8703 Postmodern Currents
Terry Towery


My primary goal for this course is for us to enter into a discourse on the place that photography fits into contemporary culture. The discourse is more important than the product. Everywhere I look is Postmodern, just pay attention to it. Just learn how to look at it that way. My hope is to instill an appreciation for the current postmodern condition and the culture that it has generated or inspired.

Using examples from pop culture and a variety of other sources along with readings from academic and art journals, this course will situate the postmodern phenomenon into todays culture. PoMo went from the fringes of academia to popular culture in a relatively short time and we will use both theory and practice to attempt to understand postmodernism. We will focus particularly on the importance of photography and digital media in postmodern practice. There will be a number of assignments, both studio and written, to help understand the postmodern condition that we live in today. We will view slides, see movies, go to musems and galleries and read from a variety of sources.

The course will deconstruct modernism's myths. We will begin with the split in modernism between Duchamp and Picasso. We will look at collage/montage and the variety of isms that modern art went through. A broad range of subjects including originality, authorship, appropriation, performance art, and installation will be introduced during the semester.

Textbook: Art After Modernism

Evaluation Criteria:
The structure of the class will mix theory and practice to become thoroughly familiar with the artists and theorists that have shaped our postmodern culture. This course is heavy on reading and discussion. I expect you to do the reading BEFORE class and be ready to discuss the concepts in class.

- There will be quite a few readings for discussion in class Required
- There will be a number of weekly assignments 20% (you must do 5 of the 9 weekly assignments, you choose the assignments)
- Collaborative piece with distributed authorship - There will be a collaborative project - Please start this project early and pick your class mates (or outside the class) to do this project. 10% The collaborative project requires a proposal to be written and approved before it is executed
- There will be a midterm project = 30%
- Final project as well as a final research paper = 40% (20% each)

Midterm Assignment - Create an alternate identity for yourself. This will be group graded. eg Rrose Selavy - think of siblings, parents, extended family, sexuality, This identity should be fully developed. You might act it out or somehow provide evidence that this person exists

Final assignment is open and up to you. You must specify the assignment in writing. The self assignment is due one month before the final class.

Final Research paper - 5-10 page research paper demonstrating your understanding of the postmodern condition. This is not a biography of a specific artist although you could base it on a specific artist's strategy

Online resources:



Session 1

Duchamp and the readymade- Forever the future
Listen to Duchamp lecture, Discuss decontextualization and authorship and originality. Discuss the divergence of modernism after the Armory show between European painting eg picasso and american art eg Duchamp

Assignment bring in a readymade

Reading - Futurist Manifesto, and the mainfestos of dada and Surrealism

Session 2

Understanding modernism - then deconstructing it
Futurist manifesto and isms. Bauhaus Aaron Siskind and Paul Strand Straight photography, emphasized Bauhaus design over content

Aaron Siskind as the quintessential modernist photographer


Survey of pomo artists

Assignment - Write a Manifesto or make a list of Myths about modernism

Reading- The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical reproduction and The Originality of the Avante Garde and other modernist myths by Rosalind Krauss

Session 3

Originality and other modernist myths -
Art in the Age of Mechanical reproduction Discuss the digital age and the original Authorship and originality


Assignment - Create a piece where there is no original

Reading: Photography after Art Photography by Abigail Solomon-Godeau

Session 4

Art and Text
Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger,

Art and Politics — Montage, Hans Haacke, Kruger, Projections onto buidings

Create a marketable product from your work e.g. Kruger, Holzer, Wegman…

Re: Post
The Allegorical Impulse

Session 5 Mapping gaming and play

Mapping project Put yourself in the center of the map and situate yourself in the system or develop a system of artmaking

Reading: Baudrillard - Simulacra and Simulation

Session 6 The Spectacle Cinema and postmodernism The Cell, Yaley photographers, Brazil, Mathew Barney’s Cremaster series Your alternate Identities are due next week
Session 7 Midterm Identities due. Critique

Assignment Utilize Irony, camp or Kitsch in a work

Reading: Susan Sontag - Notes on Camp

Session 8

Eduardo Kac especially

the GFPBunny

Assignment Video Self portrait

Reading: NY Times articles on Schnabel, Crewdson, Photography market prices, additional Reading: Watch The Man in the moon Andy Kaufman

Session 9

Conceptual Art and Performance

Discuus Boggs, Sophie Calle, Jeff Wall vs. Gregory Crewdson, Gilbert and George, Beuys, Andy Kaufman The Man in the moon, Cindy Sherman, Duane Michals, Nikki S Lee, Sol Lewitt...

Further reading: the Dematerialization of the art object
and Baldessari about the act of choosing

Make something that references something in popular culture but doesn’t use it.

Reading: Look at Sensation Catalog on reserve in Library also from Tate magazine on museums

Session 10

YBAs and Anselm Kiefer

cool vs hot pomo eg Kiefer and Julian Schnabel vs koons and Bechers

The role of the museum

FINAL Self assignment proposals Due to me in written form next session

Reading: Watch Blade Runner or Until the End of the World or 9 Monkeys or Brazil

Session 11

Cyberpunk Collage/ Montage and digital media
Bladerunner vs star trek, Until the end of the world, Gibson and Neuromancer, Brazil and 9 monkeys.

