Practicum Essay Prompts
1. What is an image? Images are often taken for granted, understood merely as representations (in some medium) of things in the world, but both historical depth and contemporary media often challenge our neat boundaries as to what is an image. Images circulate in networks of technology and economy; they get destroyed, displayed, and/or remade. Thus, it is difficult to say whether the image is physical or conceptual, a tangible object or a temporary manifestation in a certain platform or medium, as when you view a picture on your computer screen versus its cryptic digital file stored in a far off server farm. Using the seminar’s assigned readings to inform your thinking on this matter, select two or more works from the history of art or popular culture that cause you to rethink or reevaluate how we understand the image. Your thesis should answer the question of what is an image according to the examples that you selected.
Relevant course meetings on the topic include: 1, 4, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14, 17, 19.
2. Recent trends in art history and cultural studies have sought to consider how it is that inanimate objects may be understood to partake in forms of animacy and agency. The agency and animacy of things may come from a variety of factors, including the performances and performative acts of humans in the worlds throughout their dealings with objects, or from the powers and effects that objects have on our daily lives through their own use and operation. Using the seminar’s assigned readings to inform your thinking on this matter, select two or more works from the history of art or popular culture that cause us to rethink or reevaluate how we understand the agency and/or animacy of things. Your thesis should answer the question of how can we think of things as being animate or having an agency of their own according to the examples that you selected.
Relevant course meetings on the topic include: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19.
3. Primary, one-on-one sensual experience with works of art are often privileged in art history as a way of coming to understand the art work as a tangible, physical, visual object. These forms of experience train us to understand the importance of the museum experience and are often quite personal and affected by the overall context of that visual experience. Nevertheless, some of these extracurricular experiences per se often do not make it into our official writings about art, yet deeply affect the arguments and theses we develop. This prompt requires you to visit a local museum, art gallery, or other venue for visual culture, and write an essay that analyzes how a certain museum room or display creates a narrative about two or more works of art. Take notes about your journey there and back, and on the experience with the works of art themselves. You are encouraged to creatively incorporate these notes, experiences, and reflections into the narrative of the essay, which aims to decipher the importance of presentation and display in the construction of cultural narratives about works of art.
Relevant course meetings on the topic include: 3, 4, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20.
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