Chromophilia, a term coined by contemporary artist David Batchelor, refers to intense passion and love for color. What is it about color that has the power to induce reverie, and conversely to manipulate, or disgust? How do we understand and respond to color from phenomenological, poetic, philosophical, and societal vantage points? How as artists can we become the master of our passionately-loved and yet ever-shifting chroma?
In this class, we look carefully at and discuss the work of many artists and the implications of color in their images. Wide-ranging readings from literature, philosophy, and cultural criticism, serve as a base for discussion and artistic response.
Visual work for the first weeks of class consists of color problems using cut paper; in subsequent weeks, students solve problems presented in class with painting, or any other color-abled media. Reading and written responses are assigned weekly. Class time is primarily used for discussion of texts, critique of visual work, and student presentations of research. Assignments are given throughout, however, it is the objective of this class to provide the skills necessary for the student to confidently pursue self-designed projects. A high degree of motivation is expected.
As water—through floods and droughts alike—continues to reshape the geography of the world around us, this course will look at waterscapes as written by women: Rachel Carson’s The Edge of the Sea, Annie Dillard’s A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and Terry Tempest Williams’s Refuge. Science, poetry, and ideas of conservation converge here. As a marine biologist, Carson wrote with exactitude and lyricism of the liminal environment, while Dillard’s evocative personal essays offer a glimpse into how the natural world can inform the human spirit. Williams offers a more elegiac account of landscape and family. The sensibilities and convictions of these women offer views to environmental literature that bring a different dimension to a genre of expression often associated with male adventure and audacity.
In the inscription for Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature, the committee announced it had chosen to give him the award because his novels had “uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.” In this class, we will read nearly all of these novels, beginning with Ishiguro’s first, A Pale View of These Hills, and including An Artist of the Floating World, The Remains of the Day, When We Were Orphans, Never Let Me Go, and The Buried Giant, as well as his collection of stories, Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall. We will investigate Ishiguro’s constant reinvention of the novel, his approach to the confines of genre, and the ways in which Ishiguro has appropriated and subverted the notion of identity as subject. Throughout the term will also interrogate the ways in which Ishiguro has transformed the modern idea of the British novel, by analyzing his approach to race, gender identity, bio-ethics, and the long shadow of cultural memory. We will screen the film adaptations of his major work, and also consult his work as a screenwriter in The White Countess and The Saddest Music in the World. This is an advanced course intended for students with prior college-level coursework in literature.
Corequisites: Students are required to be in attendance at all Literature evenings and Poetry at Bennington events (most Wednesday evenings at 7:00pm).
In this course we will explore the social dimensions of medicine, the body, illness, health, healing, medical care and biotechnologies across societies and times from comparative, cross-cultural, ethnographic perspectives. We will examine the role of cultural differences in defining and dealing with health and illness and investigate health related factors that link humanity cross-culturally through common needs. If human experiences and understandings of illness, suffering, and healing are not objectively rooted in universal facts of biology or nature, how are they to be analyzed and understood? If the interaction between biology and culture depends on the context, what is the status of biomedicine? Can/should the biomedical model simply be regarded as one system of belief and practice among others? And how is the biomedical model embedded in a socioeconomic hierarchy that unevenly distributes health and healthcare between haves and have nots? We will pursue these questions in a global framework, drawing on ethnographies and critical essays that open up the field of medical anthropology.
1. Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.
2. Rational judgements repeat rational judgements.
3. Irrational judgements lead to new experience.
4. Formal art is essentially rational.
5. Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.
-Sol LeWitt, “Sentences on Conceptual Art” 1969
Shying away from the static, resolved, or finished image, this course will explore drawing as a process of ongoing inquiry. It is intended to foster an experimental and experiential approach to making art, generally eschewing personal expression in favor of developing an open-minded approach. Students will engage with various techniques and processes to make drawings that document experience as well as create an image. Topics to be considered include: artistic intent, ambition, happenings, failure, and chance. Class time is used for drawing, technical demonstrations, discussion and critique. Relevant artists include: Marcel Duchamp, Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, Jean Tinguely, Allan Kaprow, Yvonne Rainer, Yoko Ono,and Yayoi Kusama.
