New Courses for Fall 2012: Topics in Art and Theory, Architecture, Film and Visual Culture

As registration for Fall 2012 academic courses begins soon, I wanted to provide more information about new and rotating courses I will be teaching in September. Please see detailed descriptions below including a new special topics class in the History of Architecture (Part One will be offered this Fall, while Part Two will be offered in the Spring semester). If you have any specific questions that are not answered here or in the links I provide you to the registration for the courses, you can contact me directly. I look forward to another rich and engaging semester with both new and familiar faces.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University (Tuesdays 4:00-6:50pm, Room Fir 3414)

Thomas Struth, Pergamon Museum 1, Berlin (2001)
This course traces the history of architecture from early developments in the Paleolithic Age through the Renaissance, approaching architecture as a unique medium with its own visual vocabulary and spatial codes. The various formal languages, designs, and theories that have shaped the history of architecture will be explored through the close examination of select buildings and spatial environments set within specific cultural, social, political and economic contexts of their planning and construction. The broader purpose of this course is to provide students with the ability to critically evaluate and recognize how the history and theory of architecture of the early eras of Western culture, within the framework of a broader visual culture and art history, continue to impact our collective spatial, visual, intellectual and cultural environments today.

All of the buildings under examination (which will introduce and cover aspects of architecture and spatial planning from Prehistoric Europe, Ancient Egypt, the Aegean, Ancient Greece, the Roman Republic, Early Christian and Islamic cultures, and the period of the Medieval, Gothic and early Renaissance in Europe) will be related to their original contexts and functions, but also raise questions about the range of functions that architecture might fulfill within different societies. While the primary focus of the course will be on Western architecture and culture, the architecture of the Middle East, Asia, the Americas and Africa will also be explored through targeted readings and lectures. The course will therefore not just be about following a chronological and progressive trajectory of “great buildings” but will instead address broad issues related to political power, gender, sexuality, race, and the formation of individual and group identities. In this way, the ideas raised in this course will also draw attention to the dynamics and ongoing debates of what it means to make a building and design a space in any cultural context.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University (Mondays 4:00-6:50pm, Room Fir 128)

Joseph Kosuth, Art as Idea as Idea (1967)
This course offers a critical examination of selected art works in connection to key theoretical and historical turning points in art history and critical theory. Focusing on international visual art and culture from the early 20th century to the present, each class is designed to explore specific and well-known key art artists and their art practice, while pinpointing the specific conversations, theories, and histories that have made those art practices and objects so important to the understanding of the contemporary art world. Artists under examination include, but are not limited to, Pablo Picasso, Gustav Klimt, Diego Rivera, Brassai, Le Corbusier, Marcel Duchamp, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Eva Hesse, Robert Smithson, Gerhard Richter, Martha Rosler, Jeff Wall, Marina Abramovic, Damien Hirst, Mike Kelley, Banksy, Stan Douglas and more recent art projects examined in recent international exhibitions like Documenta and the Venice Biennale.This format will provide a launching off point to explore the range of associated historical events, factors of patronage and institutions, as well as changing attitudes to making and approaching art in modern and postmodern contexts. Throughout the course, we will consider traditional media forms alongside the addition of new media practices of recent decades. 

The assignments and final take-home project for this course will be developed closely with student input to help support existing art practices and/or specific interests students have in the field of art history. A critical component of this course will also include visits and discussion concerning local and international art exhibitions and recent developments in the art world so that students can gain a more informed sense of how they fit (if an artist) and/or understand (if interested in the art world) the shifting visual culture shaping up around them.Ultimately, our attention will be on the network where art is made, presented to and reacted to by different parties, and to the ways that portions of the art system―such as art history and critical theory―have conceived of and explained the workings of such a system and the society it exists within. 

Kwantlen Polytechnic University (Fridays 1:00-4:50pm, Room Fir 128)

Students will study the history and development of world cinema, and the comprehension and theory of film as a visual language and art-making practice from its inception in the late nineteenth century to the present. The goal of the course is to introduce students to the critical interpretation of the cinema and the various vocabularies and methods with which one can explore the aesthetic function, together with the social, political, and technological contexts and developments, of moving pictures. The weekly format of this course (as a 4 hour block) will normally entail a 1.5-2 hour lecture and the screening of a full-length film. Each film will thus serve as a starting point and gateway for discussion about the course’s weekly theme.

Simon Fraser University—Harbour Centre, Vancouver (Thursdays 2:30-5:20pm, Room HCC1800)

Edouard Degas, At the Cafe (1875-77)
This course provides an introduction to the complex ways in which social and political change, and ideologies of gender, class, race and ethnicity, worked to shape aspects of 19th century visual culture in Europe and North America. Emphasis will be placed on the roles played by industrialization, political revolution, rapid urban growth, global commerce, and the new media technologies of an expanding consumer culture in defining a wide range of visual culture. Throughout the term we will also examine different representations and debates around the idea of modernity and the “modern.” Since the time period under investigation has often been called “The First Modern Century”, we will pay particular attention to shifting ideas related to labour and leisure, urban social space and spectacle, and issues bearing on Euro-American expansion of empires in relation to indigenous populations, throughout the 19th century to turn of the twentieth century up to WWI.

Importantly, this class is not intended to be all-inclusive in which each and every monument contributing to the “canon” of Western art is studied. Therefore, we will also consider the constructed nature of the discipline of art history in order to trouble assumptions, both historical and contemporary, regarding the nature of art, its relation to different social and political institutions, and issues of patronage and viewing publics. Furthermore, through an introduction to critical and historical methods, students will develop the basic tools and terminology for analyzing visual culture, a skill set of crucial importance in understanding the barrage of images and technological stimulus at play in our postmodern world.