cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (cold)
Cimorene ([personal profile] cimorene) wrote2013-09-20 09:31 pm
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Art History in a truly bizarre format

I'm taking an art history course with Finnish technical school and technical college students who study art-related disciplines at my school. We have to pick elective modules like that to take for extra Finnish practice.

Okay, but the course, for some reason, meets once a week only, but for four hours in a row. Besides the ludicrously long class meetings though, it also moves at a ludicrously fast pace. Today in under 4 hours (because she filled part of the time with introductions and stuff) we covered:

  1. Ancient Mesopotamia

  2. Ancient Egypt (in a total of like 10 slides maximum. Sphinx, Gizan pyramids, King Tut's mask, bust of Nefertiti, statue of Akhenaten, two painted statues, 1 frieze, and that was literally it)

  3. Ancient Crete (6 or 8 slides, I think?)

  4. Ancient Greece

  5. Ancient Rome

  6. Early Christian art starting in Roman times and leading through the middle ages

  7. Latinate architecture in 2 slides and Gothic architecture in 2 slides, only 1 stained glass image, some wall paintings, 0 medieval statues, relics, or illuminated manuscripts)

All of us immigrants are missing next week because of our Finnish class and the teacher said in that meeting she is going to cover the Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, and basic art criticism o_O.

The teacher is a good speaker, but she wouldn't have to be for me to be interested through the lecture, even given that I know quite a bit about art history from Artist Parent Osmosis. Like, there definitely was new information to me, but I am still interested to hear experts talk about art history that isn't new to me. So I don't lay any of it on the teacher when I say that the formatting of this course is exceptionally stupid.

What I can lay partially at her door is the racist European-central nature of the curriculum. She didn't choose it herself and she did mention it, and even acknowledge that it's both problematic and contentious to exclude every other culture in human history from "art history", but she didn't do anything about it. She didn't even give like a textual overview of other significant art traditions, and she justified the ultimate choice on the grounds that the traditional focus is on the art of cultures which are supposedly the 'direct ancestors' of the western European artistic cultures. She had a row of pictures along the wall that included Hokusai's wave, but it was the only work (out of maybe... 25?) from outside the All Europe All the Time Party.

I shudder to think that this school graduates students in the arts with qualifications (media journalism, graphic design, stuff like that) who have THIS curriculum as their whole serving of art history (there aren't any higher-level sequels or anything; it's a small school).

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