Each term, Bennington offers a program of five-six lectures by visiting arts professionals: artists, curators, historians and critics, selected to showcase the diversity of contemporary art practices. Designed to enhance a broader and deeper knowledge of various disciplines in the Visual Arts and to stimulate campus dialogue around topical issues of contemporary art and culture, these thematically connected presentations offer students the opportunity to explore ideas from multiple perspectives over the course of the term. Students registered for this series must attend all lectures on Tuesday evenings at 7:00pm as well as gallery exhibitions, and are responsible for taking notes and completing a one-page essay-questionnaire for each event to be submitted via Populi. Optional readings and additional opportunities for engagement with visiting speakers may be announced throughout the term.
A large part of modern mathematics has to do with how we conceptualize and manage the idea of infinity. This occurs in different places: the infinity of the horizon line that appeared with the development of perspective drawing, the infinitely small and infinitely many quantities of calculus, the infinite depth of fractals. This class will survey some of these concepts and briefly talk about how they are formalized in mathematics. There will be a particular emphasis on Cantor’s set theory, which was developed in the late nineteenth century, and which provided new logical tools and a new language to talk about infinite quantities. No mathematical background or knowledge will be assumed.
Much of higher mathematics has more in common with solving puzzles than it does with performing algebra drills. In this class, I will be proposing puzzles, and providing coaching and strategies for getting better at doing puzzles. Many of the reasoning skills will be valuable broadly in life, not only in mathematics. No special math knowledge will be needed.
Advanced mathematics is largely about logical argument, as much as it is computation or calculation. Over time, as each generation extended their ideas into new realms, they looked at the logical arguments of their predecessors and found that there were gaps, elisions, things that were not fully understood. One could imagine that this process might continue forever, but it does not: in the early twentieth century, a number of mathematicians (most notably Hilbert) completed the project of “hitting bedrock”, finding a clear demarcation line between certainty and uncertainty. This required a clarification about what mathematics and reasoning are about (“formalism”). These profound ideas deserve to be better known outside of professional mathematics. (Later, some mathematicians (notably Gödel) used this framework to show the limitations of the framework, in a different and more precise sense than before.) In this class we will go through the development of these ideas. No mathematical knowledge will be assumed.
This seminar will look at works by Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, as well as by Erik Satie, Les Six, Fauré, and diverse U.S. composers at the turn of the 20th century. We will start by looking at Debussy’s Preludes as a microcosm of his harmonic style, and then analyze major orchestral works. Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin, String Quartet, and select songs will also be analyzed. Students will be expected to write analyses of short works, and to contextualize the innovations of Debussy and Ravel within the complex literary and visual styles of fin-de-siècle France. This course will have special assignments for those who wish to explore advanced harmonic analyses of these works. Students must be able to read notation fluently.
What elements set certain composers apart from their contemporaries? In any genre, there are those who “raise the bar” and gain respect both for being prolific and breaking traditions of harmony and form. Jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter took his cue from ground-breaking composers before him such as Duke Ellington and Thelonius Monk, helping to create new directions in jazz while being a member of the bands Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Miles Davis Quintet and Weather Report in the 1960s and 1970s. We will examine many of the songs written for these groups, as well as those written for his many albums as a leader (for Blue Note Records), looking at his unique way of combining melody, harmony and rhythm. Students will also be encouraged to compose and arrange “short” songs, using some of the techniques learned. Compositions will be performed in Music Workshop.
This project-based class is for playwrights engaged in the process and techniques of rewriting and staging their plays. The majority of rewrites may happen prior to the semester, but substantial rewrites could emerge as essential during the production period. Collaborating with the director, actors, and designers will be the heart of this class.
Playwrights are expected to also serve as collective support for the other playwrights whose plays are being produced. In addition to the 4 plays receiving production, up to 6 other plays will receive staged readings as part of the festival.
We will meet as a group at least once a week, on Monday night, with the other nights designated for individual rehearsals. Playwrights will attend Production Meetings and outside Design meetings. Rehearsals culminate in public performances of multiple works staged in workshop productions supported by minimal design. Playwrights will also write a post-performance reflective essay.
