Here is the abridged syllabus for my Fall 2012 Advanced Visual Studies (AVS) course at CCA.
Course Title: Advanced Visual Studies: The Art of Controversy
Program: Visual Studies
CALIFORNIA COLLEGE OF THE ARTS
Course #: VISST-312-01 (1190)
Instructor: Matteo Bittanti
Dates and Times: Thursday 04:00PM - 07:00PM
Start Date: September 06, 2012
End Date: December 13, 2012
Campus and Room: Main San Francisco Building, Room W1, CCA
Prerequisite: Eye Openers
Office hours: By appointment only. Please contact me by email to arrange a meeting.
Table of contents
1. Course Description
1.1 Course Format & Requirements
1.2 Learning Outcomes
2. Required texts
2.1 Audiovisual Material
3. Class Discussions
4. Research Project, Midterm and Final Presentation
4.1 Midterm Project & Presentation
4.2 Final Project & Presentation
6. Classroom Conduct & Attendance Guidelines
1. Course Description:
“Art is meant to disturb” (Georges Braque, 1947)
“Isn’t controversy part of what modern art is all about?” (George Sugarman, 1977)
“That’s what art is about - its shock value” (Karen Finley, 1990)
Advanced Visual Studies provides students with "a tactic for studying the functions of a world addressed through pictures, images, and visualizations, rather than through texts and words" (Nicholas Mirzoeff).
The course has three main goals:
a) to illustrate a wide range of methods, approaches, themes, and paradigms that constitute image-based research;
b) to invite students to rethink the role and function of the critic, the curator, the artist, the academic in an image-saturated culture;
c) to develop an innovative form of research that employs a mixture of visual methods
and analytical approaches within one study.
The course's scope is not limited to the study of representation alone as participants will extend their investigations into the material production, dissemination, and semiotics of images and imaging systems in various manifestations - artistic, popular, and commercial. The approach is distinctly monographic, but never monolithic. Previous themes include "The influence of J.G. Ballard on visual culture," "Phenomenology of the Artworld(s)", and "Ideologies of digital culture".
This year's theme is "The Art of Controversy". This course seeks to collectively discuss ways to approach and understand artworks and art practices that are considered “controversial”. We will examine the works of cutting-edge art and artists and discuss their unique ability to both surprise, provoke, and sometimes repel us. We will also scrutinize both the aesthetics and ethics of contested art practices, such as appropriation. After introducing the main themes and approaches to the study of “controversial” art, we will investigate specific topics, focusing on obscenity, blasphemy, violence, and pornography. We will examine a set of specific aesthetic, social and legal issues and look at the different strategies contemporary artists proposed and used in their work. Artists discussed in this class include (but are not limited to) Damien Hirst, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Annie Sprinkle, Robert Mapplethorpe, Marcus Harvey, Paul McCarthy, Orlan, Tracey Emin, Ken Finley, Andres Serrano, and Maurizio Cattelan. Students will learn different strategies to approach and discuss these themes, develop a sharper critical eye, and enhance their presentation + writing skills.
Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
- Identify and discuss significant works of contemporary art and visual culture.
- Describe and explain the relationship between different art strategies, such as performance or installation, and their immediate social and cultural context.
- Understand the relationship between different agents and forces operating within the Artworld.
- Understand how “controversial” contemporary artworks relate to their social and historical contexts.
- Identify and discuss multiple and vital relationships between “controversial” contemporary artworks and such broader social and cultural issues as ideology, gender, race, or ethnicity.
PLEASE NOTE: The visual culture artifacts we will be covering in this course include some works that are sexually explicit, culturally controversial, and politically provocative. Some individuals may find these works disturbing or even offensive. Such works are included because they represent significant aspects of visual culture. They present important challenges to artistic conventions, social norms, standards of beauty, and definitions of culture. Students will not be asked to subscribe to any particular definition of visual culture, nor will they be required to like all the works shown. However, if you choose to take this course, you will be expected to understand the issues involved and why they are important. If you have any special concerns, please discuss them with the professor.
