Painting/Printmaking ART 536, The Work of Art in the Age of ——, RevisitedWalter Benjamin wrote “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technical Reproducibility” in exile in Paris in the mid-1930s, with the avowed aim of introducing into cultural discourse critical concepts that would resist the rise of fascism and formulate revolutionary demands in the politics of art. The best known idea from a text bursting with ideas is the decay of the aura in the age of photographic reproduction, which spoiled the authenticity of aesthetic experience and inaugurated a radically democratic mode of reception. Today, in a moment of intersecting global crises that have drawn comparisons to the 1930s, are there critical concepts, both old and new, that could come to our collective aid? What would it even mean to formulate revolutionary demands in the politics of art? Is the question itself worth asking? This course expands Benjamin’s critical vision of art beyond its historical moment, offering a forum for M.F.A. students to explore the political dimensions of artistic production through engaged readings of critical theory, group discussions, writing assignments, and independent projects. Benjamin’s essay provides an organizational framework for our exploration of the tropes, themes, and approaches that inform the contemporary field of art practice and criticism. Each week, we closely read a small section of the 1935 essay alongside contemporary literature in media and cultural studies on subjects such as art and technology, media as environment, theories of spectatorship, mass aesthetics, decolonization, and climate crisis, as well as occasional film screenings and guest lecturers. The seminar provides a supportive environment for students to exchange ideas with one another and explore creative applications in personal projects. Students are given opportunities to present, both verbally and in writing, their own artistic production through the lens of the critical issues studied in this term-long course.
Last edited by: Emily Cappa
Edit access: Staff, Faculty