This scriptorium, a “place for writing,” functions as a class for writers interested in improving their academic essay-writing skills. We will read to write and write to read. Much of our time will be occupied with writing and revising—essai means “trial” or “attempt”—as we work to create new habits and strategies for our analytical writing. As we practice various essay structures with the aim of developing a persuasive, well-supported thesis, we will also revise collaboratively, improve our research skills, and study grammar and style. Our aim is to learn to write with complexity, imagination, and clarity, as we explore the genre of Ekphrasis, which can be simply defined an artistic description of a work of art, a rhetorical device in which one medium of art responds to another. We will study classical and modern examples of ekphrasis and read critical theory about representation, influence, copies, modernity, verisimilitude, beauty, and truth. We will ask ourselves these pressing questions: how can we accurately and imaginatively describe a work of art? How can we capture a work’s meaning, form, and effect on the audience? What are the tensions and possibilities between literature and the visual arts? Readings may include texts by Plato, Berger, Wilde, Homer, Scarry, Benjamin, Ovid, Keats, Browning, Young, Loy, Auden, Coste Lewis, hooks, Dijkstra, Hall, Sontag, Mitchell.
Logarithms are one of the parts of mathematics that often remain a bit mysterious to people, even if they had no difficulty solving problems with them in school. In fact, logarithms are of far broader importance and interest than the narrow applications one usually sees; and seeing this broader picture helps in dispelling some of the mystery and in understanding what they are. In this class we will see new ways of counting, new ways of understanding number and estimating mentally, and new ways of comprehending data, all based in logarithms. I will not be assuming that you know or remember anything about logarithms; part of the point will be to explain them, from the beginning, in a variety of ways.
In the nineteenth and twentieth (and twenty-first!) centuries, mathematicians have been stretching the idea of “geometry” far beyond the geometry of Euclid most people are familiar with: into the fourth (or higher) dimension, curved spaces, and more. This new geometry (the part I am referring to is called “differential geometry and topology”) is philosophically and aesthetically interesting, plays a definite role in the construction of our universe, and has wide-ranging applications; but it is not well-known outside of mathematics departments. Usually, the prerequisites for this study are at least linear algebra, multivariable calculus, and analysis, so math majors get to it in their final undergraduate year, if at all. In this class, we will study these ideas in spaces made out of flat pieces (for a simple example, the surface of a cube). This will allow us to study sophisticated ideas, without assuming any background knowledge. In particular, I will not be assuming that students know any calculus; as for Euclidean geometry, we will be revisiting it from this larger perspective, so you do not need to know or remember that subject either. The class is open to everyone, but culminates in serious, high-level mathematics.
Hip hop music producers have long practiced “diggin’ in the crates”—a phrase that denotes searching through record collections to find material to sample. In this course, we will examine the material and technological history of hip hop culture, with particular attention to hip hop’s tendency to sample, remix, mash-up, and repurpose existing media artifacts to create new works of art. We will use a media archaeological approach to examine the precise material conditions that first gave rise to graffiti art, deejaying, rapping, and breakdancing, and to analyze hip hop songs, videos, and films. Hip hop archaeology is a critical and artistic practice that seeks to interpret the layers of significance embedded in the artifacts of hip hop culture. How does hip hop archaeology remix the past, the present, and the future? How do the historical, political, and cultural coding of hip hop artifacts change as they increasingly become part of institutional collections, from newly established hip hop archives at Cornell and Harvard to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture?
This course explores documentary possibilities through screenings and video projects. The class will look at and consider non-fiction techniques from early cinema verite films to recent attempts to address point of view and outsider status in documentary and experimental video work. In collaborative and individual projects, the class will take a hands-on approach to documentary production: addressing interview techniques, cinematography, story structures, metaphor, archival film use and a range of editing and presentation techniques – including installations. We will also work on our ability to develop relationships and to gain access to subjects outside our usual circles.