1.1 Course Format & Requirements
Classes will consist of lectures, screenings, in-class discussions, and student presentations. Students are expected to read and critically discuss the required books, essays, and articles. Students are also expected to come to class with several questions in mind for discussion. Readings, questions, and additional material will be posted on the password-protected class blog. Finally, students are required to write - and present to the class - Midterm and Final Papers.
1.2 Learning Outcomes
This course is designed to help students develop useful critical tools in the context of contemporary art - as artists, critics, and/or curators. It is also designed to develop writing and presentation skills to help students articulate their own work during their time at CCA and beyond. Specifically, Advanced Visual Studies emphasizes the following learning outcomes:
- Methods of Critical Analysis: Students will learn to identify, actively engage with, and carry out exegeses of individual texts, both visual and textual. Students will be consistently required to dissect written texts and visual material (e.g. documentaries) and to articulate the primary and secondary claims being advanced. When identifying, clarifying, and posing relevant questions about the various types of assertions found in both texts and visual artifacts, students will also incorporate into their analyses a reflexive and self-aware consideration of methodological issues.
- Written and Verbal Communication: Students will continue to hone their communication skills by presenting their ideas in different types of writing assignments and within class discussions and oral presentations.
- Visual Literacy: Students will learn how to recognize and decode different media aesthetics, conventions, and languages through an analysis of different kinds of visual artifacts that are derived from, produced using, or merely associated with specific media or machine technologies.
- Research Skills: Students will hone their skills in information gathering, documentation, investigation, analysis, interpretation, and evaluation.
- Interdisciplinarity: Students will understand various ways in which different media aesthetics intersect with other areas of social, technological, and cultural history.
- Professional development: Students will learn to write outlines for oral presentations and essays, to introduce students to new texts and to their own ideas in classroom presentations, and to write a long essay that balances their own interests with the course's main subject matter and its key issues.
2. Required Texts
The electronic course reader includes selected essays/chapters from the following books:
Abbins, Hans . Why Are Artists Poor? The Exceptional Economy of the Arts. Amsterdam. Amsterdam University Press. 2002.
Becker, Howard. Art Worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1982.
Buskirk, Martha. The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 2003.
Cashell, Kieran. Aftershock. The Ethics of Contemporary Transgressive Art. London: I.B. Tauris. 2009.
Dennis, Kelly. Art/Porn. A History of Seeing and Touching, Oxford: Berg. 2009.
Dubin, Steven B. Displays of Power. Controversy in the American Museum from the Enola Gay to Sensation. New York: New York University Press. 1999.
Dubin, Steven B. Arresting Images. Impolitic Art and Uncivil Actions. London: Routledge. 1992.
Freeland, Cynthia. But is it Art?. Oxford University Press. 2001.
Gibbons, Joan. Art & Advertising. London: I.B. Tauris, 2005.
Julius, Anthony.Transgressions. The Offences of Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2002.
Kammen, Michael.Visual Shock. A History of Art Controversies in American Culture. New York: Vintage Books. 2006.
Marquis, Alice Goldfarb. The Pop Revolution. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts Publications. 2010.
McLeod, Kembrew & Kuenzly, Rudolf (Eds.). Cutting Across Media. Appropriation Art, Interventionist Collage, and Copyright Law. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 2011.
Mey, Kerstin. Art & Obscenity. London: I.B. Tauris. 2007.
Plante, Brent S. Blasphemy. Art That Offends. London: Black Dog Publishing. 2006.
Smith, Terry. What is Contemporary Art?. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2009.
Townsend, Christopher. Art & Death, London: I.B. Tauris. 2008.
Various Authors. Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection. London: Thames & Hudson, 1997.
Walker. A. John. Art and Outrage. Provoation, Controversy and the Visual Arts. London: Pluto Press. 1999.
Watson, Gray. Art & Sex, London: I.B. Tauris, 2007.
For their MidTerm project, students are required to read, review, and give a presentation based on an AFTERALL One Work book (see 4.1 for additional information).
A Writer’s Reference (6th Edition) by Diana Hacker will be our style guide.
Additional and optional essays/papers/articles/videos will be provided by the instructor on a weekly basis, via the password-protected class blog.
