In irregular intervals, we’ll present some of the classes taught in our programs. This is Ginette Verstraete, professor of Comparative Arts and Media, presenting the first one:
The Research Master’s Seminar Critical Issues in the Cultural Industries (taught every second year, alternating with the Seminar Imagining the Image) focuses on the entanglements of space, place and media from a variety of perspectives. Starting point is the spatial turn in media studies and the media turn in cultural geography as these run parallel to the increasing importance of location-based media in diverse fields of application: Google navigation, on-site social networking such as Foursquare, geo-tagging in Flickr, the Internet of Things, but also urban games and community spatial activism. We ask how to interpret these current media developments in theory and practice as these are situated in the tensions between power and play, governance and resistance, economic urban planning and a reclaiming of the commons. Since the class draws students with various backgrounds – in media studies, design cultures, art history and architectural history – We read a whole variety of fascinating authors on the conjunction of media and space such as Anne Friedberg, Anna McCarthy, James Hay, Manuel Castells, Carl Disalvo, Miwon Kwon, David Harvey, Celia Lury, Gerald Raunig, Gilles Deleuze and Bruno Latour.
But besides the theory we also address the practice. In the seminar of 2014 we invited the visual artist Krien Clevis (Hogeschool Zuyd) to talk about her artistic PhD project Locus: Memory and Transience in the Representation of Place. http://krienclevis.com/. As part of that project Krien researched and visualized the archeological findings dug up during the building of the North-South metro line in Amsterdam. Thanks to her we had an unforgettable lecture and a tour underground.
Also in 2014 we invited Prof. Eric Gordon (Emerson College), author of Net Locality: Why Location Matters in a Networked World (2011), to give a Master Class on the role of games for enhancing civic engagement in urban planning. https://elab.emerson.edu/people/eric-gordon
In 2016 we continued this practice-based line of thinking in the – otherwise heavily theoretical – VAMA seminar and invited Dr. Liesbeth Huybrechts (University of Hasselt, Belgium), author of Participation is Risky: Approaches to Joint Creative Processes (2014). Liesbeth has a background in media and cultural studies and is currently a postdoc in participatory design and urban planning at the Faculty of Art & Architecture. She runs several research projects on design and artistic research as mediating participation in urban environments. As part of her postdoc position Liesbeth directs a Media Lab in the city of Genk to explore – together with local citizens – the future of work after the closing of the mines and the Ford-assembly line in Limburg.
In her contribution to our VAMA seminar Liesbeth talked mostly about methods: how do you set up such urban research projects? What are the roles of media, art objects and other “things” (Latour)? What is the function of the theorist-activist as well as the designer-artist in setting up dialogues with citizens? Not surprisingly, our RMA students were asked to participate. Each of them designed a poster about their central skill which they could put to work in the city of Genk. Check some of them out below! (GV)