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Critical Media Practice
"a secondary field for Harvard University graduate students

The Graduate School in Arts and Sciences offers a secondary field in Critical Media Practice (CMP) for Harvard PhD students who wish to integrate media creation into their academic work. CMP reflects changing patterns of knowledge dissemination, especially innovative research that is often conducted or presented using media practices in which written language may only play a part. Audiovisual media have relationships to the world that are distinct from exclusively verbal sign systems and are able to reveal different dimensions of understanding.  They are inherently interdisciplinary and frequently engage a broader audience than the academy alone.

Students interested in creating original interpretive projects in still or moving images, sound, installation, internet applications, or other media in conjunction with their written scholarship may apply to pursue the CMP secondary field. It connects students with courses, workshops, and advising on production of media in different formats. Critical Media Practice is overseen by the Film Study Center."



"In areas across the disciplinary map — from Anthropology to Science Studies, from Sociology, Psychology, and Government to Architecture, Literature, Engineering, and Public Health — a growing number of students and faculty are seeking to integrate media creation into their academic work. The goal of the interdepartmental GSAS secondary field in Critical Media Practice is to offer graduate students across Harvard’s various schools the opportunity to make original interpretive, creative projects in image, sound, and interactive technologies in tandem with their written scholarship.

Our students work across many disciplines and in a variety of media. They span a continuum from those using artistic practices to conduct or present their scholarly research to those whose work finds its place in the art world itself. All share an excitement for art as research. They are furthering Harvard’s prominence as a place where academic inquiry can take compelling forms beyond the written word.

The human subject is constituted by imaging as well as by language and – as C.S. Peirce, Nelson Goodman, and others have demonstrated – language alone cannot be taken as paradigmatic for meaning. Aural and visual experience is as integral to culture and social relations as is language. Recent developments in neuroscience and evolutionary psychology have emphasized that consciousness itself consists of multi-stranded networks of signification that combine fragments of imagery, sensation, and memory alongside language, both propositional and non-propositional in form.

The Critical Media Practice secondary field is designed to take advantage of the fact that audiovisual media have a distinct, unique relationship to the world than exclusively verbal sign systems. It also exploits their inherent interdisciplinarity and their broader reach beyond the academy into the public intellectual sphere.

From stunning anthropological films documenting cultural traditions to interactive databases to installations exploring engineering and design, CMP projects push the boundaries of scholarship.

CMP integrates art-making within the cognitive life of the university, and specifically the graduate curriculum. Because media practice is the central component of CMP, it is distinct from a Ph.D. program in film studies, cultural studies, or any of the particular humanities or social sciences. Instead, CMP is intended to complement — to broaden and enrich — the teaching and research being undertaken in our graduate degree programs."
harvard  criticalmediapractice  sensoryethnographylab  film  interdisciplinary  media  mediacreation  cspeirce  nelsongoodman  meaning  audio  aural  visual  multisensory  multiliteracies  consciousness  sensation  memory  language  audiovisual  srg  luciencastaing-taylor  jeffreyschnapp 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor - documenta 14
"Few filmmakers in recent years have managed to combine formal innovation with a programmatic stance toward filmmaking quite like Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor. In the process of reinventing the relationship between their two fields of inquiry, anthropology and cinema, they have established an experimental laboratory and school at Harvard University, the Sensory Ethnography Lab. The films coming out of the lab take a decentered, nonanthropocentric approach to the visual practice of the moving image. Their camera does not focus primarily on humans as privileged actors in the world but rather on the fabric of affective relations among the natural elements, animals, technology, and our physical lifeworlds.

Their “nonnarrative epics” are meditative, trance-like journeys into unseen and alien aspects of our environments; they unearth a different order for the principles of knowledge and cinematographic language, one that is nonsignifying and nonhierarchical. Paravel and Castaing-Taylor’s Leviathan (2012), for instance, is a vertigo-inducing study of the human relationship to the sea, filmed by equipping a fishing boat with numerous cameras and devices. The decentering achieved in the film evokes mythologies of the sea, while also addressing urgent contemporary concerns regarding the place of the human in the cosmos and within a future ecology.

Paravel and Castaing-Taylor, born in 1971 in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, and in 1966, in Liverpool, respectively, are premiering two new film installations at documenta 14. In Somniloquies (2017), their camera moves over sleeping, unguarded naked bodies while a soundtrack relays the sleep talk, nocturnal speculations, and orated dreams of Dion McGregor, a gay American songwriter whose hallucinatory, salacious, and sadistic dreams were recorded by his New York roommate over a seven-year period in the 1960s. Their second installation focuses on the controversial figure of Issei Sagawa, who gained notoriety in 1981 when, as a graduate student in Paris, he murdered a fellow student and engaged in acts of cannibalism. After his release from a mental institution, Sagawa returned to Japan, and later appeared in innumerable documentaries and sexploitation films. In contrast to earlier journalistic documentaries on Sagawa, the film by Paravel and Castaing-Taylor suspends moral judgment and explores a realm that eludes classification as either “documentary” or “pure fiction,” to instead chart the ambiguous territory between crime, fantasy, and social realities, between an individual and the economy of his public persona. Theirs is a filmmaking that ultimately renders the elements of nature and culture …

—Hila Peleg"
vérénaparavel  luciencastaing-taylor  film  cinema  sensoryethnography  documenta14  hilapeleg  filmmaking  ethnography  anthropology  documentary  isseisagawa  sagawa  dionmcgregor  senses  visualethnography  somniloquies  narrative  nature  animals  multispecies  bodies  non-narrative  sensoryethnographylab  body 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Gopro Cinema | booktwo.org
"Because like everyone but the really good people I don’t blog enough anymore, here is an honest-to-god blog post about an idea that’s not really there yet, but I keep thinking about.