Please note that since the workload is considerable, it is strongly recommended to plan ahead.
2.1 Audiovisual Material
In addition to essays and books, the course material includes documentaries and videos, including:
- Andrew Graham-Dixon, “Art of America: What Lies Beneath”, BBC Four, 2012.
- BBC, The Genius of Photography, 2009.
- Ben Lewis, Art Safari: Maurizio Cattelan, 2009.
- Fenton Bailey, Chris Rodley, Dev Varma, Kate Williams, Pornography: The Secret History of Civilization, 1999
- Lynn Hershman Leeson, WAR! Women_Art_Revolution, 2011.
- Marco Brambilla, "Sync", 2006.
- Marina Abramovic, "Balkan Erotic Epic", 2006.
- Morgan Neville, The Cool School, 2007.
- O’Brien, Bernadette, “Is Bad Art for Bad People?”, 2006.
- Peter Rosen, Who Gets to Call it Art?, 2006.
- Pedro Carvajal, Popaganda: The Art and Crimes of Ron English, 2005, excerpts.
- The Eye: Tracey Emin, 2003.
Additional videos will be announced on the blog.
3. Class Discussion
Students will be expected to come to class with the reading/viewing done and be ready for discussion. Try to think of class meetings as a resource session in which you can get your questions answered and at the same time, learn what concerns are driving your colleagues. At some point in the course, students will be asked to lead and moderate in-class conversations. To do it effectively, students will need to be able to summarize the key arguments of a specific reading and suggest how they connect to themes in our ongoing discussion. Students will also need to propose key questions for subsequent discussions. Students can prepare a formal presentation and use visual material. Possible questions for the discussion will be posted in advance on the blog.
4. Midterm Project, Final Project, Mid- and Final Presentations
“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” (E. L. Doctorow)
Students will develop two written projects and two visual/oral presentations. In order to complete this task successfully, students will be required to undertake rigorous and thorough research of the chosen topic. Specifically, students are expected to:
a) Develop a clear and original thesis.
b) Present the thesis and organize the supporting evidence in a logical manner in the form of a critical essay.
c) Give a clear and persuasive in-class presentation of their research to their peers.
4.1 The Midterm Project & Presentation [Due October 25, 2012]
“AFTERALL ,THIS IS ART"
For the midterm, students are required to write a critical review and make a presentation based on a single AFTERALL One Work book. AFTERALL is a research and publishing organization located in London that focuses on contemporary art. AFTERALL One Work is a compelling series of monographs, each of which presents a single work of art considered in detail by a single author. The focus of the series is on contemporary art and its aim is to provoke debate about significant moments in art's recent development. The length of AFTERALL One Work tomes range between 80 and 110 pages.
Students can choose one of the following titles for their MidTerm project:
- Adler, Dan. Hanne Darboven. Cultural History 1880-1983. London: University of the Arts. 2009.
- Archer, Michael. Jeff Koon: One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank. London: University of the Arts. 2011.
- Company, David. Jeff Wall. Pictures for Women. London: University of the Arts. 2011.
- Demos, T.J. Dara Birnbaum, Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman. London: University of the Arts. 2010.
- Eshun Kodwo, Dan Graham. Rock My Religion. London: University of the Arts. 2012.
- Gida., Peter. Andy Warhol. Blow Job. London: University of the Arts. 2008.
- Haladyn, Julian Jason, Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés. London: University of the Arts. 2010.
- Malik, Amna. Sarah Lucas, Au Naturel. London: University of the Arts. 2009.
- Newman, Michael. Richard Prince: Untitled (couple). London: University of the Arts. 2007.
- Wilson, Andrew. Richard Hamilton: Swingeing London 67 (f.) London: University of the Arts. 2011.
