Kansas City Art Institute: ARTHI4035-03
Seminar: Postmodern Art and Theory
    Wednesdays, 2:30-5:20pm, EB 217

Professor: Maria Elena Buszek
Office: 304 Baty House (ext 3378), e-mail: mbuszek@kcai.edu
Office Hours: T/Th, 11am-12:30pm, or ANYTIME by appointment

Helpsite: http://www.mariabuszek.com/kcai

Course description and objectives: Unlike Modernist art, postmodernism no longer proclaims its autonomy, its self-sufficiency, or its transcendence. Instead it narrates its own contingency, insufficiency, and immanence. Postmodernism's deconstructive thrust allows us to compare art arising from a dissatisfaction with "modernity." This course focuses on the culture and codified signs of this dissatisfaction—reflected in art, theory, music, and politics—as well as the pleasures to be found therein.

Learning outcomes: By the end of this semester, students will be expected to understand the pertinent artists, events, art scholarship/criticism, and literary theory of the postmodern era, and recognize the evolution of this thought based on the era’s dominant cultural changes and influences. Students will also be expected to understand how postmodern thinkers emulate, critique, and appropriate the work of the eras that precede them in ways that lend logic to dominant studio practices today. The course will conclude with an extensive research paper that explores each student’s own relationship to postmodern art and thought.

Grading: Your grade will be based on a take-home midterm essay “exam” and a final research paper, as well as your preparation for and participation in weekly discussion (which will involve composing and turning in typed and printed weekly questions based on that week’s readings). All these grades hold equal weight in your final grade, which will be based on the average of these three grades. Because you will have plenty of lead-time to research and compose your work—the due dates of which have been included in the schedule from the beginning of the semester—late assignments will not be accepted under any circumstances.

Students’ grades will be assessed based on the student’s average performance at midterm (at which point downgrades will be given for those earning a C- or less) and the end of the term. This course’s grading scale is as follows: 100%-93%=A, 92%-90%=A-, 89%-86%=B+, 85%-83%=B, 82%-80%=B-, 79%-76%=C+, 55%-73%=C, 72%-70%=C-, 69%-66%=D+, 65%-63%=D, 62%-60%=D-, 59% and below, F.

Attendance and Absence Policy: Attendance in class is mandatory, not just because much of the material will not necessarily be directly or extensively addressed in your textbook readings, but also because discussion will be a crucial part of how we learn (and how students are graded) in this course. As such, one's success in the course will be entirely dependent upon one's presence and active participation in the seminar.

For these reasons, my attendance policy is more restrictive than the “default” attendance requirements outlined in the Student Handbook: Each student will be allowed TWO unexcused absences from class over the course of the semester. Absences will only be excused when accompanied by official documentation from a physician or counselor explaining one's extended illness or extreme/unusual personal crisis. Such documentation must be presented within a reasonable amount of time (notes explaining one's illness from three months previous, for example, are not acceptable). Students with preexisting health issues that they anticipate may cause them to miss more than three classes are required to speak to the ARC (see above) to provide me with both a written explanation from and contact information for the student’s physician or counselor. In any case, unless I am presented with the proper and timely documentation for a student’s absence/s, upon the THIRD unexcused absence, the student will automatically receive a failing grade (“F”) in the class. Remember that it is the student's responsibility to contact me and deal with absences as soon as possible!

Class Participation: Allow me to reiterate: active participation on the part of each student is essential to the success and effectiveness of this course. Indeed, dialogue will be such a crucial part of the way this class addresses the information at hand that students will be graded on their preparation for and participation in class discussion. Don’t be afraid to speak up! Or freak out!

That said: while I try to foster a classroom situation in which discourse and debate may flourish, students are also expected to conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to a professional and educational setting and demonstrate collegial support of their peers. Students are required to observe the code of conduct articulated in the KCAI Student Handbook, which includes an anti-discrimination statement and no harassment policy.

Academic Dishonesty Policy: Academic Dishonesty is defined as follows in the Student Handbook:

• The copying of another student’s, work or the use of unauthorized notes and materials during examinations, or copying from another individual’s paper/examination

• Plagiarism, or the presentation of either the written or visual work of others (including that of other students), as one’s own

Plagiarism is a serious offense in the academy, as well as illegal in the context of our nation’s copyright law. As such, it is important to know what plagiarism is in both one’s studio- and liberal arts work. According to the Modern Language Association, plagiarism is "the wrongful act of taking the product of another person's mind, and presenting it as one's own." In other words, plagiarism is the use of not just words but ideas borrowed from someone else without crediting the source. Students are required to learn the arts-standard, Chicago Manual of Style guidelines for citing sources referenced in their own work, and must follow them carefully in their research and writing projects.

When I have reason to believe that an act of academic dishonesty has occurred, I will inform the student/s involved, the head of the School of Liberal Arts, and the head of the department (or director/dean, if applicable) in which the/each student is majoring. I will then forward a report in writing to the Associate Vice President for Student Achievement for presentation before the KCAI Judicial Board. The Judicial Board will interview and/or receive written statements from the student accused of academic dishonesty prior to making any determination. Once a determination has been made that an offense did occur, I maintain the right to assign the student/s a failing grade in the course, and additional penalties, up to and including expulsion, will be determined by the Judicial Board, working in tandem with me.

