Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Representing Urban Modernity
One of the fundamental aspects of modernity is the persistent transformation of society and space – and that these changes are always experienced unevenly. Modernity’s history is of some people and spaces benefiting tremendously and others experiencing waves of marginalization and dislocations. This course will focus on the ways in which artists and architects have represented the unevenness of modernity, using their work to critically comment upon these transformations. We will look at a range of art and architectural practices, from painting and photography to film, sculptural installations and architectural interventions. We will anchor our studies through two ‘capitals of modernity’: Paris and New York City. We will probe experiences and representations of urban modernity outward from those cities to diverse locations such as Cape Town and Houston. The course will not serve as a geographical survey, but rather as a loose chronology of themes that have marked the unevenness of life in cities. We will work from the mid-nineteenth century through to the contemporary moment, looking at artistic roles in and responses to a range of spaces and practices including eviction, gentrification and marginality. We will particularly pay attention to how such practices have worked through the categories of class, race and gender. As this is the second course in the Reading and Composition series, the syllabus also places an emphasis on the acquisition of the skills required for researching and writing a 10- to- 12 page undergraduate term paper. Each student will be asked to research one object and its significance as a critical commentary on urban modernity.