The Liberal Arts programme forms the interdisciplinary core of IVS’s studio-based professional studies. It is distinctive in the Pakistani context of higher education since it holds that the humanities and social sciences are necessary to art and design education and, indeed, to all creative practice. This non-traditional form of liberal arts study, tailored for studio-based practitioners, sustains the interest of students from across departments by providing ample points of contact and conversation across the studio and the liberal arts classroom, asserting and establishing the relevance of one to the other. The programme seeks to instil in students a strong sense of intellectual curiosity, independence, judgment, ethics, and responsibility as they come to see themselves as not only creative practitioners but as engaged citizens of the world today. These courses also produce a sense of discourse and common purpose among students at IVS since students from different departments take courses together.
In the foundation year, all students take the Liberal Arts core courses in Art History, Theory and Critical Studies, and Reading and Writing. These courses adopt an expansive approach to the study of art, design, and architecture, converging at various points ongoing studio programmes. The courses emphasise the development of skills in analysis and understanding the complexities of practices.
Histories of Art, Design and Architecture I
This is the first of the three modules of art, design, and architectural history that is part of the LA core curriculum at IVS. The three modules provide broad surveys of movements and developments in cultural and civilizational histories that are manifest in the art, design, and architecture from pre-history to pre-Contemporary. The first semester, dedicated to prehistory and ancient civilizations takes students to the Roman era and covers “global” histories that include a survey of the earliest civilizations and others that emerged later with common grounds, as well as analyses of parallel and opposing movements that emerged from different regional, religious, socio-political and historical contexts.
Histories of Art, Design and Architecture II
The second semester covers the period from the Middle Ages to the Salon des Refuses, placing particular emphasis on rapid changes that took place in the historical and visual culture during industrialization and early modernism. The course aims to offer the students a wide introduction to important terms, practices, movements and political issues that have propelled the development of art and visual culture historically. The student’s ability to apply the language and practice of art history to works of Art, Design, and Architecture, will be developed throughout the course preparing them for their more focused courses that follow in the post-foundation years.
Academic Reading and Writing I, II
The use of written language as a medium of communication is a skill that requires precision, continuous, and constant revision. Therefore, all Liberal Arts courses contain an element of writing practice, but a few concentrate specifically on the transfer and reinforcement of formal writing skills. Academic Reading and Writing (ARW) is a rigorous year-long university level course that focuses on developing critical thinking and academic writing and reading skills. In the first semester, Academic Reading and Writing 1 (ARW I) deals with the technicalities of academic reading and its implementation in writing. In the second semester, Academic Reading and Writing 2 (ARW II) builds on material covered in the first semester, placing an emphasis on secondary research, and increasing in complexity through assigned readings and writing.
Since students in the Foundation Year at IVS come from diverse educational backgrounds, the course begins in the first semester with an emphasis on the basic tools of writing, such as grammar, punctuation, sentence, paragraph, and essay structures and introduces students to various rhetorical modes and strategies. It allows students to understand the stages of composition as applied to an academic essay, including close reading, annotation, summary writing, bibliography, citation and referencing, developing a thesis statement, finding and using textual evidence, and being able to organise ideas with logic and clarity. Through themed readings, ARW I and II aim to introduce students to a broad range of topics and ideas, from visual culture and socio-politics, to literature, philosophy, film, critical theory, and urban studies. Students are regularly evaluated on their reading and writing assignments, and are enabled to recognise and thereby avoid plagiarism.
Post-Foundation courses cover a diverse range of subjects and movements, wherein faculty choose to focus on a particular issue, timeframe, or creative practice., The emphasis in these courses is on analytical skills, vocabulary, and context. Following on the broad survey courses of the Foundation Year, students are now invited to concentrate on and analyse individual works in their own particular historical, social, aesthetic, religious, and political contexts. The Post Foundation curriculum also aims to initiate debate and an understanding of the place of creative practice in society, particularly Pakistani society. By developing courses on the political and social resonance of art, design, and architectural institutions, and on creative display and creative members of society, it is intended that students be able to connect their own practices to their social contexts.
Histories of Art, Design and Architecture III
This course, taught in the third semester, concludes the sequence begun in the first semester. It surveys and discusses the development of modern Art, Design, and Architecture, in light of the various cultural, historical, and socio-political events and technological advancements that brought about changes in the way we think about these cultural spheres. One of the core objectives is to enable students to contextualise works of art: to understand that they lose much of their meaning if separated from the time and place and historical context in which they were created. Moreover, this course aims in particular to situate the South Asian and Pakistani contemporary practices.
