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Art and the Public Sphere

H48.1054/ 2054   Lecture   4 Credits
Instructor(s): Professor Bob Holman

Art and the Public Sphere

Professor Robert Holman

H48.1054.001 (Undergraduate)

H48.2054.001 (Graduate)

Undergraduate and Graduate

Undergraduates –  Sophmores, Juniors and Seniors only

Thursday, 11am – 1:45pm

4 points – will count toward general education requirements (Humanities)

The relationship of art to the body politic has never been more critical, dynamic or debated than now. This class serves as a precise adjunct to this moment: a cross-disciplinary course exploring intersections between art, community and social change.  Students in the arts, political science, government, urban studies, Africana studies, journalism, anthropology, and others are invited to join this investigation into utopia by rolling up our sleeves and diving into the physical and cultural neighborhoods of New York City. Is Art necessary? Is Art a priori political? Can art induce social change? will be some of the questions that frame the class.

This semester, students will perform a poetry census of New York, investigating the cultural traditions of our mad, meddlesome, extravagant City, to quote Prof. Whitman. We will explore the neighborhoods, meet the poets, discover methods of translation and do other research in anticipation of a major City-wide performance of poems projected on buildings with attendant readings and celebrations. We will get at the dynamics of Endangered Languages and probe the diversity of poetry aesthetics while actually interacting with many of the City’s ethnic communities, learning their traditions as we assume the roles of journalists, ethnologists, linguists and arts activists. 

This project seeks to combine the newest technologies (poetry projections and the web) with the oldest technologies (poetry and orality). We will be partnering with City Lore, the urban folklore center, Cave Canem, the African American poetry organization, and the Bowery Poetry Club, enabling us to participate in the interaction between arts organizations and the community.

On a summer night in East Harlem, poet Martin Espada’s lines are projected on the side of a building,  “God must be an owl, electricity coursing through the hollow bones, a white wing brushing the building.” That’s the idea: a white wing brushing the building.