New Media Arts and Digital Culture: TRUTH

Course Details
FILM 283
Edward Shanken
Academic Year: 

This seminar will explore conceptions of truth with particular attention to new media arts and digital media. We will consider a broad range of theoretical texts, ranging from the western aesthetics to buddhist philosophy to social science, and including a diverse array of media objects. We will consider the relationships between documentary, cinema vérité, and other forms of contemporary art and new media, such as interventions by imposters and re-enactment. Theoretical concepts that will help guide our considerations may include: Hito Steyerl on factography and productionism, Harry Frankfurt on bullshit and lies, The Dalai Lama on Nagarjuna’s Four Noble Truths and the Middle Way, Julia Kristeva on strangeness, Terence McKenna on truth, belief, and expanded consciousness, and Paul McIntyre on post-truth.

As the literature rarely addresses specific artists, part of our challenge will be to apply theory to the practical work of specific artists, such as Juan Downey, Harun Farocki, Raphael Lozano-Hemmer, Jenny Holzer, Alfredo Jaar, Ligorano-Reese, Eva and Franco Mattes, Deimantas Narkevicius, Trevor Paglen, Laura Poitras, Hito Steyerl, Krzysztof Wodiczko, the Yesmen, and others that you identify. In addition to developing a deeper understanding of the shifting and culturally variable aspects of truth, a goal of the seminar is to apply insights from these theoretical traditions and artistic strategies to your own theoretical and/or critical practice: to find, construct, and/or push the limits of truth and honesty in your own work and process.

The seminar is designed with a relatively flexible structure to respond to the needs and interests of the participants. Building on some foundational readings, we will select and develop modules that support seminar participants' research. The key to the seminar’s success is preparation, participation, and collaboration. In advance of our meetings, participants will regularly submit thoughtful reflections on, and questions about, the readings, which will serve as a springboard for seminar discussions. Participants are expected to take turns leading seminar discussion, either individually or in small groups. Final projects will consist of a substantial research project, which can include practice-based and/or written outcomes.