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Information and Syllabus

Experimental Strategies: Live Art - CP473

Days: Thursdays
Time: 03:00pm - 05:50pm
Location: Online Scheduled Distance Learning

Professor: Robert Spahr
Contact: rspahr@siu.edu
Office: MCMA 1056B

Office Hours:
T 01:00pm-04:00pm
W 09:00am-12:00pm
& by appointment

Course Syllabus Location: http://www.robertspahr.com/esla/

Course Listings:
Advanced Experimental Strategies: Live Art - 64820 - CP 473 - 002
Co-convened with:
Media Arts Studio Seminar - Live Art - 64906 - MCMA 543 - 004

Required Text:

Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland (PDF)


What is a live event? What is changed, lost or added in a mediated event? What is the difference between an object and an event? How does a live yet mediated event change our experience? Using Zoom video chat, can we explore new ways of thinking about time, location, simultaneity, virtual space, and storytelling? These are some of the questions we will explore in this course.

This course exposes students to the possibilities of performance art as an open-ended medium, executed by artists impatient with the limitations of more traditional art, and determined to take their interdisciplinary message directly to the public.

For this course we will define performance simply as live art by artists. Students will draw on any number of disciplines and media for material, such as visual art, literature, theater, poetry, music, dance, and installation art as well as video, film, and the Internet. We will use the literary work of Alice in Wonderland written by Lewis Carroll as a text to analyze and use for inspiration as we create a framework to develop our own original adaptation.

This course will be taught as an online scheduled class as we all work in isolation to remain healthy during a global pandemic. Each student will keep a blog to record their thoughts and responses to the semester's work, and use the blog to identify their strengths as artists and areas they may want to explore for future development. Students will workshop and develop collaborative performance in weekly exercises, create several individual projects and one collaborative group project. This group project will be performed for an invited public audience using Zoom video chat, and will take the form of a multimedia performance. Details will be discussed in class.


  • Increase knowledge relevant to the analysis and history of media arts, performance, live art and installation.
  • Develop technical skills for creating and analyzing media arts and interactivity by developing individual and collaborative live art performance.
  • Develop an awareness of the creative process as it applies to media arts practice.


Be sure to check back often for any updated information.

Aug 20
Introductions, Course Overview
Chapter I: Down the Rabbit Hole
Assign: Exercise One

Aug 28
Story Arc Analysis
Chapter I: Down the Rabbit Hole continued.
Reading: Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland
Due: Exercise One
Assign: Exercise Two

Sep 03
Gender, Race, Identity and Temporality
Chapter II: The Pool of Tears; Chapter IV:The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill
Due: Exercise Two
Assign: Exercise Three

Sep 10
Childhood Memory, Dreams/Nightmares, and Virtual Realities
Chapter III: A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale; Chapter V: Advice from a Caterpillar; Chapter VII: A Mad Tea Party
Due: Exercise Three
Assign: Exercise Four

Sep 17
Liveness and Objectness
Chapter VIII: The Queen's Croquet-Ground; Chapter XI: Who Stole the Tarts; Chapter XII: Alice's Evidence
Due: Exercise Four
Script: Advice from a Caterpillar
In class group exercise: Advice from a Caterpillar.

Sep 24
Art as Experience

Oct 01
Due: Individual work exploring the Madhatter's Tea Party.
Due: email instructor by end of day, Project One proposal.

Oct 08

Oct 15
Project One Critique

Oct 22
Due: email instructor Project Two proposal.

Oct 29

Nov 05

Nov 12

Nov 19

Nov 21 - Nov 29
Thanksgiving Break

Dec 03
Project Two Critique

Dec 09 - Wednesday
Final Critique

Three Individual & One Group Project

Two Individual Performances
Each student will develop and present two original performance projects. These two projects will be based on the themes and concepts developed in class as we workshop Alice in Wonderland. A proposal for each project and specific details will be worked out in consultation with the instructor.

One Group Performance
A group collaborative performance will be presented to an invited public using Zoom Video Chat. Because the world feels upside down in the year 2020, we will be reading and analyzing Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. We will workshop our own adaptation, taking inspiration from Wonderland, as we re-create our own experiences that reflect our world living through a pandemic. This will take the form of a multimedia performance created and presented using video chat software. Details will discussed in class.

All projects should be fully documented. Details to be discussed.


The work in this course requires motivation, exploration, risk-taking, and most importantly, an openness to new ideas. The grading policy of this class is meant to encourage you to explore new ideas and take chances. Do not think in terms of "What must I do to receive an A grade", but think in terms of what you would like to learn.

Blog: Create a Wordpress.com blog. Each student will respond to the class readings, weekly studio exercises, and their own live art projects, as well as lectures/discussions in class. At least one entry per week. Students should also document their creative process, and artistic development within the blog. Think of the journal as a resource, to contain your present ideas and hints of future directions to explore. Once you create your blog, email the URL to the professor.

Attendance: Attendance to all classes is expected. You are allowed up to TWO unexcused absences. Unexcused absence beyond this threshold may result in failing this course. Students are expected to be at all scheduled 'workshop days' working on their projects.

Assignments: All assignments and projects are due at the beginning of class. Late projects will not be accepted.

Critique: Students will work closely with each other to develop their projects. This includes learning to speak clearly expressing oneself when discussing their own and others artwork.


A 95-100,   A- 92-95
Outstanding work.
Solution shows excellent depth of understanding and innovation. The solution has been fully developed in form and concept.

B+ 88-91,   B 85-87,   B- 82-84
Good work.
Solution exceeds all requirements and shows above average depth of understanding. Demonstrates more than adequate clarity of idea and execution.

C+ 78-81,   C 75-77,   C- 72-74
Average work.
Problem has been solved adequately, but the solution lacks depth of understanding, development and innovation.

D+ 68-71,   D 65-67,   D- 62-64
Poor work.
Solution is extremely weak and lacks understanding and innovation. Technical skills are weak.

F 61 or less
Unacceptable work.
Solution to the problem is unresolved and incomplete resulting in a failing grade.

Each Project will be graded on artistic, creative and intellectual merit.

Grades will be based on the following:

  • 20% Originality of concept
  • 20% Delivery (execution of the concept)
  • 20% Documentation / Process
  • 20% Craft
  • 20% Critique & participation

Your final grade will be determined by the following:

  • 30% Participation/Exercises
  • 10% Blog
  • 20% Project #1
  • 20% Project #2
  • 20% Group Project

SIU Syllabus Attachment

SIU Syllabus Attachment - Fall '20 - PDF