Unsettled Landscapes Seminar & Public Lecture Series, Assistant Professor of Art Tarrah Krajnak
This course and public lecture series examined the cultural, political conditions, and historical narratives informing the work of several contemporary artists, poets, filmmakers, photographers and critical writers whose work engages with the landscape, human interaction with nature, environmental justice, and/or settlement across the Americas. The course emphasized the work of underrepresented artists, indigenous voices, and/or feminist perspectives on “landscape”. A series of visiting guests lead workshops and class discussions with students before presenting a public lecture or performance for the Pitzer campus.
Visiting Artists and Lecturers Included:
- Jennifer Little
- Kathy Bancroft
- Natalie Diaz
- Edgar Heap of Birds
- Nanobah Becker
- Gabriel Estrada
- Lucy Lippard
- Laura Huertas Milan
- Claudia Arteaga
- Esteban Cabeza de Baca
- Saskia Calderon
Prisons, Parks and the Legacies of Colonialism, Professor Lako Tongun and Professor Andre Wakefield
The legacies of colonialism in Africa are inscribed on the buildings and landscapes that colonizers left behind. The parks that shelter endangered species today were once the hunting grounds of British and French imperialists; the slave depots of earlier days became the prisons of the modern period. This was an interdisciplinary, team-taught course that combines the approaches of history and political economy. Students payed special attention to both “built” and “wild” environments, while bearing in mind that the latter can be just as constructed as the former. The class used a number of approaches to compare confinement and conservation across continents: historical case studies, political economic theories, economic development policies, prison architecture, zoo policies, nature films, and safari brochures. Course goals were to examine present-day landscapes and prison complexes through the comparative lenses of history and political economy. In Summer of 2015, Professor’s Tongun and Wakefield used support from the Mellon Foundation to travel through Uganda and Kenya. After teaching in Luzira Prison, near Kampala, they used the funds to extend their research and travel across Kenya and up to Masai Mara National Reserve. As a result of the grant, they were able to extend their investigation of post-colonial spaces from the colonial-era prison of Luzira directly to the National Reserve, and its relationship to the U.S. National Park model. This comparison was to prove invaluable in our discussions during this semester’s class, and for the materials that we chose to teach. The students also reflected some of these in their final papers.
Environmental Art/Public Art, Professor Lance Neckar
This course examined tensions at the intersections between art and the environment and art and the civic realm. Works in these sometimes overlapping categories span media from the monumental object or space to the ephemeral performance or experience. While the principal geographical focus of the course was on the United States where the a significant body of this work originated in the mid-1960s, examples of works and artists from other continents were brought into the discussion to show the American condition – sometimes in sharper relief, sometimes as cultural hegemony, and, in the case of Ai Weiwei, for example, the most activist arc of western style provocation. And although the emphasis is on late-20th century and current works, sources and precedents from earlier periods were also discussed.
The course involved readings, discussions, lectures, a field trip to LACMA, a paper assignment on an artist, student presentations, and a proposal for an environmental or public art work.Students were exposed to a broad range of work in the lectures, crossing media and themes. From American landscape painting and photography of the 19th century sublime (Turner, Joseph Wright of Derby, Cole, Carleton Watkins) to the explosion of 20th century works by a huge range of artists including Ana Mendieta, Maya Lin, Agnes Denes, Kathryn Miller, Ai Weiwei, Amy Balkin, Banksy, Jochen Gerz, Theaster Gates, Robert Smithson, Jane Holt, Michael Heizer, Walter deMaria, Richard Long, and Christo and Jeanne Claude, a broad spectrum of questions and issues were investigated. Themes of sublime and spectacle foregrounded lectures, discussions and readings on the dialectics of nature and art, on the sublime, on memory and memorials, on utopia and violence, and questions of artistic distance/engagement/participation and media of environmental and political change. We also discussed the difficulty of making potent public art in the framework of official processes and censorship of works that artists have made outside of these frameworks. Class discussions benefited from readings from the New York Times about current issues in the social, environmental and artistic spheres and discussions of campus issues. At the conclusion of the course, students were asked to make a proposal for a work or execute a maquette of a proposal.
Special Topics in Mold Making: Environmental Art, Professor Tim Berg
This course was redesigned to address environmental themes using entirely new projects that address humankind’s relationship to the natural world. Students learned mold making for ceramics as well as prosthetic mold making and special effect makeup. In this course students were challenged to rethink categorical ways of relating to their environment. Course objectives were to interrogate the student’s assumptions around common binaries such as what is natural and what is artificial, explore the art history and profound experiences of functional objects, and explore the theme of the human body as site. The class projects were designed to accommodate these goals, assigning students with the task of cumulating found objects, creating molds, casting, conducting research and presenting on art historical movements, and creating prosthetics.
At the culmination of this course, students acquired the skills to:
- Create one part, two part and multi-part plaster molds for press-molding and slip-casting.
- Create prosthetic molds and prosthetics pieces using alginate, gypsum cement, poly-foam and latex.
- Document and present their work using a variety of media strategies.
- Demonstrate visual communication skills, design aptitude and critical thinking.
- Abstract natural forms and textures to communicate both functional and aesthetic design concepts.
- Creatively situate their environmental concerns within a broader cultural critique using art and design.