Throughout this course we will examine a series of aesthetic strategies that have placed art at the center of political interventionism. How have critical art practices tested the categorically self-contained boundaries of art by asking challenging questions about the purpose of art in the world, its separation from everyday life, its anti-instrumentality, or its ability to intervene in the politics of representation? The task of the semester is two-fold: to map some key interventionist art practices – from those identified with Dada and Surrealism to Situationism, the Black Arts Movement, 1970s performance art, and, ultimately, to contemporary art activism – and to query the conceptual parameters of what constitutes a “critically engaged” art practice. The question of the use of art—or its supposed uselessness—is a matter of continued controversy. In this course, we look beyond the question of art’s “critical dimension” to ask how art might be imagined to act "directly" upon the world. We will examine topics such as the art strike, anti-art, the reciprocal readymade, art activism, detournément, ritual iconoclasm, participation, public art, and community video, among others. How have such strategies complicated ideas about the value and use of art in the social world? How do these strategies attest to, intervene in, or complicate claims made for art’s critical capacities? What is the relation between aesthetic play and the “real” of direct action? How do such practices reframe the relationship between artist, the artwork, and audience? These questions will guide our interrogation of the vexed relationship between art and political action.