complexity of contemporary art practices.

·        An in-depth knowledge of the different conceptual and formal approaches in video art as a language used in contemporary art practices. The aim is to acquaint students with the specificities of the medium.

·       An in-depth vocabulary appropriate to the field of contemporary art history, media art and video art.

·       A knowledge on recent literature theoretically debating video art. 


The course will:

·       Refine students’ eyes thanks to the viewing exercises.

·       Sharpen stduents critical thinking and visual interpretive skills as they will be required to closely examine, analyze, discuss and write about specific video art works.

·       Develop students’ critical vocabulary and perspective useful to navigate our image-based culture.


Students will:

·       Learn how to experience contemporary video art work.

·       Learn ho to recognize the differences of intentions in different art practices in relation to our contemporary society and its cultural products, evaluating the ways in which art is informed by social and political interactions.

·       Develop an ability to analyze issues and trends in context.

·       Be able to exercise critical thinking, defining, recognizing, interpreting, and distinguishing the diverse approaches in video art and understanding the relationships between cultural theory and art practice in today’s society.


Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberCommentsFormatLocal BookstoreOnline Purchase
Moving ImageOmar KholeifMit Press, Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art, 2015 026252810X     
A History of Video ArtChris Meigh-AndrewsBloomsbury USA Academic, 20130857851780     
Video ArtSylvia MartinTaschen, 2006 3822829501     
Video/art. The first fifty yearsBarbara LondonPhaidon, 2020 071487759X     
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Video ArtMichael RushThames & Hudson, 2003 0500237980  
Video Art Theory: A Comparative ApproachHelen WestgeestBlackwell Publications, 2015 1118475461  
New Media ArtUta Grosenick (edited by), Taschen, 2006 3822830410  
Video Art: A Guided TourCatherine ElwesTauris Academic Studies, 2004 1850435464  
Film Art PhenomenaNicky HamlymBritish Film Institute, 2003 0851709710  
Mass Effect: Art and the Internet in the Twenty-First Century,Lauren Cornell (edited by), The MIT Press, 2015026202926X  

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Society of the SpectacleGuy DebordBlack & Red, 2013 0934868077  
Ways of SeeingJohn BergerPenguin Classics, 2008 9780141035796  
Against Interpretation and Other EssaysSusan SontagPenguin Classics , 2009 9780141190068  
Attendance and participationContribution to class discussions and viewing experiences, sharing of ideas, involvement in the debate, evidence of reading required texts10%
Writing assignmentAn analytical research paper (8 pages) on the body of work of a video artist analyzed during class20%
Mid-term examImage identifications and discussions, and an analytical essay20%
Video Art TimelineA visual and theoretical journal on the evolution of video art between 1960 and 2020 based on the material viewed in class, and on the assigned reading 20%
Final exam in classIdentification, interpretation and comparison of individual video art works30%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.


You are expected to participate in all scheduled classes. Absences and late arrival will be noted and may affect your grade.


Examination policy

A major exam (midterm or final) cannot be made up without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed.

As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.



Reading assignments (below) will be communicated weekly. Details of further reading suggestions as well as relevant bibliography from journals will be provided throughout the course.

WEEK 1 - An introduction to cotemporary video

1.1. - An introduction to cotemporary video
Introduction to the course and to Rome’s contemporary art scene

1.2. -
An introduction to cotemporary video
The crisis of visual arts in the XX century and the advent of technology


WEEK 2 – Video art as an expanded eye

2.1. – Video art as an expanded eye: the 1960s - 1970s
Experimentations with video

2.2. – Video art as an expanded eye: the 1960s – 1970s
Video art as documentation


WEEK 3 – Pioneers 1960s – 1970s

3.1. - Pioneers
Nam June Paik, Stein and Woody Vasulka

3.2. - Pioneers
Joan Jonas, Bruce Nauman


WEEK 4Pioneers 1960s – 1970s

4.1. – Pioneers
Jonas Mekas, Andy Warhol

4.2. – Pioneers
Bruce Conner, Charles Atlas, Dara Birnbaum



WEEK 5 – Visions in video art: the 1980s – 1990s

5.1 - Visions in video art: the 1980s – 1990s
The immersive medium: Bill Viola,
Pipilotti Rist, Gary Hill

5.2 -
Visions in video art: the 1980s – 1990s
The immersive medium: Doug Aitken, Christian Marclay


WEEK 6 – Visions in video art: the 1980s – 1990s

6.1. - Visions in video art: the 1980s – 1990s
New narratives: Matthew Barney,
Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Gillian Wearing, Sam Taylor Wood

6.2. - Visions in video art: the 1980s – 1990s
New narratives: Douglas Gordon, Philippe Parreno, Pierre Huyghe
, Steve McQueen


