Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Freedom of Expression: Modern Art and Politics
This course explores the relationship between art and politics through a focus on the theme of the freedom of expression in the twentieth century. Although it is often assumed that certain forms of art are covered under the First Amendment, scholars disagree over the particular rationales and justifications given for the protection of visual art. In the twentieth century, the difficulty of articulating the reasoning behind this protection has been compounded by the challenges posed by modern artists to the traditional understanding of what constituted art and art objects. With an eye to both the aesthetic and political dimensions of art, the seminar will begin with an examination of various theories of freedom of expression, as well as art theoretical writings on the problem of representation and expression. What constitutes an art object or art practice? Does art convey or communicate an idea? What is that idea, or meaning? Can visual art and images be understood as first amendment or political “speech”? These questions will guide an examination of select case studies, including abstract art and post-war abstract expressionism, as well as conceptual art, the Art & Language movement and performance art.
This course satisfies the second half of the Reading and Composition requirement. By means of intensive looking, thinking, speaking, and writing, it introduces students to a series of problems and issues in the description and analysis of written texts and works of art. Over the course of the semester, students will complete a variety of in-class and out-of-class writing assignments, including two short essays, one analytic essay, and a final research paper.