Thinking Visually, Seeing Critically: Making Art Work in Lyon, France

Lyon, France

Next Offered
Early Fall Start 2017
Approximate Dates of Instruction
Application Deadline

In today’s society, we are awash in images—from YouTube and Instagram to cinema and fine art photography, from advertising to fake news, from public sculpture to contemporary civic architecture. Images come at us from all directions and with such speed that many simply absorb them and move on. To navigate our 21st-century world effectively, critical thinking and analytical skills are crucial as never before. This program will use Lyon, France, as a laboratory to study image-making from all directions and to foster critical analysis through visual thinking.

With its layers of history, distinctive quartiers, and world-famous cultural industries, Lyon is an ideal site for exploring the work that images do in contemporary society and how we can “read” them critically. Thinking visually will allows us to imagine new possibilities for shaping and making forms of urban life in the 21st century—practices that are flourishing in Lyon today. Lyon, the second largest city in France and its gastronomical capital, offers a unique environment in which to grapple with these issues. The birthplace of cinema, Lyon remains a dynamic presence for the study of the history of film, photography, and contemporary cinematography through the Institut Lumière. During World War II, Lyon played an important role in both the Vichy Government and the Resistance. Using the resources of the Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation, we will examine the role of information and propaganda in shaping history and contemporary events. We will unpack the subtle influences that captured images exercise on knowledge formation and understanding. Through the Rives de Saȏne project, we will examine how public art shapes public space, communicates ideas of environmental stewardship and cultural heritage, and brings life to abandoned parts of the city in relation to the role art might play in shaping the urban environment in Seattle and beyond. We will meet with scholars and community members to gain direct insight into how these forces that have shaped Lyon.

The program will include in-depth site visits, image making, critical reading, and group discussions. Students will complete a significant project that reflects their unique insights into an aspect of the city. The forms for these projects may include scholarly research; performances in music, sound, drama, or visual art; visual or text-based installations; and creative writing. Following CHID’s emphasis on engaged, collaborative, and experiential learning, we will undertake a mix of analytical, reflective, and creative approaches.  Some questions that will guide our study include: What happens when you switch your focus from the word to the image?  How does thinking visually open up new insights?  How do you make sense of a major, vibrant urban center that’s new to you?  How can you start to make a place for yourself while respecting existing culture(s)? How does the present reflect the past?  How do we determine veracity when looking at images?


CHID 471: Thinking Visually, Seeing Critically (5 Credits I&S, VLPA)

Fulfills Requirements
CHID Cultural and Historical Engagement
SSc Credit
A&H Credit
Total Program Fees

*Note that the fees stated above do not include some additional costs, including, but not limited to: airfare, Study Abroad Insurance ($2/day), and personal spending money. Remember that these costs will differ by program. Be sure to read our Fees, Financing, and Withdrawal information for details about the fee structure and payment schedule.