this is not an online course

Course Syllabus - AVT 600: Research Methods

Professor: Mark Cooley
Fall 2013
Office hours W, 4:30 - 7:30
Appointments: mcooley(at)

AVT 600 | 002 : Research Methodologies


In this course we will not succumb to the common notion among artists that a conscious recognition of theory in the mind of an artist somehow works to restrict an otherwise "free expression". Rather, we will assume that articulating and critiquing the habits, assumptions and beliefs that infuse all of our works would instead work to deepen the possibilities of creative endeavor. In short, we will learn to become better at what we are doing only when we understand what we are doing.

Research is about knowledge and how to gain it, and yet seeking to know is always a value-laden activity. In this sense whether it be knowledge of "self" or "the world" in "knowing" we are also re-presenting the world as we've conceptualized it. It is this constructive activity of "knowing" that begs a question to which this course is well suited, "what is it that I am doing, and what is it that I want to do?"

Course goals

The course intends to provide an opportunity for artists to:

Examine research methods from a variety of studies and explore how they may be appropriated, enhanced, challenged, and redefined through art practice.

Become conscious and critical of the built-in theory that is always already at work in the things we make and the situations we initiate;

Practice articulating questions and locating or creating research methodologies that may provide findings.

Practice in critiquing both questions and findings.

Course requirements

Reading and Response
Students are responsible for completing a reading each week. Readings are selected by the professor or by the students with approval of the professor.

Students must keep a private blog to which the professor and class are invited. Blogs are used to post all writings and documentation of work completed during the course. All entries should be edited for spelling, grammar and content before posting.

Text summaries
Written responses to all readings assigned the previous week (600 - 1200 words). Summaries should consist of ideas drawn from each reading and will be graded according to student investment and understanding (as evidenced by written responses) in the material.

Students engage in various actions and exercises intended to provoke questions, research and action.

Attendance, Discussion, Presentation
The class needs your active participation.  It should go without saying that students should attend all class sessions, be prepared to present their work and participate meaningfully in class discussion. Students who miss more than two classes will not pass this course.

Research / Project
Students are to complete a research paper and accompanying art project.
Projects will consist of 3 parts:
Part 1 contains the Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology and Implementation, Part 2 The Creative Product,
Part 3 The Reflections on Process and Product together with implication for further research.


Students will receive grades quarterly. These grades are averaged (while considering attendance) to determine final semester grades. In general, grades reflect the quality, thoroughness and commitment of student work to address the requirements of the course. Letter grades reflect the following:

A   Work that represents an excellent contribution to the course. Work that is consistently conceptually vigorous and skillfully applied.

B   Work that demonstrates a knowledgeable and creative understanding of relevant tools and concepts and contributes significantly to the course.

C   Work that satisfactorily meets the requirements of a given project and displays adequate know-how. 

D   Work that may or may not meet the minimum requirements of the project and is unsatisfactory.

F   Work that does not fulfill the requirements of the project, incomplete or excessively late, and/or work that displays very little effort and interest.

University and School of Art Policies

In accordance with George Mason University policy, turn off all beepers, cellular telephones and other wireless communication devices at the start of class. The instructor of the class will keep his/her cell phone active to assure receipt of any Mason Alerts in a timely fashion; or in the event that the instructor does not have a cell phone, he/she will designate one student to keep a cell phone active to receive such alerts.

Commitment to Diversity
This class will be conducted as an intentionally inclusive community that celebrates diversity and welcomes the participation in the life of the university of faculty, staff and students who reflect the diversity of our plural society. All may feel free to speak and to be heard without fear that the content of the opinions they express will bias the evaluation of their academic performance or hinder their opportunities for participation in class activities. In turn, all are expected to be respectful of each other without regard to race, class, linguistic background, religion, political beliefs, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, veteran's status, or physical ability.

Statement on Ethics in Teaching and Practicing Art and Design
As professionals responsible for the education of undergraduate and graduate art and design students, the faculty of the School of Art adheres to the ethical standards and practices incorporated in the professional Code of Ethics of our national accreditation organization, The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Open Studio Hours
SOA teaching studios are open to students for extended periods of time mornings, evenings and weekends whenever classes are not in progress. Policies, procedures and schedules for studio use are established by the SOA studio faculty and are posted in the studios.

