Professor Kurt Kauper will be offering a new topic for ARTS 390: Studies in Contemporary Art/ARTS 731: Problems in Representation. The course will be offered Fridays, 2:00-5:50pm and will explore the intersection of Contemporary Art and Immanuel Kant. See the full course description below:
Why would Adrian Piper title her 2017 retrospective at MOMA “A Synthesis of Intuitions,” a reference to the theoretical philosophy of Immanuel Kant? Was her interest in his work an embrace of an important influence, an ironic reinterpretation of his thought, or a combination of both? Why does the work of this late 18th century Prussian philosopher continue to be referenced and grappled with by a wide range of contemporary artists and thinkers, after having been considered foundational to 19th and 20th century art and critical theory? Just off the top of my head–as I write this course description–I can think of references to his work in the writings of Andre Breton, Clement Greenberg, Barnett Newman, Martha Rosler, Mary Kelly, Mike Kelley, Arthur Danto, Laura Cottingham, Barry Schwabsky, Odd Nerdrum, Fred Moten, Gayatri Spivak, Charles Gaines, Andrew Cole, Sianne Ngai, and Anouka Faruquee. What was it about Kant’s philosophy that took such strong hold of visual and critical thinking in the nineteenth century, and hasn’t let go of its grasp?
While carefully reading the entirety of Kant’s “Critique of the Power of Judgment,” we’ll consider these questions, while asking ourselves whether or not the concepts in his theory remain relevant to us today. Do key ideas in his work mean anything anymore? His concept of the beautiful? Of the sublime? The disinterested nature of aesthetic judgment? The relationship between beauty, knowledge, and morality? What could he have meant when he claimed that aesthetic judgment was “subjective” yet demanded “universal assent?” Is there any way to square such an apparently contradictory idea with contemporary experience?
Because Kant’s aesthetic theory is intimately related to his theoretical and moral philosophy, we’ll also consider passages from his other major texts, including “The Critique of Pure Reason,” The Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals,” and “The Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics,” along with selections from the writing of artists, theorists, and historians who have pondered his influence over the past two hundred and thirty years. In addition, we’ll visit galleries and museums to look at art and consider it in relationship to Kant’s ideas.
I have my own interpretation of Kant, and it has led me to think that some of the writers and artists mentioned above either misunderstood or misrepresented his work. By the end of the course, I hope you’ll be in a position to question whether or not I’m right, whether or not I do that myself, and most important, what Kant means to you.