The Amateur: Cultural formations of leisure, labor, and critique

Lecturer: Angie BAECKER

6 credits

Amateurism is a cultural ideal that has risen across various time periods and geographical contexts to create an extraordinary range of insurgent, unofficial, non-renumerated, and self-organized activities and cultural practices. This class will take a thematic approach to the concept of amateurism in the arts. To better understand the figure of the amateur in historical and comparative perspective, each week we will explore a new case study in amateur art practice. Topics will range from the literati painters of Ming and Qing dynasty China to the dilettantes of the British Enlightenment; the amateur painters, photographers, filmmakers, and videographers of the twentieth-century; state-organized and socialist formations of amateurism in the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China; the contemporary artists who self-identified as amateurs in the Vietnam War Era United States and in Reform-era China; and the gendering of the amateur. Through examination of diverse media, including painting, photography, film, video, television, folk craft, performance, and music, we will seek to better understand how and why creative people in diverse media environments have embraced amateurism, and which cultural formations they challenge through their practices.

100% coursework