ArtsBus - Dates for Fall 2013
September 21st
October 19th
November 16th

ArtsBus Credit

• Each SoA major must have up to 5 AVT 300/Artsbus credits before graduation. For credit to appear on your transcript you must enroll in AVT 300. This also applies to anyone who intends to travel to New York independently, or do the DC Alternate Assignment.

• If you plan/need to go on multiple ArtsBus trips during a semester and need them towards your total requirement, you must enroll in multiple sections of AVT 300. Please go to the ArtsBus website: "Student Information" for additional, very important information regarding ArtsBus policy.

• Non-AVT majors taking art classes do not need Artsbus credit for graduation BUT may need to go on the Artsbus for a class assignment. You can either sign up for AVT 300 or buy a ticket for the bus trip at the Center of the Arts. Alternate trips must be approved by the instructor of the course that is requiring an ArtsBus trip.

Visual Voices Lecture Series Fall 2013
Visual Voices is a year-long series of lectures by artists, art historians and others about contemporary art and art practice. Visual Voices lectures are held on Thursday evenings from 7:20- 9:00 p.m. in Harris Theater.

August 29 - Syllabus Review - Linton
September 5 - Jennet Inglis "ART, SCIENCE and SPIRIT in the 21st Century: Curiosity, Collaboration, and Compass"
September 19 - Alyce Myatt "Media, Art, and Money: Alyce's Adventures in the Screen(s) Trades"
October 3 - Lothar Osterburg "A Bookmobile for Dreamers"
October 10 - Susanna Coffey "On My Work and the Portrait Image"

Important Deadlines
Last Day to Add Tuesday, September 3
Last Day to Drop (No Tuition Penalty) Tuesday, September 3
Selective Withdrawal Period – September 30- October 25
Incomplete work from Spring 2013 due to instructor -

Once the add and drop deadlines have passed, instructors do not have the authority to approve requests from students to add or drop/withdraw late. Requests for late adds (up until the last day of classes) must be made by the student in the SOA office (or the office of the department offering the course), and generally are only approved in the case of a documented university error (such as a problem with financial aid being processed) , LATE ADD fee will apply. Requests for non-selective withdrawals and retroactive adds (adds after the last day of classes) must be approved by the academic dean of the college in which the student's major is located. For AVT majors, that is the CVPA Office of Academic Affairs, Performing Arts Building A407.

Students with Disabilities and Learning Differences
If you have a diagnosed disability or learning difference and you need academic accommodations, please inform me at the beginning of the semester and contact the Disabilities Resource Center (SUB I room 234, 703-993-2474). You must provide me with a faculty contact sheet from that office outlining the accommodations needed for your disability or learning difference. All academic accommodations must be arranged in advance through the DRC.

Official Communications via GMU E-Mail
Mason uses electronic mail to provide official information to students. Examples include communications from course instructors, notices from the library, notices about academic standing, financial aid information, class materials, assignments, questions, and instructor feedback. Students are responsible for the content of university communication sent to their Mason e-mail account, and are required to activate that account and check it regularly.

Attendance Policies
Students are expected to attend the class periods of the courses for which they register. In-class participation is important not only to the individual student, but also to the class as a whole. Because class participation may be a factor in grading, instructors may use absence, tardiness, or early departure as de facto evidence of nonparticipation. Students who miss an exam with an acceptable excuse may be penalized according to the individual instructor's grading policy, as stated in the course syllabus.

Honor Code
Students in this class are bound by the Honor Code, as stated in the George Mason University Catalog. The honor code requires that the work you do as an individual be the product of your own individual synthesis or integration of ideas. (This does not prohibit collaborative work when it is approved by your instructor.) As a faculty member, I have an obligation to refer the names of students who may have violated the Honor Code to the Student Honor Council, which treats such cases very seriously.

No grade is important enough to justify cheating, for which there are serious consequences that will follow you for the rest of your life. If you feel unusual pressure about your grade in this or any other course, please talk to me or to a member of the GMU Counseling Center staff.

