ARTS(FB)400 Body Archives: Special Topics in Studio Art, Dejan Atanakovic, Fall 2017

Lectures and field trips include the following four phases:

The course begins with the ambiguous anatomical gaze inside the body of the 1700s, and its relation to the concepts of the beauty and the sublime. This includes a visit to the Museum of Natural History La SpecolaMuseum of Anatomy and Biomedical Collection.

The second phase is dedicated to the early anthropological "photographic truth," in particular the study of modern identity of the colonial times through its relation to the socially, culturally and ethnically diverse (the "savage"). This phase of the course will lead the class into the photographic archive of the Museum of Anthropology, and may include meetings with the experts of the museum. The theme of "otherness" may also be approached through meetings with experts in social integration and creative therapy work at the art and therapy center Fili e Colori (theater, painting, writing).

The third and the fourth phases will include the observation of consequences of the pseudo-scientific gaze in 20th-century art, from 1930s totalitarian regimes to the contemporary responses in various fields of culture and art, dealing with the theme of disappearing and replacement of the body with signs.

Studio Work

Studio assignments are thematic and are given at the conclusion of each thematic unit. Each assignment is presented in two phases, during the work and at the end of the work. Specific media will be recommended for specific assignments, but preferably the choice of media will be a student’s own (well-reasoned) choice. For each assignment students may use specific iconographic elements (gathered through lectures, field trips and independently) related to the theme.

Assignments

During the semester four assignments will be developed and accomplished in relation to the class themes and specific museum visits. The assignments, though specific in context, and presented with the emphasis on a specific work process, will allow each student to apply personal poetics and method. However, experimentation and use of multiple media will be given priority.

Readings

(Note: It is not necessary to purchase the books below. Readings are made available through the SACI Worthington Library)

George Didi-Huberman, Wax Flesh, Vicious Circles from Encyclopaedia Anatomica (p.75-86)

Joanna Ebenstein, The Birth of the Anatomical Venus from The Anatomical Venus (p.14-49)

Friedrich Schiller, On the Sublime (PDF, 10 A4 pages)

M. Kemp, M. Wallace, The ritual of dissection, from Spectacular Bodies (p.23-31)

Boccaccio, excerpt from The Decameron (Introduction, Word doc. 5 A4 pages)

Ulf Kustner, Louise Bourgeois (excerpt)  (p.75-93, p.107-116)

Michela Marzano, The Philosophy of the Body (catalogue, Francis Bacon, Word doc. 4 A4 pages)

Thomas Mann, selected excerpts from The Magic Mountain (p.91-92, 151-154, 178-186)

Colleen Sheehy, Taxidermy and Extinction: Considering the Work of Mark Dion, Quodlibetica (PDF, 4 A4 pages)

Gilles Deleuze, selected excerpts from Francis Bacon, The Logic of Sensation (p. 8-33)

Thomas Szasz, The Manufacture of Madness (p. 17-24, 149-169)

David Sylvester, Interviews with Francis Bacon, excerpt (p.30-50)

Michel Foucault, selected excerpts from Discipline and Punish (p.135-169)

Michel Foucault, selected excerpts from Madness and Civilization (p.3-37)

Michel Foucault, selected excerpts from Psychiatric power (p.64-87, 93-116)

Michel Frizot, Body of Evidence, a chapter from The New History of Photography (p.259-271)

Gloria Moure, Interview with Christian Boltanski, in Advent and Other Times (p.105-115)

Susan Sontag, selected excerpts from Under the Sign of Saturn (p.73-105)

Grading

Grading will be based on the evaluation of the results of each assignment, plus the two reviews of the visual diary, at the midterm and at the end of the semester. Each assignment will be evaluated according to: creativity, experimentation, idea development and personal interpretation of a specific theme.

Graduate Students
​Students in MFA, MA, and Post-Bac programs are expected to complete additional assignments and to produce work at a level appropriate for students in a graduate program. They are graded accordingly and, if they successfully complete all course requirements for graduate students, receive graduate-level credit for the course.

Schedule

(Please note: This schedule is subject to voluntary or involuntary change.)

Week 1 

Tuesday, September 5
Introduction.
Course overview. Representation of the body. Body and freedom. Inherited gaze – the image of the body of the 18th and 19th century and its echoes through history. The image of the body in contemporary art. Body as a territory.

Assignments. Expected outcomes. Grading standards.

 

Thursday, September 7
What is Underneath?
Anatomical body: an organic landscape. The 18th century notion of beauty and sublime. Venus of the Medici at the Tribune degli Uffizi and the Vasari corridor. The use of wax and “anatomical venuses.”

Sublime fragmentation, sublime body.

Reading: Joanna Ebenstein, The Birth of the Anatomical Venus from The Anatomical Venus (p.14-49)

Friedrich Schiller, On the Sublime (PDF, 10 A4 pages)

Week 2

Tuesday, September 12
Imagination and Empiricism.
Introduction to the collection of the 1700s wax models of human anatomy, Museum of Natural History “La Specola”. The theme of dissection. Anatomical theater. Anatomy lessons and portraits of Dutch surgeons.

