The Circus for Self-Definition

GEH 102 Spring 00

Instructor: Tony Allard

Location: Uhaul 271

Hours: M and W, 1:30 - 2:45

Office: Craven 6132

Office hours: by Appointment

Phone: x4188


Web URL:


Course Description

In this module during this second semester of this two semester course, we will continue our examination of the role of images within culture. In the first semester we studied images including painting, photography, print media and television. This semester we will focus on electronic, digital and virtual images, and the roles they play in defining notions of self. Two themes will run through all modules. These themes are identity and the materials of everyday life. In addition to reading and studying about digital images, we will also create digital images using computer technologies to investigate the theme of identity. Movements in art we will draw inspiration from include Dada and Surrealist montage, performance art, and contemporary artists and writers working with issues of identity in digital space. The work we do will culminate in a presentation combining the work (images, movement and sound) from the other two modules. We will experiment with projected images in combination with sounds and movement from the other two modules.


Digital image: In this class, we will experiment with creating a persona, that is an alter identity. You will work with a full length body portrait which we will take in class with a digital camera. You will be responsible to create an alter identity using this photo as a basis for the image by altering the photo through digital manipulation in a computer. This will include learning how to electronically draw on the image, scan other images to cut and paste into the image, copy and paste images from the web, and use text with the image.  Each digital portrait should include the following images: an altered body, a text, a chair, a piece of your "electronic" identity and an animal. They can be arranged in any way, and found or appropriated from any source. At the end of the module we will experiment with alternative forms of projecting your images, therefore, you should include in your image one or more interactive elements. Some examples of interactivity are: a blank picture frame in which you can stand in front of and speak or gesture in some way related to the content of your image; design your image in such a way that it can be projected on your own body or another 3D surface; create a space in the image where an additional live video camera image can be inserted into the static image. When I give this assignment I will explain in greater detail the interactive elements.


Required Reading: There is a reader in the bookstore (under Trasoff, Diekman and Sprague) which has been compiled for all three modules this semester. It contains one essay which we will be reading for the class, "The Virtual Unconscious in Postphotography", by Kevin Robins. The other readings are texts published on the web. I recommend you print these out from the web in to make it easier to read them, make notes and bring them to class. The URLS (web addresses) are listed in the syllabus. All readings are listed on the day they are due.


Final writing assignment: Each image will be accompanied by a short (4-5 page) writing assignment which explores aspects of the student's identity. This paper should address the ways in which the student defines his or her self-identity, and the how photograph alters or reinforces this identity. Discuss in your paper the actual image you have created in PhotoShop; why you chose the objects or texts in the image, what they symbolize or mean, how they function as cultural signs, how they relate to aspects of your identity. The paper should also incorporate ideas from at least two of the essays we read in class or listed in

the syllabus, ideas expressed in the videos you watched (including "Black is, Black Ain't" by Marlon Riggs, on reserve) as well as any other essays you might be reading in other classes or other modules. When making reference to the essays, please use quotes from the essay, followed by page numbers. When making reference to the videos, be specific. For instance, you may cite the ways in which Marlon Riggs used language or music in defining notions of self or community and compare your own ways to those in the video. Provide a bibliography on the fifth page of your essays. This paper is due on the last day of the module. It should be typed, printed out, as well as placed as a document file in your folder on the server. For help in documenting and citing your sources visit this site http://webware.Princeton.EDU/Writing/docmntg.htm


Grading: Your grade will be determined by the following--class attendance and participation; completion of all reading assignments and discussion; completion of all writing assignments; completion of your digital image which should be placed in a designated folder on the server; participation in each performance event at the end of each module. Equal emphasis will be given to each. (20% ea.) No late work will be accepted. Failure to do the assignments will culminate in a failing grade for the module. Your grade for this module constitutes one third of your final grade.


Attendance: Three absences constitute a failing grade. A sign in sheet will be provided for each class at the front of the room. Please sign in when you arrive. This will be my only record of your attendance.


Class #1, March 6th Monday

Introduction to the class.

