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ARTH408: Contemporary Art

Unit 6: Narrating Identity   *1989 was a watershed year. For many, the fall of the Berlin Wall symbolized the end of the Cold War and a final victory of capitalism, which had global consequences and created a big change in the way we live and think about ourselves. Therefore, in the 1990s, contemporary artists increasingly moved away from big social issues and turned their focus to questions of identity, memory, and sexuality. Working as anthropologists would do, the artists explored what it means to be a man or a woman in a global world today: What is the role of memory and sexuality in construction of identity? Furthermore, what does race mean in today’s postcolonial world? Finally, what does it mean to be a human in a world saturated by technology?

In this unit, we will explore a number of artworks built around such questions. Importantly, most of these artists were addressing the issue of identity by creating so-called “installation” work—or works of art that engage the entire space of a gallery or exhibition, forcing the viewer to respond with his or her whole body. Some artists create an installation by making different objects, such as sculptures, and the others would use old toys, stuffed animals, and similar objects. The installation is for many contemporary artists an important feature because it communicates with the viewer in a more direct way and as such is more conducible in telling stories or narrating identities.

Before starting to work on this unit, please revisit Units 5 and 6 (subunit 6.4) in ARTH301.*

Unit 6 Time Advisory
This unit will take you approximately 24 hours to complete:

☐    Subunit 6.1: 5 hours

☐    Subunit 6.2: 5 hours

☐    Subunit 6.3: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 6.4: 4 hours

☐    Museum Visit: 2 hours

☐    Writing Assignment: 5 hours

Unit6 Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Discuss the ways contemporary art changed in the 1990s—at the end of the 20th century.
  • Explain the ways issues of identity shaped contemporary artistic practice.
  • Identify and discuss major works of contemporary art that deal with the issues of identity.
  • Describe and discuss the ways sexuality, race, or memory became a critical tool for contemporary artists in exploring and challenging our social and cultural positioning.
  • Explore and discuss the role of installation.
  • Identify the similarities and differences between performance and installation.

6.1 Identity and Memory   Please review the unit on installation art (Unit 7) in ARTH209

6.1.1 Mike Kelley   - Reading: PBS: Art21: “Mike Kelley: Biography” and “Language & Psychology”

Links: PBS: Art21: “[Mike Kelley:
Biography](http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/kelley/index.html)”
(HTML) and “[Language &
Psychology](http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/kelley/clip2.html)”
(HTML)  

 Instructions: Please read these entire webpages for an introduction
to and an interview with Mike Kelley.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.
  • Web Media: PBS: Art21: “Memory”

    Link: PBS: Art21: “Memory” (Adobe Flash)

    Instructions: Please watch this video from the 14th to the 27th minute for an introduction to Kelley’s work.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.1.2 Paul McCarthy   - Reading: PBS: Art21: “Paul McCarthy: Biography”

Link: PBS: Art21: “[Paul McCarthy:
Biography](http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/paul-mccarthy/)”
(HMTL)  

 Instructions: Please read this entire webpage for an introduction
to Paul McCarthy.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: PBS: Art21: “Transformation”

    Link: PBS: Art21: “Transformation” (Adobe Flash)

    Instructions: Please start watching this video at the 35th minute (for approximately 15 minutes) for an introduction to McCarthy’s work.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.1.3 Annette Messager   - Reading: Journal of Contemporary Art: “Natasha Leoff Interview with Annette Messager”

Link: Journal of Contemporary Art: “[Natasha Leoff Interview with
Annette Messager](http://www.jca-online.com/messager.html)” (HTML)  

 Instructions: Please read this entire webpage for an introduction
to Annette Messager.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: YouTube: “The Hayward Gallery: ‘The Messengers’”

    Link: YouTube: “The Hayward Gallery: ‘The Messengers’” (YouTube)

    Instructions: Please watch this entire video (approximately 3 minutes) for an introduction to Messager’s work.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.1.4 Kiki Smith   - Reading: PBS: Art21: “Kiki Smith: Biography” and “Family History & the History of Objects”

Links: PBS: Art21: “[Kiki Smith:
Biography](http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/smith/)” (HTML) and
“[Family History & the History of
Objects](http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/smith/clip2.html)”
(HTML)  

 Instructions: Please read these entire webpages for an introduction
to and an interview with Kiki Smith.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.
  • Web Media: PBS: Art21: “Stories”

    Link: PBS: Art21: “Stories” (Adobe Flash)

    Instructions: Please watch this video from the 15th to the 26th minute for an introduction to Smith’s work.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.1.5 Robert Gober   - Web Media: MoMA: Robert Gober: “Untitled”

Link: MoMA: Robert Gober:
“[Untitled](http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?criteria=O%253ADE%253AI%253A5%7CG%253AHI%253AE%253A1%7CA%253AHO%253AE%253A1&page_number=13&sort_order=2&template_id=1)”
(HTML)  

 Instructions: Please view this artwork for an introduction to
Robert Gober’s work.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: “Robert Gober: Sculptures and Drawings”

    Link: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: “Robert Gober: Sculptures and Drawings” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please read this entire webpage for an introduction to Gober.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.2. Race and Identity   6.2.1. Carrie Mae Weems   - Web Media: “Carrie Mae Weems”

Link: “[Carrie Mae Weems](http://carriemaeweems.net/)” (HTML)  

 Instructions: Please view this entire webpage (ensuring to scroll
right) for a good introduction to Carrie Mae Weems’s work.  Examine
the series she made in the 1990s: The Kitchen Table Series(1990) and
From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried(1995–1996).  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Lecture: iTunes U: Duke University: Left of Black: Marc Anthony Neal: “Episode 21”

