Games, Interactive Art, and New Genres

Games, interactive art, and new genres span offerings in visual arts, film and media, and computer science to foster technical and digital literacy in the arts. Designed for experimentation, this initiative helps students establish digital proficiency while supporting the exploration of a wide range of new media forms and technologies. Courses of study might include visual programming, artificial intelligence, gaming, robotics, experimental animation, computer arts, experimental media design, data visualization, real-time interactivity, digital signal processing, cross-platform media environments, and mobile media development. Students are encouraged to coordinate these project-based investigations of the digital throughout their studies in the humanities, including literature, philosophy, politics, sociology, theatre, and writing.

2019-2020 Courses

Introduction to Computer Science: The Way of the Program

Open , Lecture—Fall

This lecture course is a rigorous introduction to computer science and the art of computer programming, using the elegant, eminently practical, yet easy-to-learn programming language Python. We will learn the principles of problem solving with a computer while gaining the programming skills necessary for further study in the discipline. We will emphasize the power of abstraction and the benefits of clearly written, well-structured programs, beginning with imperative programming and working our way up to object-oriented concepts such as classes, methods, and inheritance. Along the way, we will explore the fundamental idea of an algorithm; how computers represent and manipulate numbers, text, and other data (such as images and sound) in binary; Boolean logic; conditional, iterative, and recursive programming; functional abstraction; file processing; and basic data structures such as lists and dictionaries. We will also learn introductory computer graphics, how to process simple user interactions via mouse and keyboard, and some principles of game design and implementation. All students will complete a final programming project of their own design. Weekly hands-on laboratory sessions will reinforce the concepts covered in class through extensive practice at the computer.

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Computer Organization

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Permission of the instructor is required. Students should have at least one semester of programming experience.

This course investigates how computers are designed “underneath the hood” and how basic building blocks can be combined to make powerful machines that execute intricate algorithms. There are two essential categories of components in modern computers: the hardware (the physical medium of computation) and the software (the instructions executed by the computer). As technology becomes more complex, the distinction between hardware and software blurs. We will study why this happens, as well as why hardware designers need to be concerned with the way software designers write programs and vice versa. Along the way, we will learn how computers work: from higher-level programming languages such as Python and JavaScript, to system-level languages C and Java, down to the basic zeroes and ones of machine code. Topics include Boolean logic, digital-circuit design, computer arithmetic, assembly and machine languages, memory hierarchies, and parallel processing. Special attention will be given to the RISC architectures—now the world’s most common general-purpose microprocessors. Time permitting, we will investigate the relationship between energy consumption and the rise of multicore and mobile architectures.

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The Actor’s Voice Over: An Intensive Exploration of Voice Work

Open , Seminar—Year

This class will meet once a week for three hours in the Heimbold Sound Booth.

Have you ever wondered who performs the voices that you encounter in your everyday life? You spend a portion of each day listening, waiting, and learning from these voices—the familiar voices you hear when watching television commercials, the annoying voice that tells you to hold and that your call is important. Voices are everywhere. These voices are created by performers. You hear them in the narration of documentaries, television and radio commercials, animation, graphic novels, video games, phone applications, podcasts, audio books, audio tours, tutorials, and PSAs. In each class session, students will work with a sound editor on a variety of projects—from film and television to commercial spokesperson copy, group ADR, ambience, (wala wala)—creating believable character voices for animation. Students will also investigate breathing and relaxation techniques, appropriate pacing, enunciation, flexibility, and clarity. Facilitating vocal and improvisational exercises, the students will develop what will become their signature voice, as well as investigate and develop character voices for animation. Students will also write original material to be performed and recorded. Conference work will involve specific readings covering the historical aspects of post-production work in film. The student and the professor will decide on a specific aspect of film production work to further investigate.

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Discrete Mathematics: Gateway to Higher Mathematics

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Prior study of calculus is highly recommended.

There is an enormous, vivid world of mathematics beyond what students encounter in high-school algebra, geometry, and calculus courses. This seminar provides an introduction to this realm of elegant and powerful mathematical ideas. With an explicit goal of improving students’ mathematical reasoning and problem-solving skills, this seminar provides the ultimate intellectual workout. Five important themes are interwoven in the course: logic, proof, combinatorial analysis, discrete structures, and philosophy. For conference work, students may design and execute any appropriate project involving mathematics. A must for students interested in pursuing advanced mathematical study, this course is also highly recommended for students with a passion for computer science, engineering, law, logic, and/or philosophy.