Three takes on non-human photography, on a spectrum"



"As wiser people have pointed out, human-animal relationships provide an interesting viewpoint on human-technological relationships. What happens when we free the camera from the eye, and thus from anthropocentrism?"
jamesbridle  gopro  cameras  animals  multispecies  aesthetics  pov  video  film  filmmaking  leviathan  newaesthetic  jacquestati  playtime  streetview  googlestreetview  photography  videography  cinematography  sweetgrass  sensoryethnographylab  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  pets  farms  luciencastaing-taylor  vérénaparavel 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Entrevista a Lucien Castaing-Taylor y Véréna Paravel (SEL) on Vimeo
[interview is in English]

"Entrevistamos a los cineastas Lucien Castaing-Taylor y Véréna Paravel del Sensory Ethnography Lab (SEL) de la Universidad de Harvard. Los directores de LEVIATHAN, FOREIGN PARTS O SWEET GRASS, entre otras, comparten con nosotros su particular visión del arte en este encuentro."

[Other interviews:

Leviathan. Coloquio con Lucien Castaing-Taylor y Véréna Paravel.
https://vimeo.com/91540567

Lucien Castaing-Taylor "Sweetgrass" (Q&A)
https://vimeo.com/57703329

Leviathan Audience Q&A with Lucien Castaing-Taylor at EIFF 2013
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYyDl1oWFzE

Véréna Paravel
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfKBa9Vrh-w

Lucien Castaing-Taylor
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amxa-dEXl3Y ]
luciencastaing-taylor  vérénaparavel  sensoryethnography  sensoryethnographylab  2014  filmmaking  ethnography  anthropology  video  leviathan  foreignparts  sweetgrass  documentary 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Leviathan: the film that lays bare the apocalyptic world of fishing | Film | The Guardian
"And just as you can smell the diesel, the salt water, and the fish guts in Leviathan, so the film's astoundingly kinetic, utterly physical aesthetic reflects this inheritance, one that turned an "academic" exercise into a physical one. "We started off intending to make a film about the sea and fishing, in which one would never see the sea, or any fishing," Castaing-Taylor and Paravel told me. "But once we started going out to the Grand Banks, landlubbing life, even in New Bedford, seemed too familiar, too pat, too predictable. Finally, we decided to jettison land altogether."

That was easier said than done. Although both directors had spent time at sea before, "we hadn't expected Lucien to get so violently sea-sick, more or less knocked out for the first 24 to 48 hours of every voyage". Even then, the anti-emetics caused Castaing-Taylor to see double – which might account for the nightmarish quality of the film. Paravel also damaged her back, necessitating an emergency visit to the hospital.

During shooting, the film-makers kept the same punishing shifts as the boat crew, working 20 out of 24 hours. "One of us often had to tie themselves to the boat, then hold on to to the other, to stabilise the camera and/or stop them falling overboard." They had to avoid being submerged by nets full of fish, crustacean, mud and rocks. "As greenhorns, we also had to take more care than the fishermen not to be hit on the head by flying winches and chains.""
leviathan  sensoryethnographylab  luciencastaing-taylor  vérénaparavel  2013  film  documentary  ethnography  flimmaking  gopro  anthropology  fishing  commercialfishing 
november 2013 by robertogreco
The Lives of Images Peter Galison in conversation with Trevor Paglen [.pdf]
"What is observation? What is seeing? What counts as “right depiction”? Are images today now doing more than showing? What is objectivity? What does the future of imaging hold?

Peter Galison, one of the world’s leading historians of science, has written widely on how visual representation shapes our understanding of the world. Trevor Paglen is an artist whose work with photography has explored governmental secrecy and the limits of seeing. For his most recent project, The Last Pictures, Paglen worked with a group of scientists to create a disc of images marking our historical moment; the project culminated in last year’s launch of a satellite, carrying those images, that will remain in Earth’s orbit perpetually. The following conversation took place at Aperture’s office earlier this year."



"Well, what is it that the digital really does? There are many ways in which the digital is shaped by the legacy of analog photography and film. Both for political reasons and aesthetic reasons, what’s really important is the fact that digital is small, cheap, and searchable. The combination of these three features is dramatic. It means that your smartphone does facial recognition—no longer is that an inaccessible and futuristic piece of the state-security apparatus. It’s ubiquitous.

