Object Lab: Fall 2017 Courses
The Seeds of Divinity: Exploring Precolumbian Art & Civilization in a Museum Exhibit, Professor Antonia Foias
This course explores how divinity is represented in the art of five Precolumbian civilizations of Central America, using the human body as a prism for understanding concepts of souls and the supernatural. Through a series of four research papers, students deepen their understanding of an object by folding in their newly-acquired knowledge of social, political, and religious context. The class also prepares for the upcoming spring exhibition, The Seeds of Divinity, by thinking through the display and interpretation of these objects.
Art Through Time, Professors Peter Low and Stefanie Solum
This course celebrates works of art as physical objects, to be viewed and contemplated but also to be worshiped, exhibited, bought, sold, held, touched, and lived in. Each student chooses a work of art at random and deepens their relationship to that work by analyzing different formal elements in two paper assignments. Students articulate their initial responses to the work of art, develop skills of visual observation, and learn to write a formal analysis that supports an argument.
Art of California: Pacific Standard Time, Professor C. Ondine Chavoya
This seminar looks at the visual arts and culture of California after 1960. It focuses on Pacific Standard Time, a collaborative exhibition initiative in Southern California that tells the story of the L.A. art scene. Students research these exhibitions and examine Southern California conceptualism, photography, performance, painting, sculpture, and video. Students research the photographs here, and other works of performance art, and then deliver presentations in the gallery.
Neural Systems and Circuits, Professor Matt Carter
We investigate how neurons and their connections analyze sensory information, form perceptions of the internal and external environment, make cognitive decisions, and execute movements. We also learn how the brain produces feelings of motivation or reward as well as aversion or pain. Students use these works of art to apply their knowledge of the visual system—especially concepts about contrast, color, and focus—outside of the traditional science classroom. By examining art, students apply classroom concepts to new situations.
Through the Looking Glass: Comparative Children’s Literature, Professor Janneke van de Stadt
Oh, the reads we will read, if you follow my lead! We will amble at first and then soon pick up speed. There’ll be picture books, fairy tales, primers, and verse. Tales of joy, fun, and laughter; and, alas, the reverse. Some were written in English, but most of them not. Though we’ll read in translation: Sign on up, polyglot! Is it mere fun and games, pixie dust, sweet as pie? Does it ask to be read with a serious eye? Books appeal to our puzzler, our minds, after all, and a child is a thinker, no matter how small. We’ll critique illustrations, we’ll wonder, we’ll ponder. And by turns we’ll divine what defines this grand genre.
African Dance and Percussion, Professors Sandra Burton and Tendai Muparutsa
This course provides an introduction to the foundations of selected dance and music genres from the African continent and the African Diaspora, such as Kpanlogo from Ghana and Bira from Zimbabwe. Students use these objects to examine the cultural origins and contexts of different dance and music practices. They consider the relationship between form and how an object is worn and performed; the antelope form of the Karikpo Mask resonates with the acrobatic movements of the dance. The class meets regularly in the gallery for movement and music exercises.
Environmental Humanities, Professor Nicolas Howe
We study how culture shapes the representation and experience of landscape, and how the representation and experience of landscape shape culture. We also question how ecological, social, and political forces interact to inform our sense of place. Through a series of research papers, in-class critiques, and group presentations, we consider how the humanities can help us both understand and change our relationships with the natural world for the better.
The Fourteenth Amendment and the Meanings of Equality, Professor Sara Dubow
Using Fourteenth Amendment Supreme Court cases from the 1870s through the early 21st century, this course examines how social groups, courts, political leaders, and the public have debated meanings of equality. Students write a series of short essays in which they pair these works with specific cases and examine how ideas about racial and gender equality and inequality are conceptualized in each. In their comparisons, students pay particular attention to how art and law each employ “evidence,” conceptualize “truth,” and engage with history.
Gender and Sexuality in Asian American Theater, Professor Vivian Huang
This course studies the gendered and sexualized representation of Asian racialization through analysis of plays, performance, and visual art. We consider tropes of Asian Americaness in the works of art on display in Object Lab alongside readings in Asian American dramatic literature. As a midterm assignment, students first analyze one of these works of art and then do a comparative reading with one of the assigned plays to consider how race, gender, and sexuality are performed in each.