From the 1960s through the present much art has relied on the active involvement of the spectator—from Brazilian neo-concrete art that required audience participation to contemporary debates over relational aesthetics and social practice—and in this class we will look at the development of theories and histories of contemporary art through the lens of what constitutes “activating” artwork. Fluxus, happenings, Gutai, conceptual art, public art, performance art, activist art—all model the interaction of the artist and the public very differently. We will examine how these different movements and artists stage the interaction between art and the public, and the relationship that they propose between gender, racial, and national identities through the politics of participation.
Together we will reflect on the evolving debates surrounding theories of spectatorship, art and activism, performance art, the politics of public art, recent curatorial practices, and the rise of new media. Readings will include artists’ writings by Hélio Oiticica, Allan Kaprow, Guy Debord, Sol LeWitt, Cildo Meireles, and Rirkrit Tiravanija, and work by critics such as Mari Carmen Ramírez, Nicolas Bourriard, Claire Bishop and Grant Kester. The class incorporates site visits to museums, visiting guest lectures, and assignments include art criticism, short analytical papers, and a final conference paper, which students will present to the class.