Islamic and Pakistan Studies
This course, offered in the third semester, under-takes the study of Religion and of Pakistan from multiple perspectives: historical, social, cultural, political, geo-strategic, economic, environmental, etc., It continues to explore and contextualise the national project of Pakistan, as well as the constructed relation between citizen, state, nation-ality, and territory constitutive of this project. The period of coverage precedes and follows 1947, up until the present moment; the course analyses and understands this relationship as it is today and the historical and political work that has gone into creating it. Close reading of texts and primary research provide students a historical foundation and critical framework for inquiry into the project of Pakistan. By the end of this course students should be aware of the complexities and nuances that govern nationalism and religiosity, with a deeper understanding of the current contexts; students should also feel ready to explore and deepen their own sense of identity.
Between the fourth and the final semesters, students take 4 Liberal Arts elective courses. These fall into two categories: Art and Culture Electives, and General Electives. The courses offered as choices change from year to year in order to keep our thinking fresh, to put new ideas and questions in circulation, and to capitalise on the expertise we can engage at a given time. Most of these electives require students to write a formal, methodically researched and referenced paper at the end of the semester. The following sampling of courses offered in the past might give an idea of the range of electives among which students choose.
Tracing Contemporary Art
This course surveys the frameworks, narratives, and thematics explored within contemporary artistic practices, tracing them back through the recent history of art (1930s onwards) in order to provide context, and allowing for a broader understanding of the debates and critical dialogues generated around contemporary art today. Focusing on the work of both local and international contemporary artists, this seminar class explores the histories, emergence, connections and developments of some of the most prevalent artistic concerns and methodologies under investigation by artists and art practitioners, and which have come to dominate the debates around, and trajectories of, artistic practices today.
This course introduces students to the world of Urdu prose literature, with readings in genres such as mizah (humour), afsana (short stories), drama (plays), and khutut (letters); the aim is to inculcate a serious understanding as well as an enjoyment of this literature. The course is introduced with a brief history of the Urdu language and its evolution in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. It takes students through different genres of Urdu Adab by introducing them to the writings of various authors famous in their fields. The main objective of the course is to increase the students’ interest in Urdu reading, writing, and speaking. By the end of the course the students acquire a taste of Urdu literature. They gain knowledge about different styles of writings, such as drama, afsana, character sketches, and travelogues based on reading, writing and discussions, thereby developing a deep understanding of the texts.
Sustainable Cities and Communities
Sustainable, smart, green, and resilient cities—these are all the defining constructs of an exciting, emerging global paradigm in urban planning. Here, strategic plans are replacing master plans—gated communities and urban sprawl, supported by private automobile friendly transportation infrastructure are being discouraged in favour of mixed, integrated neighbour-hoods and walking and bicycling supportive streets, walkways, and destinations. Sustainable cities of today, while responding to complex social and political realities, are in essence a by-product of what is now being termed as the most potent challenge facing mankind: climate change. Climate change is resulting in drawing up a development agenda that aims to place the social, environmental, and economic dimensions of development in close proximity. Cities are the frontlines in the battle against climate change, simply because presently more than half of humanity resides in urban centres, while it is estimated that by the year 2050, this figure will rise to two-thirds (an alarming figure of 650 billion people). In addition, major sources contributing to green-house gas emissions that are warming up the planet, such as transportation, residential and commercial buildings, and industry are based in cities. Sustainable Cities and Communities has been identified as one of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) that are to define the global development agenda till the year 2030.
Politics and Power in Literature
Many social and political themes have recurred across history and have transcended cultures and borders. Whether it is state propaganda to control the mind-set of the masses or misguided revolutions, the more things change, the more they remain the same. This course looks at some of the most famous literary critiques of power, ideology, and authority, and how they continue to resound through the modern world especially Pakistan. It familiarises students with famous literary critiques of popular culture, politics, and society. It also prepares students to identify recurring political and social themes in Pakistan and how these are reflected in Literature, both old and new.
Screening the Body: Gender, Race and Nation in Visual Culture
The course explores the role of visuality in constructing gendered, racialised, sexed, and colonised bodies in our era of modern biopoli-tics. It investigates how these gendered and racialised bodies are produced in the service of colonialism, capitalism, nationalism, and practices of war, where the body is a direct locus of state control and subject to state policing, manipulation, mobilization, and destruction. Starting with a study of the social and cultural construction of women’s bodies, this course centres the under-standing that gendered bodies are also racialised bodies, and “race” as a concept is profoundly significant in the ways that women’s bodies are made visible/invisible. Drawing on feminist, queer, critical race, and visual culture studies, the course takes an intersectional approach to think through the ways in which gendered representations of the body intersect with race, class, colonialism and nation to constitute particular ways of seeing and of devaluing bodies. This course, in thinking critically about the dominant regimes of representation, also pays attention to radical feminist art practice and the ways in which artists and cultural actors have challenged the colonizing gaze and its hegemonic modes of seeing, to explore and imagine new ways of self-representation.