WEEK 7 – The Expanded Field of the Moving Image: the 1980s – 1990s

7.1. – The Expanded Field of the Moving Image: the 1980s – 1990s
Video art in relation to the moving image: cinema, TV, music- videos, documentaries

7.2. – Mid-term Exams



WEEK 8 – Video Art lectures

8.1. - Video Art Lectures featuring:

Rä di Martino (video artist) http://www.radimartino.com/

8.2.- Video Art Lectures featuring:

Magic Lantern Film Festival (Video art festival) http://www.magiclanternfilmfestivalrome.org/


WEEK 9 – The Expanded Field of the Moving Image: the 21st century

9.1. – The Expanded Field of the Moving Image: the XXI century
Video Art and Memory: Mark Leckey, Jeremy Deller, The Atlas Group, Raqs Media Collective,

9.2. - The Expanded Field of the Moving Image: the XXI century
Video art as a political statement:
Hito Steyerl, Chto Delat, William Kentridge


WEEK 10: Production, Installation, Experience

10.1. – Production, Installation, Experience
Financing, producing, distributing video art

Production, Installation, Experience
The audience: experience in time and space



WEEK 11 – Video Art lectures

11.1 - Video Art Lectures featuring:

Beatrice Bulgari (In Between Art Film) http://www.inbetweenartfilm.com/it/about-us/

11.2 - Video Art Lectures featuring:
Damiana Leoni and Lorena Stamo (Videocittà) www.videocittà.com



WEEK 12 – The Digital Age

12.1. – The Digital Age
Post-internet art: relationships between the real and the virtual:
Cory Arcangel, Cao Fei, Paul Chan, Oliver Laric, Jordon Wolfson

12.2. The Digital Age
Post internet art – low-fi, high-fi: Petra Cotright,
Katja Novitskova, Ed Atkins, Rachel Rose, Jon Rafman


WEEK 13 – Video Art lectures

13.1 - Video Art Lectures featuring:

Carola Bonfili (new media artist)

13.2 - Video Art Lectures featuring:

Luca Lo Pinto (Director of MACRO)



WEEK 14 – Recap and Review

14.1. - Recap and Review
Discussion of course themes 

14.2. -  Recap and Review
Discussion of course themes 



WEEK 15 – Final Exam


Textbooks – Weekly readings will be assigned from these books

Omar Kholeif, Moving Image, Mit Press, Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art, 2015 ISBN-10: 026252810X

Chris Meigh-Andrews, A History of Video Art, Bloomsbury USA Academic, 2013 ISBN-10: 0857851780

Sylvia Martin, Video Art, Taschen, 2006 ISBN-10: 3822829501

Barbara London, Video/art. The first fifty years, Phaidon, 2020 ISBN-10: 071487759X

Required Reserved Reading – Essays from these books will be assigned throughout the course

Michael Rush, Video Art, Thames & Hudson, 2003 ISBN-10: 0500237980

Helen Westgeest, Video Art Theory: A Comparative Approach, Blackwell Publications, 2015 ISBN-10: 1118475461

Uta Grosenick (edited by), New Media Art, Taschen, 2006 ISBN-10: 3822830410

Catherine Elwes, Video Art: A Guided Tour, Tauris Academic Studies, 2004 ISBN-10: 1850435464

Nicky Hamlym, Film Art Phenomena, British Film Institute, 2003 ISBN-10: 0851709710

Lauren Cornell (edited by), Mass Effect: Art and the Internet in the Twenty-First Century, The MIT Press, 2015


Recommended Reading – Essays from these books will be taken in consideration during classes

Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, Black & Red, 2013 ISBN-10: 0934868077

John Berger, Ways of Seeing, Penguin Classics, 2008 ISBN-10: 9780141035796

Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation and Other Essays, Penguin Classics , 2009 ISBN-10: 9780141190068

Online platforms for video art – the course will also make use of sources such as:

UbuWeb: Film & Video, an online archive of the avant-garde. Edited by Kenneth Goldsmith. http://www.ubu.com/film/

Mediakunst.net, an online catalogue bringing together the media art collections of Frans Hals Museum, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Van Abbemuseum, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) and LIMA. Launched 2018, operated by LIMA. http://mediakunst.net/#/home/notfound

D'Est: A Multi-Curatorial Online Platform for Video Art from the former “East” and “West”, a contemporary video art platform that maps out female and collective positions that reflect the post-socialist transformation along post-geographic, horizontal, and feminist focus topics. https://www.d-est.com/

EAI, a nonprofit resource that fosters the creation, exhibition, distribution and preservation of media art. https://www.eai.org/

The Video Data Bank, an archive committed to fostering awareness and scholarship of the
history and contemporary practice of video and media art