Ontario College of Art & Design

Course Calendar


Every semester the Faculty of Liberal Studies offers a variety of Special Topics courses in each discipline and at most levels. These courses allow us to add variety to the curriculum, take advantage of the special expertise of sessional instructors or new faculty, and try out course topics before adding them to the regular curriculum. All of these courses are the equal of regularly listed courses and fulfill the discipline and level requirements for graduation.

Please refer to the list of Special Topics courses which will be posted here or be made available in the Faculty of Liberal Studies office after July 3, 2007.


HUMN 3B91: Religion and Visual Media
Sophie Hawkins

This lecture and film-based course will examine the continued presence of religion in visual cultures around the world, thereby problematizing Nietzsche’s famous dictum of “God is dead.” Having examined the relationship of religion, modernity and secularization, each class will be structured around one specific case study, including Hollywood’s representation of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam; TV evangelism; spirit photography; the media coverage of the funerals of Princess Diana and Pope John Paul II; cyberworship; Egyptian and Hindi soap operas; the global events of the Milk Miracle (1995) and the Toronto Blessing (1994); war and Holocaust memorials (civil religion); the use of religious iconography in pop videos, New Age promotional material and within the global market. The range of case studies includes both explicit and implicit uses of religious iconography, which will lead us to our final discussion of the politics of appropriation.

Anti-requisite: Please note that students who have taken HUMN 2B90 Religion and Visual Media in 2005/06 may not take HUMN 3B90 for further credit.

HUMN 3B93: Comparative Religions
Sophie Hawkins

This course will introduce the main tenets of four world faiths: Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Islam. The lecture-seminars will focus on both the philosophical beliefs and practices of each of these four religious traditions. This will provide a context from which we can begin to examine not only different ‘ways of world making’ but also the complexity of the political present. For example, our study of the beliefs and practices of Islam will enable us to critically analyze the representation of Muslims post 9/11 and begin to think further about the place of religion within multicultural Toronto.

Students will be encouraged to question what it means to “study” religion (as compared to practicing religion) and the course will be designed so as to facilitate a comparative study across the different religious traditions. This comparative methodology will involve the study of how the different traditions approach scripture and revelation; the human condition and transcendent reality; gender and the body; image-making and metaphor.

Coursework will include a substantial research paper, short assignments on religious iconography, and in-class tests. Visits to places of religious worship and guest lectures will also be scheduled.

SCTM 2B90: Topics in the Science of Colour
Barbara Trott

A cross-disciplinary approach to examining colour, with the aim of understanding colour from the multiple viewpoints of art, physics, chemistry, physiology and history. Topics include: perception, wave nature of light, spectroscopy, colour harmony and contrast, natural phenomena, dyes and pigments.

SCTM 2B94: Astronomy: An Exploration of Scales & Structures in our Universe
Robin Kingsburgh

This course will explore the science of Astronomy from the perspective of scale and structure: how, from the microscopic scales of atoms, molecules and light, we have come to understand the macroscopic scales of stars, nebulae, galaxies, and the large scale structure of the Universe. Astronomy is an intensely visual science, with exquisite structures and morphologies revealed by increasingly sophisticated technologies, probing wavelengths the human eye can and cannot see; yet surprisingly the visual contains only a small fraction of the known Universe. Instead, “Dark Matter” and “Dark Energy” make up the bulk of our Universe. We will examine the scientific method of astronomers, and how they have reached such unanticipated results.

VISC 3B91: Art and Fashion
Jim Drobnick

While haute couture has become a central fixture in postmodern culture, fashion has held a special interest for artists since at least the nineteenth century. Whether clothing served as a medium for creativity to be applied to the warp and woof of everyday life, a means to re-engineer the fabric of social relations, or a target for critiques of tradition, functionality and commercialism, fashion attracted the attention of artists from diverse aesthetic and political positions. This class will explore sartorial explorations over the past 150 years –  from Aesthetic Dress in the nineteenth century to Futurist and Constructivist utopian experiments in the twentieth to cybernetic skin-suits in the twenty-first – and the many ways in which artists have broken out of the domain of high art to address issues of gender, ethics, identity, subcultural affiliation and alterity through the material realm of clothes.

