A Brief History of Shock
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Division: Parsons The New School for Design
School: School of Art and Design History and Theory
Department: Art and Design History
Course Number: PLVS 3007
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
- Art History, Theory & Criticism
- Visual Culture
- Cultural Studies
With Courbet's 1852 remark, “When I cease to be controversial, I will cease to be important,” avant-garde art began an intimate relationship with the concept of shock. Courbet's Realism was marshaled toward social change, assaulting the traditions of the bourgeoisie and laying groundwork for artists to jolt their audience out of social norms, or into political action. This course surveys the history of shock in the visual and performative arts, focusing both on historical factors that cause shock to emerge as a desired tactic, and how shock is theorized and manifests itself. We will consider pre-WWI Futurism and Dada, where gestures of negation challenged traditional art and society; how shock was reworked later in Dada and Surrealism's critique of reason and in revolutionary new ways of seeing in the Soviet Union; and how decorum after WWII dictated a hiatus for shock, until social unrest in the 1960s caused artists to reevaluate its usefulness. Specific areas of interest include: shock and the use of specific artistic media (photography, film, collage, photomontage, etc.); shock and technology; uses of shock; theory of shock; shock and the individual v. shock and the masses; notions of 'revolutionary' shock v. shock and totalitarianism.
Open to: All university undergraduate degree students. Pre-requisites: first-year university writing course and at least one prior history or methods course in art, media, film, or visual culture.
Open to Undergraduate students.