Art, Film, and Visual Studies

Prof. Matt Saunders teaches before a blackboard

The Department of Art, Film, and Visual Studies (AFVS) cultivates skills in both the practice and the critical study of the visual arts. Its components include photography, filmmaking, animation, video art, painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture, as well as film and visual studies, critical theory, and the study of the built environment. Undergraduates may pursue a Concentration with Tracks and Secondary Fields in Film/Video Production, Film and Visual Studies, and Studio Arts.

Note that most of the courses offered in AFVS are limited to 10 or 12 students because many are “making” courses, meaning students create artworks or films. The optimal way to conduct these courses is in small groups. Some seminars are also limited-enrollment.

Course Preview Period for the spring 2022 term begins on January 14. The AFVS Web site's courses page as well as each course’s Canvas site will list details about course admissions processes.

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Matt Saunders
Manager of Academic Programs: Paula Soares

Gateway Courses

Spring 2022

FRSEMR 30X: The Life Project
Carrie Lambert-Beatty

What happens when contemporary artists treat their everyday lives as artistic material, "sculpting" their eating, sleeping, or living habits and reporting on the process? What kind of art is this? In the era of reality TV, personal informatics, and "challenge literature" have such projects gone mainstream? How do they relate to the "life projects" of ascetics, experimental subjects, or the mentally ill?

GENED 1114: Painting's Doubt: A Studio Course
Matt Saunders

Painting is an engagement between the self and the world. It is a practice of embodied making, and, as a language outside of words, can think around conditioned understanding. This introductory studio art course proposes learning to paint as a new experience of relating to the world, and through painting we will investigate not only what we have to say, but what we have to see.

Studio assignments in small sections are complemented by weekly lectures, visiting artist presentations, readings and visits to Harvard’s collections. The primary materials for this course will be oil on canvas, with some excursions into drawing and work on a paper. No experience is necessary, except a willingness to make a mess.

AFVS 35R: Building Thought: Sculpture Course
Annette Lemieux

Using a variety of materials and methods, students will build and create artworks that reflect their ideas, with an emphasis and understanding of the language of images, materials, forms, actions, and presentation. Through images, videos, and informal discussions, students will be introduced to the concerns of conceptual artists of the 20th Century to the present.

AFVS 40A: Introduction to Still Photography
Elle Perez

This course provides an introduction to the visual language of photography. Students will be introduced to the technical, conceptual, and historical aspects of the medium. We will focus on gaining familiarity with digital techniques and aesthetics through demonstrations and hands-on sessions that cover technical topics such as camera operation, proper image exposure, digital workflow (including RAW files and Camera Raw) Adobe Bridge and Photoshop, and digital printing techniques. Lectures and class discussions will provide historical context and an overview of historical and contemporary artists. Weekly photographic and written assignments will be given and regular critiques will be used to assess student work and progress. The class will conclude with a final project that reflects your individual and original interests, and a high level of engagement and investment with photography.

AFVS 41A: Introduction to Photography
Sharon Harper

This studio course will introduce you to the conceptual, artistic potential of photography. Your understanding and use of the medium will be contextualized within contemporary and historic photographic art practices.   Your own art practice will be developed alongside technical skills. We will discuss topics such as the ethics of photographing people, how to make meaningful images amid the proliferation of digital images, and traits that are unique to photography. This class is organized around presentations on artists’ work, presentations on photographic concepts, studio making assignments, individual meetings with the instructor and breakout meetings with peers to develop your practice, technical skill workshops, readings, reading discussions, group critiques, and visiting artist presentations. Curiosity, a strong work ethic and a sense of adventure are required. Technical skill development is supported by the class Teaching Assistant. 

AFVS 52: Introduction to Non Fiction Videomaking
Joana Pimenta

This course is an introduction to documentary filmmaking. We will explore a range of approaches to nonfiction filmmaking through assignments which encompass video and sound recording and editing, cinematography and montage. Following introductory camera, sound and editing exercises, each student will spend the semester making a single nonfiction film on a subject of their choice. Class time will include technical workshops, film screenings, discussions of student work and occasional visiting filmmakers.

AFVS 53AR: Fundamentals of Animation
Ruth Lingford

An introduction to the possibilities of animation. Using a mixture of traditional and 2D digital tools, students will complete practical exercises which will familiarize them with basic skills and techniques. Screenings and discussions will help develop the specialized thinking needed to understand the discipline.

AFVS 60X: Approaching Narrative: Introduction to Filmmaking
Akosua Owusu

In this production course, students will learn the basic principles of narrative filmmaking,experiment with visual language of cinema and push boundaries in their own moving image work. This course guides students through the fundamentals of making short projects for video but inclusive of experimental aesthetics. Different filmmaking techniques, including lighting and cinematography, sound recording, and editing will be introduced to students by visiting artists and filmmakers. Classes will also consist of weekly screenings and critiques of student work. By the end of the course, students will be equipped with necessary tools to produce two short 5-7 minute films with sync sound. No prior filmmaking experience required.

AFVS 114: Hoarding Fever/Archive Fatigue (Studio Course)
Katarina Burin

Why do we decide to keep things? What politics hide in taxonomy? How do citizenship, colonialism, and death relate to our stuff? And what’s the deal with Marie Kondo? 

This studio course will use the discourses around Archive and research based practice as a starting point for developing work in a range of media. We will look at existing archives, develop our own collections as a form of artistic practice, and destabilize the authority of archives by considering informal, queer, pathologized forms of collecting. The course will include discussions and readings; visits to local collections in and outside the museum; and ample studio time to work with raw and found materials, alongside obsessive investigations and meandering digressions. 

AFVS 146J: Where Are We Going?: The Photograph in Contemporary Art (Studio Course)
John Edmonds

Through presentations, course readings and critiques, this studio course in photography will examine strategies photographers and artists working in photography used to accept, negate, refuse, reject, interrogate, subvert, rewrite and complicate the “documentary” nature of the medium and its role in contemporary art and society. Students will make work and examine the evolution of photography and media from the 1980’s to the present, developing a language that expands photographic thinking to include its relationship with but not limited to: painting, sculpture, pop art, journalism, performance and film.  Key texts include those written by: Roland Barthes, Andy Grundberg, Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, Hito Steyrl, Uri McMillan, Laura Wexler, Charlotte Cotton and Carol Squiers.

AFVS 162S: This is a show tune, but the show hasn't been written for it yet (Studio Sound Workshop)

This course is a sound studio/workshop exploring the way sound communicates narrative, examining the way sound aids narrative in drama and beyond as well instances where artists and musicians have created music for imagined dramas or conceptualized a song or album as a drama, which is what Nina Simone is describing in the line from the song "Mississippi Goddam" from which the course title is derived. Students will listen to Orson Welles' 1938 radio drama "The War of the Worlds", watch films, listen to songs, albums and soundtracks, and create stand-alone compositions that function or are conceptualized as radio dramas and soundtracks.  Students should be prepared to think critically and experimentally about sound and the work they produce and be able to articulate their process and goals for their work. This class will include projects, readings, screenings, listening sessions, discussions, and workshops.