VISC 3B93: Sustainability and Design
Eric Nay

A growing awareness of the environmental, social and economic problems associated with contemporary architecture, industry and design has led communities and designers to look for long term solutions to use less energy, create less waste and generally reform the systems that are at the core of the post-industrialized world. This course will survey and analyze existing literature, built environments, and designed objects focusing on defining sustainability within today’s contemporary global context. Projects coming from a wide and varied interdisciplinary range of examples will be explored. Differing contexts, cultures, disciplines, institutions, and regional variations will also be factored into our investigation as we look at how the notion of sustainable design is conceptualized, interpreted and implemented.

VISC 3B95: Contemporary Asian Art
Soyang Park

Contemporary Asian arts are fascinating outcomes of Asia’s modernization and of the intersections of various indigenous and international cultural elements and visual traditions. This course aims to explore aspects of practices and issues in contemporary Asian visual art which have developed through a radical break from, and revision of, traditional art making. This course not only covers a wide range of historical and cultural products from contemporary Asia but also presents issues and methods in Transnational Visual Cultural Studies. The course will look at contemporary arts from different Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, and China (including Hong Kong) as well as Asian exhibitions in Western metropolises such as London, New York, and Los Angeles. This will be combined with the analytical reading of art criticism from regional experts. The sessions will deal with important questions such as contemporaneity, tradition, (multi)modernity, anxiety, and transnationality in Asian art. They will also locate questions of global/local, originality/hybridity, translation/ untranslatability, desire/image/language, memory/history in the context of a body of study.

VISC 4B93: Engaging Suburbia
John Bentley Mays

An experimental inquiry into post-war suburbs in the greater Toronto area and into the current controversy about the nature and value of suburbanization. The goals of the course include the establishment of histories for the post-war formation of cities and city life, and the development of new ways of understanding the phenomena of sprawl and the urban edge. The course will be structured around reading and class discussion, site visits, and presentations by students.


ENGL 3B90: Creative Writing: Contemporary and Experimental Forms
Lillian Allen

Post-modernism has ushered in unprecedented possibilities for new writing forms, including but by no means limited to: image narrative, cross-genre, electronic, experimental, intra-disciplinary works, performance and post-genre writing. Through seminars, workshops, and peer group critiquing, this course will provide students an opportunity to explore the possibilities of contemporary creative writing as they bring their vision and voice to new and emerging literary forms.

HUMN 3B90: Essential Questions: Political Philosophy and the Idea of Progress
Victoria I. Burke

The idea of progress has been at work in much political philosophy in the modern period. The thought is that if we do not have a perfect political system now, we will at some point in the future, aided by increased knowledge and more sophisticated technology. In an effort to understand the idea of progress, its promise and its limitations, and its variegated meanings within the history of modern philosophy and contemporary political discourse, this course will examine perspectives from St. Augustine, Kant, Hegel, and Marx, as well as deconstruction and critical theory.

HUMN 3B98: Multicultural Social Ethics
Archie Graham

This course studies key ethical issues in the global context. Taking our approach from multiple ethical theories of American/European, Asian, African, and indigenous societies, we will consider questions such as the following: cultural exploitation, fair trade, social justice, racial discrimination, patenting indigenous knowledge, right to aid, right to food, human rights, justification of war, terrorism & security, gender rights, the ethical status of abortion, legalization of euthanasia, the value of affirmative action, abuse of power, environmental racism, development and displacement, the problem of ethnocentrism & diversity, etc. Students will develop tolerance and respect for other cultures and theoretical perspectives, learn how to think critically about ethical issues, and become informed about global ethical values.

SCTM 2B95: Modern Physics
Robin Kingsburgh

The goal of physics is to understand the workings of nature through observation, experimentation, and theory. In this course, we will explore the world of physics through its observations and visualizations of nature, from the realm of the human scale through microscopic and macroscopic scales. The course will examine such topics in modern physics as cosmology, relativity, and quantum mechanics, along with their classical historical contexts. Particular emphasis will be placed on the role of visualization in science, and interrelations between science and art. (Note: As little mathematics as possible will be used; emphasis is on conceptual ideas. No background in science/math is presumed.)

