AHIS 300 - Critical Topic in Art History (LS)

AHIS 300A: Site Specificity

This course examines the relationship between site specificity and identity in contemporary art from the 1960s to the present. Our study will focus on artists in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries who have responded or reacted to specific locations, be they geographic, institutional, or political. Case studies will include installation, film, performance, and a wide array of other media. In this course we will also investigate practices that present or simulate places with no specific geopolitical referent, while still offering a sense of placeby drawing on what Maeve Connolly refers to as “the temporal and relational processes that shape an experience of place.” (2009, 11) This course asks: what roles have subjectivity and identity played in defining territory and vice versa? In connection with site, how have the central concerns of artists shifted since the 1960s? Are narratives of place effectively delivered by people of, from, or integral to the place represented, and what are the ethics of crafting new mythologies of place? Students will be furnished with key theories and methodologies related to site as implemented by artists and art historians. Our discussions will often deal with the radical objectives of Indigenous, post-colonial, queer, and feminist projects that problematize the very notion of territory, proposing that identity itself is a site of action and performance. Reflecting on key questions for makers of various disciplines, such as art historians, curators, and other theorists, our course will promote critical thought concerning uses of public space by artists and other agents. 

AHIS 300B: Environmental Art

This lecture/seminar canvases how artists in different places and times have addressed threats to the environment with interventionist practices.  Students will be introduced to issues, concerns, and complexities of environmentalism. The course invites and applies a variety of critical frameworks including the Holocene or Anthropocene ideological debate, New Materialism and Eco-Criticism.

The methodology of eco-criticism will be use to interpret historical art practices and interpretations of the natural world. Case studies of art that involves nature include land art, earthworks, environmental art, ecological art and eco-ventions. The course also looks at practices that seem shaped and given relevance by Anthropocene proposal and, in some cases, new materialism.  Other case studies histories of Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) and Bio-mimicry design practices and the question of whether there really is a conflict between 'green' design and aesthetic pleasure.  Students are invited to interpret their own concerns and experiences.

The perspective on knowledge is critical realist, sometimes known as subtle realist.  This perspective recognizes the natural world as objective reality available as direct experience (the empirical and phenomenological), but also acknowledges the power of language and culture's construction of values and descriptions as screens on our action-guiding thoughts and capacity to imagine new relationships to the natural world.  A split in ideational interpretation of the natural world very much in focus in this course is the proposal of era shift to the Anthropocene and its reshaping of the interpretation of the agency of the human species, which is changing  environmental art.

Course Credits:


Course Prerequisites

Any 200-level AHIS, plus completion of First Year Studies.


A21661Clintberg, Mark
8:30am - 11:20am room: 520
B21714McQuitty, Jane
2:00pm - 4:50pm room: 532