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Performing Property: Legal Experimentation and Activism in Contemporary Art

CHUM 313
Fall 2022
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: AMST 214, ARHA 261, CSPL 313
Course Cluster and Certificates: Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory Certificate

Who owns works of art-artists, buyers, museums, or the public? Who is granted the privileged status of author? Do artworks comprise a special category of things? Such questions underlie attitudes concerning art and cultural artifacts, and they also inform intellectual property laws. Since the 1960s, conceptual and performance artists have taken up these queries to investigate the nature of authorship and ownership generally, experimenting with aesthetic strategies as well as legal tools like contracts to ask: How do social and visual cues communicate boundaries, shape territories, and perform property into being? What happens when materiality and ownership are contingent? Can artists model alternate property relations through their work? How might art expose fissures and failures in law? Recent calls for decolonization and the restitution of looted objects have also pushed museums and archives to reconsider whether they are the outright owners of cultural artifacts, or stewards responsible for their care. Furthermore, as surveillance technologies increasingly pervade daily life, and digitalization leads licensing to supplant ownership, the future of privacy and property norms is unclear. These developments render contemporary art fertile ground for attending to the ways in which property structures are conceived, take shape, are reproduced, and how they might be reformed, calling upon us to pay attention to intent, consent, and the needs of others.

Seminar readings will be drawn from the burgeoning subfield of Art and Legal Studies with texts by key scholars including Joan Kee and Martha Buskirk, complemented by legal theorists such as Sarah Keenan and Cheryl I. Harris whose work has influenced artists. Alongside, we will closely examine the work of artists who challenge traditional ownership relations to problematize law, such as Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Jill Magid, and Cameron Rowland. Class meetings will be complemented by screenings and visits to local collections, as is feasible. Assignments include a brief paper on an artwork, as well as a final research paper or digital exhibition requiring students to examine a particular theme or artist in-depth.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA CHUM
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Student Option
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (ARHA)(CSCT)
Past Enrollment Probability: Not Available

Last Updated on JUN-22-2024
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