Final Project proposals Due

Address the Dematerailization of the body in the cyber age and its re-emergence in art

Reading: The Photographic activity of Postmodernism by Douglas Crimp and watch The Cell

Session 12

Discuss Crimp article

The grotesque and the shocking
Evolving beauty esthetic against the cool Damien Hirst Cow

Bellocq, JP Witkin, Goldin

pomo cocktail talk... After PoMo?

Create a conceptual piece without physical form (or a system) that can be applied to commercial products

Session 13 Collaborative Project due
Session 14 Review Week
Session 15 Final Critique The final is a self-directed assignment.

Suggestions, but not requirements, for Final Project:
Surveillance project
Curatorial assignment Proposal for an exhibition (could be online)
Content of gender, ethnicity or sexual specific
Site specific proposal
Make a piece that addresses narrative
Artists and merchandising
Curating as art Nontraditional curating eg Tate in London does not organize work by chronology but instead by concept Nontraditional exhibition spaces breaking out of the gallery/museum
Everything has already been done
Hacking the gene pool and technology and art Glowing bunny Edwardo Kac www.ekac.org
Art and Text- - Kruger, "Reading" a painting cow reviewing painting, Michals
Group of images vs the single image eg ansel vs. the ballad of sexual dependency and duane michals and carrie Mae Weems

A few lists

Waking Life
The Cradle will Rock
The Man on the Moon
Peter Greenaway - Cook Thief Wife and lover
Wim Wenders - Until the end of the world and Wings of Desire
The Cell
Matthew Barney - Cremaster series
Laurie Anderson Home of the Brave
Blade Runner
Secrets and Lies never uses a script treatment and characters
Johnnie Depp The Candidate
Caravaggio movie
Pecker or anything by John Waters
Run Lola Run
Talking heads movie
Before Night Falls by julian Schnabel
Jonathon Demme


The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Ways of Seeing
Paper Tiger TV show on "reading" the New York Times


Elvis Costello
De La Soul Sampling


Critical Art Ensemble
Mark Tansey
Eric Fischl
Hans Haacke
Francesco Clemente
Joseph Beuys
Gerhard Richter
Sigmar Polke
Odd Nerdrum
Anselm Kiefer
Starn twins
Joseph Beuys
Sherrie Levine
Marcel Duchamp
Barbara Kruger
YBAs Damien Hirst
Chris Offili
Tracy Emin
Gillian Wearing
Rachel Whiteread
Ed Ruscha
Gerhard Richter
Bechers and their students
Carrie Mae Weems
Lorna Simpson
Odd Nerdrum
Eric Fischl
Nan Goldin Worked for Mappelthorpe
Jeff Koons
Mark Kostabi
David Levinthal
Andy Warhol
Panty brigade Yale photographers

Art and Text:
Jenny Holzer
John Baldessari

Photography and Perfromance:
Cindy Sherman
Nikki S Lee
Duane Michals
Lucas Samaras


Blue man group
Wooster Group
Wegman early videos and late commercial
Andy Kaufman

IM Pei Pyramid at the Louvre
Antonio Gaudi
Michael Graves Target faux detailing
Frank O Gehry

Jean Baudrillard - "Simulacra and Simulation"
"The Anti aesthetic" Hal Foster
Roland Barthes "Camera Lucida"
"Photo as culture" Douglas Davis from Art culture 1977
"The politics of postmodernism" by Linda Andre from Minnesota review 1984
"Theory of the Avante Garde" Peter Burger
"Photography after art Photography" Abigail Solomon Godeau
"The Photographic Activity of Postmodernity" by Douglas Crimp
Francois Lyotard
Rosalinnd Kraus - "The Originality of the Avante Garde and other modernist myths"

Walter Benjamin "Art in the age of mechanical reproduction"
Dick Hebdige Scooter style
Clement Greenberg as modernist
John Berger Ways of Seeing
Susan Sontag on Camp
Roland Barthes Camera Lucida and Lover's Discourse
Frederic Jameson


William Gibson
Bright Lights Big City Jay McInerny
Tama Janowits Slaves of New York
Less than Zero

Terminology/ Vocabulary:
Pastiche collage/montage Collaboration authorship
performance art
Conceptual art
Cyber punk
Metacriticism and photography
Performance art
Media conscious
Media savvy
Identity politics and gender politics
New Objectivity in Photography
Sign vs signifier
Dematerialization of the body in postmodern life.
Kitsch - Sontag, Wide eyed paintings, gilles et peres, fashion guy, Americana Saturday evening post guy

Pop- Warhol, Beatles create a product for marketing based on your work

Meta criticism criticism as art


Effect of cinema on Photography

Nihilism of Nan Goldin

High art vs. low art and the blending of the two

Beauty Does it matter

The myths of modernism - Reductivism, The ego, Macho, masculine

Terminally Silly Academic Pursuits
* The Postmodernism Generator
* Noam Chomsky on Postmodernism
* ``How to Talk Postmodern''
* Alan Sokal; ``Transgressing the Boundaries''