This course explores methods of translating found or imagined shapes into digital three-dimensional objects. Students will study how sub-division, approximation, and discretization can be used to separate forms into their component parts. Coursework will focus on how systematic breaking-down of form reveals qualities that can be intentionally altered, thus changing their properties. Through exercises that explore part-to-whole relationships students will be introduced to Rhinoceros—an industry standard 3D modeling program—and learn how to create inputs for 3D printers and laser-cutters. By the end of the course, each student will have completed a digital model, a set of orthographic drawings, and a physical model.
With the practice of journalism undergoing its most profound changes since the invention of the television, this course will steep students in the traditions of criticism, literary non-fiction, reporting and cultural journalism that thrived during the golden age of print and have persisted in the Internet era. We’ll work our way through literary criticism from Robert Boswell to Virginia Woolf and from Lionel Trilling to Zadie Smith; we’ll trace how notions of authority in cultural journalism changed from the objective to the subjective and how the New Journalism of the 1960s and 1970s combined facts and research with creative sensibility and author’s voice. Students will discover for themselves through frequent writing assignments and workshops just how porous the boundaries are between traditional reporting, reviewing, profile writing, and more experimental forms like lyric essay. We’ll also listen closely to some of the most influential and innovative podcasts to create an anatomy of their appeal. Expect to read a whole host of literary journalists past and present including George Orwell, Rebecca West, Pauline Kael, Tete-Michel Kpomassie, Janet Malcolm, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Katherine Boo, Alex Tizou, Jia Tolentino, Alex Madrigal.
Corequisites: Students in this class are required to attend Literature evenings on Wednesday nights, including Poetry at Bennington events. All students may apply for multiple 4000-level Reading and Writing Courses in the same term, but, once accepted, may only enroll in one 4000-level Reading and Writing course per term.
We have consistently seen that artists are lacking certain skill sets, tools and resources that would empower and strengthen their ability to create work, develop personal stability and envision longevity in a realistic way. How can we approach these issues in a holistic way that addresses the person and well as the artist? This course covers a range of topics that addresses the ability to create a quality of life, share access to resources, and redefine concepts of success. This class is open to artists in all artistic disciplines.
Covered topics include:
Housing | Homeownership
Artist Statements | Mission
Fundraising | Grant writing | Residencies
Principles for building a sustainable life
Developing and sharing strategies and models
This is an essential course for students involved in making work for performance this term. Attention is given to all of the elements involved in composition and production, including collaborative aspects. Students are expected to show their work throughout stages of development, complete their projects, and perform them to the public by the end of the term. Dance Workshop is required.
This course is an introduction to copper plate Intaglio. We will explore various techniques to prepare our plates including hand working and acid etching with materials such as rosin resists and sugar lifts. By the end of term, we will be printing in color. Ultimately, the overall goal of our endeavors will be to begin a dialog about artistic production in a contemporary context while also exploring the unique history of the intaglio process.
Beginning, intermediate and advanced group or individual lessons on the mandolin will be offered. Student will learn classical technique on the mandolin and start to develop a repertoire of classical and traditional folk pieces. Simple song sheets with chords, tablature, and standard notation, chord theory, and scale work will all be used to further skills. Students will be expected to perform at Music Workshop, or as part of a concert, in ensemble and/or solo. Depending on scheduling, these will be individual or group lessons.
Oscar Wilde liked to say that Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) invented the 19th century. The Human Comedy (La Comédie Humaine) comprises approximately 3,000 characters in a total of 92 novels, sketches, stories, and philosophical tales. For the first time in the history of the novel, characters recur—a star of one book may reappear as a minor figure in the intricate social background of another. “Real life is the life of causes,” wrote this giant of world literature. What does Balzac mean by a cause? It is an idea, a dream, an obsession, a project demanding strategies and conspiracies, lingos and lies, histories and myths. Balzac has been called “a nocturnal Homer,” haunting the theatres, bars, streets, shops, and businesses in the Paris and provinces of his day. “I have learnt more from Balzac than from all the professional historians, economists and statisticians put together,” wrote Marxist theoriest Friedrich Engels. A master at rendering the visible world, Balzac was also obsessed with portraying the hidden desires, ambitions, and yearnings of a society in the throes of tectonic change. The Comedy, though full of fact, is not chronological, causing contemporary critics to liken it to a “mobile,” pre-figuring the narrative experiments of the 20th century.
