Studies in interdisciplinarity in Visual Arts
Richard Wagner’s theory of the gesamtkunstwerk (total artwork) looms over the history of interdisciplarity in the visual arts. Writing in the aftermath of the 1849 Dresden uprisings, Wagner advanced an emancipatory vision for art, describing the gesamtkunstwerk as a collectively-produced and immersive aesthetic event that would draw audience and producer into an egalitarian social bond. Today, Wagner’s theory is suspended between its communist underpinnings and the conservative, nationalist, and authoritarian forces that captured the gesamtkunstwerk form under the Third Reich. This course will examine artistic and activist practices that have resurrected the emancipatory vision at the core of Wagner’s theory while pushing against the spectre of authoritarianism that haunts it: from Joseph Beuys’s concept of social sculpture to contemporary forms of socially engaged art, from the anti-art tactics of the Situationists and Black Mask to recent movements rooted in the occupation of public land, from the Art Workers’ Coalition and Women Artists in Revolution to new forms of institutional liberation. We will unpack the theoretical premises that have guided these and other inter-, extra-, or un-disciplinary pursuits, charting a series of mutations in the gesamtkunstwerk form emerging from the political ferment of the 1960s.
A Manifesto for Creators and Makers to Consider Ethics Before Profits