Culture on Display
This course aims to contextualise and collate the History, Theory and Critical Studies, as well as the various Humanities and Social Sciences, courses that the students have been taking by introducing the element of cultural institutions and the publics. It looks at how the development of Art, Design, and Architecture is presided over by changes in the public sphere and institutional heritage. Beginning with a brief history of the museum in Europe, the course then looks more internationally at the design museum, public art displays, displays of fashion and textiles, the colonial museum, the rise of the curator, the contemporary art gallery and other exhibition spaces, and the development of museum technologies such as phone apps and audio guides. Besides providing the historical background of the rise of the public sphere and public consumption of culture on display, particular attention will be paid to contemporary culture, and to the Pakistani context. Most importantly, the course examines how issues related to class, nationality, gender, and wealth play out within spaces of cultural display — both how culture is used as a tool of power, and how culture is understood as a form of pedagogy.
Art in the Time of the Raj
This course examines the role of art and architecture, as well as its growth, in the South Asian subcontinent from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries, especially focusing on the Mughal Empire’s and East India Company’s rule and influence, in terms of how their colonial expansion and their ideology was documented in art.
The discussion’s nucleus is the cross-cultural discourse between “the west” and “the east,” such as Baroque influences in miniature artworks, as well as Mughal aesthetics in the Romanticism period of Europe. Moreover, the course discusses the East India Company’s influences on art and architecture, and the Khar khaana school of thought on subcontinental art. Themes such as propaganda art, theology, gender roles, and conflict (focusing on the battles between the Mughals and Rajputs) are discussed in relation to the art that was generated during this time. International and local texts will be discussed and analysed, in order to unpack the different tangents of this timeline.
Introduction to Psychology
Psychology, as the study of human mind and behaviour, plays a vital role in understanding, creating, and interpreting art, design, and architecture while considering human needs and aesthetics. The objective of this course is to provide a basic understanding of psychology and its application in art, design, and architecture and everyday life.
Critical Notions of Space and Place
Through a series of thematic inquiries, this course explores literal and metaphorical notions of space and place in contemporary visual culture (and their pervasiveness in contemporary artistic practice). Specifically, students are asked to consider how artists and writers have negotiated geography, notions of centre and periphery, and other cultural signifiers as not only the subject of their work, but also as the framework for its reception. In addition to exploring a wide range of artists working in sculpture, installation, film, video, photography, and painting, we examine how curatorial notions of space have evolved in the age of globalization not only as a reflection of historical and political change but, in some cases, as powerful agents and instigators of new ways of seeing and thinking.. Students engage with key critical thinkers and practitioners within the field, and choose and execute individual research projects, conducting original research and crafting an original argument.
Introduction to Performance Art
This course provides an extensive understanding of the respective movements in the history of performance and how it is understood today. It also demonstrates how we are able to use space, place, time, and most importantly our bodies to produce and become our “work” within visual arts. We question, unpack, and repack thoughts and philosophies regarding why and what performance art has done. As Roselee Goldberg says, “The history of performance art is integral to the history of art. It has changed the shape and direction of art history over the last 100 years, and it’s time that its extensive influence is properly understood. Throughout art history, performance (think Futurism, Dada, Surrealism…) has been the starting point for some of the most radical ideas that have changed the way we artists and audiences think about art. Whenever a certain school, be it Cubism, Minimalism, or conceptual art seemed to have reached an impasse, artists have turned to performance as a way of breaking down categories and indicating new directions.”
This course invites students to explore key themes in philosophy, specifically with respect to questions in metaphysics (e.g., being and nonbeing, the one and the many, the nature of reality, same and other, self and other); epistemology (e.g., the nature and possibility of knowledge, different ways of knowing, knowledge vs. opinion, truth and falsity); ethics (e.g., right and wrong action, good and bad, objectivism and relativism in ethics, social and political philosophies, the idea of value, the problem of evil); and aesthetics (e.g., the nature of beauty, aesthetic value, the possibility of aesthetic valuation). Accordingly, it focuses on how philo-sophical inquiry is a method of approaching the world and its phenomena, and provide students tools for such engagement. These include close reading and textual analysis, building coherent arguments, ascertaining rationality in thought, questioning unsaid assumptions, and revisiting one’s own views on subjects of personal and social significance. The course aims to cultivate a critical sensibility, enabling students to become competent and responsible should they desire to pursue a deeper understanding of philosophical topics or conduct research in related fields of study.
