altered fluorescent bunny as "art"
Orlan, a "performance artist" whose artwork is "herself"
Section 1. What is Art? In this section we examine a series of general questions related to defining just what counts as “art.” What makes something a work of art, as opposed to something else? What do we understand by saying that something is “art?” What does art reveal—some aspects of reality, deeper truth, aspects about ourselves? In what way is art communicable? Is art “subjective?” If so, how can we ever settle the question of “what is art?” The definition of art is an ontological question regarding the nature of art.
Section 2. Art and Culture: The above topic is further examined through particular forms of art, such as music, visual arts, performing arts, and other forms, which are real expressions of our cultural ideas, insights, and creativity both singular and collective. What are the actual contents of what is expressed in what we take it to be art? Why does it count as art? What does it reveal?
Section 3. Art from a Global Perspective: But do all cultures, all over the world, share similar views about art? (Is art in some sense “universal?”) What about the standards of beauty? What if there are cultures that lack the very notion of art, yet produce “artistic” objects? Are cultural artifacts and various other performance practices “art?” Does art know no boundaries? (Is that true?)
Section 4. Art and Politics: The conceptions of art in our society today is heavily embedded in the politics of representation, media, social norms, and other institutions that disseminate art. Who decides what is to be performed or not in public, and why is that an issue? Why are so many artists considered “anti-establishment” or “alternative?” And why yet others are “mainstream?” Perhaps we don’t even know the extent to which we are lead to think what should count as art? Does that stifle creativity, or should art be controlled in some sense? Why?
Section 5: What is Art Revisited: The last part of the course will bring together our own insights, gained through the examinations above, to produce a tentative definition of what each of us would consider “art.” This is a personally philosophical and artistic project, through which you would establish your own views about art.
The course is designed for in-depth discussions and reflections about art, and there is much freedom, as personal creativity and expressions are integral aspects of both thinking about art and producing something (could be an idea). So please be prepared to engage yourself, your own creativity, your mind and heart—your whole person—and be willing to share with others.
There will also be handouts throughout the semester.
The reading assignments must be read before the class.
2. Mid-semester Project Proposal/Outline (20%). After Section 2, you will select ONE particular medium of your choice (visual arts, music, performance, any other), for a more in-depth analysis, to give content to the question above. Give an outline of what you intend to analyze, in what way. This is the outline for the creative project to be finished at the end of the course. You may work in groups. Your project could be: producing something--a painting, a piece of music, video production, a performance; philosophically analyzing a particular form of art, using essays; doing a research on a particular art culture; whatever you choose, you must apply and articulate your own conceptions about the nature of art (as explored in section 1), as well as make references to some of the theories discussed.
3. Project Presentation and Critique (20%). Beginning Week 12, each of you (or group) will give a short presentation of your project. The audience will produce a short “critique” for each presentation. Incorporate the critique for your completion.
4. Final Project/Paper (30%). This is the completion of your project, due at the end of the course, December 10th. At the end, it should contain an articulation of your own “theory of art” and attempt to define what that is. It should also make references to the theories studied.
5. Participation and Discussion (20%). The course will rely heavily on discussions, critique, analyses, and other modes of communication regarding our topics and projects.
? General introduction of the course, including explanations for each
of the sections.
? Discussions on “What is Art?” Handout.
? Wartenberg book (hereafter W): Introduction (p. xi), Section 12 (Collingwood, p. 125), 13 (Dewey, p. 137), and 11 (Bell, p. 115)
Week 2 (Sept 3, 5): Classical Theories
? Is art “imitation,” “expression,” or something else? What does
? Plato and Aristotle (W: Sections 1 and 2, p1-28)
Week 3 (Sept 10, 12): Modern Theories
? Art as “taste,” “emotion,” and expressive communication
? Hume, Niezsche, Tolstoy (W: Section 4: p. 38, Section 8: p. 85, and Section 9: p. 98)
Week 4 (Sept 17, 19): Modern to Contemporary Theories
? Art as “truth?” Art as indefinable?
? Heidegger, Weitz (W: Section 14: p. 149, and Section 17: p. 190)
? How and what does music express? Music as Elements of Culture
? Graham book (hereafter G): Chapter 4, Music and Meaning, p. 66
? Steiner (handout)
Week 6 (Oct 1, 3): Example: Architecture
? G: Chapter 7, Architecture as an Art, p. 137
? Western creations of “African Art?”
? Jegede and Appiah (W: Sections 26 and 27, p 292-)
Week 8 (Oct 15, 17 Project Proposal Due Oct 17):
? Japanese aesthetics of shadows and darkness
? Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows
? Benjamin, Adorno (W: Sections 15 and 16, p. 172-)
Week 10 (Oct 29, 31): Art and Feminism
? Piper, Hein (W: Section 23; p. 253, Section 25; p. 280)
? Subjectivism and objectivism?
? Art and interpretation
? G: Chapter 8, p. 155. Evaluation and the Aesthetics of Nature
Week 12 (Nov 12, 14): Project presentations and critique begins.
? Defining Art again
? Thinking Art and Society again
? G: Chapter 9, p. 176. Theories of Art
Week 13 (Nov 19, 21): Project presentation and critique continues.
Week 14 (Nov 26): Project presentation and critique continues.
Week 15 (Dec 3): Project presentation and critique continues.
Please note that “turning in the paper” means that I receive it; it
does NOT mean that you dropped it off. When in doubt, you must make
sure with me that I actually have your material.
I will accept electronic submissions.
There will be some penalty for late papers. Late papers must be turned in within one week past the dealine. No papers will be accepted beyond that date.
You may turn your final in early. No makeup for the final.
Feel free to talk to me about any concerns you may have about the course. I am always interested in what you have to say.