ARTH 386/2-A - Art and the Viewer
INSTRUCTOR: ERNESTINE DAUBNER
In this course, we will explore the changing conceptions of the art object and the viewer by examining a broad range of art practices and theories from ancient times to the present. Our study will begin with Plato's denigration of art as a mere copy of a copy of an ideal form and how this philosophic position developed into varying histories of mimesis and simulacrum. We will continue by examining "auratic" art as a ritualistic object with cult value, and assess the significant shift towards art as an object of display with exhibition value. This study will allow us to consider diverse aesthetic imperatives over the centuries, which culminated in the late 20th century with high Modernism. We will also assess the grounds for the dematerialization of the art object at this time, in favor of more ephemeral, conceptual or knowledge-based art practices.
Coinciding with such shifts in the art object are the considerable transformations in the role played by the viewer. Indeed in dismantling the art object, many recent art practices also rescind the viewer's gaze, where we witness the disintegration of the referential object, favoring a more dialogical, interactive or immersive experience. To consider these transformations, we will ask: how does contemporary multimedia or time-based art become "dialogical," and how does interactivity relate to prior conceptions of the art experience? To find some responses, we will refer to specific theories of aesthetics, semiotics and post-structuralism, as well as to Mikhail Bakhtin's notion of dialogism. An important aspect of our investigation will be to assess what the changing conceptions of the art object and the viewer might reveal about the socio-cultural (art) histories and sensibilities of each period.