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IDSEMUG 1973 - The Pleasures and Perils of Contemporary Exhibitions

There are times when controversies in the art world spill over into public discourse, as they have recently in Dana Schutz’s racially charged use of the image of Emmet Till in her work at the Whitney Biennial and as they did in the 1999 exhibition ‘Sensation,’ which raised questions about the use of city funding and the inclusion of Chris Offili’s depiction of the Virgin Mary. These high-profile examples raise the question: In a context that values pushing boundaries, how do we think about what defines ‘too far’? This question is tied up in complicated notions of value that include not only the artistic, but also the political, the social, the economic and commercial, the historical, and even the spiritual. In this class, we explore the ways that these issues are embedded within and addressed by contemporary exhibition spaces. In the rarefied context of the art world, how doconsiderations like the artist’s past work, the potential controversies of a piece, or the political climate influence exhibition choices? How does the exhibit space itself—whether the Met or a pop-up in Brooklyn—impact the ways that art is received? In a forest of potential readings and meanings, how do we, as audience, critic, and consumer, make sense of what we encounter? Through readings and visits to exhibitions, we will work toward a collective and personal language with which to engage the variety of possibilities implied within works and their display. Readings may include Ngai, Jameson, Diderot, Baudelaire, Steyerl, Ranciere. Class Notes: FULFILLS GALLATIN DEGREE REQUIREMENT: HUMANITIES.
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