Aesthetically, this can mean a kind of decentering, a vision of the world that is not directly human. It also means that cameras are everywhere, and you’re not even aware of them. There’s an interesting film by a colleague and friend, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, working with Véréna Paravel, called Leviathan (2012), filmed on fishing boats in the North Atlantic. A lot of the film would have been completely unimaginable just a generation ago. They use little high-resolution digital cameras to achieve points of view in places that would previously have been impossible: amidst the pile of dead fish, or underwater as the tank is being filled, or looking back at the front of the boat. These are not impossible camera angles, but they’re nonhuman points of view."



"It seems that we’re moving away from thinking about images interms of representation and toward thinking about their creation as part of a networked process, guided by political or economic “scripts” embedded in the algorithms controlling these image-making networks. If we look at Facebook’s facial-recognition and search technologies, or at Instagram, we see similar things going on, but in a commercial context."



"If images become tools, it’s easier to see them as stepping-stones to other things. For me, the fundamental separation between art and science is not an eternal characteristic of science. The split happened in a historical moment. If you said to Leonardo da Vinci—pardon me, historians—“Are your studies of turbulent water art or science?” he would reply (so I imagine): “You’re crazy! What are you talking about? I don’t even recognize this choice.” But in the nineteenth century, you begin to have the idea of an objective image and of a scientist who is defined by being self-restrained, followed by the idea of maximal detachment from the image. At that moment, Charles Baudelaire criticized photography, saying (approximately): “You know, this isn’t really part of art because it’s insufficiently modulated by the person who says he’s an artist.” In that sense, what Baudelaire is saying and what late-nineteenth-century scientists are saying is the same thing, except they come to opposite conclusions. What they agree on is that art is defined by intervention and science is defined by lack of intervention.

I believe the trunk split, at that point, into two branches. But in many ways the branches are coming back together again in our moment. People in the art world aren’t frightened, in the way they once were, of having a scientific dimension to what they do. It’s not destabilizing for Matthew Ritchie to collaborate with scientists, nor is it a professional disqualification for scientists to work with artists."
trevorpaglen  petergalison  aperture  images  photography  perception  interpretation  history  science  art  seeing  sight  leviathan  recording  video  film  processing  photoshop  digital  luciencastaing-taylor  vérénaparavel  presentation  manipulation  capture  distortion  depiction  universalism  language  communication  symbols  semiotics  aesthetics  interdisciplinary  glvo  instagram  networkedfictions  canon  matthewritchie  leonardodavinci  facebook  uniquity  gopro  charlesbaudelaire  newaesthetic  convergence 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Sweetgrass
"An unsentimental elegy to the American West, “Sweetgrass” follows the last modern-day cowboys to lead their flocks of sheep up into Montana’s breathtaking and often dangerous Absaroka-Beartooth mountains for summer pasture. This astonishingly beautiful yet unsparing film reveals a world in which nature and culture, animals and humans, vulnerability and violence are all intimately meshed."
film  documentary  sweetgrass  animals  humans  culture  nature  sensoryethnographylab  luciencastaing-taylor  2009  cowboys  sheep  montana  vulnerability  violence  human-animalrelations  interspecies  human-animalrelationships 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Sensory Ethnography Lab :: Harvard University
"The Sensory Ethnography Lab (SEL) at Harvard supports innovative combinations of aesthetics and ethnography that deploy original media practices to explore the bodily praxis and affective fabric of human and animal existence, and the aesthetics and ontology of the natural world. Harnessing perspectives drawn from the arts, the human sciences, and the humanities, works produced in the SEL encourage attention to the many dimensions of life and the world that may only with difficulty be rendered with words alone. "
harvard  filmmaking  glvo  anthropology  ethnography  luciencastaing-taylor  documentaries  documentary  sensoryethnographylab  media  mediaanthropology 
january 2013 by robertogreco
The Merger of Academia and Art House: Harvard Filmmakers’ Messy World - NYTimes.com
"TUCKED within the syllabus for a class that the filmmaker and anthropologist Lucien Castaing-Taylor teaches at Harvard is a rhetorical question that sums up his view of nonfiction film: “If life is messy and unpredictable, and documentary is a reflection of life, should it not be digressive and open-ended too?”

Straddling academia and the art house, Mr. Castaing-Taylor and his associates and students at the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard have been responsible for some of the most daring and significant documentaries of recent years, works that…challenge the conventions of both ethnographic film and documentary in general.

Documentary, as practiced in this country today, is a largely informational genre, driven by causes or personalities. The ethnographic film, traditionally the province of anthropologists investigating the cultures of others, is in some ways even more rigid, charged with analyzing data and advancing arguments. In both cases the emphasis is on content over form…"
fluc  form  content  openendedness  unpredictability  messiness  filmmaking  video  gopro  jacobribicoff  ernstkarel  dzigavertov  kino-eye  mobydick  edg  srg  glvo  cinema  libbiedincohn  jpsniadecki  vérénaparavel  ilisabarbash  sweetgrass  jeanrouch  robertgardner  filmstudycenter  documentaries  storytelling  life  depicitonoflife  narrative  2012  luciencastaing-taylor  harvard  anthropology  ethnography  documentary  film  sensoryethnographylab  moby-dick 
september 2012 by robertogreco

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