    Link: iTunes U: Duke University: Left of Black: Marc Anthony Neal: “Episode 21” (iTunes U)

    Instructions: Please scroll down to the lecture dated 3/15/11 and then listen to approximately the first 27 minutes, during which Weems discusses her work.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.2.2 Kara Walker   - Reading: PBS: Art21: “Kara Walker: Biography” and “Projecting Fictions: ‘Insurrection! Our Tools Were Rudimentary, Yet We Pressed On’”

Links: PBS: Art21: “[Kara Walker:
Biography](http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/walker/)” (HTML) and
“[Projecting Fictions: ‘Insurrection! Our Tools Were Rudimentary,
Yet We Pressed
On’](http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/walker/clip1.html)” (HTML)  

 Instructions: Please read these entire webpages for an introduction
to and an interview with Kara Walker.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.
  • Web Media: PBS: Art21: “Stories”

    Link: PBS: Art21: “Stories” (Adobe Flash)

    Instructions: Please watch the first 15 minutes of this video for an introduction to Walker’s work.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.2.3 Glenn Ligon   - Lecture: iTunes U: Tate Gallery: “Talking Art: Glenn Ligon”

Link: iTunes U: Tate Gallery: “[Talking Art: Glenn
Ligon](http://itunes.apple.com/itunes-u/talks-and-discussions-2008/id426730672)”
(iTunes U)  

 Instructions: Please scroll down to \#25 and then listen to this
entire lecture (approximately 63 minutes), in which Ligon discusses
work.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: MoMA: “Glenn Ligon”

    Link: MoMA: “Glenn Ligon” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please read this entire webpage for a selection of Ligon’s work from the 1990s.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.2.4 Yinka Shonibare   - Reading: PBS: Art21: “Yinka Shonibare: Biography”

Link: PBS: Art21: “[Yinka Shonibare:
Biography](http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/yinka-shonibare-mbe/)”
(HTML)  

 Instructions: Please read this entire webpage for an introduction
to Yinka Shonibare.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: PBS: Art21: “Transformation”

    Link: PBS: Art21: “Transformation” (Adobe Flash)

    Instructions: Please watch the first 15 minutes of this video for an introduction to Shonibare’s work.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.3 Identity and Technology   6.3.1 Orlan   - Lecture: iTunes U: The University of Michigan: “Orlan”

Link: iTunes U: The University of Michigan:
“[Orlan](http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=431518094)”
(iTunes U)  

 Instructions: Please scroll down to \#89 and then listen to this
entire lecture (approximately 115 minutes) given by French artist
Orlan.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.3.2 Stelarc   - Reading: CTheory: “Extended-Body: Interview with Stelarc” and NeMe: “From Zombie to Cyborg Bodies – Extra Ear, Exoskeleton and Avatars by Stelarc”

Links: CTheory: “[Extended-Body: Interview with
Stelarc](http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=71)” (HTML) and
NeMe: “[From Zombie to Cyborg Bodies – Extra Ear, Exoskeleton and
Avatars by Stelarc](http://www.neme.org/250/from-zombie-to-cyborg)”
(HTML)  

 Instructions: Please read these entire webpages for an introduction
to the main ideas of Stelarc’s work.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

6.3.3 Mona Hatoum   - Lecture: iTunes U: Emily Carr University: “Mona Hatoum”

Link: iTunes U: Emily Carr University: “[Mona
Hatoum](http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=441746003)”
(iTunes U)  

 Instructions: Please scroll down to \#8 and then listen to this
entire lecture (approximately 59 minutes) given by Hatoum.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.4 Identity and Sexuality   6.4.1 Nan Goldin   - Web Media: Charlie Rose: “A Discussion on the Photography of Nan Goldin”

Link: Charlie Rose: “[A Discussion on the Photography of Nan
Goldin](http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/5797)” (Adobe
Flash)  

 Instructions: Please watch this entire video (approximately 15
minutes) for an introduction to Nan Goldin’s work.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: Whitney Museum of American Art: “Nan Goldin”

    Link: Whitney Museum of American Art: “Nan Goldin” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please view the artwork on this page, which were created by Goldin.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.4.2 Larry Clark   - Reading: International Center for Photography: Brian Wallis: “Larry Clark”

Link: International Center for Photography: Brian Wallis: “[Larry
Clark](http://museum.icp.org/museum/exhibitions/larry_clark/)”
(HTML)  

 Instructions: Please read this entire webpage, ensuring to click
“Next Page” at the bottom of each page, for information on Clark’s
work.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.4.3 Rineke Dijkstra   - Web Media: Tate Channel: “Rineke Dijkstra: Artist’s Talk”

Link: Tate Channel: “[Rineke Dijkstra: Artist’s
Talk](http://channel.tate.org.uk/media/27686299001)” (Adobe Flash)  

 Instructions: Please watch this video for approximately 78 minutes
for an introduction to Rineke Dijkstra, a Dutch photographer.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: MoMA: “Rineke Dijsktra” Link: MoMA: “Rineke Dijkstra” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please view this webpage for an introduction to Dijsktra’s work.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Activity: Identity and Sexuality: Rineke Dijkstra Instructions: Please review the material on this artist and then write a two-page essay explaining in what way the artist’s work engages with the issues of sexuality and identity.

  • Activity: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA): Kara Walker “No Mere Words . . .” Link: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA): Kara Walker “No Mere Words . . .” (HTML and Adobe Flash)

    Instructions: Please click the “Launch” button to view this artwork.  By launching the interactive feature and clicking on the artist’s work, you can access a number of features, video recordings, comments, and an interview—all of which will give you a complete overview of this very interesting and important contemporary artist.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.