Webster Voices - Van McElwee | Webster University

Knowing When to Get Out of the Way

an McElwee is known around the world for his pioneering work in experimental video.

Van McElwee, MFA

Professor, Media Production Program Facilitator 
Electronic and Photographic Media
School of Communications

“My job is to create an environment where students’ projects improve dramatically.”

Van McElwee is known around the world for his pioneering work in experimental video, which has garnered him a Guggenheim Fellowship, several individual artist’s NEA grants, and opportunities to exhibit on three continents. Webster University is where he brings that work home to inspire students with his teaching, his vision and technique.

How would you describe your teaching style?

I teach in a broad, pragmatic way, weaving history, aesthetics and technique into each class. Class projects are done in collaborating groups and individually.

When students are excited about their work, they learn eagerly and their projects improve dramatically. My job is to create an environment in which that can happen, knowing when to instruct, when to inspire, and finally, when to get out of the way.

What motivates you?

Finding, creating and sharing new ideas.

McElwee is interviewed on Webster Voices discussing where ideas come from

Listen to Professor McElwee discussing where ideas for his own work come from and how he helps students find their own.

NAVIGATORS from Van McElwee on Vimeo.

What is the focus of your scholarship?

My area of activity is Experimental Video, which is about using the medium in new ways to say new things.

See examples of his work at vanmcelwee.com. Grab some 3D glasses when you watch Archaic Rooms.

What are you most curious about?

I would have to say, time. Its fascinating at all scales, past, present and future. And it is one of the deepest mysteries, beautiful and terrible.

What is your favorite travel destination?

Well, I’ve spent a lot of time in Asia. I like to get out of the backyard.

What's always in your suitcase?

I like to pack a carton of frozen carrot juice. After a long flight, it’s thawed, and it seems to reset my body and mind for the new location.

What is your superpower?

Well, I would like to be able to fly or to time travel. Or have lucid dreams — in which you wake up in the dream.

Van McElwee editing 3D video


Electronic & Photographic Media Programs

To read about specific Electronic & Photographic Media academic programs, learning outcomes and how to apply, click on any program from the following list: