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Course Information

Instructor Info:Lorne Falk
Office Extension x6084
TA Info:Jeremy Johnston
Nikolai Humphrey-Blanco
Charles Driker-Ohren
Term: 2013F
Meeting Info: Tuesday Thursday
09:00 AM - 10:20 AM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 104
09:00 AM - 10:20 AM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 104

In his last interview Fluxus artist Dick Higgins said, "[O]ne of the areas that has been understated since the immediate post-war era has been ethics. Exploring the nature of kindness or of cruelty, or of the various implications of Bosnia or of militarism or things like that. Ethical exploration is an area of subject matter that has to be dealt with." More recently, Canadian cultural critic Jeanne Randolph has explored how we act morally and ethically while participating in a culture of abundance, opulence and consumerism. This course will explore ethics as a subject in the work of contemporary artists and thinkers in different media and disciplines, and across different cultures. It will explore ethical imagining as a cultural practice—how the imagination is elusive, contingent, yet exceedingly precious, and how it helps us understand changes in human relations and in culture that have evolved with 20C and 21C materialism.

Course Objectives:

Students in this course are expected to work with one another to create a lively, serious, ongoing conversation about ethical exploration as a subject in contemporary art. Working together in various ways is a key to developing (your) critical, research, verbal and collegial skills. There are two papers and each student will serve as respondent for another student's mid-term and final paper. In teams you will present and lead two discussions about assigned readings and individually you will present two artists relevant to the readings. Summaries of these presentations, along with relevant websites and images will be uploaded to the course website as a bank of shared information and ideas. You are expected to engage issues of form and subject matter, political and historical contexts, social relevance and critical reception of art works, issues, and theories of the contemporary moment relevant to a discourse about ethical imagining in contemporary culture.

Evaluation Criteria:

Attendance: Attending each class is required. If you must miss a class due to illness, please email me in advance. If you miss more than 2 classes, you will be asked to withdraw.

Preparation: Complete the readings and be prepared to discuss them in class. Your level of preparation is evident and will be factored into your final evaluation.You are expected to spend at least six to eight hours a week of preparation and work outside of class time, including reading, writing, research, discussion and production for presentations.

Participation I: Each class will be devoted to group discussion of the assigned texts. Students in teams will take two turns presenting and leading the discussion of each week's assigned readings. Each presentation should be 20-30 minutes in length. It is required that each team meet with a TA prior to the day of their presentation to discuss the readings and prepare a single paragraph summary of each reading followed by specifically cited passages and/or questions that articulate what you consider to be key points that link it to the other readings—not more than 1-page per reading. Email me these summaries before class so they can be projected and uploaded to the course website.

Participation II: Every student will make two powerpoint presentations, each one of work by an artist mentioned in or relevant to the readings. You are expected to engage in serious, scholarly, college-level research in your presentation, which should be 15-20 minutes in length. Presentations should include: a concise biographical sketch of the artist, a selection of (10-20) images of work taken from different periods in their career, and a rigorous analysis of how the artist's work engages with one of the subjects, issues, or themes of the class. While a handout is not required, your powerpoint presentation is emailed to me so I can upload it to the course website.

Sharing Your Research: All presentations, with relevant websites and images will be uploaded to the course website as a bank of shared information and ideas. Students may draw on this bank for their papers.

Essays: You must submit two essays. Each essay should be typed in Times New Roman (12 point), have a title page that includes the prompt, have proper footnotes (Chicago style), be double-spaced and paginated (e.g. JDoe – 1). The mid-term paper should be 5 pages long and the final paper 8-10 pages, not including title page, bibliography and images. I will distribute paper topics corresponding to the due dates (mid-term and end of term)—your essays must be on one of these topics.

Important: All essays must be emailed to me as a word file or pdf by their respective deadlines.

Important: I will have a folder of presentations, assignments and essays for each of you on my laptop—you do not have to submit a paper portfolio at the end of the class.

Additional Info:

Required Texts

Jane Blocker. Seeing Witness: Visuality and the Ethics of Testimony. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009. [Order from Amazon!]

All other readings are available as .pdf files on here on this Moodle course site.

Additional Texts*

* The books listed below are on reserve in the library; they supplement the readings and research you do for your papers.

Agamben, Giorgio. Profanations. Translated by Jeff Fort. New York: Zone Books, 2007.

Agamben, Giorigo. What Is An Apparatus (and Other Essays). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009.

Blocker, Jane. Seeing Witness: Visuality and the Ethics of Testimony. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

Brennan, Teresa and Martin Jay, eds.  Vision in Context: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Sight. New York and London: Routledge, 1996.                           

Crary, Jonathan.  Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge, MA and London, UK: MIT Press, 1990.                          

Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press, 2004.

Foster, Hal, ed. Vision and Visuality. Port Townsend: Bay Press, 1988.

Fusco, Coco. The Bodies That Were Not Ours: and Other Writings. London and New York: Routledge in collaboration with Iniva, 2001.

Kac, Eduardo, ed. Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2007.

Kroker, Arthur and David Cook. The Postmodern Scene: Excremental Culture & Hyper-Aesthetics. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987; Basingstoke: Macmillian, 1987.

Levin, David M. Modernity and the Hegemony of Vision. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Mercer, Kobena, ed. Exiles, Diasporas & Strangers. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press and Iniva [Institute of International Visual Arts], 2008.

Also the other three books in the Annotating Art's Histories series (edited by Kobena Mercer) : Cosmopolitan Modernisms, Discrepant Abstraction, and Pop Art and Vernacular Cultures.

Piper, Adrian. Out of Order, Out of Sight, Volume I and II. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1996.

Rabinow, Paul. Marking Time: On the Anthropology of the Contemporary. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008.

Randolph, Jeanne. Psychoanalysis and Synchronized Swimming. Toronto: YYZ Books, 1991.                                                                     

———. Why Stoics Box: Essays on Art and Society. Toronto: YYZ Books, 2003.

———. Ethics of Luxury: Materialism and Imagination. Toronto: YYZ Books, 2007.

Roth, Richard and Susan King Roth, eds. Beauty is Nowhere: Ethical Issues in Art and Design. Amsterdam: G& B Arts International, 1998.

Virilio, Paul. Open Sky, translated by Julie Rose. London/New York: Verso, 1997.