Critical review. Students are expected to write a 1500 word (4 pages, plus bibliography) written analysis of the book. The mini-essay must be formatted in Chicago Style and use the following parameters: Arial, Size 12, Spacing 1.5. Rather than focusing on the artwork depicted, students should critically review the approaches used by the author to discuss the artwork. In other words, you should not focus on piece per se (i.e. the artist’s work) but on the analytical strategies applied by the author to make sense of the aforementioned piece. How does author X talk about Y? Why? How convincing, compelling or illuminating is her/his argument? What does she/he emphasize or leave out? Students should pay particular attention to the meticulousness and rigor of the analysis of these writers. The goal of the exercise is to learn about the rhetoric of art criticism and identify one trick or two. Students are expected to be able to recognize and summarize the author’s style in both their paper and presentation. This exercise is meant to prepare the students for their Final Project (see below).
Submission: The Midterm paper must be submitted to the instructor both in printed form (brevi manu, in class) and electronic form (via email) by 4 pm on Thursday October 25 2012. The electronic file must be saved in a format that allows the instructor to write comments/annotations (e.g. .DOC, .RTF.). In short, don’t use .PDF. A graded/reviewed version of the document will be returned to the student within a week.
Visual presentation. In addition to the written review, students will be required to give a presentation based on their findings on October 25. 2012 from 4 to 7 pm. Students will have no more than 15 minutes to present (time may vary depending on the number of enrolled students; additional information will be provided on the blog). Students are expected to use their own computer equipment for the presentation: the instructor will not provide a laptop. Students should make full use of presentation tools such as Keynote, Powerpoint, SlideRocket, Prezi and other digital tools. Students are not required to submit their presentation to the instructor, but if they consent, they can share them on the blog. All students are expected to skillfully critique their peers' presentations in class. Although not required, students’ comments and observations could also be shared on the blog. The oral/visual presentation will be evaluated on the basis of the students ability to look critically and express their ideas in oral/visual form. The assessment guide will be available on the class' blog.
4.2 Final Project & Presentation [Due December 13 2012]
Taking inspiration from the previous exercise, for their Final Project, students will be required to write a 3500 words essay (10 pages, excluding bibliography and footnotes). The paper should be formatted in Chicago Style as follows: Arial, Size 12, Spacing 1.5. on a single artwork by an artist of their choice. Students are expected to apply the same meticulousness and rigor of the analysis of the AFTERALL writers. The prerequisite to write a compelling, illuminating, and eye opening essay is to be passionately engaged with the object of study. In their final paper, students are expected to use of appropriate concepts, ideas, and resources that they encountered during the semester, both in class and online, readings and lectures.
Tip: It is essential to discuss your project with the instructor before developing a full proposal. It is also a very good idea to look ahead in the syllabus and get started early.
Submission: The Final paper must be submitted to the instructor both in printed form (brevi manu) and electronic form (via email) by 4 pm on Thursday December 13, 2012. The electronic file must be saved in a format that allows the instructor to write comments/annotations (e.g. .DOC, .RTF.). In short, don’t use .PDF. A graded/reviewed version of the document will be returned to the student within a week.
Visual presentation. In addition to the paper, students will be required to give a presentation based on their work. The presentations will take place in the last two weeks of the semester and will last 30 minutes. Students should make full use of presentation tools such as Keynote, Powerpoint, SlideRocket, Prezi and other digital tools. Students are expected to use their own computer equipment for the presentation: the instructor will not provide a laptop. Students are not required to submit their presentation to the instructor, but if they consent, they can share them on the blog. All students are expected to skillfully critique their peers' presentations in class. Although not required, students’ comments and observations could also be shared on the blog. The oral/visual presentation will be evaluated on the basis of the students ability to look critically and express their ideas in oral/visual form. The assessment guide is available on the class blog.
Final grades will be determined as follows:
- Attendance, participation, in-class discussion and online contributions: 20%
- Midterm project and presentation: 25%
- Final presentation: 20%
- Final paper: 35%
One of the primary goals of this class is to help the students develop a critical eye. This class presents elements of both seminar and lecture courses. As such, students will be asked to provide relevant input, during discussions and in-class critiques.
Each student will be evaluated on the basis of the Visual Studies Assessment Grid (available on the class blog).
