ARHT1002: SHOCK OF THE NOW: GLOBAL ART SINCE 1900
ESSAY QUESTIONS 2019
Due Date: Friday 1st November 11.59pm.
Please upload your essay through Turnitin as a word document.
Length: 2,000 words. Weighting: 40% (The word count is exclusive of footnotes and
• Your essay should clearly and articulately develop an argument to answer your chosen
set question, even the more ‘creative’ or open-ended questions on offer.
• You are expected to build your argument from your close analysis of relevant artworks
and/or films. General points should only be made on the basis of such close studies.
• You are not encouraged to write biographies of artists or filmmakers, or to merely
systematically describe the chronological development of their work, nor merely describe the
work. We are looking for critical analysis and interpretation. See the visual analysis guide.
• You must use footnotes and cite your sources and include a bibliography. See the Department
Essay Writing Guide on Canvas.
• Essay Style: Please use the Chicago Notes and Bibliography style for all referencing in your
essay. For an explanation of this style go to the ‘Chicago Manual of Style Online’
(http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html) or alternatively Fisher
Library’s ‘Referencing and Citation Styles’ guide (http://libguides.library.usyd.edu.au/citation)
and click on ‘Chicago 16th A’ (another name for the Chicago Notes and Bibliography style).
• Formatting: Please ensure that the text is 1.5 spaced and approx. 11 or 12 point font.
Include the question you are answering at the top of your essay along with your SID.
1. As a recent exhibition on photography at the Rijksmuseum noted, “This new and
magical medium [photography] caused a revolutionary shift away from the styles of
imagery people were accustomed to seeing in paintings, drawings or engravings.
Photography introduced an entirely new way of seeing and representing reality.”
Discuss the statement using 3-4 photographic examples to support your argument.
2. Is the concept of the ‘avant-garde’ of genuine use in describing the history of later
nineteenth-century French art, or is it an artificial imposition based on prejudices
about the value of ‘modernism’? In your reply consider at least one pairing of diverse
artists, such as Edgar Degas and Vincent Van Gogh, Puvis de Chavannes and Paul
Gauguin, Eugène Delacroix or Georges Seurat.
3. Using 3 to 4 examples of artworks, by artists either Dada and Surrealism, explain how
the horrors of the First World War resulted in avantgarde art that broke new
conceptual and aesthetic ground.
4. Surrealism had broad appeal beyond Central Europe to Eastern Europe, Latin
America and the Asia Pacific for example. Select two or three examples from the
lectures or beyond to discuss the ways in which artists beyond Central Europe drew
on and expanded the various tropes of the unconscious, desire, chance or fetish to
incorporate local or biographical narratives.
5. Some modernist artists were influenced by and engaged with the new sciences such
as the fourth dimension, mathematics, or Einstein’s concept of space and time. Others
were equally enthralled by spiritual ideals, Eastern philosophies or drawn to the
aesthetics of other cultures. Using examples from 2-3 artists focus your essay on one
of these areas (such as Marcel Duchamp, László Moholy-Nagy, Pablo Picasso or
Natalya Goncharova). Explain how the artist/s engaged with these ideas and how you
may trace this in their artworks.
6. You are an art collector in Berlin during the Weimar Republic 1919-1933. You love the
night life, theatres and galleries, and the intellectual debates in the Einstein Café with
writers, artist and thinkers such as Walter Benjamin, Max Beckmann, Hannah Höch,
Bertolt Brecht. You hear that the National Socialists (Nazis) are seizing artworks from
the national galleries for an exhibition of what they call degenerate art in Munich, and
you travel there to see the exhibition firsthand. As an engaged collector and supporter
of modernism, describe why the Nazis deemed these works unsuitable for the German
people and how was this conveyed in the exhibition? Use up to four examples of
artists/artworks in your essay.
7. It is the post-war 1950s and 60s in New York and the Cold War is in full swing in what
is known as the Atomic Age. Life is good, and as a up and coming young artist you
hang out downtown with artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Helen
Frankenthaler, Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Theodore Stamos, Robert
Rauschenberg, Ad Reinhardt and others. Despite some success the artists feel the
political and social pressures of the threat of an atomic war, anti-communist
sentiment, and fear of persecution. The artists response is to reinvent art and turn not
to representation, but to abstraction, exploring the self, inner emotions,
transcendence, and the psyche. Discuss this turn from the ‘crisis of representation’
through 3-4 examples exploring either Abstract Expressionism or Colour Field
8. Pop art radically transformed the modern art landscape. Yet its methodology has not
escaped criticism. Some regarded it as a dumbing down of art – a shallow, anti-
intellectual appropriation of advertising and mass media that ultimately succumbs to
the economy of commercialism. Yet it has also been praised for its critical subversion
of mass culture – a valuable breakdown of low and high culture as a means to re-
assess our relationship to the everyday world around us and challenge the very
hierarchy, and definition, of art. Discuss this argument, exemplifying both sides to
which ever degree you agree with, through reference to no more than 3-4
9. “The personal as the political” is an emblem of the feminist movement of the
1960s/70s. Discuss how feminist artists took up the charge of challenging patriarchal
systems, gender stereotypes, or the lack of representation of women in the art world.
How did their own personal expression help address these broader political issues in
order to, in artist Suzanne Lacy’s words, “influence cultural attitudes and transform
stereotypes.” How also may they have done this through new and innovative
approaches to art, such as performance, photomedia or textiles. Select up to 3 artists
and focus your argument through one or more of these points.
10. After World War II, many communist countries embraced a distinctive concept of
“realism,” known as “socialist realism,” that differed from predominant conceptions
of realism in capitalist countries. By the 1970s and 80s, as artists in communist Cuba
and China began to experiment with forms related to Western modernism, they had
to stake out a position in relation to socialist realism. Select two or three artists from
Cuba and/or China whose work grappled with the opposition between modernism
and socialist realism. In what ways did these artists treat the two traditions as
irreconcilable opposites, and in what ways did they try to synthesize them?
11. How do Indigenous artists problematise historical narrative and what are the gains of
this exercise? Discuss in relation to one or two Indigenous artists whose work
interrogates historical narratives through archival research.
12. In his essay, “What is Digital Cinema?,” film theorist Lev Manovich argues that “digital
media redefines the very identity of cinema.” (Manovich’s essay can be found online
at http://reframe.sussex.ac.uk/post-cinema/1-1-manovich/) What is the nature of the
digital cinematic image in the twenty-first century? How can digital cinema be
understood as both a continuation of, as well as a radical break with, its earlier history?
Explore Manovich’s statement with reference to at least one digital and one pre-
digital cinematic film (such as Children of Men, Gravity or Orson Welles’ opening of
Touch of Evil).
13. Why and how have issues of identity dominated recent art practice? Select ONE of
the following ‘identity issues’ for your discussion: culture and/or race, sexuality and/or
gender. Refer to no more than 3-4 specific art works in your discussion.
14. You come across an old Science Major friend at the Manning Bar. They are depressed
about their recent failed exam/romantic breakup/dead lab rat. You want to jolt them
out of their pessimistic stupor through exposure to contemporary artistic wonder.
Where do you take them, and why? Make sure your conceptual and art historical rigor
matches your friendly enthusiasm.
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