Ideology and Politics in Art History

Contents

1. Course Introduction

2. Methodology and Framework

2.1 Teaching for Understanding (TfU) Framework
2.2 Community of Inquiry and the 5 Stage Model
2.3 Framework for the Use of Digital Media
2.4 Inclusion, Cultural Diversity and Universal Instruction Design

3. Course Content and Assessment3.1 Course Framework and Content
3.2 Assessment Structure
3.2.1 Projects and Exhibition
3.2.2 Self-Assessment Questionnaire
3.2.3 One-on-one with the Moderator
3.3 Technologies and Tools

4. Syllabus and Assessments

5. Examples

Week 1
Procedure
Readings and Materials
Week 2
Procedure
E-tivity
Readings and Materials
Week 3
Procedure
E-tivity
Readings and Materials

6. Conclusion

Bibliography

1.    Course Introduction

This online course teaches a digital approach to ideology and politics in Art History, by starting with the Age of Enlightenment and moving into the 21st century. The focus is on representational techniques of ideological and political messages and their change throughout time. Students actively engage with artworks and discuss their findings publicly through social media and their website, and privately in discussion threads and chats.

Since the 18th century, the definition of “art” has widened and so have the possibilities of artistic expression. With the theoretical background of the Age of Enlightenment, students progress towards the 21st century and its means of creative expression of political and ideological ideas. Material covered reaches from Jacques-Louis David’s ideological swing between anti- and pro-Napoleon, the horrors of World War I and the following Golden 20s, to the indoctrination through communist and fascist regimes with the help of monumental ideological artworks and the 21st century’s struggle with migratory movements and Islamophobic/ Islam-critical opinions.

Students engage with artworks on various levels: they perform traditional critical inquiry of artworks within the discipline of art history, looking at technique and iconography. Furthermore, they engage with artworks from a viewpoint of semiotics, social science and cultural studies, examining ideological messages and the language of the text. Finally, they study the context of the artworks from a digital humanities perspective, using digital tools to contextualize and talk about their objects of study.

Students are prompted to use Social Media and online platforms to engage publicly with the artworks they examine in order to create valuable intellectual discussions. Towards the end of the course, students work on individual projects, which centre around creating or creatively engaging with a piece of ideologically or politically motivated art and including it into a final virtual exhibition.

Throughout the course, students are asked to find information independently and share their findings with the group. The moderator guides discussions and provides support and a point of contact, while students are expected to work responsibly and without direct supervision. An important aim of the course is to motivate and guide students to become independent learners and critical thinkers. Therefore, assessment is done through self-assessment along fixed guidelines using questionnaires, and a discussion with the moderator.

The motivation to teach this course is to use critical analysis and engagement with artworks and their context to detect ideological and political messages and train students’ critical thinking skills. There are three “throughlines” or overarching goals that define this course: Firstly, students will know how to “read” the language of artworks and develop awareness of the arbitrary nature of this language. Secondly, students will be able to detect political and ideological motivations reflected in art history. Finally, students will be able to articulate the relevancy of artistic expression of ideologies and political ideas for the time and society they are living in.

2.    Methodology and Framework

The course is built on a combination of pedagogical and theoretical frameworks with the goal to develop self-sufficient and independent learners, who take responsibility over their own learning process and outcomes in a supporting and structured learning environment. The first framework to build on is the Teaching for Understanding (TfU) framework developed by David Perkins in Harvard (1993). The second is Gilly Salmon’s Five Stage Model(Kieran and Anderson 2018, p.6), a structure for online learning to guide participants through the process of their development, which is considered with the aim of building a community of inquiry among the learners to make their learning shared and meaningful.

As this is an online course, the use of digital technologies and tools plays a very important role. The course follows the framework for using social media to support self-regulated learning in Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) by Dabbagh and Kitsantas (2012). Finally, in order to be inclusive and respect the needs of students, the course includes aspects of Universal Instructional Design and Culturally Responsive Teaching.

2.1  Teaching for Understanding (TfU) Framework

The TfU framework represents a model for teachers to ensure that their objective is students’ understanding above anything else. Perkins postulates that “education must aim for active use of knowledge and skills” (1993, p.3), which is supported by the use of generative topics/ questions, ongoing assessment, performances of understanding, and pre-defined understanding goals.

Students are inducted into the discipline explicitly as part of the first stage of the course. Concepts and principles of Art History as an academic discipline and connections to other disciplines are examined. These concepts and principles are then applied by the students throughout the course. It is taught in the mindset of enabling students to actively apply their knowledge and skills outside the course and across disciplines to help students make connections and “cultivate mental habits of connection-making” (Perkins 1993, p.11).

