At the Seaside by William Merritt Chase

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ART H 309 D: Topics In Art History

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Meeting Time: 
MWF 10:30am - 11:50am
ART 317
Adair Rounthwaite
Adair Rounthwaite

Syllabus Description:

Art History 309 D: Special Topics

Audience Participation and Collaboration in Contemporary Art

Professor Adair Rounthwaite,

Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 10:30-11:50 am, Art Building room 317

Office hours: Wednesday, 12:45-2:45 pm, Art Building room 367


martin creed 360.jpg

Martin Creed, Work No. 360: Half the Air in a Given Space (2004, with subsequent installations) 


Course description

Getting a haircut from a child, snuggling with an artist, or taking part in a heated political discussion: all of these are examples of the now widespread phenomena of collaboration and participation in contemporary art. In this course, we will seek to understand why artists today gravitate towards these practices; how they position the audience-participant; and how they change the definition of art as such. The course addresses a broad range of global case studies from the United States, to Senegal, to Russia, to Brazil, and from the early 20th century to the present day. We will look closely at the high-profile museum- and biennial-based participatory practices that have become mainstream in the global art world since the 1990s, as well as at activist practices that resist the politics and economics of that dominant system. Specific questions we will discuss include: how do these practices change the role of artistic authorship? How should we consider the materiality of social process art compared to more traditional media, like painting or sculpture? Is there a difference between these participatory art practices and social activism? And what kinds of art historical research methods does participatory art require?

Learning goals

  • To gain knowledge about a range of contemporary art practices which involve audience participation and collaboration.
  • To understand how earlier 20th-century art laid the groundwork for this type of contemporary art, and also how these practices revise concepts such as authorship and spectatorship inherited from the earlier 20th-century.
  • To read and understand critical texts that shed light on the cultural importance of these practices.
  • To improve your ability to read complex texts, and to articulate opinions on them both verbally and in writing.
  • To interact with other members of the class in order to build a productive discussion environment, which will help strengthen your own individual work.


Grade breakdown

25% - First exam, Friday, October 30th during class

25% - Second exam, Monday, December 14th, 8:40 am, during the final exam period

25% - Critical analysis essay (c. 1500 words)

15% - Discussion Forum bullet-point list of preparation questions, participation on December 4th, and final report (c. 500 words)

10% - Participation, including contributing to class discussion of the readings, and meeting with me to discuss your essay (before Friday, October 28th)

Catalog Description: 
Topics vary.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 5, 2016 - 9:10pm