Visual and Material Culture: Course

City & Urban Experience in the Art of the 29th Century

Michalowicz Jerzy, Semester 2, Sunday, 14:30-16:00
As a material, visual, experiential and conceptual reality without precedent in pre-modern times, city coincides with the most salient dimensions of "modernity", as well as with the self-awareness of prominent artists of the 20th century. The course will track a number of representations of urban reality and experience in modern art in terms of a continuum stretching between two opposites: chaos and grid. Emphasis shall be laid on comprehension of these two concepts as a singular visual and conceptual language, and their specific dimensions: fragment, vernacular glance, accidental moment, etc., on the one hand, and the ordering regime of the grid, the rectangle, the unifying glance, etc., on the other hand. The starting point will be the city of Paris in the second half of the 19th century, especially Impressionist painting of urban scenes (Caillbotte and others), with emphasis on the invention of "random moment". We shall then dwell on representations of urban chaos in the collagist tradition of Dada beginnig with K. Schwitters up to neo-Dada artists, especially R. Rauschenberg. The grid aspect of urban reality will be explored mainly through analysis of paintings of E. Hopper and his artistic descendants. In photography the chaos dimension will be explored through American street photography and its contemporary equivalents, while the opposite dimension of grid and order in urban reality shall be dwelt on through mid-century French street photography and the German architectural photography of the second half of the 20th century. Finally, we shall discuss contemporary artists' efforts to portray the late 20th c. and early 21st c. urban visual realities and experience as apocalypse of disjointed fragments (T. Takahashi, and others), and the notion of "junk space" (R. Koolhaas).