Visual and Environmental Studies 104 Art and Activism since 1989: Culture Jam

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  • Visual and Environmental Studies 104

  • Art and Activism since 1989: Culture Jam

  • Fall 2006-2007

  • Wed. 1-3, Carpenter Center 401

  • Carrie Lambert-Beatty


  • office hours Thursday 2-4, Sackler 510

  • We are living through a period of remarkable creativity in political expression: from anti-consumerism TV ads to imposter websites; "billboard liberation" to faux corporations; digital hijacking to lifestyle performance. Sometimes labeled art, sometimes not, these activities have sources in both political and art history. Where is the line between art and activism today? And how are we to evaluate the efficacy, ethics, and aesthetics of the new hybrids?

  • Weekly preparation

  • Each week’s reading, viewing, and sometimes website-exploring are to be done prior to class. You are asked to prepare a list of 3 discussion questions based on the reading/viewing that you will bring to class each week. These must be turned in at the beginning of class.

  • Research

  • This is a research seminar. This means you will be producing knowledge as well as receiving it. A list of potential topics will be provided, but you need not choose from that list. A statement indicating your choice of research topic is due by November 1. However you are strongly encouraged to consult with me and choose a topic much sooner. There is very little secondary literature on most of these topics and so you will likely need time for interviews, correspondence, and other primary research.

  • Presentations

  • The last three weeks of class will be devoted to student presentations. These are not to be the usual orally-delivered drafts of your research papers. Rather, your assignment is to teach your classmates (and professor) about the artist, group, or phenomenon you have been researching. You will be responsible for assigning reading (one article each, to be distributed the week before your presentation). You will then give a 20-minute lecture on your topic (with images) and lead 10 minutes of discussion. The goals are to introduce the topic, to provide necessary context, to decide what art (or other cultural practices) it is related to, and to make clear what important questions it raises.

  • Research Paper

  • In your final paper (15-20 pages, due 16 January), you will make an original argument about the topic—you will answer one of those questions you raised in your presentation. In other words, in order to give the presentation you will have to have decided what the most important aspects of the topic are—for the paper, however, you will have to decide what you think about them.

  • Readings

  • Unless otherwise indicated, readings are in the course pack, available at Gnomon Copies. To save space & paper, full bibliographic information is provided in the course reader and online.

  • Sept 20—Introduction

  • Sept 27—Precedents: Some Art, Some Politics

    • Susan Buck-Morss, “What is Political Art,” 1997

    • Walter Benjamin, “The Author as Producer,” 1934

    • Andre Breton and Leon Trotsky, Manifesto: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art, 1938 (course website)

    • Greil Marcus, “The Long Walk of the Situationist International,” 1982

    • Guy Debord, “The Situationists and the New Forms of Action in Politics or Art,” 1963

    • Selections from Abbie Hoffman, Revolution for the Hell of It, 1968.

    • Gregory Shollette, “Dark Matter, Activist Art and the Counter-Public Sphere,” 2003 (website)

  • October 4— Art and AIDS activism

    • Douglas Crimp, “AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism,” 1988

    • Lucy Lippard, “Silence Still = Death,” 1991

    • “Mayan Technologies and the Theory of Electronic Civil Disobedience: Benjamin Shepard and Stephen Duncombe interview Ricardo Dominguez,” 2002

  • October 11—Mental Environmentalism: Culture Jamming

    • Selections from Kalle Hasn, Culture Jam: The Uncooling of America™, 1999

    • Selections from Naomi Klein, No Logo, 2000

    • Stephen Duncombe, “Think Different: Lessons for the Left from Madison Avenue,” (course website)

    • Selections from Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter, Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture, (Canadian title: The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can't be Jammed), 2004.

  • October 18—Hoaxtivism

    • Watch: The Yes Men (film documentary, 2003)

    • Nato Thompson et al, “Special section on Strategic Visuality,” Art Journal, 2004 (website)

    • Caroline A. Jones, “Doubt Fear,” Art Papers, 2005 (website)

    • Stephen Wright, The Future of the Reciprocal Readymade: An Essay on Use Value and Art-Related Practice,” Parachute, 2005 (website)

    • Sarah Kanouse, “Cooing over the Golden Phallus,” Journal of Aesthetics and Protest (website)

  • October 25—Free Expressionism

    • Reclaim the Streets, “Propaganda,” (follow the arrows!)

    • John Ghazvinian, “Dancing in the Streets,” The Nation, 2000 (website)

    • Catherine Bernard, “Bodies and digital utopia,” Art Journal, 2000 (website)

    • Dorothy Kidd, “ A New Communications Commons,” 2003

  • November 1— Irrationalist Interventions

    • Marcuse, “The New Sensibility,” from An Essay on Liberation, 1969

    • Cuauhtémoc Medina, “Recent Political Forms: Radical Pursuits in Mexico,” Trans 8 (2000) (website)

    • Proposal for final project due

    • to be scheduled this week: Evening presentation by members of the Institute for Infinitely Small Things

  • November 8—Case Study: Cologne

  • Conversation with Bennett Simpson, associate curator, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston and curator of the exhibition “Make Your Own Life:
 Artists In and Out of Cologne”

    • Reading TBA

  • November 15—Doing things: rethinking public art

    • Sara Corbett, “The Pro-Choice Extremist,” New York Times Aug 26, 2001 (website)

    • Tom Finkelpearl, “Interview: David Avalos, Louis Hock, and Elizabeth Sisco on Welcome to America’s Finest Tourist Plantation,” 2000

    • Grant Kester, “A Critical Framework for Dialogical Practice,” 2004

    • Nicolas Bourriaud, “Art of the 1990s,” 2002

    • Claire Bishop, “The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents,” Artforum (February 2006) (website)

  • November 22—no class, Thanksgiving

  • November 29—Group 1 presentations

    • To be scheduled: conversation with Susan Dackerman, prints curator at the Fogg, on her exhibition “Dissent!” which is “a historical survey of printed images that express resistance to religious, political, and social systems and, in doing so, demonstrates the role of printmaking in the dissemination of dissonant opinions.” Opens Nov. 11.

  • December 6—Group 2 presentations

  • December 13—Group 3 presentations

  • Jan 10—Reading Week Wrap Up Meeting

    • No reading for this week, but please bring:

    • one thing you have learned from this class (can be anything: a significant historical fact, an understanding of an argument or debate, a statement of historical change you have noted, an idea you have encountered)

    • one big question you will take away from this class into future study, research, practice, life.

  • Jan 16—final paper due

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