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ART H 400 A: ART History and Criticism

Performance Art

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:00pm - 2:20pm
ART 317
Joint Sections: 
ART H 525 A
Adair Rounthwaite
Adair Rounthwaite

Syllabus Description:

Art History 400 A (grad 525 A)

Performance Art

Professor Adair Rounthwaite,

M/W 1:00-2:20pm

Office Art Building 367


Asco, Instant Mural, 1974


Course description

This course examines the development of performance art from its emergence in the mid-20th-century up to the present. During that period, performance practices developed simultaneously in numerous different places around the world. Performance has been compelling to artists who seek to explore personal and collective identity, to push the boundaries of the relationship between artist and artwork, to ignite political transformation, and to understand what it means to exist in the contemporary world. The performances we will analyze range from serious to campy, from lighthearted to harrowing, and from fleeting to long in duration. Across this range of work, we will gain an understanding of performance’s intimate connection to artistic innovation in the late 20th and early 21st-centuries.



Each week will be divided into a “history” session where we look closely at specific historical performance practices, and a “theory” session where we supplement and complicate our understanding of that history through the in-depth analysis of theoretical texts from art history and performance studies. For each pair, the “history” session is accompanied by light reading, while the “theory” session will require that you prepare through careful reading of longer and sometime dense texts (~40-60 pages per week). Students will complete focused pieces of writing in which they engage with theoretical texts and with documents of performance art and will present work to the class.  


Learning goals

  • To become familiar with a diverse range of performance art practices from the mid-20th-century to the present, and to analyze how these practices connect to social struggles over identity, belonging, and freedom.
  • To gain an understanding of how theorists and philosophers have written about performance, and how those ideas have evolved over time.
  • To strengthen written analytical skills in the close analysis of texts and images.
  • To strengthen verbal analytical skills through a class presentation and group discussion.


Catalog Description: 
Courses on special topics, frequently by visiting faculty, which cannot be offered on a continuing basis. Consult art history office for subjects offered.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:20pm