Social Art Tactics

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Social Art Tactics is a hybrid art course co-taught by Ramon Rivera-Severa of the Department of Theater and John Jota Leaños of Chicana/o Studies. In this course, students will engage in the praxis, theory, and historical foundations of social art practice with special emphasis on Latin@ and Border art. Students will be exposed to artwork that strives for and stimulates social change and transformation in the fields of performance, theater, digital media, interventionist art, muralism and photography. The goal of the course is to develop a series of student-driven socially pertinent artworks that will be performed, displayed and installed in unexpected places.


Public Art/Private Spaces
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Course Description: American urban centers have faced a significant degeneration of public space through the convergence of mega-advertising, car culture, cell phone usage, surveillance cameras, wireless computers and the globalization of the suburban model. The privatization of public space has made it increasingly difficult to define the parameters of the public sphere which itself is a multifaceted and highly contested idea. In this course, we will consider the concept of the public sphere and debate how visual/performance art, art activism and interventionist art are incorporated into what is considered ‘public.’ We will look into how urban planning, architecture and high technology are changing the experience of public life in American cities and will directly apply our findings onto public spaces in Pittsburgh. We will concentrate on how art in public spaces functions in relation to its local context, specifically its role in community building, political change and resistance. By combining research and readings with artist-ethnographic fieldwork, we will collaborate to create visual, interactive and/or performative public artworks in the city.


The Webopticon, Corporate Shamanism and the Global War Machine

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In a time of faith, skepticism in the most intolerable of all insults

-Randolph Bourne, “The War and the Intellectuals”

Course Description This course will examine the unpopular view that the Internet and Information Technologies are the advancing armies of global capitalism in a war to promulgate an American-dominated monoculture. On the whole, this course will consider how mythologies that accompany emergent technologies are manifest in the larger social realm and how the implementation and acceptance of these technologies affect issues of struggle and power with a particular emphasis on the underclasses, the militarization of the southern border and Latino culture. We will engage concerns of surveillance and panoptic vision within the emerging Global Information Infrastructure, analyze the links between technologies of war and globalization, question the philosophy of posthumanism and the development of robotics, study Carnegie Mellon University as a paramilitary institution and explore the corporate myth of the so-called "Digital Divide." All of these perspectives will be viewed through the lens of art making. We will pair theory with the practice of art, examining creative ways of confronting these questions and communicating them to a larger audience.


Chicana/Chicano Popular Culture
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Course Description: The study of popular culture focuses on deciphering meaning from the wide scope of cultural production, from highly produced entertainment (television, radio, film, magazines, etc.) to everyday life scenarios (family custom and ritual, language, identity, etc.). This course will be a critical investigation into the theories, production and consumption of Chicana/Chicano, Latino/Latina, Hispanic/Hispana forms of popular culture. We will study predominant as well as marginalized theoretical trends of popular culture that will assist us to reflectively engage the social significance and political impact of popular culture. We will examine the influence popular culture has on forming identity, shaping culture and as a mode of revealing, producing and reproducing ideology and political struggle.