Sonic Force in Contemporary Art
This course examines the medium of sound in Western Contemporary Art. To understand its position, we study a wide range of European and North American artworks from the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Video, performance, installation, and new media works from various art movements, accompanied by selected critical texts that review the development of the medium through philosophical, social, cultural, political and psychological analysis, help us comprehend the elusive medium, and propose possibilities for where it may be headed.
Truth and Fiction
Truth is often stranger than fiction, or so the maxim goes. And that is because every piece of fiction is based on a strange, but true, story. After all, every story told has to be grounded in reality. Just as there is often an element of truth in a work of fiction, behind the timelessness of a celebrated piece of literature is often the novelty of an interesting newspaper story. Journalism isn’t just the first draft of history—it is also the first draft of literature. Though on opposite ends of the writing spectrum, journalism and literature meet in the space of feature writing. In many ways a “halfway house” between journalism and literature, feature writing, also known as “long-form” or “literary journalism,” combines the curiosity that drives journalism with the techniques of style, structure, and character of essays and fiction. The basic elements of a news story provide an ideal foundation to develop a work of literary fiction, with the descriptive style of feature-writing and reporting being an ideal tool for budding writers and students of literature.
Dialogues in Philosophies of Photography
What comes first: Philosophy or art? Philosophy or technology? Philosophy or the production of history? This course examines key concepts in western cultural theory and philosophy relating to the theories, economies, technologies, and aesthetics of photography and film. This course connects the work of theorists and philosophers with the social/political milieu of their times and consider them alongside works of art in photography and film. Introducing students to key areas and modes of twentieth- and twenty-first-century philosophy alongside developments in the ideas and production of photographic imagery, the course seeks to foster a critical awareness of the crossovers between the production of political, theoretical, and aesthetic ideas. The authors introduced will include: Walter Benjamin, Marshall McLuhan, Giorgio Agamben, Catherine Malabou, Michel Foucault, Paul Virilio, Susan Sontag, John Berger, Roland Barthes, Vilem Flusser, Hito Steyerl, Jacques Rancière, Kaja Silverman, Jonathan Crary, Ariella Azoulay, Jeff Wall, Guy Debord.
Music and Ideas
The number 12 looms large in Music and the course contains 12 broad themes that will explore ideas from the ancient Greeks to the present day: Music of the Spheres, Music and Proportion, Music as Language, Music as Drama, Music and the Transcendental, Music as Song, Music as Rhythm, Music and Worship, Music and Chance, Music and Dialectics, Music with and beyond Words, Music as Art or Science? These exploratory lectures seek to stimulate students’ thoughts about what music is, what it contains, what it represents, how it communicates, and how it acts as a medium for the transmission of ideas. The course does not require students to read musical notation. The course on Music and Ideas is offered as a broadening elective, suitable for a wide range of students – from all departments – who are curious to explore ideas associated with one of the arts and sciences of the ancient Quadrivium.
Conflict and Urban Society
It is believed that the hallmark of a democratic society lies in the ability of its citizens to gather and move about freely. In order for this to occur, citizens must be secure not only in their physical environment, but also of their rights in and to the space that they occupy. This course looks at the impact of conflict, war, and violence on urban spaces and societies, deconstructing under-standings of the word “conflict” in an increasingly unstable world, in order to expand the perspective on what is at play and at stake in such sites. It examines how architectural/ artistic/design practices come to address such issues through their work, whether in the form of investigation, dialogue, or creative problem solving. How does one begin to think about processes of reimagining and reconstruction (physical, socio-political, cultural) in post-conflict societies, and how does this differ from processes of engagement in societies where conflict is ongoing? What is the difference
Digital Media and Cultural Studies
This course covers various theoretical perspec-tives and discourse over the evolution of digital media in different global cultures and its impact on society today. The course highlights the development and role of the digital sphere and social media over the years. Topics include: our digital footprints to current day surveillance society, where all our digital moves are being recorded; algorithms and the representation of digital media in different cultures and platforms, with a focus on Pakistani context; privacy policies on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms as well as online digital wills/ legacies; online hate speech, trolls; and the result or impact of online debate, covering instances of xenophobia, racism, and the case of Qandeel Baloch, for example.
