Course date

8 July - 26 July, 2002
Application deadline:
15 February, 2002
Course Director(s): 

Margaret Dikovitsky (Dikovitskaya)

Fine Art, University of Toronto, Canada
Course Faculty: 

Edit Andras

Institute for Art History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary

Steven Mansbach

Pratt Institute, Department of Art History, New York, United States of America

Kobena Mercer

Middlesex University, Visual Culture, London, United Kingdom

Nicholas Mirzoeff

New York University, Art and Comparative Studies, New York, United States of America

Piotr Piotrowski

Institute of Art History, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland

Hilary Robinson

University of Ulster at Belfast, School of Art and Design, Belfast, Ireland

The purpose of this course is threefold. First, it will assess the claim of Western modernist aesthetics to universal currency in terms of an alternative modernist tradition in Central Eastern Europe. Second, it will raise the issue of gaining/loosing regional identity in both art and art theory in the recent past (due to communism) and in the present (due to European unification and globalization). Third, it will familiarize the participants with the recent theoretical developments in western visual culture studies, postcolonial studies, and feminist theory. The course will have an international and comparative perspective.

Course Level and Target Audience

This course is designed for those with prior knowledge of the history of art. Preference will be given to faculty members of institutions of higher learning and researchers with professional experience in art history and theory, art education, art criticism, aesthetics, museum studies, and cultural studies. The course will offer an advanced analysis of the proposed topics.


This course, a sequel to "History and Theory of Art after the Cultural Turn" (2001 CEU SUN), will examine the status of art-historical knowledge in relation to the recent theoretical developments in the humanities and the social sciences. It will be structured thematically.

Steven Mansbach's segment "Methodological Myths in Modernist Culture" will examine the most deeply embedded assumptions regarding the history, practices, and meanings of modern art. Among the principal issues to be analyzed are the following: the claim of Western modernist aesthetics to universal currency, its assertion of an essential connection between visual arts and social reconstruction, and its belief in a revolutionary unfolding of history through visual culture. These claims will be assessed in terms of an alternative modernist tradition in Eastern Europe in which the roles of style, the function of social programs, and the interpretations of history were configured differently from those in the West. By charting the conflicting courses, diverse functions, and defining roles of local traditions within the genesis and function of Eastern European modernism, the richness and complexity of modernism universally might be reclaimed and revived. Although the discussions will focus on the classical modern art and architecture of both Western and Eastern Europe during the first third of the twentieth century, the implications of the investigation into the methodological structures on which modernism is based will likely affect our appreciation of contemporary culture as well.

Piotr Piotrowski’s segment "Art around the Wall: Central-Eastern Europe between the Past and the Future" deals with the art of the second half of the twentieth century and the contemporary art scene in Central Eastern Europe. It considers art production not as an autonomous activity but rather as the complex issue of the political and social context produced by both a "shadow" of the Wall (still dividing the West and the East) and the process of globalization. The course focuses on the political/historical mechanisms that have constructed the regional cultural identity, as well as on the mechanism responsible for the vanishing Central European identity after the fall of communism.

Edit András in "Art and Art Theory after the Wall: Difficulties of Tradition in Eastern-Central Europe at the End of the 20th Century" argues that the modernist paradigm endorsing such notions as utopianism, formalist aesthetic values, the artist as autonomous entity, and the transcendent character of art, has outlived itself. This segment will explore the difficulties of the cultural transition following on the political one. It will examine the relationship between current Western theoretical discourse and Eastern art-critical practice, and the remnants of the mental 'walls' tending to impede the teaching of the new critical theories. It will scrutinize the widely held view in the region that the new theory, along with all its assumptions, is a domestic affair of the West, and thus is of no concern to Eastern Europe. Case studies and 'close readings' of the regional art informed by the new critical and feminist theory will be offered.

In the last decade, visual culture has emerged, first as a descriptive term and now as an interdisciplinary practice, in the study of visual media in the West. Nicholas Mirzoeff argues that one of the key components of the visual culture is globalization in its various forms whether in terms of global visual infrastructures such as cable and satellite or the global TV channels and programs or the World Wide Web. Rather than using the cultural studies metaphor of culture as text, visual culture studies culture as images, or more precisely, as visualizations. It analyzes visual events in which the consumer interfaces with visual technology. This segment will explore the hypervisuality of everyday life that is everywhere around us.

Margaret Dikovitskaya will provide an overview of visual culture's theoretical frameworks and of postcolonial theories. 'Postcolonial' refers both to the historical period that marks political autonomy (but not economic and cultural autonomy) in former colonies of the West and to a research paradigm that attempts to explore the (neo-) colonial map. As a research paradigm, postcolonial studies share commonalities with cultural studies, postmodern theories and feminist theory. The differences between postcolonial and post-Soviet studies will be addressed.

New perspectives on 'race' and ethnicity in the visual arts have arisen over the last two decades as a result of critical practices among contemporary artists and new paradigms on cultural difference and identity among critics and scholars. Kobena Mercer’s segment "Examining 'Race' and Ethnicity in 20th Century Art" provides an introduction to the key artists and debates of the English-speaking Black Diaspora in the African American and Black British contexts. Providing the student with access to the critical vocabularies of postcolonial theory, the course examines key moments in modern art history by way of detailed case studies that will reveal aspects of cross-cultural dialogue in visual culture hitherto obscured by politics and ideology.

Hilary Robinson’s segmenTeaching Methodst, "The FeTeaching Methodsminist Problematic in Art and Art Writing: Interventions," will explore the intersection of feminist theory and activism with art and art history. It will be grounded in the premise that feminism is not an academic theory or methodology, nor is it a style of art. Instead, feminism will be presented as a rich and diverse set of political and social discourses, able to make strategic interventions in all areas of culture. Following initial discussion of what is at stake in the encounter between feminism and visual art, and some of the different positions and strategies found in feminist interventions with the art world, the course will attend to some of the major issues: the critiques of art writing; negotiating the intersection between nation and gender; and the issues at stake in representing the body.

Teaching Methods

Daily seminars will be supplemented by lectures and a film screening. Each day a set of readings dealing with a particular topic will be assigned; participants are expected to be familiar with the readings and to be prepared to discuss them. Critidescriptionques and discussions should act as major motivators for the participants, unlike the situation of the traditional lecture-format. Participants are asked to submit by the end of the third week a short literature review (approx. 5 double-spaced pages). Please develop one research question that is useful for your own studies/research and select three texts from the course readers or from the texts put on library reserve. When writing the literature review bear the following components of a literature review in mind:

-description (summarize all three texts without making any value judgements);
-comparison and contrast (i. g., highlight the particular perspectives of each author) with regard to your research question;
-analysis (strengths and weaknesses of each perspective);
-critical reflection (discuss usefulness of the texts for your research/studies).