Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Art History


Harriet Senie

Committee Members

Amy Herzog

Mona Hadler

Margot Bouman

Subject Categories

Contemporary Art | Other Film and Media Studies | Other History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


public art, new media, film studies, media studies, installation art, spectatorship


This dissertation examines the work of artists who use moving images in contemporary public art. Specifically, these works are understood through their interactions with spectators and the practices of media consumption and public interaction these passersby negotiate when they encounter a work of moving image-based public art. To this end, I argue, through an analysis of public art, that screen spectatorship is an inherently situated experience.

The project of this dissertation is two-fold. First, I outline a typology of moving image-based public art by dividing significant practices into three categories—the enchanting spectacle, the ludic interface, and the illumination of place. These distinctions illustrate how moving images in public space attract the spectator’s eye, generate new social spaces, and interact with existing discourses of place. Second, this dissertation examines these particular screen situations in relationship to broader practices in media spectatorship in public space, considering screens not only as transmitters of images, but also as potentially site-specific objects and part of a larger web of monetized urban spaces. Public art becomes a lens through which I examine broader changes in screen culture and public space.

Furthermore, by considering works of public art as situations embedded within larger practices of media distribution and consumption, this dissertation charts a path between art and commerce to illustrate potentially positive encounters with visual spectacle in public space—that artists can and do succeed in creating productive moments of play and engagement through moving images. The contributions of this dissertation are not only close analyses of significant and often under-studied works of art, but also the groundwork for future study of contemporary public art and perhaps even a redirection of film and media theory toward an understanding of broader screen spectatorship as enchanting encounters between viewer, screen, and context.