Another important concept to keep in mind when teaching for understanding is the idea of threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge, described by Perkins (1999) and Meyer and Land (2003). A threshold concept “represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something without which the learner cannot progress.” (Meyer and Land 2003, p.1) . Such a concept can potentially lead to troublesome knowledge, which is knowledge that is conceptually difficult, even counter-intuitive.

This course pays special attention to such concepts and their potential difficulty for the learners by identifying potential thresholds and working with different levels of understanding to guide learners on their way to the threshold. With its special emphasis on ideological and political content of art works, it is important that students are familiarised with the semiotic concept of signification and the sign, as introduced by Ferdinand De Saussure and Charles Sanders Peirce. The issue of signification is considered a threshold concept in Art History as a discipline, thus building its understanding among students is a crucial part of the course.

Throughout the course, students actively engage in performances of understanding by discussing what they learned with their peers and applying their new skills and knowledge in various exercises and through different media.

2.2  Community of Inquiry and the 5 Stage Model

Garrison, Anderson and Archer (1999) introduce the model of a Community of Inquiry in relation to online learning, in which the elements of a worthwhile educational experience are embedded. The model consists of three overlapping presences: cognitive, social, and teaching presence. The cognitive presence is dependent on the medium of communication, which determines how much the learners can cognitively engage with the course content. This presence is highly dependent on social presence and how learners relate to each other. The social presence reflects the “ability of participants in a community of inquiry to project themselves socially and emotionally (…) through the medium of communication” (Garrison, Anderson and Archer 1999, p.94). This presence is crucial in establishing the community of learners. The teaching presence is the binding element of the other two presences, in that student activity and learning is influenced and managed by the moderator, whose challenge it is to facilitate and prompt collaboration.

All three presences in this model are addressed in Gilly Salmon’s “Five Stage Model”, which offers five stages of learner engagement, tied together with technical support and e-moderating. The first stage – Access & Motivation – is crucial to bringing together the participants of the course and building the community in which they will flourish (See procedure for week 1). The learners need some time to become familiar with how the course works and there should be clear instructions and explanations of how the course is designed and what is expected. The first step is the introduction into the Community of Inquiry which all learners will be part of for the duration of the course and maybe even beyond the course.

The second stage – Online Socialization – involves participants developing the discussion based on the e-moderator’s initial prompts. Information exchange, the third stage, involves participant’s collaboration and sharing of their individual progress and relevant knowledge. The fourth stage – Knowledge Construction – means that participants construct shared knowledge by tying together their individual research and findings. This is done through working on projects and continuous peer feedback as well as collaboration on the final exhibition.

The last stage – Development – is the stage that leads towards the final, culminating performance of understanding (the exhibition) as we know it from the TfU Framework, which is added for this course as a sixth stage – Conclusion. The course also adopts Salmon’s concept of e-tivities, which are “frameworks for enabling active and participative online learning by individuals and groups” (Five Stage Model). In line with Gilly Salmon’s model, this course refers to the lecturer or teacher of the course as the moderator, as it is their main responsibility to guide students through the course and facilitate their independent learning.

2.3  Framework for the Use of Digital Media

As a guide towards integrating social media into the course and creating Personal Learning Environments (PLEs), the course uses the work by Dabbagh and Kitsantas (2012), which emphasises the need for students to develop their personal knowledge management skills in order to self-regulate their learning. Their pedagogical framework for using social media to support learners mentions three levels of interactivity: personal information management, social interaction and collaboration, and information aggregation and management. It is very well explained in the following table (Figure 1) with some examples.

Figure 1: A framework for using social media to support self-regulated learning in Personal Learning Environments (PLEs), (Dabbagh and Kitsantas 2012, p.6).

This framework goes hand in hand with the concepts of Self-directed Learning (SDL) and Self-regulated Learning (SRL). SDL is described as a “process in which individual learners determine their priorities and choose from various available resources” (Pilling-Cormick and Garrison 2007, p.16) and self-regulated learners become “active participants in the learning process and assume appropriate responsibility and control” (Pilling-Cormick and Garrison 2007, p.19).

The course takes Dabbagh and Kitsantas’ framework as a guideline for the use of digital tools to enhance students’ self-directed learning skills in order to become self-regulated learners. The three levels of interactivity are reflected in the three stages of the TfU framework used in the course (See 3.1 Course Framework and Content).