Slide presentation on collage, photomontage, digital photography and chance processes in artmaking, focusing on Dada and Surrealist art as well as contemporary digital artists. The figure of the cyborg is introduced. Introduction to ideas of self-definition and persona.


For a description of the various components of the cyborg (human/machine body), visit the website:

For examples of Exquisite Corpse in text and image visit the website:

   Surrealist Reassembling Reality-Visual Techniques

http:// courses.csusm.ede//geh102kd/Circus/SurrealImages/SurCollage.html

Images from introduction:



Class #2, March 8th, Wednesday

Avatars, Personas, and MUDS

Writing assignment #1 due (1 page): In what ways do you define yourself? How are you defined by those around you, and are they the same ways you define yourself? If you could create a fantasy persona, what would he or she be like?  Be prepared to discuss this in class.

Required reading due: "Constructions and Reconstructions of Self in Virtual Reality: Playing in the MUDS", Sherry Turkle

Preparation for digital image. Full length photo to be taken in class.

Required Video Screening:

To help you expand your notion of self-definition, you are required to watch, "Black Is/Black Ain't", a video tape by Marlon Riggs. In this video, he explores African American identity through several defining factors including language, food, race, sexual orientation, education, hair, etc.  As you watch it, make notes detailing his approaches to identity. How many of these are important in defining your own identity? Turn these notes into me. This video is on reserve at Media Services, Craven Hall 4th Floor. They have VCR's set up for you to watch. Two people can watch the video at one time.


Class #3, March 13th, Monday

Required reading due: "The Virtual Unconscious in Postphotography", Kevin Robins, GEH 102 Reader.

Discussion: In what ways does Robins think that the postphotographic image can provide a new reality which is transformative, creative or empowering? What do you think is the relationship of the postphotographic image to reality?

Video Screening (in class): "Synthetic Pleasures", by Iara Lee


Please visit this website before class:

Check out links to synopsis, cool links, glossary.


Class #4, March 15th, Wednesday

Introduction to the server. 

Demonstration: Intro to Photoshop Basics-launching the Photoshop application, opening a file into photoshop, making a copy of this file, naming and saving the copy, making and using layers, working on the copy in layers, saving and closing the file, reopening the copy file. You will be working in groups of two.


Logging on: In order to access our class folder where all your images will be stored, you can log on to any MacIntosh computer on campus:


Login: geh student

Password: geh10207

Your folder for the class is called, "Diekman". Inside of this is a folder called, "Diekman_mod1". Inside of this folder will be a folder with your name. Save all your work to this folder only.


Class #5, March 20th, Monday

Assemblage, collage, photomontage, found materials

Demonstration: How to scan images into Photoshop, and name and save the files on the server. Using the Photoshop tools and layers to cut and paste images to create digital identity.

For step by step help in scanning:


Assignment: Gather a handful of found materials which you can use to construct your digital image. You may scan: photos, parts of newspaper, bits of found texts, material, bank statements, photo ID, textures, thumbprints, small flat clean objects. Have these ready for today.


Class #6, March 22nd, Wednesday

Visiting Artist: meet in the VPA Annex on La Moree Road across from Public Safety, 1:30pm. This is a short walk from the main campus (5 minutes) on a road which leads from the east side of campus to public safety. Limited parking is available in front the annex and across the street at public safety.

Craig Johnson will discuss sound and found materials.


Class #7, April 3rd, Monday

Text and Image.

Work with images in Photoshop. Introduction to text tool.

Assignment: Have all elements of your new digital identity scanned and saved as individual files before coming to class. Have all elements cut and pasted into layers by end of class. Have a text ready to incorporate into your image--part of a poem, song lyrics, a letter, something someone said to you, a form, a certificate, your transcripts, etc.


Class #8, April 5th, Wednesday

Continue working with photoshop to develop digital identity.


Class #9, April 10th, Monday

Finish images and save to class folder on the server. Your image should have your initials in the name and should be flattened. It should appear like this: "YourName_final.jpeg".

Present work to each other in class for feedback and critique.


Class #10, April 12th, Wednesday

In Ring #1..presentation of work from all modules. Meeting place TBA.

Final four page writing assignment due. (see Final Writing Assignment in course intro.)