ART 361/561 — Critical Issues in Contemporary Art Practice — is a course taught each winter quarter by Assistant Professor Aaron Flint Jamison. An important part of the course is a series of lectures by guest artists, most of which are open to the public. The day after each public lecture, the artists usually meet with the students. Readings, discussions, and other visitors round out the quarter.
We asked students in this year's class to write about their experience in the class. Here is what they had to say.
Undergraduate, Art (3D4M: ceramics + glass + sculpture)
I joined ART 361 at the last moment without any previous knowledge of what it was about. The class introduced a variety of speakers and topics, which provoked my curiosity to research and challenged my critical thinking. At the same time, I found many valuable connections between my work and the presenting artists. That was an important asset in understanding and articulating my positionality as an emergent artist.The class offered a great opportunity to practice, build, and expand vocabulary in art appreciation. Although the class did not ask for creating original works of art, I felt that to write about art informed and deepened my own creative process. There were several reaffirmed and newly established connections between the discussed themes and my own current artistic inquiry. The weekly reflections were a starting point that were provoking and often unfolded in a journey of exploration of themes that I find relevant in my own creative process. I appreciated the facilitation of the class discussions and the freedom of expression, as well as the opportunity to hear and learn from the observations of my colleagues.
MFA student, Photo/Media
Visiting artist and educator manuel artero abreu, who visited a class session but did not give a public lecture, brought an incredible perspective on art and institution-making. Their Portland-based home school project demonstrated how the knowledge resources of academia can be taken for a ride beyond accredited institutions and into a self-created community of study.
artero introduced the class to conversations in art making and art theory that emerging artists are developing right at this moment, a rare and important connection between schooling and the outside world. The lecture was insightful and at times cutting, a great reminder that students are not here just to absorb the best ideas or techniques but to re-examine and re-write the history of artistic meanings, to re-wire the things we are given.
They were also very generous with reference and research materials, sharing a number of documents with the class after the lecture and answering questions in-depth both during class and in writing afterwards.
MA student, Art History
This class served as an important resource to survey contemporary artists and their diverse practices. As a graduate student in Art History, I found the diversity in practices to have been the most useful in regards to my research interests in contemporary art and curatorial studies. In addition, the flexible structure of the classroom component on the Friday sections allowed the invited artists to interact with students in a familiar and non-hierarchical way. While not all lecturing artists participated in the Friday sections, Professor Jamison filled these vacancies by inviting local practitioners and by providing useful content that allowed these sections to foster dialogue with undergraduate and graduate students. I was particularly drawn to Carolina Caycedo’s artistic practice because it provided a necessity in talking about the role of the artist in the face of climate change, late-stage capitalism, and indigenous resistance. The concurring exhibition and programming of Caycedo’s work at the Henry Art Gallery also provided a further opportunity of engagement beyond the class and lecture. Critical Issues establishes a precedent for the study of contemporary art history through its multiple points of entry. In this regard, I hope to see the expansion of this type of class offering for a year-round series, especially in its value for studio artists and art historians at the School.
Undergraduate, Art (3D4M: ceramics + glass + sculpture)
Throughout my winter quarter, ART 361 was a constant yet dynamic affirmation of the possibility of existing in and contributing to the art world that felt resonant with and authentic to me. The weekly artist talks served as a form of education rare in its directness of engagement with practicing artists, all of whom embody uniquely expansive gestures in their creative and dialogical approaches. This class has been an attestation to efforts toward a radical trajectory in contemporary art, not solely through offering visibility to the contributing artists, but also through the intentionality of care, presence, and respect given to them by those organizing and attending the lectures, Professor Jamison, and the space of the classroom. I experienced each class as a unique and active invitation to engage with contemporary artists and their work, challenge known ways of making / thinking / knowing / learning, etc., and to imagine new ones. This environment was collectively curated with a vast and diverse array of experiences, perspectives, and approaches seeping across the boundaries of undergraduate / graduate, student / teacher, artist / audience — one in which I consistently found myself jaw-dropped and eager to engage with. Witnessing and participating in the formation of such an atmosphere has been a substantially grounding force in the younger stages of my development of a studio practice with the values of criticality, curiosity, intention, and interdisciplinarity as a formative foundation.
Undergraduate, Art (Photo/Media)
I really enjoyed taking the course because of its connection to the real world. Instead of just learning about contemporary artists, we were able to learn from them. It was great to have the opportunity to hear from so many different artists and be able to engage with them in conversation as well as ask questions. The selection of artists was great because none was like the other although some of them worked with similar concepts or themes. The artists did not just talk about their work, but they explained their process and the thoughts behind it, and I thought getting the chance to hear about all of that was very special. It is not common for students to have the opportunity to hear so many artists talk within one class. I definitely took away something from each artist’s lecture that will influence me and my art in the future. I am really glad Professor Jamison organized this class, and I am very thankful for all the artists who took the time to come and talk for this lecture series. It is difficult to pinpoint one specific thing that influenced me the most because I learned so much from all the artists and the class discussions following the artist talk.