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ARTH 384 Theories of Representation

  • Thursdays, 11:45 am-2:30 pm
  • Instructor: Dr. Balbir Singh

In this class, we will examine what structures forms of sight, perception, and representation. We will use race as the central framework of our course of study to better understand historic and contemporary technologies of vision as predicated on racist and colonial logics. In addition, our readings will help us co-develop a theory of sight that hinges on the harm and potential violence of the gaze, what we will call the evil eye for shorthand. As a class, we will consider what we know of representation, and where it comes from: for example, how might we understand forms of reception and artistic consumption of work that deals with race, colonization, and histories and legacies of violation and violence in terms of audience, viewership, and arts and culture markets. We might then interrogate what it means to create against the possible and real harm of such consumption, by therefore creating instead through abstraction, opacity, and the conceptual.

Practically and formally, we will think and learn primarily through reading and discussing theoretical texts, as well as contemporary art, direct action, surveillance and other carceral technologies. The fields we engage include critical race and ethnic studies, most especially Black studies and Arab and Asian diasporic studies; anticolonial theory; and contemporary art and visual cultural studies.

Stephanie Syjuco, Total Transparency Filter (Portrait of N), 2017. Inkjet print, 40 × 30 in. (101.6 × 76.2 cm). Courtesy the artist; Ryan Lee Gallery, New York; Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco; and Silverlens, Manila.
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