VISC 3B96: Re-claiming Indigenous Voice and Vision
Tannis Nielsen

This course is designed to investigate how certain theories born from the European Enlightenment have served as justification for imperial domination over the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. Theories such as Thomas Hobbes’s state of nature, the survival of the fittest, manifest destiny, and, later, Modernism’s focus on the notion of universality have affected and defined the lives of Indigenous peoples in Canada and internationally. In the twenty-first century, the legacy of this history continues to create the extreme political realities that Indigenous peoples face today. The title of this course is drawn from a conference and collection of essays edited by Marie Battiste which examines how contemporary Indigenous artists, activists, and scholars are voicing their own political autonomy/Indigenous sovereignty through (re)claiming and (re)telling their own (re)presentational histories.

Anti-requisite: Please note that students who have previously taken VISC 3B42 Critical Issues & Ideas in Contemporary First Nations Art may not take VISC 3B96 for further credit.

VISC 4B94: The Senses in Artistic Practice
Jim Drobnick

While many of the senses are involved in the experience and production of art, little attention has been devoted by art historians and critics to the senses beyond vision. Savoury, tactile, aromatic and sonic sensations have been employed by artists since the birth of the avant-garde to not only enliven antiseptic gallery and museum spaces, but to address the subtle but powerful links between everyday life, aesthetic experience, and cultural meaning. This class will explore the senses – especially taste, touch, smell and hearing – and their use by contemporary artists. Artworks in a diverse range of media will be addressed, including interactive performances, immersive installations, audio art and synaesthetic technologies. Critical analysis of the hierarchy of the senses and ocularcentrism will be addressed, along with how engaging the senses invariably brings forward complex (and conflicting) attitudes toward the body, personal identity and social affiliation.

VISC 4B95: Art and Design Activism
Kym Pruesse

There is a rich history of artists/designers invested in social change and political activism. Art and Design Activism will look at the practices of artists and designers whose work intersects with issues of social justice. The course will investigate the cultural conditions of activist actions, the goals and effectiveness of visual activism, and the technological environments and tools that have been used to disseminate activist content in historic and contemporary cultures. Broad thematics include: the environment, globalization, war and peace movements, civil rights movements, religious dissent, indigenous rights, nationalism, sexual politics, race and class issues, new communication technologies and methodologies.

VISC 4B96: Formation and Locations of Modern Korean Society and Culture
Soyang Park

This course examines the formation and development of Modern Korean society and culture as it has undergone a rapid transformation since the end of 19th century. Located in between old and new empires (China and Japan) and later succumbing to the US hegemonic order in East Asia, Korea’s modern history is characterized by its experience of Japanese colonialism, decolonization, the Korean War, territorial division, military authoritarianism, rapid industrialization, the anti-authoritarian minjung (grassroots) dissident movement, and formation of a dynamic post-minjung civil society. The discussion includes the in-depth analysis of the significant issues of the ‘Military Comfort Women’ taken for Japanese army during the Second World War, the Kwangju Massacre, US-Korean relations, South Korea‘s democracy, emigration, the success of the Korean film and cultural industry that has swept through Asia and beyond since 1997 known as the Korean Wave. The course will draw on diverse materials such as art works, poetry, testimonies, memoirs, and intellectual histories in order to show the important roles and locations of culture, arts and ideas in this historical transformation and transnational interactions.

VISC 4B97: Improvisational Music and the Visual Arts in late 20th Century
Ananda Shankar Chakrabarty

From ca. 1930s onward, artists and musicians/composers have had increasingly frequent and varied forms of interactions that exceed the simple and reductive explications of parallelism. From ca. 1950s, such interactions have acquired an accrued intensity and frequency. It is the case that from mid-century onward, time and space have begun to mediate, in different ways, visual and acoustic expressions: time has become a concrete element in visual arts at the same time as space has acquired a critical dimension in musical projects. This course will explore the multiple facets of the tensions and contentions between the two artistic forms in question and will enable students to interrogate the extent to which boundaries between these two expressive forms have acquired a certain porosity, which has turned the disabling limit of a boundary into the enabling condition of a horizon. Nelson Goodman’s propositions of “notationality” (The Language of Art), Gérard Genette’s theoretical considerations (The Work of Art: Immanence and Transcendence) regarding the status of “allographic” (i.e. existing in multiple copies) versus “autographic” (i.e. existing in single example) work, and Jean-Yves Bosseur’s (Musique et Arts Plastiques - Interactions au XXe siècle) discussions of the interactions between music and visual arts will provide the contexts and terms of debate in this course.

Last Modified:2/25/2008 10:51:16 AM