2.4   Inclusion, Cultural Diversity and Universal Instruction Design

Grogan and David (2000) identify several potential barriers in regards to website design, which should be addressed to ensure universal design for learning. The barriers are applicable to this course in the following ways:

Figure 2: UID and UDL Framework

The guiding principles of Universal Instructional Design (UID), as presented by Higbee (2011) are applied throughout the course. A respectful and welcoming climate for learning is created at the beginning of the course by sending individual welcome emails and promoting introduction and discussion. Students are asked to upload profile pictures to enable identification and make them familiar with each other, and they are prompted to select a class representative to facilitate communication and provide a point of contact. Important contact information of the moderator and support centres is given to the students and they are encouraged to get in touch at any stage.

Essential components of the course are clearly communicated in a dedicated document, which is easily accessible to students at all times through the LMS. Requirements and responsibilities are comprehensible and logical. Because it is held online, the course can offer a variety of different means of communication and teaching methods to cater for different learning.

The assessment structure includes self-assessment and personal discussions with the moderator, and students are free to choose their own topic and how they want to proceed with it in order to demonstrate their skills and knowledge. Discussions, group projects, peer-feedback and the use of commenting functions on social media provide multiple opportunities for interaction among students and between students and the moderator.

Finally, an important concept to bear in mind is that of Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT), which Kieran and Anderson describe along the work of B.A. Aronson as including “high expectations for every learner, cultural competence, sociopolitical awareness, and the classroom as a community” (2018, p.6). An important part of CRT is awareness of one’s own biases, which is crucial for Art History as a discipline, as it is located mainly within western culture and thus assumes a western viewpoint in many instances.

Due to the limited timeframe of the course of 12 weeks, it is not possible to extend the field of vision to a geographically inclusive perspective. However, identifying this bias and discussing it is an important part of the course – especially as its main focus is on ideology and politics expressed through art. The concepts of personal cultural bias of art historians and artists due to their physical and cultural location and environment can be considered as a threshold concept for the students of this course.

3.    Course Content and Assessment

3.1 Course Framework and Content

The above-mentioned theories and models are combined with the course content in a framework as follows. The complexity of the course and the tasks demanded depend on the students’ development throughout the course. There are three stages of learners’ independence and self-direction on a vertical axis: The first stage focuses on gaining a basic understanding and building a foundation (“Messing about”), the second stage emphasizes students’ active engagement and creation of content along the lines given by the topics of the course (“Guided Inquiry”), and the third stage involves students working on their own projects to actively apply the knowledge gained throughout the course (“Final Projects”).

On the horizontal axis of the model are three generative questions, which are year-long overarching goals that guide students through the course, and in which smaller understanding goals are nested (Fusaro 2008). The five stages of Gilly Salmon’s model overlap with the three TfU stages.

Figure 3: Course Framework, tying together existing approaches.

3.2 Assessment Structure

Throughout the course, in regular intervals, students are asked to fill out a confidential questionnaire to assess their own progress, which can only be accessed by the moderator, using fixed and clearly communicated goals and standards (one self-assessment after stage 1, two in stage 2, and one in stage 3). At the end of the course, after completion of stage 3, students meet with the course moderator one-on-one to discuss their self-assessment and their contribution to the exhibition. The self-assessment and discussion with the moderator are equal parts of the final mark. Furthermore, students are prompted to give peer feedback to each other on their blog posts, websites and contributions to the discussion thread.

In order to track student’s progress, the following understanding goals for each section of the TfU model are defined and made accessible through the LMS:

  1. Satisfactory progress in stage 1 “Messing About”
  • Students prove in their contributions to the discussion that they engage with the concept of semiotics and identify problems they have with the concept
  • Students apply the concept to Neoclassicism and Orientalism to extend their understanding of it
  • Students engage in a discussion about art from those periods from the viewpoint of the 21st century
  • Students set up their social media accounts and are comfortable using them daily
  1. Satisfactory progress in stage 2 “Guided Inquiry”
  • Students start roughing out ideas for their individual projects
  • Students show ability to detect ideological messages in communist and fascist art of the 20th century
  • Students engage in comparisons between 20th and 21st century political ideologies
  1. Satisfactory progress in stage 3 “Final Projects”
  • Students reflect on expressions of Data Humanism and opinions on terrorism, refugees and islamophobia through artistic work by engaging in online discussions
  • Students work towards finishing their individual projects to tie them together for the exhibition
  • Students support each other with their projects by giving feedback and work together to create a coherent exhibition

3.2.1 Projects and Exhibition

At the beginning of stage 2 “Guided Inquiry”, students pick a topic for their final project, which will be their contribution to the final exhibition. The purpose of the projects is to make students focus on a few artworks and their ideological and political implications more intensely. While the course itself only has time to look at artworks briefly and merely scratch the surface of their deeper meaning and context, the projects give students the opportunity to engage more in depth with works that they find particularly interesting. They are research projects which eventually constitute parts of the collaborative final virtual exhibition. Students also have the option to create their own artwork, as long as they situate it in its historical context and explain the meaning and message within the theoretical frameworks discussed throughout the course.