Each area of assessment corresponds to the following numeric evaluation:
2 developing skills
3 proficient skills
4 exceptional skills
6. Classroom Conduct & Attendance Guidelines
1) Promptness is a basic requirement. Repeated lateness lowers your class participation grade considerably (see 4).
2) The use of all electronic devices, gadgets, and gizmos - including smart phones - during class is not permitted. Note-taking on a laptop is not allowed. Please wait for the break to make phone calls, texting or to use the internet. Computers may only be used for students' presentations. In class texting will automatically result in a lower grade.
3) Sleeping, chatting in the back of the room, reading external materials, working on external projects during the class session - any of these behaviors can result in immediate ejection from the class and in lower grades.
4) If more than one class is missed due to illness, students must submit written verification from a physician and notify professor via e-mail or in writing. Written medical documents must be submitted within two weeks of an absence. CCA has a college-wide attendance policy that 3 unexcused absences can be cause for failing the course. In addition, 3 "lates" can equal an absence.
5) Students are not allowed to eat during class.
6) There are no make-up presentations or assignments.
7) Students who miss a class must collect the material discussed in that session. In most cases, such material will be available on the blog. At any rate, always make sure to contact the instructor email about the availability of such materials.
8) Academic Integrity Code & Plagiarism: CCA has an Academic Integrity Code stated in our Student Handbook and plagiarism is clearly prohibited. Consequences for plagiarism can range from re-doing the assignment from scratch to dismissal from the college.
Thank you for your cooperation!
- Please note that this schedule may change -
Week 1, September 6, 2012
“WHY ARE YOU HERE?”
Introduction to Advanced Visual Studies: The Art of Controversy
Syllabus Walkthrough & Artworlds preview
Screening: ART SHOCK: Is Bad Art for Bad People? (2006)
Week 2, September 13, 2012
Prolegomena: ArtWorlds I
Abbins, Hans . “Sacred Art” in Why Are Artists Poor? The Exceptional Economy of the Arts.Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. 2002: 16-33
Becker, Howard. “ArtWorlds and Collective Activity” in Art Worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1982: 1-40.
Becker, Howard. “Aesthetics, Aestheticians, and Critics” in Art Worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1982: 131-165.
In-class screening: Peter Rosen, Who Gets to Call it Art? (2006, excerpts).
Week 3, September 20, 2012
Prolegomena: ArtWorlds II
Becker, Howard. “Integrated Professionals, Mavericks, Folk Artists and Naive Artists”, from Art Worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1982: 131-165.
Becker, Howard. “Change in Art Worlds”, from Art Worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1982: 300-351.
In-Class Screening: Andrew Graham-Dixon, “Art of America: What Lies Beneath” (BBC Four, 2012).
Week 4, September 27, 2013
Case Study: The Scandal of Pop Art: Evolution, Revolution, Devolution?
Danto, Arthur. “The Artworld”, The Journal of Philosophy, 1964: 571-574.
Marquis, Alice Goldfarb. “The Arts Take Center Stage 1961-1965” and “But is it Art? 1962-1966” in The Pop Revolution, Boston: Museum of Fine Arts Publications. 2010: 32-89.
In Class Screening: Morgan Neville, The Cool School (2007, excerpts).
Week 5, October 4, 2012
Shocking! The Art of Controversy
Cashell, Kieran. "Everybody Hates a Tourist. The Ethical Analsys of Contemporary Art" in Aftershock. The Ethics of Contemporary Transgressive Art. London: I.B. Tauris. 2009: 1 - 50.
Julius, Anthony. “A Typology of Transgressions” in Transgressions. The Offences of Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2002: 100-186.
Week 6, October 11, 2012
Making Sense of Sensation
Case Study: Sensation (1997) & Chapman
Cashell, Kieran. “The Atrocity Exhibition”, in Aftershock. The Ethics of Contemporary Transgressive Art. London: I.B. Tauris. 2009: 87-121.
Dubin, Steven. “When Elephants Fight: How Sensation Became Sensational” in Displays of Power. Controversy in the American Museum from the Enola Gay to Sensation. New York: New York University Press. 1999. 246-275.
Rosenthal, Norman. “The Blood Must Continue to Flow”, Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection, London: Thames & Hudson, 1997. 6-11.
