2020-2021 Undergraduate Academic Catalog

IAHIS 4630 Scandalous Art

This course examines the role of images in a democratic, capitalist society via the scenario of adverse reception: when an image is interpreted by an audience as unacceptable or offensive, even when offense was not intended in the context of its making. In other words, the course's focus is on images that trigger controversies, some of which lead to scandals. While the course begins by analyzing a specific case in sixteenth-century Italy, all the other cases are from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. All or some of the following questions are considered in each case: a)What were the circumstances (intention, purpose and other factors) of the making of the image? b)Which aspect(s) of the image was/were found unacceptable or offensive when placed in a context other than that of its making, and why (arguments of the critics/accusers)? c)What were the identities of the critics/accusers, and what values triggered the reaction? d)What are the differences between the values of the critics/accusers and the defenders of the image? e)If the defense of the image was grounded in the claim that specific knowledge of art history and/or the art world was mandatory to its appreciation, then what does the controversy/scandal reveal about the relationship of such a claim of privilege to the rest of society? f)What were the terms of reconciliation between the two sides, if at all? g)What lessons can be drawn from this controversy/scandal with regard to the role of images in society?