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Jennifer Johung, Assistant Professor
Art History
Mitchell Hall 147C
Phone: (414) 229-2819
Office Hours by appointment

LibrlSt 722: Special Topics in Contemporary Cultural Studies

Dwelling in Place and Time

Course Description:
What does it mean to dwell? What are the structures, modes, and systems of modern and contemporary dwelling, and what do they say about our current spatial situations? Through a broad interdisciplinary framework that engages with architecture, art history, performance, phenomenological philosophy and network theory, from the modern to contemporary period, this class will examine key debates surrounding the construction of place, in relation to the rise of modern Western nomadism and globalization.

For art historian David Summers, the centered, place-bound, and aligned "real spaces" of pre-modern spatial experience have been transformed by Western modernity into centerless, limitless, and ever-expanding space. So is it even still possible to attain any stable kind of spatially-situated dwelling? By examining contemporary art and architecture's temporal processes of spatial situation that propose modes of dwelling in the face of dislocation and dispersion, we will discuss how centers, boundaries, alignments, and places associated with real spaces may still be functioning across contemporary site-specific art, portable architecture and digital networks.

In looking at both the structures and systems of spatial situation, the class will explore dwelling as both a material form and a temporal process. Attending to both the objects and processes of dwelling, we will turn to performance theory in order to explore the critical and material potential embedded in a concept of dwelling as event. In dialogue with visual and environmental art practices beginning in the late 1950s, performance emphasizes the embodied practices and paths of dwellers as participants in the ongoing formation of built structures. We will consider how this understanding of dwelling, as a participatory event rather than a stable construction, may intervene into existing experiences of spatial and phenomenal belonging. In fact, the philosopher Karsten Harries has more recently argued for an understanding of dwelling as an ongoing and variable journey towards home. With this in mind, the class will think about how questions of dwelling are not only architectural or structural problems, but rather are issues that involve the connections between human beings and their place in the world over time.

Key Texts:

  • Auge, Marc, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, London ; New York: Verso, 1995.
  • Bachelard, Gaston, The Poetics of Space Boston: Beacon Press, 1969.
  • Harries, Karsten, The Ethical Function of Architecture Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998.
  • Heidegger, Martin, "Building, Dwelling, Thinking." Basic Writings 1st ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.
  • Summers, David, Real Spaces: World Art History and the Rise of Western Modernism London: Phaidon, 2003.

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Send your questions and comments to the MLS director. Last Updated 7-13-2009