New Courses for Spring 2011: Topics in New Media and the Avant-Garde

As registration for Spring 2011 academic courses begin, I have been fielding many questions about the two upper level courses I will be instructing in January. See below a more detailed description and preview of both offerings--I look forward to a dynamic and engaging term with both classes! 

Kwantlen Polytechnic University (Mondays 4:00-6:50pm, Fir D2422)
This course offers a critical and historical examination of “new media” and the influence of technological, digital, computerized, and networked information and communication technologies in the development of new formats of art making. Looking first to the history of late nineteenth and early twentieth century avant-garde stagings and engagement with new technologies of seeing (through photography and early cinema for example), the course will examine how innovative ideas about representation and free use of materials in the art of cubism, futurism, surrealism and dada set out to re-envision the strict adherence to traditional hierarchies of art represented by painting and sculpture. The course will then explore how artists and art movements of the last fifty years have embraced new media formats to further their visions.

Stan Douglas, Abbott and Cordova, 7 August 1971 (2008)
From conceptual photography to video, collage to assemblage, installation to performance, digital to virtual environments, new media formats have extended notions of what art could materially consist of, but have also affected the anticipation of audiences for that work, having social as well as aesthetic implications. An important aspect of the course will therefore involve thinking about how contemporary new media practices must be understood in a broader historical and social context involving changing ideas about time, duration, and narrative, notions of embodiment, and the turn to a digitally mediated world. Ultimately, our attention will be on the network where new media art is made, exhibited, and reacted to by different parties, and to the ways that portions of the art system have conceived of and explained the workings of such a system and the society it exists within. 

Simon Fraser University (Tuesdays 5:30-8:20pm, Woodwards Room W-4390)
The avant-garde movements of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries (particularly in the area of visual culture, performance, film, dance and music) have been determining forces in shaping collective ideas about artistic practice and culture, social history, and subversive intent.  Originally a French military term meaning the part of an army that goes ahead of the rest, the core meaning and concerns of avant-gardism are framed within a specific cultural and temporal context tied to ideas of progress, social disruption, structuralism and an attack on traditional or mainstream artistic values. As a result, the history and theory of the avant-garde has been critical in shaping Western and Eurocentric ideas about modernity, modernism, and the disputed sacredness of the “art object,” but has faced more difficulty in recent years with the turn to post-structural theory and a more diverse and globally conceived understanding of art and culture.
French anarchist publication
edited by Paul Brousse from 1871

In this seminar, we will examine how the current climate of post-structural intervention has attempted to forge more direct links between previously separated realms of art and culture, but also consider how the problem persists that little has been done to dislodge the ironclad structures that constitute the historical narratives of "the avant-garde" writ large—accounts that often pit favoured notions of artistic autonomy, departure from tradition, and radical resistance in opposition to much maligned conceptions of mass culture, vernacular expression, and the alienating effects of new technology. The goal of this seminar will therefore involve: 1) examining and understanding how the history and theory of the avant-garde has been shaped through competing and shifting discourses of nationalism, tradition, modernity, and technology; and 2) consider a range of alternative bodies of theory and artistic practice that present a more broadly defined and interconnected matrix of avant-garde(s) or “neo avant-garde” practice.