Special Topics in Media Arts (DESMA 289)
Fall 2018
Professor Casey REAS

Compressed Cinema

Compressed Cinema is a hybrid seminar and studio. We will study and discuss a collection of texts that will partially be constructed by the professor and then augmented as a group. We will write about and create works of Compressed Cinema. Each participant will create a work self-defined as Compressed Cinema and will write an essay related to the theme of the seminar. The academic term will end with a screening and the publication of essays.

Through the last half of the 20th Century, cinema moved from single-screen presentations to multiple screen installations through a shift in architecture and technologies that moved from film to video to digital media. Compressed cinema is a return to the apparatus of the theater; it synthesizes the histories of cinema, avant-garde film, and experimental video. It is also a post-analog approach to time-based images where animation, video, code, and photography are integrated, rather than separated media. Compressed Cinema is also an approach to mass media with a priority to distribute the work in an accessible way. Compressed Cinema distills this experimentation into new forms; it synthesizes the histories of cinema, avant-garde film, and experimental video.

For everyone in the class, there are four primary assignments. First, at the end of the quarter there will be a screening of a work you create during the quarter that you define as a work of “compressed cinema.” Second, there’s a 1000–2000 word essay to write on a topic of your choice. Third, there are weekly readings to carefully evaluate and consider. Fourth, in a group of two or three, you will plan the screenings and readings for one class session.

The final class session will be a screening of the work you created followed by a discussion. We will likely run late on this day to have time to discuss all works in detail.


As a final project, create a work of Compressed Cinema, as you define it. This work will be screened during the last class session and will be discussed after. We’ll only be able to screen each work for a maximum of ten minutes on that day if it’s a longer work and the works can be as short as you feel is appropriate for your idea. The only restriction is that it must be a single-channel work. Have the media tested and ready to screen on the EDA system. The screening is on December 3rd and the final file is due at midnight on December 12th.

Write a 1000–2000 word essay on a topic of your choice in relation to Compressed Cinema. There are four steps for each essay: proposal, draft, final draft, and revision. The essays will be compiled and published in a small print edition or PDF for the end of the quarter.

A small selection of media will be assigned each week. There is a strong expectation of watching/reading the media closely and participating in discussions.

Choose Your Own Adventure
Class sessions six, seven, and eight will be planned by you in groups of two or three people. Planning a session includes selecting the media to review prior to the session (text and video), selecting media to screen in class, and leading the discussion.


25% — Class session planning and execution
25% — Participation in discussions
25% — Essay
25% — Final project

Commitment to Diversity