Spring 2024 Course Highlight | Colonialism, Indigeneity, Postmodernism

This spring, Dr. David Norman will be teaching ART HIST 500/800: Colonialism, Indigeneity, Postmodernism TR 9:30–10:45pm. Humanities Breadth | L&S Credit | Email Dr. Norman for consent to enroll at: dnorman3@wisc.eduDescription: This course will revisit the history of contemporary art in the Americas through the lens of settler colonialism. It takes its cue from a provocation: that settler colonialism shares certain structural similarities with the discourses and art practices identified with conceptual art, institutional critique, and postmodernism. Unlike other forms of imperialism, such as mercantile and plantation colonialism, “settler colonialism” describes a set of practices by which one population displaces another within a particular territory. An ongoing historical condition, settler colonialism is characterized by territorial expansion, historical erasure, information control, and cultural streamlining or assimilation. This course will consider to what extent similar processes can be seen in practices of artistic appropriation that gained popularity alongside postmodern discourse, or the forms spatial expansiveness taken up under the banner of postminimalism. Throughout the semester, we will study critiques of contemporary art discourse authored by Indigenous scholars and artists from the 1970s to the 1990s, when artists themselves observed similarities between settler colonial epistemes and conceptual, postminimal, and postmodern tendencies. Equally, we will examine the work of Indigenous, Native American, and First Nations artists who sought to subvert postmodernism’s colonial heritage through artistic strategies like allegory and irony. Across these cases, we will develop an understanding of how settler colonialism has adapted to the contemporary era, while also gaining insight into strategies of resistance.