Visual Studies Research Institute

Funded primarily by USC Dornsife and building on the success of the Visual Studies Graduate Certificate, the VSRI focuses on the nature, analysis and evaluation of visual evidence in order to interrogate the relationship of seeing, believing, and proving from Antiquity to the present.

As active and alert citizens and scholars, we have learned to unpack the rhetoric of speeches and of journalism, and to treat written and spoken claims and assertions with appropriate skepticism. But images of protests or pollution or poverty that are flashed around the world very often seem to offer unmediated truths. The growing role of the Internet and the World Wide Web over the last fifteen years has been to facilitate the transmission of visual information whilst simultaneously removing many of the traditional structures of knowledge that have claimed authority when it comes to interpreting an image. This research Institute takes as its starting point that we learn to recognize and debate the implications of what we think that we see.

“Evidence” is something that underpins the basic concepts and methods that shape the terrain of the humanities and the sciences alike. It invites the exploration of “objectivity,” “reliability,” and “bias.” To focus on it as a topic is to open up issues to do with problems of hypothesis, modeling, and experimentation – and their representation and sharing. The degree to which visual examples, diagrams, charts, and animations serve to communicate knowledge and understanding is central to the construction – and potential modification – of the intellectual landscape of today’s university. Examining the implications of visual evidence leads us to assess the foundations of individual disciplines, the criteria that matter the most in developing their arguments, and the advantages – and problems – of interdisciplinary connections. How do the social sciences, the humanities, and the natural sciences employ visual evidence to produce plausible explanations about the workings of social, imaginative, and natural worlds, now and in the past? 

The Institute is based around an on-going seminar, associated with invited speakers, a team-taught graduate seminar, undergraduate and graduate research fellowships and a conference and publication project. The seminar topic in AY 2013-14 was  “News Pictures” and in AY 2014-15 will be “Material Evidence.”

VSRI News & Events

VSGC Seminar and Lecture Series: MDA 599 – At the Edge of Humor

Wednesdays
Seminar: 2 - 5pm                                          
Public Lectures:
12:30 - 2pm        
SOS 250

 

 

 

Guest Speakers:  

04/06: Eric Jarosinski, "Nein. A Manifesto"
04/20: Gregory Williams, "Humor and Mistranslation in the Work of Martin Kippenberger"
- Preceded by public lecture at 12:30pm
04/27: David Robbins, "Concrete Comedy"
- Public lecture at 7:00pm
 
"Decolonizing the Museum"
Bridget R. Cooks
UC-Irvine
 
Christine Y. Kim
LACMA
 
Macarena Gomez-Barris
USC
 
Wednesday, April 7
5 - 7pm
SOS 250
USC-LACMA: Photo Seminar
                                                                                                                               
 
 
"Symposium, Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium"
Wednesday, April 12
LACMA
 
VSRI Welcomes Daniela Bleichmar as Director of the Visual Studies Graduate Certificate

                                                                                                                               

 

 

Daniela Bleichmar is a specialist in the history of visual culture, knowledge production and circulation, cross-cultural exchange, collecting and display, and prints and books in the early modern world. She has published on botanical art in Enlightenment science, the connection between natural history and art collections, the history of scientific observation, and issues of geographical and cultural fluidity in early modern collecting, among other topics. She has long been involved with the VSGC and the VSRI at USC.

We celebrate VSGC student Robin Coste Lewis on being awarded the National Book Award for poetry for her debut volume, Voyage of the Sable Venus and other poemsCongrats! 

 
  • Visual Studies Research Institute
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