Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Art Work: Authorship and Ownership
The literary critic and theorist, Terry Eagleton, wrote that the emergence of the aesthetic as a theoretical category in the eighteenth century was closely bound up with the material processes of early capitalism, which freed art from many of the various social and religious functions it had traditionally served. The articulation of this new “autonomy” of art became one of the central concerns of classical idealist aesthetics, and also provided a new model of subjectivity for a nascent bourgeois civil society. In this course, we will examine the challenges posed by twentieth century artists and theorists to the categories of traditional aesthetics, in seeking to gain a glimpse of the forms of subjectivity under contemporary capitalism. What kind of a subject is art? What constitutes an art object? What does it mean to create art? These questions will guide a study of theories and practices of twentieth century painting, sculpture and photography, including Soviet constructivism, Duchamp and the readymade, conceptual art, and appropriation art. We will also examine the relationship between these challenges to the understanding of what constitutes art and contemporaneous transformations in the understanding of concepts of value and labor in the wider economy and society. In order to address these varied aims, the course will draw on a range of texts and disciplines, from primary documents and art historical writing to critical theory and law. Equally important is the question of the nature of aesthetic experience, and we will also focus on visual analysis and learning to put our aesthetic experiences into words. The course will incorporate visits to the Berkeley Art Museum and SFMOMA.