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The Psychological Impact of Art

Open , Seminar—Spring

That’s one of the great things about music. You can sing a song to 85,000 people, and they’ll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons.—Dave Grohl.

The expressive arts bridge the gap between personal and collective experiences. Music, dance, literature, sculpture, and other creative pursuits allow artists a personal venue for intimate expression; but their products also have influence on thousands of others. Art evokes emotions, changes opinions, forges identities, and can be an anthem for social change. This class will explore how engagement with the arts influences who we are and how we relate to others. We will discuss the relative importance of the process of making art, versus the product itself, for personal growth and fostering social change. Although often thought of as a uniquely personal relationship, psychologists’ understanding of how the arts affect social, cognitive, and affective human behavior is expanding. In this class, students will be encouraged to engage critically with this psychological research and appreciate the difficulties associated with quantifying the impact of the arts.

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3D Modeling

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course introduces students to the process of constructing digital objects and environments in the virtual space of the computer. Emphasis will be on a strong grasp of form, space, and composition. Fundamentals of hard-edge and organic surface modeling will be thoroughly exercised, while further exploration of the digital tools will cover shading and texturing, lighting, and rendering with the virtual camera. Over the course of the semester, students will be challenged to create increasingly complex objects, environments, and imagery. Through readings and discussion, students will also be encouraged to consider the conceptual ramifications of working in computer space. Contemporary examples of computer-generated imagery in art, film, and media—juxtaposed with historical views on visual illusion from art and philosophy—will form a broader context in which to examine the medium.

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Art From Code

Open , Seminar—Fall

A “live coding,” practice-based introduction to visual arts programming—including color, shape, transformations, and motion—this course is designed for artists with little or no prior programming experience. We’ll meet twice weekly to code together live, working on short, in-class exercises within a larger analysis of the social, cultural, and historical nature of programming cultures. All students will be required to keep a sketchbook and participate in installation. Artists include Molnár, Nees, Hertlein, Rauschenberg, and others. Taught in Processing/Java.

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Beginning Games: Level Design

Sophomore and above , Small seminar—Fall

This is a guided code and tutorial class designed to introduce students to the basic tools, concepts, and techniques used in game development, including programming basics, game art, sound effects, music, narrative design, zones, bounds, player path, and game mechanics. Taught in Unity 2D/C#, with Pyskel, Tiled, and LMMS Studio.

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Intermediate Games: Radical Game Design

Sophomore and above , Small seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: Beginning Games: Level Design.

From Hopscotch to MolleIndustria, game designers have used play as a means of imprinting culture and subverting power. Games are small and viral. They emerge and disappear. They grip the online world obsessively or blend seamlessly into the underground. Above all, games are easily dismissed by authority, making them an ideal means of spreading social and political dissonance. This class surveys radical game design as practiced by artists like MoilleIndustria, Anne Marie Schleiner, Natalie Bookchin, Donna Leishman, Eddo Stern, Ian MacLarty, and others. We will also consider the historical roots of radical design—which finds its beginnings in Dada, Surrealist, Fluxus, and Situationist games—and play methods explored by artists like George Brecht, John Cage, and William Burroughs. Taught in Unity 2D/C#, with Pyskel, Tiled, and LMMS Studio.

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Introduction to Digital Imaging

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course covers contemporary digital practice, with an emphasis on Photoshop skills and imaging techniques from scanning to printing. Proper digital workflow is the focus while working through the basics of image manipulation tools, color correction, and retouching. The skills covered will build a solid basis for further exploration of photography, fine-art printing, and more radical digital experiments. The broader classroom discussion emphasizes computer-generated and -manipulated imagery as a new paradigm in contemporary art, photography, and culture in general. Students are encouraged to explore the potential of digital tools in the context of their personal work—visual arts-related or otherwise—stressing open-ended visual possibilities, as well as technical and conceptual rigor.

