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ARTH 642 Aspects of Media and New Media: Immersion

  • Tuesdays, 2:45 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.
  • Online: Access through Moodle
  • Dr. May Chew

Immersion is an increasingly ubiquitous element of contemporary art practice and audience engagement. More than this, we can argue that it also structures the ways in which we navigate our material and virtual worlds; and understand the relationship between technology, mediation, and agency. While acknowledging its more recent iterations, this course also aims to historicize immersion in art and media. We will examine how technologies touted as “new” can be traced to aspects of Medieval art, 18th century panoramas, early museum dioramas, 1960s experiments in expanded media, and more. Conceptually, we will employ immersion—particularly its premise of the work of art/text as seamless or “total”—as a means to think through ambience, absorption, submission, and control. This in turn will illuminate the ways that immersion can be investigated as a social and political figure, for example in urban planning; surveillance capitalism; and current discourses around labour and attention economies. An underlying thread throughout this course concerns how, despite their promises, immersive paradigms often inscribe normative or “default” forms of embodiment while excluding others based on race, gender, class, ability, etc. We will also test out how immersion relates to issues around land, settler-coloniality, and un/authorized occupations of space. To this end, the work of Indigenous artists using virtual and augmented reality technologies will help upend settler understandings about the relationship between body, technology, and the terrestrial.

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