Undergraduate Seminar: Art: Take it, Break it, and Fake it
This undergraduate seminar considers the visual arts in relation to behaviors that are generally deemed pernicious or at least provocative or sensational—art looting and theft, iconoclasm and vandalism, and forgery. Not, in other words, the sorts of behaviors one might conventionally associate with Art. As violent, arrogant, possessive, and deceitful as these “other” behaviors toward art may be, they turn out to be as prominent as aesthetic appreciation, religious inspiration, historical wonder, cultural edification, and so forth.
The seminar will focus on cases selected from along a broad chronological and geocultural range, each relevant to one (or more) of three themes—take, break, and fake. We will consider specific art works as they encounter and are shaped, deformed, or displaced by war and plunder from the ancient to modern world, colonialism and imperialist extraction, and modern looting for the art market; religious iconoclasm from the ancient to contemporary world and individual attacks upon art; and art forgers and forgery scandals, ancient to contemporary. We will address the role and interplay of particular and sometimes conflicting values, be they visual or political, religions, philosophical, or economic. We will ask, what do these cases reveal about what “art” is and does and how viewers respond to art?
The seminar introduces scholarly readings and resources in each theme, as well as relevant topics (cultural heritage debates and laws; “authenticity” in relation to various forms of “copying” in the arts; the modern art market, etc.) and incorporates varied media and cultural representations (journalism, film, etc.).
Participants (by instructor approval) will prepare short assignments on a weekly/biweekly basis—related to readings, film, and other materials—and, as the primary academic work for the course, develop and complete a formal research paper or, potentially, a multi/alternate-media/format project.
This course fulfills the following Major requirements: Geographical Area (E) and Chronological Periods (II or III) depending on paper topic.