AHIS 408 F031: Topics in Modernism

In this course students will investigate a specific topic or issue relevant to a variety of practices and critical concerns in Modernist art. The emphasis will be upon the development and articulation of critical and speculative thinking that will encourage personal research and prepare students for further study or practice in contemporary art.

Each section of this course runs with a different topic. See here.

Course content: 

Topic: A FIELD GUIDE TO GETTING LOST: Modernism and Documentary Photography
One element of Modernism is the development of documentary photography. The Tate Modern explains that ‘Encouraging the public to look at less palatable aspects of contemporary society, photographers such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Helen Levitt presented photography as a form of historical evidence … these

‘documents’ directly reflect the surrounding world. Arguably, it’s this ‘realness’ that sets the medium of photography apart from painting.’

This AHIS 408 course takes its title from Rebecca Solnit’s book A Field Guide to Getting Lost. As Solnit says, ‘Certainly for artists of all stripes, the unknown, the idea or the form or the tale that has not yet

arrived, is what must be found. It is the job of artists to open doors and invite in prophesies, the unknown, the unfamiliar.’ So, this course is about getting lost, allowing your creativity to be uncharted, on the move. The choice is a conscious one: choosing to get lost through travel or via unfamiliar thinking, so you exist in the unknown, in terra incognita. In practical terms, it’s allowing your creativity to roam free from theory, logic, from the comfort of geographical balance. Travels, journeys, being mobile, being a transient, art on the go, with a studio, no tether, and allowing chance to shape your art.

A Field Guide to Getting Lost focuses primarily on documentary and street photography. Studying the works of Robert Frank, Mary Ellen Mark, Helen Levitt, Diane Arbus, Bruce Davidson, Larry Clark and other photographers who engage unexpected and unstable situations, we will celebrate the act of living art.


6 credits of 200 level AHIS, DHIS, MHIS

Additional comments: 
HYBRID course.
Instructor information: 
Meeting Information: 
Date / Time Days Room Building
Sep 7-Dec 18
Sep 7-Dec 18