This module explores art’s complex, and often conflicted, relation to mass media and communication technologies in the aftermath of the Second World War and during the Cold War.
Module will run
Spring Term 2021-22
This module explores art’s complex, and often conflicted, relation to mass media and communication technologies in the aftermath of the Second World War and during the Cold War. Focusing mainly on major art historical developments in Western Europe and in the USA and through a variety of case studies, we examine how artists and artist groups responded to the shifting techno-scientific and ideological conditions of their time, by experimenting with the formal, conceptual and emancipatory possibilities of mass media. The module pays particular attention to the divergent ways in which artists during this period sought to intervene in larger systems of publicity and propaganda, and considers art’s intersection with the visual and textual economies of the printed press and broadcast television, and with vernacular modes of attention and reception.
The selected case studies are designed to examine artists’ critical engagement with mass communication forms and technologies of reproduction, recording and transmission in the light of wider aesthetic reconsiderations of “traditional” artistic mediums and genres; contested debates on art’s shifting social and communicative function and its role in the construction of alternative publics; shifting definitions of mass and popular culture; and new conceptualizations of the public sphere. At the same time, the module examines how art’s continuous transactions with the mass media in this period intersected with crucial shifts in the theorization of both the work of art and the visual image. The module will include lectures and structured discussions around specific works of art and draws on art historical and critical texts, as well as on the literatures of sociology, political theory and communication studies.
Module learning outcomes
At the end of the module, students should have acquired:
the ability to situate and investigate the evolving relationship between art, mass media and communication technologies within broader theoretical, geopolitical, social and cultural contexts
detailed knowledge of a range of artworks and of their contested readings and meanings
a critical understanding of cross-disciplinary discourses on communication and their intersection with major artistic developments in the period under examination
familiarity with a range of artistic media, materials and techniques
the ability to critically evaluate a diverse range of texts and to use different forms of historical materials
development of visual analysis skills through image-led discussions
familiarity with art historical discourses
ability to construct and present coherent arguments through class discussions
development of research skills through in-class presentations and essay writing
% of module mark
Essay/coursework 4000 word essay
Special assessment rules
% of module mark
Essay/coursework 4000 word essay
We aim to distribute an agreed mark and written comments on summative assessment to students 20 working days following submission.
Alexander Alberro, “The dialectics of everyday life: Martha Rosler and the strategy of the decoy,” in Martha Rosler: Positions in the Life World, ed. Catherine de Zegher, 72-112 (Cambridge, Mass. and London: The MIT Press, 1998).
Gwen Allen, Artists’ Magazines: An Alternative Space for Art (Cambridge, Mass. and London: The MIT Press, 2011).
Svea Bräunert, “The RAF and the Phantom of Terrorism in West Germany,” in Art of Two Germanys: Cold War Cultures, eds. Stephanie Barron and Sabine Eckmann, 260-271 (New York: Abrams; Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2009).
Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, “Hantaï, Villeglé, and the Dialectics of Painting’s Dispersal,” October 91 (Winter 2000): 24-35.
Karin L. Crawford, “Gender and Terror in Gerhard Richter’s October 18, 1977 and Don DeLillo’s ‘Baader-Meinhof’,” New German Critique 36 (2) (2009): 207-230.
Douglas Crimp, “Pictures,” October 8 (Spring 1979): 75-88.
J. A. Curley, “Paranoid Styles: Warhol’s and Richter’s Conspiracy Theories of Painting,” chap. 4 in Conspiracy of Images: Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, and the Art of the Cold War (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2013).
Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle (Detroit: Black & Red, 1970).
Hans Magnus Enzensberger, “Constituents of a Theory of the Media,” New Left Review 1/64 (November-December 1970): 13-36.
Hannah Feldman, “Sonic Youth, Sonic Space: Isidore Isou and the Lettrist Acoustics of Deterritorialization,” chap. 3 in From a Nation Torn: Decolonizing Art and Representation in France, 1945-1962 (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2014).
Hannah Feldman, “Of the Public Born: Raymond Hains and La France déchirée,” October 108 (Spring 2004): 73-96.
David Joselit, “Yippie Pop: Abbie Hoffman, Andy Warhol, and Sixties Media Politics,” Grey Room, no. 8 (Summer 2002): 62-79.
Grant H. Kester, “The Eyes of the Vulgar,” chap. 1 in Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art (Berkeley; Los Angeles; London: University of California Press).
Liz Kotz, “Text and Image: Rereading Conceptual Art,” chap. 6 in Words to Be Looked at: Language in 1960s Art (Cambridge, Mass. and London: 2007).
Ed Krcma, “Imagery, Allegory, Intention,” chap. 2 in Rauschenberg/Dante: Drawing a Modern Inferno (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017).
John McHale, “The Fine Arts and the Mass Media,” Cambridge Opinion 17 (1959): 28-31.
Kynaston McShine, ed., Information (New York: MoMA, 1970).
Christine Mehring, “Television Art’s Abstract Starts: Europe circa 1944-1969,” October 125 (Summer 2008): 29-64.
Kevin Lotery, “‘an Exhibit’/an Aesthetic: Richard Hamilton and Postwar Exhibition Design,” October 150 (Fall 2014): 87-112.
Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge, “The Public Sphere as the Organization of Collective Experience,” chap. 1 in Public Sphere and Experience: Toward an Analysis of the Bourgeois and Proletarian Public Sphere, transl. Peter Labanyi, Jamie Owen Daniel, and Assenka Oksiloff (London, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993).
Seth Siegelaub, “Preface: A Communication on Communication,” in Communication and Class Struggle, 11-22, eds. Armand Mattelart and Seth Siegelaub, vol. 1, Capitalism, Imperialism (New York: International General, 1979-1983).
Catherine Spencer, Beyond the Happening: Performance Art and the Politics of Communication (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020).
Frances Stracey, “Situationist Radical Subjectivity and Photo-Graffiti,” chap. 5 in Constructing Situations: A New History of the Situationist International (London: Pluto Press, 2014).