The Visual Studies concentration at Eugene Lang College offers a distinctive approach to the study of the history and theory of art (including painting, photography, film, new media, and performance) as well as the broader terrain of visual culture (including digital technologies, television, sound, and popular culture). Starting with the analysis of the work of art as a distinct form––including its historical and cultural contexts, modes of production, and complex material realizations––it moves to considerations of economic, social, gender, and political issues. Addressing not just form and style of cultural objects, the program further emphasizes how the shaping of images is influenced by sociocultural and political circumstances across diverse cultures, geographic areas, and historical periods. Consistent with other concentrations within the department of Arts, the Visual Studies curriculum couples intensive seminars designed specifically for the Lang concentration with integrative arts courses that emphasize the contemporary shift toward interdisciplinary and nontraditional media, including performance, installation, and audiovisual, video, screen, and digital forms. In addition, it stresses the shared conceptual and theoretical language of different artistic disciplines.
Students have considerable flexibility in designing a program of study that reflects their individual interests. Taking full advantage of its location in a liberal arts college and in proximity to a major art school, the concentration supplements specialized courses in the history and theory of visual culture with relevant classes in cultural and visual studies in other Lang departments and at the New School for Public Engagement and Parsons. Students focusing on Visual Studies can also complement their historical and theoretical study with studio classes selected from a broad range of courses in all media (drawing, painting, photography, digital platforms, graphic design) offered by Parsons. Qualified students can also be admitted through the BAFA (dual BA/BFA degree) program in partnership with Parsons. In addition, students can study curating and the curatorial process in seminars in the Arts department, leading to a co-curated exhibition on the Lang campus.
There are no set areas of study within Visual Studies; rather, students develop a program on the basis of their specific interests. Among the possible areas of focus are modern and contemporary art, curatorial and museum studies, performance and new media, and global visual studies. As the program grows and keeps pace with current scholarship and a changing world, the Visual Studies concentration has been dedicated to helping students develop an understanding of the dominant role images (and the visual field more broadly) play in a technologically oriented global culture. Literacy in reading images, theories of representation, and the visual field are becoming increasingly important in negotiating a complex visual world and becoming a critical thinker and active citizen—skills that reflect the commitment of the college, and the university as a whole, to political engagement, social justice, and sustainability.
Lang's location in Greenwich Village offers students easy access to the abundant museums and other cultural institutions throughout New York City as well as the major art gallery center in West Chelsea. Through partnerships with cultural institutions (including the Guggenheim Museum and the Rubin Museum) students are given unique access to the inner workings of institutions and the varied collections they contain. Lang majors have held internships with major museums (including the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the New Museum), art galleries, art studios, photography studios, film companies, and auction houses. Through these internships, students gain hands-on practical and professional experience that often leads to graduate study in a specialized field or to postgraduate employment.
Students can study Visual Studies as a minor (non-Liberal Arts majors), a guided area of study (Liberal Arts majors) or a concentration (Arts majors). Arts majors can also choose the Arts in Context concentration, in which they combine study of the visual arts with a liberal arts discipline.