For the exhibition, students get together in groups of about 5, grouped by topics, and curate their online exhibition containing each student’s project work. Each group shares the link to their exhibition in the LMS and individual students post it on their websites and social media accounts. Students are prompted to tweet about the exhibitions, using an agreed upon hashtag, to create a public discussion about their work.

  1. Requirements for the project are:
  • At least 10 pages and 2 artworks (1 artwork if it is created by the student, including sketches and preparational work)
  • A bibliography of at least 8 sources
  • A scientific discussion about the chosen artworks and their ideological background and/or political messages/meaning
  • A short statement why those artworks were chosen and their relevance
  1. Requirements for the virtual exhibition are:
  • A coherent, collaborative work which includes the group members’ individual projects and ties them together in a meaningful way
  • Creative use of the platform’s possibilities
  • Appropriate metadata
  • Documentation of the process of building the exhibition (in form of a chat, protocol, collaborative document etc.)

3.2.2 Self-Assessment Questionnaire

The self-assessment questionnaires consist of three parts that are designed as questions which students answer through multiple choice (agree, partly agree, disagree), and a forth part in which students can write free text. For each session, the three parts reflect the materials to be read, the engagement with the materials and the artworks, and the contribution to the discussions and digital platforms for each session. Each “agree” gives two points, each “partly agree” one point, and “disagree” gives no points, so that a maximum of 26 points can be reached. Students fill out the form, count their points, and submit it through the LMS by a certain date. Failure to submit the survey results in 0 points for that assessment unless students have a valid reason to submit it at a later stage. After submission of the fourth self-assessment, all points are added up and a mark is calculated by dividing through the number of assessments:(n1+n2+n3+n4) / 4 with n1-n4 being the amount of points for the respective assessment.

Assessment 1:

 

 

Name:                                                   Email:                                                Points: __/26

 

Session 2 “Signification”

 

1.               Readings and materials

I read all required readings for session 2 “Signification” and familiarised myself with Picasso’s “Guernica

O Agree

O Partly Agree

O Disagree

2.               Engagement with the course

I made sure that I understood the readings required for this session and if necessary consulted further sources in order to ensure my understanding

O Agree

O Partly Agree

O Disagree

3.               E-tivities, contribution to discussion

I participated in the e-tivity and made valuable contributions to the discussion.

O Agree

O Partly Agree

O Disagree

I read through other students’ contributions and commented on them, giving feedback on their writings

O Agree

O Partly Agree

O Disagree

 

Session 3: “Enlightenment and Neoclassicism”

1.               Readings and materials

I read all the required readings and sources for session 3: “Enlightenment and Neoclassicism” and familiarised myself with the two artworks by Jacques-Louis David

O Agree

O Partly Agree

O Disagree

2. Engagement with the course

I made sure that I understood the readings required for this session and if necessary consulted further sources in order to ensure my understanding

O Agree

O Partly Agree

O Disagree

3. E-tivities, contribution to discussion

I participated in the e-tivity and made valuable contributions to the discussion.

O Agree

O Partly Agree

O Disagree

I read through other students’ contributions and commented on them, giving feedback on their writings

O Agree

O Partly Agree

O Disagree

Session 4: “Imperialism”

1.               Readings and materials

I read the required reading for session 4: “Imperialism” and familiarised myself with the artworks by Delacroix and Ingres

O Agree

O Partly Agree

O Disagree

2. Engagement with the course

I made sure that I understood the readings required for this session and if necessary consulted further sources in order to ensure my understanding

O Agree

O Partly Agree

O Disagree

3. E-tivities, contribution to discussion

I participated in the e-tivity and made valuable contributions to the discussion.

O Agree

O Partly Agree

O Disagree

I read through other students’ contributions and commented on them, giving feedback on their writings

O Agree

O Partly Agree

O Disagree

Additional Comments:

_______________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________

Figure 4: Assessment questionnaire

Boud writes that “Self-assessment is about students developing their learning skills […]. It is not primarily about individuals giving themselves marks or grades. And it is not about supplanting the role of teachers” (1995, p.17). The purpose of the self-assessment questionnaires is to prompt students to reflect on their own learning and the amount of work they put into the course. Students actively have to participate in their learning and are enabled to gain an understanding of their own needs.

