Step 1. Go to the Walker Art Museum and see their exhibitions The Body Electric and two artworks by Elizabeth Price (there are signs in the main hall that will tell you where these things are). Free on Thursdays after 5PM as well as this coming Saturday.
Step 2. Pick one (or more, if you wish) artwork that you find most interesting/engaging/infuriating/etc.. This will be the focus of your paper.
Step 3. The paper should consist of two components (the more seamlessly they are integrated, of course, the batter–it should still read as a single essay):
A. A review of the artwork you chose. This part is for the mainly descriptive: What is it? What does it look like? What does it do? What is it made of? If it is interactive, what does it expect of the spectator?
Here is a nifty guide on writing art reviews in general. Yours does not need to be this detailed or answer all of those questions, but the guide might give you a couple of ideas about what to look for. To describe something well one must observe something well.
Since this is a course about screens and media, I recommend paying attention to the use of screens (or their absence!–but remember, the definitions of a “screen” vary), to the ways in which various media might be mixed, re-appropriated, or “misused” for artistic purposes.
Read (and take pictures/write down) the descriptions of the artworks for context. You might want to do a little more research about the author and the particular artwork you chose to have even better context.
The descriptive part should normally not take up more than 20-30% of the paper. If you can, include a picture of the artwork you are discussing in the paper (this does not affect the page count, however).
B. Now it is time to analyze the artwork. What does it mean? What is it saying to us? What is the message? Is it commenting on something? What point is being made? What are its effects on the viewer? (This is not a list of questions that you must answer one by one–just suggestions to start you thinking). These things are open to interpretation. As they should be.
To aid the analysis, I am asking you to use at least one concept / idea / text / method / etc. from at least one of our reading assignments. This implies a fairly serious engagement with the text. The task is to see how our understanding of the artwork can be enhanced by one of these texts that we read. Or, quite the opposite: how the artwork of your choice might enhance our understanding of those texts. In other words: how does the artwork and the text/concept/idea work together? This might be a complimentary or conflicting relationship, but it should be productive, reveal something to us.
Kate Mondloch’s “Body and Screen” [Due for Wednesday, June 5] might be particularly useful for thinking about screen-based art, so you might want to read ahead or at least skim through it for ideas.
A few examples of connections that could be made between concepts and art objects:
various ways the authors we read understand and classify screens: does this understanding of “screen” works with the art object, or does the art object complicate this understanding of “screen,” and if so, how? (generally, to say “yes this artwork works perfectly well with this concept of the screen” is not a very interesting thing to say because we learn very little from it)
the question of realism: what is “real” and does this artwork have anything to say about it? (here I’m thinking of Bazin, of course)
“regimes” of sight and vision: is this artwork trying to engage my senses in a way that is unusual compared to my day to day existence? if so how? why is it doing that? could that be commentary on the “usual”? what is this “usual” the artwork is commenting on?
convergences: how does this artwork mix various media or comment on the general mixture of various media in the world at large? or perhaps it is commenting on the concept of convergence itself?
various socio-political commentaries. art does not exist in a vacuum. what kind of story is it telling about the world out there? or maybe it want us to do or not do something about the world?
There is probably an infinite number of ways in which you could combine theory and art analysis. The above are not prompts for you to answer, just a couple of approaches to start you thinking.
At the end of the day, an analysis is also an argument: here is what this art piece says/means/does and here is my evidence. Same goes for the text(s) you are using.
Step 4 (Optional). If unsure or lost, send me your thesis statement or brief description of what you are writing about and I’ll try and help you shape it.
Step 5. Write and proofread.
The general structure of the paper, let’s take 5 pages as an example, might look something like this:
1. Introduction (0.5 page, 150-200 words). This is where you tell the reader what the paper is about and what your argument is.
2. Description (1-2 pages / 300-600 words).
3. Analysis and argument (3 pages / 900 words).
4. Conclusion (0.5-1 page / 150-300 words). Wrap up, restatement of argument, further implication perhaps.
Again, this is not a formula you must strictly follow–for example you might want to combine and mix #2 and 3 instead of describing first and analyzing second–but that is sort of a general shape of the thing.
If you have never written an argument paper before, you might want to have a look here. It might be especially helpful for coming up with a specific enough thesis. The only difference between a typical argument paper and this assignment is that I am also asking you to focus on description a little more than what would usually be asked of an argument paper.
(I wrote a sample argument essay for a literature course I was teaching this Spring. It may or may not make sense to you since you might have not read the novel, but it might be useful to see what I mean by evidence and how it is used in these essays, especially textual evidence–it’s full of direct quotations).