Courses / Undergraduate

Spring 2020

  • History of Avant-Garde Film

    129 | CCN: 32101

    Althea Wasow

    4 Units

    Tu/Th 11am-12:30pm, Location: Dwinelle 142

    Screening: W 4pm-6pm, Location: Dwinelle 142

    This course will introduce students to oppositional, alternative, and experimental filmmaking from the silent film period to contemporary digital media projects. Through close study of provocative—even “criminal”—films that challenge our expectations, the class will question what threat these works pose(d), what possibilities they open(ed) up, and how they forge(d) distinct modes of production, distribution, and exhibition. Readings, lectures, and in-class discussions will explore the aesthetic and theoretical issues the films raise and situate works in relation to their larger artistic, social, and intellectual contexts. 

    What is the relation between avant-garde films and politics? Are violations of aesthetic conventions and violations of social norms connected? What is the historical relation between avant-garde film and mass culture? How has ethnography, and interest in the racial “Other,” intersected with alternative film traditions? What can the history of avant-garde film teach us about contemporary debates in oppositional aesthetic practice and the relation between art and politics? 

    Special attention will be given to the aesthetic and political project of the historical avant-garde and its legacy. In addition to European avant-garde movements (including French impressionism, dada, surrealism), screenings will include the American avant-garde of the 1950s and 1960s, the structural film of the 1970s, feminist avant-gardes, found footage films, and experimental queer cinema. The course will be particularly interested in focusing attention on works that have been excluded from, or marginalized in, histories of avant-garde film including experimental Asian-American, indigenous, black diaspora, and Latinx films.

    In addition to multiple forms of writing and an exam, students will have the opportunity to do a film/art project.