Course Code 

The course offers and introduction to important milestones and themes in art history and theory, from antiquity to today. Focusing on modern and contemporary art, the course bridges different historical periods by offering an overarching view on the ways to analyze art as an historical and intellectual phenomenon. Beginning with Pliny the Elder’s attempt to write a history of classical art by composing the evidence of his time, the introduction describes the birth of art history as an academic discipline at the end of the 19th century, under the philosophical auspices offered by Hegel’s Philosophy of History. The course examines how this particular legacy affected authors such as Alois Riegl and Heinrich Wölfflin, allowing them to propose different theories of style and distinguish between periods such as the Renaissance and Baroque.

The lectures are organized in intersectional units facilitating the examination of different periods, movements and artistic phenomena. We investigate the emergence of modern public sphere and the question the ‘public’ in art – from the times of Gustave Courbet to minimalism and current forms of social interventionism. Special emphasis is given to the phenomenon of primitivism in modernism and modern art. The interest in the ‘primitive’ traverses, in diverse ways, a range of movements: from impressionism to post-impressionism and expressionism, from cubism to dada and surrealism, from art brut to the performances of post-war movements such as Viennese Actionism.

The lectures focus on the birth of the Situationist international and the relation of its protagonists to the post-war culture industry, the cultural politics of the Cold War and the experience of everyday life. The class presents the interventionist devices of the situationists, the group’s relation to urban planning and its philosophical legacy. Special themes focus on the relation between the historical avant-gardes (Dada, Surrealism and Constructivism) and the two phases of the post-war avant-garde (during the 1950s and the post-1968 period respectively). To understand the relations between the historical and the post-war avant-garde, we employ theoretical contributions by thinkers such as Peter Bürger, Benjamin Buchloh, Rosalind Krauss, Hal Foster and others.

The course also examines the post-May 1968 avant-garde, which proceeded to an “institutional critique” and to a social understanding of the ideological and economic factors shaping the art field (Hans Haacke, Daniel Buren, Marcel Broodthaers, Michael Asher, Lawrence Weiner, Martha Rosler, Andrea Fraser, Fred Wilson and others). It also examines the influence of conceptual art, minimalism and post-minimalism in art and theory of the 1970s. The class also focuses on the activity of 1980s feminist artists who scrutinized the role of the viewer and the gaze in popular culture, advertisement and consumerist society. We analyze how the thinking of Althusser, Lacan, Barthes and Foucault offered a new framework to understand gender -and its relation to hegemonic discourses- for artists such as Mary Kelly, Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine and others.

lectures introduce students to contemporary issues such as the ‘social turn’ in the 21st century and its critical approaches. We study the proliferation of participatory artistic projects based on the cooperation between the artist and social groups, collectivities, communities (Superflex, Francis Alÿs, Pierre Huyghe, Thomas Hirschhorn, Arthur Zmijewski, Christoph Schliengensief, Phil Collins and others). students participate in a theoretical and artistic debate emerging with Nicola Bourriaud’s ‘Relational Aesthetics’ and extending to Claire Bishop’s criticism of Relational Aesthetics.

course also investigates contemporary expressions of artistic activism in America, Europe and Russia. We analyze the different tactics and strategies of artistic activism, from the Net Art experimentations of Heath Bunting to the ‘identity thefts and corrections’ of CAE, Ubermorgen and The Yes Men, to the strategies of subversive affirmations and overidentification in artistic movements such as the Slovene NSK, the Polish Orange Alternative and the Luther Blissett project.