This course integrates critical theory, cultural studies and artistic practice. Students will learn to describe, analyze, and compare the various traditions of political and social engagement in contemporary art, from the Situationist International to new media activism, focusing on the artists’ own theories, their social context, and their creative practices/projects. Students will reflect critically on the relationship between art and society in Hong Kong, thus challenging and expanding their sense of what it means to be a creative artist. The relationship between art and society will be viewed in relation to the development of critical social theory, including the Frankfurt School, structuralism, semiotics, post-modernism, direct action, participatory economics, and so on. This course is not only essential for documentary making, visual ethnography, action art and activist projects, but also seeks to nourish culturally entrenched and socially engaged media artists. Students will produce creative projects in parallel with theoretical analyses that explain their motivation and implications. The course is a pre-requisite for other advanced electives on cultural/social research and its role in art-making.
Upon completion of the class, students should understand the basis of various theories for sociological and cultural inquiry, and to explore the use of these theories to analyze their lived experiences, their social worlds, and the larger cultural, political, and economic contexts they inhabit.
Class activities will be designed to address the following:
- To identify a variety of influential theoretical orientations to the understanding of society;
- To compare different theoretical traditions, their strengths and weaknesses;
- To analyze how the social context helped mold the theory, what the theorist’s contributions are, and what the theory’s strengths and weaknesses are; and
- To apply theory to contemporary research and problems and to analyze the implications of each theory.