Auditions are an opportunity to develop your artistic voice and your confidence in that voice through self-critique. In this class we will work to demystify the process of auditioning and understand how to prepare and present work under challenging circumstances. We will cover cold readings, monologue and prepared scenes, with an in depth look at each step of the process, from the artist’s point of view. We will address physical movement, text analysis, making choices, taking direction, interviewing, prep and post audition activity in order to experience the entire audition as a work of artistic expression. We will work towards developing a sense of self-evaluation that allows us to be independent of the need for feedback as well as the skills to participate in constructive feedback sessions. Students present work weekly.
Songs in the key of Wonder is a songwriting seminar based on the classic 1976 release, Songs in the Key of Life, by Stevie Wonder. Students will look at select discography and learn the chord progressions that Mr. Wonder used in writing this landmark album, in addition to his multiple hit songs. We will dissect and understand the music by using theory, form and analysis, and arranging that he used in his recordings and performances. By the second half of the term students will use these progressions to create and arrange their own original songs and compositions. We will also look at other contemporary artists influenced by Mr. Wonder’s style such as, Prince, Michael Jackson, D’Angelo, Musiq Soulchild, Erykah Badu, and Janelle Monáe to name a few.
Why do systems fail? How do we determine what went wrong? How do we learn from failure to build better systems and prevent similar problems from occurring in the future? In this course we will examine a variety of ways that software and hardware systems can fail, their causes, impacts and (where applicable) remediation. We will learn about tools and techniques that can be used to debug, analyze and simulate failures, and will conduct a series of experiments where we will observe various forms of failure. The course, its content and direction will be, to some extent, determined by participants’ skills and interests.
Sari Nusseibeh, a Palestinian philosopher and past President of Al-Quds University, and Yossi Klein Halevi, an Israeli journalist, have each authored books from their perspectives, analysis, and insights into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Nusseibeh’s book is called, “Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life,” while Halevi’s book is called, “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor.” In this class we will read both books, as an example of a dual narrative approach, and as vehicle to try to better understand this conflict which is often called intractable.
This course is designed for students of all disciplines who are interested in connecting their discrete creations (a poem, a drawing, an artwork, a product, an event) to larger systems, organizations, and possible art worlds. In this course, we will examine the ways in which every aspect of your production and distribution process — from sourcing materials to organizing your studio to licensing and acquisition — can deepen your work and remind people of your intentions as an artist. Through in-person meetings, guest presentations, group activities, and readings, you will be introduced to contemporary artists and designers who consider the entire life of their projects, and who develop ways for their projects to circulate in multiple art and design worlds. You will be exposed to a range of creations and systems, from networks of conceptual artists to solidarity co-ops, from alternative currency groups to online start-ups. Throughout the course, you will be challenged to identify art worlds that are appropriate to your work and to your concerns, drawing connections to a series of organizations, collectives and interconnected art and design worlds.
The water supply of Hoosick Falls, NY, Bennington’s western neighbor, has been contaminated with Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) by past industrial activity. PFOA is an “emerging contaminant” that is correlated with a range of health problems. This course will investigate the social and physical aspects of this ongoing disaster, from how the regulation of chemicals in the US shaped this disaster to how the specific chemistry of PFOA guides its environmental and biological pathways to how the geological structure of an aquifer influences the distribution and direction of a groundwater contaminant plume. Students will gain formal training in environmental organic chemistry and toxicology, contaminant hydrogeology, and environmental policy. This class will also conduct field research on the water contamination in Hoosick Falls and Bennington. Students will learn how to collect water samples, interpret laboratory data, and use geospatial analysis techniques and technology to characterize a groundwater plume. Students are also expected to help faculty prepare presentations of the early findings of our research to citizen’s groups in Hoosick Falls. Students in this class will be expected to help develop curricular materials that can be used in area public schools.
What is action? What is character? What are gesture, timing, rhythm and stakes? How do actors, playwrights, and directors collaborate to create an experience in space and time? This seminar offers young theater artists the chance to examine the craft from the inside out.