Reading: Bodies M. Kemp, M. Wallace, The ritual of dissection, from Spectacular Bodies (p.23-31)

Assignment: What is underneath?

 

Thursday, September 14
Visit to the Museum of Natural History “La Specola.”

Talking, drawing and taking pictures at the museum.

Reading: George Didi-Huberman, Wax Flesh, Vicious Circles from Encyclopaedia Anatomica (p.75-86)

Week 3

Tuesday, September 19
The Theme of the Body in Contemporary Art.
Louise Bourgeois, Francis Bacon, Christian Boltanski

Presentation of the first results of the assignment “What is underneath?”

Reading: Michela Marzano, The Philosophy of the Body (catalogue, Francis Bacon, Word doc. 4 A4 pages)

Ulf Kustner, Louise Bourgeois (excerpt)  (p.75-93, p.107-116)

David Sylvester, Interviews with Francis Bacon, excerpt (p.30-50)

 

Thursday, September 21
Visit to the biomedical collection – a section of the Museum of Natural History, Careggi, Florence.
(To be confirmed!)

Reading: Thomas Mann, selected excerpts from The Magic Mountain (p.91-92, 151-154, 178-186)

Week 4

Tuesday, September 26
Representations of the Plague.
Black Death, 1348. Florence. The image of the plague doctor. Votive objects, miraculous Madonnas and systems of control.

Boccaccio, excerpt from The Decameron (Introduction, Word doc. 5 A4 pages)

Work in class.

 

Thursday, September 28
Final results of the 1st assignment.

Week 5

Tuesday, October 3
Modern Requests from the Body.
19th-century idea of identity and otherness. Discipline and control. The notion of the panopticon. The construction of the Other. Psychiatric patient. Definitions of the “savage.” The myth and truth about “savage children.” The human zoo.

“The Enigma of Kasper Hauser” screening of excerpts from the film by Werner Herzog.

Introduction to the 2nd assignment: “Fantastic Other”

Readings: Michel Foucault, selected excerpts from Discipline and Punish (p.135-169)

Michel Frizot, Body of Evidence, a chapter from The New History of Photography (p.259-271)

 

Thursday, October 5
Visit to the Museum of Anthropology.
Talks, drawing, taking pictures. Meeting with museum’s curator.

Week 6

Tuesday, October 10
More about Otherness.
Colonial subject, psychiatric patient. The case of Benjamin Rush. The use of photography for “scientific” purposes.

Thomas Szasz, The Manufacture of Madness (p. 17-24, 149-169)

 

Thursday, October 12
Visit to the art and therapy center Fili e Colori.
Introduction to possible projects to develop together.

Michel Foucault, selected excerpts from Madness and Civilization (p.3-37)

Michel Foucault, selected excerpts from Psychiatric power (p.64-87, 93-116)

First results of the 2nd assignment.

Week 7

Tuesday, October 17
Work on assignment.

 

Thursday, October 19
Final results of the 2nd assignment.

Week 8

Tuesday, October 24
Totalitarian Use of the Body Image.
Soviet and Nazi sublime. Representation of the body in totalitarian societies. Consequences of 19th-century anthropological theories.

The concept of the banality of evil, by Hannah Arendt.

Reading: Susan Sontag, selected excerpts from Under the Sign of Saturn (p.73-105)

 

Thursday, October 26
Introduction to the final assignment.

   

Week 9

MIDTERM BREAK (October 28 - November 5)

   

Week 10

Tuesday, November 7
The Wonderful and Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl

Screening of the documentary film.

 

 

Thursday, November 9
The construction of the natural worlds. Cabinets of curiosity. Diorama, taxidermy. Scientific display and contemporary art. Artist – collector – scientist. The art of Mark Dion.

Colleen Sheehy, Taxidermy and Extinction: Considering the Work of Mark Dion, Quodlibetica (PDF, 4 A4 pages)

Week 11

Tuesday, November 14
Postmodern Interpretation of Modernity.

Body in the works of Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Cindy Sherman, Marina Abramovic.

Screening of the film: “Marina Abramovic. The Artist is Present.”

 

Thursday, November 16
First results of the final assignment.

Week 12

Tuesday, November 21
Voyager Project: Human Archive of the 1970s.

The absolute other. The body of our time. The disappearing body. Liu Bolin. Aziz + Cucher. Body archives in contemporary art: Christian Boltanski.

Reading: Gloria Moure, Interview with Christian Boltanski, in Advent and Other Times (p.105-115)

 

 

Thursday, November 23
Second results of the final assignment.

Work in class. Consultations.

Week 13

Tuesday, November 28
Work in class.

 

Thursday, November 30
Work in class. Consultations.

Week 14

Tuesday, December 5
Work in class. Consultations.

 

Thursday, December 7
Work in class. Consultations.

Week 15

Tuesday, December 12
Final results of the assignment.

 

Thursday, December 14
Presentation of all works completed in class. Critique.

Submitting final works and documentation relevant to all completed assignments.

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