Smith, Terry. “Sensation = Saatchi”, from What is Contemporary Art?, University of Chicago Press, 2009: 49-55.
Week 7, October 18, 2012
Blasphemy! [case study: Maurizio Cattelan]
Plante, Brent S. Blasphemy. Art That Offends. London: Black Dog Publishing. 2006: 33-175.
Julius, Anthony. “A Transgressive Work and its Defences” in Transgressions. The Offences of Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2002: 14-52.
Dubin, Steven B. “Spiritual Tests” in Arresting Images. Impolitic Art and Uncivil Actions. London: Routledge. 1992: 79-101.
Morton, Tom, “Maurizio Cattelan. Infinite Jester”. Frieze, no. 94, October 2005: 150-157.
In-class screening: Ben Lewis, Art Safari: Maurizio Cattelan, 2009.
Week 8, October 25, 2012
AFTERALL, THIS IS ART
Midterms Papers due today
Week 9, November 1, 2012
Obscenity [case study: Tracey Emin]
Cashell, Kieran. “Fearless Speech” in Aftershock. The Ethics of Contemporary Transgressive Art. London: I.B. Tauris. 2009: 123-151.
Freeland, Cynthia. “Blood and Beauty”in But is it Art?. Oxford University Press, 2001: 1-30.
Kammen, Michael. “Issues of Diversity and Inclusion” in Visual Shock. A History of Art Controversies in American Culture. New York: Vintage Books. 2006: 301-350.
Mey, Kerstin. “I Know It When I See It” and “Abject and Disease” in Art & Obscenity. London: I.B. Tauris. 2007: 5-19, 31-52.
In-Class screening: The Eye: Tracey Emin, 2003
Week 10, November 8, 2012
Appropriation/Appropriated [case study: Ron English]
Baldwin, Craig. “Billboard Liberation. A Photo Essay”, in Kembrew McLeod & Rudolf Kuenzly (Eds.). Cutting Across Media. Appropriation Art, Interventionist Collage, and Copyright Law. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 2011: 178-185.
Buskirk, Martha. “Original Copies” in The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 2003: 59-106.
Gibbons, Joan. “Art Invades and Appropriates” and “Reality Bites” in Art & Advertising. London: I.B. Tauris, 2005: 29-53, 75-96.
In-class screening: Pedro Carvajal, Popaganda: The Art and Crimes of Ron English, (2005, excerpts)
Week 11, November 15, 2012
The Art of Death [case study: Damien Hirst]
Townsend, Christopher. “Damien Hirst - Francis Bacon” in Art & Death, London: I.B. Tauris. 2008: 37 -50.
Cashell, Kieran. “Horrorshow” in Aftershock. The Ethics of Contemporary Transgressive Art. London: I.B. Tauris. 2009. 159-196.
Mey, Kerstin. “Playing with the Dead. The cadaver as fascinosum “ in Art & Obscenity. London: I.B. Tauris. 2007: 72-85.
In-Class Screening: Chris King, Damien Hirst, Thoughts, Work, Life (2012, excerpts); Damien Hirst: First Look (2012, excerpts), Andy Warhol Death and Disaster Series (excerpts from various documentaries)
Week 12, November 22, 2012
Thanksgiving Day - no class
Week 13, November 29, 2012
Sex & Pornography
Watson, Gray. Art & Sex, London: I.B. Tauris, 2007: 1-60.
Dennis, Kelly. “Seeing and Touching: Photography and the Birth of the Modern” in Art/Porn. A History of Seeing and Touching, Oxford: Berg. 57-123.
In-class screening: Fenton Bailey, Chris Rodley, Dev Varma, Kate Williams, Pornography: The Secret History of Civilization (1999, excerpts), The Genius of Photography (2009, excerpts, Marco Brambilla, “Sync”, 2006; Marina Abramovic, “Balkan Erotic Epic”, 2006.
Week 14, December 6, 2012
Final Presentations 1 of 2
Week 15, December 13, 2012
Final Presentations 2 of 2
Final Paper due by 4 pm.