Throughout the course everyone participates in all exercises and assignments. Non-writers make up stories, non-actors act, and those who have never directed direct. We begin by exploring the energy in the body, focusing on stillness and release, and the body in relationship to space. We continue with physical exercises from both the eastern and western traditions leading into improvisation as a method for tapping the source of impulses. We touch on the Viewpoints as a tool for creating kinetic compositions spontaneously in space. In the text analysis section, we study the expression of action through structure, imagery, dialogue, and the importance of “events.” By mid-term, everyone directs a short scene from one Chekhov play, or another play of our choosing. In the second half of the term, students choose one contemporary play from which they will direct individual scenes. Directors and actors will work together to rehearse, design, and present a public performance of the play.
This course is a hands-on exploration of the many photographic materials spanning the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Over the term, students will study ten specific processes and be asked to create ten 8×10 inch experiments utilizing each one. Processes include camera lucida drawings, pinhole images, cyanotypes, analog color negatives, Polaroid images, scanograms, digital infrared capture, among others. Historical and contemporary practitioners will be introduced as well as relevant readings.
Interested students must have completed the Photo Foundations and preferably one additional studio photography class.
Long before the existence of a discipline we would recognize as “science,” there were women working with men in the pursuit of “scientia”. Scientia embraced a mixture of philosophy, medicine, religion, literature, and knowledge of the natural world – a mixture that would eventually devolve into the separate disciplines we know today. But who were these ancient Greek female philosophers, these medieval “doctoresses,” and these Enlightenment lady astronomers? How was it that they were so celebrated in their lifetimes, and yet they are so completely obscure today? What does that say about our understanding of the discourse and practice of “gender,” or — perhaps more importantly – our understanding of what we now deem to be the nature of scientific knowledge?
This discussion-animated, readings-based seminar provides art historical, cultural, and critical contexts for the Visual Arts Lecture Series (VALS). In addition to our ongoing interrogation of the public lecture as such, students present their own work (in any field) and analyze the technical and stylistic aspects of structuring an effective and engaging ‘talk.’ The course provides unique opportunities for interaction with visiting artists, curators, critics, and historians. Consistent participation and a formal presentation of work/research is required, as are visits to local and regional museums and archives. Please note: Students taking the seminar will not need to register for, and will not receive separate credit for VALS. However, attendance at all VALS lectures is a requirement of the course.
This course is designed to teach the student the many steps involved in creating a finished garment from a simple idea, piece of research or sketch. Students will learn the basics of draping, flat patterning, and fitting. Construction of final garment will allow them to explore and employ sewing skills beyond the fundamentals.
The sonnet, from the Italian sonnetto, or little song, has a long and rich history as a poetic form, described by contemporary poet Laynie Browne as ʺa controlled measure of sound and space within which one can do anything. An invitation.ʺ This course, a literature seminar with a significant creative component, will invite you to study the sonnet in‐depth, both as a traditional form obsessively employed by William Shakespeare and the 14th‐century Italian poet Petrarch, and as an innovative, elastic lyric enjoying a surge in popularity among contemporary writers, some of whom have exploded the form in radical ways. The class will consider the work of such poets as Dante, Petrarch, Shakespeare, Wyatt, Keats, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Claude McKay, John Berryman, Ted Berrigan, Natasha Trethewey, Olena Kalytiak Davis, D.A. Powell, Hannah Sanghee Park, Terrance Hayes, Nikki Wallschlaeger, and Sandra Simonds. Students will write two critical papers, take a midterm exam on form and prosody, recite and memorize two sonnets, and, most weeks, submit for class critique a sonnet of their own.
Corequisite: Students are required to attend all Literature Evenings and Poetry at Bennington events, held most Wednesdays at 7pm.
This introductory seminar will consider and juxtapose the 19th century British Romantic poet John Keats and the 20th century American modernist poet Wallace Stevens, both of whom were rigorous craftsmen, provocative thinkers, and aesthetic theorists who argued fervently for the supremacy of the imagination, the interconnectedness of truth and beauty, and the importance of mystery and uncertainty in poetry. Alternating between Keats and Stevens, we will consider the poetry and critical prose of both writers and look for common threads, both in their writing and artistic sensibility. We will write two short critical essays and together engage in intensive close readings of each poet’s work.