Power and Visuality
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Level: Undergraduate
Division: University-wide Programs
Department: University Lecture Program
Course Number: ULEC 2730
Course Format: Lecture
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
  • Art History, Theory & Criticism
  • Visual Culture
  • Media & Culture
The history of visual representation (from art to the broader terrain of visual culture) reveals that there is an intimate relationship between the visual field and power. This course explores this connection by investigating the relationship between art/visual culture and power through a series of case studies on topics from the birth of modernism and modernity in the nineteenth century, to the global, digital era. Through this framework, the question of the politics of art––or how visual representation can operate critically––will be addressed. At the birth of modernity in the nineteenth century, we will look at the onslaught of industrialization and the creation of the modern city; as well as the spread of Imperialism, which shaped relations between the West and different nations and cultures until the post-colonial era. How did visual practices reveal social and economic relations, and/or actively produce cultural attitudes? We will then trace these issues into the period of the two World Wars, in which visual modes (from artworks and design to architecture and film) were marshaled to celebrate state power, to challenge its hold, or to generate a new political order, including revolution. In the postwar era, we will examine the expansion of the media landscape and the emergence of revolutionary politics associated with the anti-war and civil rights movements, when the politics of representation became a central concern. Finally, with the advent of globalization after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we will look at how visual practices responded to these conditions––from geographical expansion to the “war on terror”–– and sought to intervene into dominant structures of power. Throughout, we will consider not only how visual representations underwent a change, but also how we, as visual and perceptual subjects simultaneously have undergone a radical transformation, with the operative question of how the visual field shapes the way we see and understand our world?
Students must register for both the lecture and discussion section of this course.
Course Open to: Degree Students


Open to Undergraduate students.