Evidence: Real Harvard VES Courses

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What follows here are entries from Harvard University's Department of Visual and Environmental Studies online course catalog from 2009.  These are only a sampling of the humorous class descriptions to be found there.  Course numbers and administrative numerology are not edited out, so that the reader can verify the reality of the descriptions. We may take these examples, I think, as indicative of the tenor of many American university art departments over the past few decades.




*Visual and Environmental Studies 38. Baggage: Studio Course - (New Course)

Catalog Number: 43153 Enrollment: Limited to 12.

Andrew B. Witkin

Half course (spring term). M., 9–12. and additional times to be arranged.

Engaging personal and public notions of authorship, veracity, legibility, history and value, this class focuses on exploration and performance in collecting. Students will examine possibilities and patterns to understand choice, advice, intuition and peculiarity with the goal of better communication. Sources include information distribution models, history, exhibitions in and out of art contexts and a focus on comfort. This will aid students in investigations into personal and collaborative projects employing a variety of media, methods and modes.

Note: No previous studio experience necessary. Students from other disciplines are highly encouraged to take the course.


Note the phrase “with the goal of better communication.” DL



*Visual and Environmental Studies 53a. Fundamentals of Animation: Studio Course

Catalog Number: 1360 Enrollment: Limited to 10.

Sarah Jane Lapp

Half course (spring term). Tu., 1–5, and weekly film screenings F., 1–3; .

Strategies for creating an alternative cosmos - imagined, utopic, glorious.


Great! which drugs will we be taking? DL



[*Visual and Environmental Studies 58r. Image, Sound, Culture: Studio Course]

Catalog Number: 6680 Enrollment: Limited to 10.

Lucien G. Castaing-Taylor

Half course (spring term). F., 9–12, F., 2–5.

Students use video, sound, and/or hypermedia to produce short works about embodied experience, culture, and nature, and are introduced to current issues in aesthetics and ethnography.

Note: Expected to be given in 2010–11. No previous studio experience necessary.


Hypermedia? Note that the students are strictly limited: explorations will only be allowed within experience,culture, or nature. DL


*Visual and Environmental Studies 37. Lay of the Land: Studio Course

Catalog Number: 3090 Enrollment: Limited to 12.

Stephen Prina

Half course (spring term). Tu., Th., 1–4.

The pursuit of and response to the horizontal in art will be the focus of this studio class. To cite a few examples, abstract expressionist painting, cartography, earthworks, landscape photography, 19th century German Romantic landscape painting, and Rayograms will provide models of the horizontal that will be points of departure for studio projects, the forms of which will be determined by what the investigation provides. Students will shift medium from project to project.

Note: No previous studio experience necessary.


Suggested follow up class: Course on the use of Yellow in the wardrobe of Beethoven’s hypothetical cross-dressing lover. DL



*Visual and Environmental Studies 36. Making as Thinking: Sculpture - (New Course)

Catalog Number: 23095 Enrollment: Limited to 12.

Helen Mirra

Half course (fall term). Tu., Th., 1–4.

A studio course in which to experiment with simultaneous making and thinking, with simple yet unbounded materials and methods.

Note: No studio experience necessary.


“The hills are alive with the sound of music…”; and I wonder if Harvard students are up to the task of both making and thinking at the same time- I anticipate frustration. DL


*Visual and Environmental Studies 32. Reconstruction: Studio Course

Catalog Number: 1790 Enrollment: Limited to 12.

Helen Mirra

Half course (spring term). Tu., Th., 1–4.

A studio course, for making things out of other things, attending to the realms of demolition, waste, surplus, and detritus.

Note: No previous studio experience necessary.


How do I even make fun of this?  DL


*Visual and Environmental Studies 80. Loitering: Studio Course

Catalog Number: 9394 Enrollment: Limited to 12.

Stephen Prina

Half course (fall term). Tu., Th., 1–4.

You will hang out in the vicinity of culture and make things in response to it. This class is not thematic or linked to any particular discipline.

Note: No previous studio experience necessary.


This class is also not linked to any particular amount of work for the instructor. DL


*Visual and Environmental Studies 29. Painting Day and Night - (New Course)

Catalog Number: 44403 Enrollment: Limited to 12.

Drew Beattie

Half course (fall term). Tu., 1–6.

A studio course emphasizing the fundamentals of oil painting. Students will capture the illusion of form, space and light through the handling of paint and color. Subjects will include still life arrangements, the interior of the studio and views out its windows. Images from the observation of daylight will be followed by those belonging to night.

Note: No studio experience necessary.


You’re going to teach us how to paint something??? How did you get into the Art building???- SOMEONE CALL SECURITY! DL


*Visual and Environmental Studies 22. Subtle Skills: Studio Course - (New Course)

Catalog Number: 88474 Enrollment: Limited to 12.

Instructor to be determined

Half course (fall term). Tu., Th., 9–12.

In this beginning-level studio course, students get acquainted with a variety of painting and drawing media. Students paint and draw during and outside class, working to find their own painterly practice. The course aims to put skill into perspective while unassumingly practicing and studying some of the tools used for image making. Critiques, readings, and exhibition visits are integral to the course.

Note: No previous studio experience necessary.


Another infiltrator, probably a spy for the non-marxists, aiming to undermine the true and glorious purpose of the university: To support an absurdist utopia and the fortunate few professors and administrators who are it’s benificiaries. DL