Using someone else's words or ideas without giving them credit is plagiarism, a very serious Honor Code offense. It is very important to understand how to prevent committing plagiarism when using material from a source. If you wish to quote verbatim, you must use the exact words and punctuation just as the passage appears in the original and must use quotation marks and page numbers in your citation. If you want to paraphrase or summarize ideas from a source, you must put the ideas into your own words, and you must cite the source, using the APA or MLA format. (For assistance with documentation, I recommend Diana Hacker, A Writer's Reference.) The exception to this rule is information termed general knowledge—information that is widely known and stated in a number of sources. Determining what is general knowledge can be complicated, so the wise course is, "When in doubt, cite."

Be especially careful when using the Internet for research. Not all Internet sources are equally reliable; some are just plain wrong. Also, since you can download text, it becomes very easy to inadvertently plagiarize. If you use an Internet source, you must cite the exact URL in your paper and include with it the last date that you successfully accessed the site.

Writing Center
Students who are in need of intensive help with grammar, structure or mechanics in their writing should make use of the services of Writing Center, located in Robinson A116 (703-993-1200). The services of the Writing Center are available by appointment, online and, occasionally, on a walk-in basis.

The Collaborative Learning Hub Located in Johnson Center 311 (703-993-3141), the lab offers in-person one-on-one support for the Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, Blackboard, and a variety of other software. Dual monitor PCs make the lab ideal for collaborating on group projects, Macs are also available; as well as a digital recording space, collaborative tables, and a SMART Board. Free workshops are also available (Adobe and Microsoft) through Training and Certification; visit to see the schedule of workshops and to sign up.

Course outline

M 8/26
Course introduction
Assignment 1 - Process recognition

M 9/2 - Labor Day, University closed

M 9/9
Assignment 2 - Case Studies -
Institutional Critique, Ecology of social and biological systems - Hans Haacke
Reverse Anthropology - Guillermo Gómez-Peña
Reading "Museums: Managers of Consciousness", Hans Haacke, 1986
Reading "Guillermo Gómez-Peña: A "New Age Shaman" in a Bohemian Theme Park / Gretchen Coombs"
Due: Assignment 1

M 9/16
Assignment 3
Due: Assignment 2

M 9/23
Assignment 4
Due: Assignment 3

M 9/30
Assignment 5
Due: Assignment 4

M 10/7
Assignment 6: Research Project Outline
Due: Assignment 5

T 10/15 (Monday classes/labs meet Tuesday. Tuesday classes do not meet this week)
Assignment 7
Due: Assignment 6: Research Project Outline and Presentation

M 10/21
Assignment 8
Due: Assignment 7

M 10/28
Assignment 9
Due: Assignment 8

M 11/4
Assignment 10
Due: Assignment 9

M 11/11
Assignment 11
Due: Assignment 10

M 11/18
Assignment 12: Research Project
Due: Assignment 11

M 11/25 - 12/1 | Recess

M 12/2
Due: Research Project & Presentations


Developing a model for practice based research

  • Distinguishing between professional practice and research;
  • Reflect of process and identify key decision points.
  • Create a process diagram and locate activity along a practice/research continuum.
  • Generating a definition of research;
  • Generate a workable definition of research for your work.
  • Identifying an appropriate role for theory in modelling the processes of research
  • Research and chart an appropriate path through the literature in the field.
  • Drawing the line in the sand
  • Identify pivotal theoretical and other influences on practice, as well as a critical analysis of current dilemmas/stalemates etc., in the practice.
  • Structuring and synthesizing research
  • Managing the dual roles of artist and researcher
  • Communicating hitherto inchoate practice to an audience
  • Contemplating Future Questions/Directions

Some Art Strategies


Some Art Genre

Bio Art
Eco Art
Generative Art
Social Practice
Digital Art / New Media
Public Art

Some (borrowed and hybrid) Methodologies

Reverse Anthropology
Consciousness Studies
Critical Race Studies
Cultural Studies
Gender Studies
Institutional Critique
Media Archeology
Media Studies
Political Economy
Postcolonial Studies

Class Blogs

Sarah Z.