Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Decolonizing Vision: Representing Latin Americanness in Modern and Contemporary Art
Monday, Wednesday: 3:30-5:00pm
This course aims to develop students’ critical thinking, looking, reading, and writing skills through close analysis of visual art and aesthetic theory, with a particular emphasis on twentieth and twenty-first century art in Latin America. We will read works of art history and visual studies alongside texts in Latin American philosophy to parse the ways in which different traditions respond to the crisis of coloniality. The Argentine-Mexican philosopher, Enrique Dussel, argues that the “discovery” of the “New World” heralds European modernity. Through the colonization of the “New World,” Western Civilization is able to consolidate by means of its differentiation from the periphery. Modern and contemporary Latin America, then, exist not in the shadow of colonialism, but in the enduring experience of it; coloniality continues to shape Latin American art, culture, and thought. What then does it mean to be Latin American?
This course will encourage students to rethink any assumptions they may have regarding the content or form of Latin American modernist and contemporary art, and to question the role art plays in intellectual and philosophical production. Pairing essays in postcolonial theory with art, this course questions if art can be read as philosophy. In the 1930s, the Uruguayan artist, Joaquín Torres-García, founded the School of the Americas to develop a uniquely Latin American modernism. His aesthetic fused abstraction with Incan iconography. His artwork achieved what his academic contemporaries struggled to concretize. A few decades later, the Mexican artist, Maris Bustamante, developed Patente del Taco (Taco Patent), where she officially registered the taco with the patent office as an intellectual and artistic work, preserving it as a symbolic part of Mexican culture and history that extends back 500 years to the pre-Hispanic era. Patente del Taco was performed the same year that Dussel published his seminal book, Philosophy of Liberation. While these works differ immensely, their driving inspiration and intended impact are quite similar. How does pre-Columbian America inform the continued colonial condition of the modern Americas? How does one represent the diversity of Latin American identity?
Moving between modernist and contemporary art and foundational texts in Latin American thought, this course will teach students how to read a wide range of visual and textual sources. We will consider what close looking means when applied to a variety of aesthetic forms. As R1B is the second half of a year-long writing curriculum, we will focus not only on the development of exegetical writing, but also on research skills. While this course emphasizes the development of research writing techniques, it also understands the following as essential for successful writing: developing a clear understanding of the course’s visual materials and texts, engaging in meaningful close analysis, and developing thoughtful argumentative interventions into the course’s themes. During the second half of the semester, each student will develop and write a 10-12 page research paper