Students with disabilities: Please let me know as soon as possible if you have a disability that may hinder your performance or participation in this class, so that accommodations may be made to satisfy course requirements. Trust me: you will find that I am willing to be extremely accommodating when it comes to student success, and would like to assure just about any student with any disability that they can not only take but do well in my classes. In any case, whether you choose to discuss any disabilities with us or not, all learning- or physically-disabled students are required to disclose as much with our Academic Resource Center in order to qualify for accommodations—students can get further information through Kathy Keller in the ARC: (phone) 816/802.3485 or (e-mail) kkeller@kcai.edu.

A note on class readings: Your textbooks for this class are: David Hopkins, After Modern Art: 1945-2000; and Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, Art in Theory: 1900-2000. You will also be assigned “reserve” discussion readings that are linked to our website (see below). I expect students to read ahead for each week’s class; the textbook readings are listed in our course schedule with specific chapters/pages/authors following each day’s lecture theme.

Questions? Problems? Frustrations? These, my friends, are what your professors are here to help you deal with! I place a priority upon making myself accessible to students, and do my best to be extremely flexible when it comes to meeting and talking with students who would like help. My crucial numbers (phone, e-mail, office) are located above, and I am always willing to answer questions, discuss problems, and ease anxiety.


27: Introductions, syllabus, questions

Modernism into Postmodernism

4: The Politics of Modernism

Readings: Hopkins, Chapter 1
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”
Clement Greenberg, “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” (Art in Theory, 539-549)
Greenberg, “Towards a Newer Laocoön” (AiT, 562-568)
Arthur Danto, Introduction from After the End of Art
(SUGGESTED reading:) Robert Storr, “No Joy In Mudville”

11: The challenge to Modernist “author-ity”
Readings: Hopkins, Chapters 2-3
Marcel Duchamp, “The Richard Mutt Case,” (AiT, 252)
Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (AiT, 520-527)
Roland Barthes, “Myth Today” (AiT, 693-698)
Barthes, “The Death of the Author”

18: Pop toward postmodernism
Readings: Hopkins, Chapter 4
Lawrence Alloway, “The Arts and the Mass Media” (AiT, 715-17)
Richard Hamilton, “For the Finest Art, Try Pop” (AiT, 742-3)
Claes Oldenburg, “Documents from The Store” (AiT, 743-747)
Jean Baudrillard, “The Hyper-realism of Simulation” (AiT, 1018-20)


4: Killing the author/empowering the reader

Readings: Hopkins, Chapter 5
Michel Foucault, “What is an Author?” (AiT, 949-953)
Barthes, “From Work to Text” (AiT, 965-970)
Michael Fried, “Art and Objecthood” (AiT, 835-846)
Lawrence Weiner, “Statements” (AiT, 893-894)

11: The death of the object/rebirth of the political
Readings: Hopkins, pp. 161-183
Guy Debord, “Writings from the Situationist International” (AiT, 701-707)
Valie Export, “Woman’s Art” (AiT, 927-929)
Joseph Beuys, “I Am Searching for a Field Character” (AiT, 929-930)
Artforum, “The Artist and Politics: A Symposium” (AiT, 922-926)

18: NO CLASS! Spring Break!

25: More politics/more perspectives
Readings: Hopkins, pp. 183-195
Frantz Fanon, “On National Culture” (AiT, 710-715)
Edward Said, “From Orientalism (AiT, 1005-1009)
Linda Nochlin, “Why have there been no great women artists?”
Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (AiT, 982-989)
Lester Bangs, “The White Noise Supremacists”

1: Declaring/defining the “postmodern”

Readings: Jean-François Lyotard, “Introduction to The Postmodern Condition” (AiT, 1122-1123)
Ihab Hassan, “Toward a Concept of Postmodernism”

8: Postmodernism in practice: 1980s art world
Readings: Hopkins, pp. 197-219
Craig Owens, “The Discourse of others: Feminism and Postmodernism”
Rosalind Krauss, “From The Originality of the Avant-Garde” (AiT, 1032-1037)
Krauss, “From Cindy Sherman: Untitled” 
Hal Foster, “Subversive Signs” (AiT, 1037-1038)

15: Difference, simulation, abjection
Readings: Hopkins, pp. 219-231
Mike Kelley, “Dirty Toys: Mike Kelley interviewed” (AiT, 1099-1102)
Julia Kristeva, “Approaching Abjection”
Cornel West, “The New Politics of Cultural Difference”
bell hooks, “Postmodern Blackness”

22: Constructions: history and identity
Readings: Hopkins, Chapter 8
Jeff Wall, “From a discussion” (AiT, 1158-1161)
Judith Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution”
“The Body You Want: Liz Kotz interviews Judith Butler”
Homi K. Bhabha, “On ‘hybridity’ and ‘moving beyond’” (AiT, 1110-1116)

29: Transcendence or resistance? Post-what?
Readings: Fredric Jameson, Excerpts from Postmodernism
Cathy Byrd, “Is there a ‘post-black’ art?”
, Feminism and Art: 9 Views” 
DJ Spooky, “An Interview with That Subliminal Kid”

MAY 6: Trails blazed and rediscovered
Readings: Nicolas Bourriaud, Excerpts from Relational Aesthetics
Donald Kuspit, "The Semiotic Anti-Subject"
Kwame Anthony Appiah, "The Case for Contamination"
Dan Fox, "Debt and Credit"

In-class discussion: What next?

Return to Postmodernism homepage