Decolonising Science Fiction Film
This course offers a critical analysis and turns a decolonizing gaze towards popular western science fiction, using the Hollywood imagination of America as a starting off point to examine the tropes of science fiction cinema and the anxieties that fuel them. We investigate diverse issues such as those relating to race, science, gender, empire and capitalism. We turn our examination then to peripheral cinemas, science fiction of resistance and cinemas around the globe which contribute to a transnational re-imagining of futuristic fabulation. This course aims to provide students with a series of critical perspectives with which to approach the science fiction genre. We present a case for science fiction film as a resource for exploring the changing relationship between humans and technologies and explore the constructions of humanness from a decolonial lens. We place the contemporary SF genre film within specific historical contexts of white supremacy, empire and capitalism and examine modern manifestations of “futurisms” as a resistance to the status quo supporting our study with critical film and genre theory, postcolonial and feminist theory and cyborg theory.
Transnational News Media & Journalistic Practices
This course covers various theoretical texts, discourse and visuals to critically analyse the means of journalistic practices, reporting and the interpretation of news media across borders through the kind of rhetoric and visuals utilised. It aims to focus on the transformation of the transnational news environment with the emergence of non-western producers such as Al-Ja-zeera and specifically looks at reporting practices in South East Asian regions in contrast to major existing western producers such as the CNN and BBC to analyse patterns within the media industry. During the semester the course will cover topics ranging from media representations, online citizen journalism, transnational media history, media hegemony, media consumption and political and cultural identities and the impact of mass media on global citizens while analysing key factors such as the role of digitisation and new technologies.
In the sixth and seventh semesters (eighth and ninth for Architecture), all students get a formal initiation on humanistic and social scientific research methods and their applications within their fields of interest, inquiry, study, and practice. This is where Liberal Arts teaching intersects directly with their departmental instruc-tion, as faculty from both the liberal arts and the departments guide and assess students together through the research design, implementation, and writing process.
This course is offered in the second semester of the students’ penultimate year (8th for Architecture and 6th for all other departments). It is designed to lead students into the Final Research Paper process (and is a prerequisite for FRP) by running them through the structure of the paper and guiding them through various research strategies. The course establishes the objectives for undertaking an undergraduate final research paper, outlines the major elements of a research project, and assesses the various types of research practices that can be undertaken. While a diverse range of peripheral subjects and ideas within the arts, design, architecture and the humanities are touched upon and discussed as possible areas of research, the course concentrates on enabling students to practice ways of conceiving and developing paper proposals, on effective critical reading of secondary texts and published essays, on critical writing practices, and on competent formatting. Given that the Final Research Paper at IVS contains a great deal of primary research, this course also guides the students in their development of primary research strategies including interviews, site visits, questionnaires, and think tanks. It also encourages them to critically examine the ethics of research, and of academic representation.
Final Research Paper
The Final Research Paper constitutes the last leap that pushes students to the level of articulation and intellectual maturity toward which all tracks of the Liberal Arts programme have been working. The essay requires both extensive reading of secondary sources as well as primary research. The research process encourages an understanding of the students’ roles as citizens, designers, artists, and architects in Pakistan, and also prepares them for higher education and the professional work environments. The Final Research Paper is written over one semester (7th for all departments except Architecture, for whom it is the 9th semester) and submitted at the end of the Spring semester of a student’s final year. Weekly meetings with a departmental supervisor, and frequent meetings with the research coordinator, support the students throughout their progress. The Final Research Papers are graded by the departmental supervisor as well as a reader, a faculty member selected by the student from outside their depart-ment. Both the supervisor and the reader mark students according to set criteria including methodology, content, and structure.
The Academic Reading and Writing (ARW) I and II courses are undertaken by all Foundation Year students at IVS as part of mandatory requirements within the Liberal Arts programme. The ARW I and II courses lay the foundation for skills required with increasing levels of difficulty as students’ progress in their academic career at IVS, culminating in a Final Research Paper of 4000-5000 words in the final year of study. No student can graduate without completing all requirements of the Liberal Arts programme.
With this in mind, Liberal Arts offers an English Language Support class, which is directly linked to the Academic Reading and Writing sequence, for students who may struggle to achieve the level of English reading/writing/research required of them at the freshman stage. This mandatory support class addresses struggles with English language proficiency, grammar, punctuation, sentence and essay structures, vocabulary, and so on. As an initiative to support and facilitate students at varying levels within the institute, the class is offered with no associated course fees.