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Media Burn: Moving Image Installation in Practice

Open , Seminar—Year

This yearlong production seminar investigates histories, strategies, and concepts related to the production and exhibition of moving-image installation. Over the year, students will investigate the histories of moving-image installation and create their own works of time-based art. We will look at artworks that use moving images, space, sound, loops, performance, site-specificity, chance operations, multiple channels, and games as tools for communicating ideas. In the fall semester, our work will be inspired by close readings of specific seminal artworks in installation from the late 1960s to the present, including pieces that utilize feedback loops, multiple projections, home movies, and new technologies. Students will learn craft and concept simultaneously through collaborative and individual production. Spring semester, we will engage with our own concepts and ideas of how time-based installation can be activated. Site-specificity, social practice, and interdisciplinary projects are introduced, and students are encouraged to connect their conference in this class to collaborations in theatre, dance, sculpture, painting, and academics. Conference works involve research, craft, and rigorous conceptual and technical practice and are presented in exhibitions at the end of each semester. A component of the class will take place outside the classroom at museums, galleries, nonprofits, performance spaces, and historic sites in and around New York City. (The title of this class, Media Burn, comes from the 1975 performance by the San Francisco-based art collective Ant Farm, https://www.eai.org/titles/media-burn)

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New Genres: Drawing Machines

Open , Seminar—Spring

In 2016, So Kanno and Takahiro Yamaguchi used skateboards and pendulums to create “The Senseless Drawing Bot,” a self-propelling device that sprays abstract lines on walls. Meanwhile, François Xavier Saint Georges used power tools to create “The Roto,” a small circular machine that prints orbital graphite patterns on flat surfaces. In 2011, Eske Rex, a designer in Copenhagen, built two nine-foot towers to stage a double harmonograph for Milan Design Week. Joseph Griffiths uses exercise bikes. Alex Kiessling uses robot arms. Olafur Eliasson simply vibrates balls, covered in ink, across paper. For centuries, artists have been obsessed with machines that make pictures; today, their ongoing experiments with software, linkages, and weird bizarro contraptions have become a core aspect of the studio’s relationship to technology. While many drawing machines look backward through history for ideas about mechanized art, contemporary projects are often based on computer programs that engage programming as an artistic practice. Part code and part cardboard, this class studies the history of drawing machines and uses recycled materials to make gadgets that draw.

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New Genres: Interactive Art

Sophomore and above , Small seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: Art From Code.

This course focuses on the technologies behind interactive installation. Students will work on live visuals, as well as multiple types of media, to create dynamic art works. Artists surveyed are Ikeda, Rokeby, Benson, Liddell, TeamLAB, and others. Taught in Processing/Java with LEAP, Kinect, sensors, and cameras.

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New Genres: Cultural HiJack

Sophomore and above , Small seminar—Fall

Is art the new politics? Cultural HiJack examines the work of artists attempting to subvert, critique, and overthrow the dominant paradigm through street art, anti-advertising, meme wars, flash mobs, instant theatre, guerilla projection, and spatial intervention. Artists surveyed include Guerrilla Girls, RTMark, Rosler, Holzer, Marchessault, Banksy, Fairey, Acconci, and Franco and Eva Mattes, along with readings from Dery, Klein, Debord, Gramsci, Lacy, and others. Working individually or in small groups, students will collaborate on campaigns of détournement, designing and implementing inventions of their own through alternative and hybrid forms.

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The Ideas of Photography

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course is a hybrid. Each week, for the first 10 weeks of the semester, a different photographic idea or genre will be traced from its earliest iterations to its present form by means of slide lectures and readings. And each week, students will respond with their own photographic work inspired by the visual presentations and readings. Topics may include personal dressup/narrative, the directorial mode in photography, contemporary art-influenced fashion photography, new strategies in documentary practice, abstraction, the typology, the photograph in color, and narrative photography. In the final weeks of the semester, the emphasis will shift as students work on a subject and in a form that coincides with the ideas they most urgently wish to express. No previous experience in photography is necessary nor is any specialized equipment. A desire to explore and to create a personally meaningful body of work are the only prerequisites.

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The New Narrative Photography

Open , Seminar—Spring

A photograph alone, without caption, is like a simple utterance. “Ooh!” or “aah!” or “huh?” are responses to it. But when pictures are presented in groups with an accompanying text—and perhaps in conjunction with political or poetic conceptual strategies—any statement at all becomes possible. Then, photographs begin to function as a sentence, a paragraph, or an even larger discourse. Whether working in fiction or nonfiction, artists such as Alan Sekula, Robert Frank, Susan Meiselas, Taryn Simon, Jim Goldberg, Roni Horn, and others have transformed the reach of the photograph. Without formal agreement to do so, they have created a new medium, which might be entitled: The New Narrative Photography. In this course, students will study the work of these artists and others and will create their own bodies of work. If you have a story to tell or a statement to make, this course is open to you. No previous photographic experience is necessary nor is any special equipment. The opportunity to work in a new medium is rare. This course aims to create the forum and the conditions necessary for all to do so in a critical and supportive workshop environment.

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