The pamphlet by Trinity College Dublin on Self-Assessment was taken as a helpful guide to design the self-assessment as a “purposeful and systematic approach integrated into course/module design” (Wride 2017, p.4). In the first session, the moderator introduces the concept of self-assessment and presents the questionnaire. The main goal of this introduction is to clarify questions, promote understanding, and explain the purpose of self-assessment.

The questions are deliberately simple in order to force the students to reflect before choosing the answer they find appropriate. The free text allows students to think further and reflect on the assessment itself if they wish to do so. Students can demand immediate feedback and discussion with the moderator if they find it necessary. The questionnaire is submitted online after completion, so that the moderator has access to it if the student requires feedback. In the final one-on-one session with the moderator, the self-assessment is discussed in detail and the student has the possibility to explain their assessment and identify problems.

3.2.3 One-on-one with the Moderator

After the final exhibition, each student has a meeting with the moderator in which they go through the self-assessment forms and in which the contribution to the final project is discussed. Students are asked to evaluate their individual contribution to the class and their development throughout the course. Based on the discussion and the student’s contribution, a mark is given by the moderator. The final mark is then calculated by counting the student’s self-assessments and the moderator’s mark equally.

During the discussion, the moderator evaluates the student in line with the following rubric:

Figure 5: Rubric for Moderator assessment

3.3 Technologies and Tools

The Learning Management System used is Canvas (https://www.canvaslms.com/), because it allows for flexible integration of social media and other tools for the students to access. It can be used on whichever device the students use and it allows to manage data interactively. It is also a great tool for communication and interaction among students and between students and moderator through multiple channels. Special emphasis is on the use of social media, especially Twitter and Instagram, to collect information about topics discussed in the course and share opinions. On top of that, students are asked to create and maintain their own website, using a free WordPress plan (https://wordpress.com/).

At the end of the course, students create a virtual exhibition of the artworks they examined throughout the course by using the online platform Omeka (https://omeka.org/). This is an open source web publishing platform that allows the creation of online exhibits and sharing of digital collections. It is simple to use and enables students to upload their projects for the course to build an informative exhibition.

4.    Syllabus and Assessments

Figure 6: Syllabus including weekly lectures, assessments, and project work.

5. Examples

Week 1:

Procedure

In week one, students are introduced to the LMS Canvas and set up their accounts on required social media (Twitter, Instagram) as well as their blog on WordPress. Students who registered for the course online receive an email with a welcome package and information about how to set up their Canvas accounts. Once they successfully logged into Canvas, the introductory folder contains video tutorials about how to set up their social media and WordPress accounts.

The tutorials have a comment function, so that students can ask questions, post comments on their progress, and communicate with each other. There is also a link to the discussion forum, in which students can post their social media accounts and blog addresses, so that they can link up with each other. Students are prompted to introduce themselves and write about their experience in art and art history. Furthermore, they are encouraged to upload a profile picture in order to help them recognise each other and feel more familiar with the participants of the course. During the first week, the emphasis is on getting to know each other and getting familiar with the technology. Towards the end of the week, the moderator puts up a poll to select a course representative, in order to establish a sense of community and facilitate communication between students and moderator if problems occur.

Readings and Materials

Video Tutorial “Settings up Social Media”

Video Tutorial “Settings up WordPress”

Week 2:

Procedure

This week focuses on important concepts in the discipline of art history, especially Semiotics. A video lecture introduces students to the most important points of Semiotics, Ferdinand DeSaussure’s concept of the Sign, Signifier, and Signified, as well as Charles Sanders Peirce’s Symbol, Icon and Index.

Students read two texts on the topic and discuss their initial thoughts online in the discussion forum.

E-tivity

Students then look at Picasso’s “Guernica” (1937) and consider it with the semiotic concepts in mind.

Figure 7: E-tivity Week 2

Readings and Materials

Pages 13-35 of: Chandler, D. 2007. Chapter 1: Models of the Sign. IN: Semiotics: The Basics. Basics (Routledge (Firm). London; New York: Routledge, pp. 13–57.

Bal, M. and Bryson, N. 1991. Semiotics and Art History. The Art Bulletin, 73(2), pp.174–208.

Picasso, P. 1937. Guernica.

Week 3

This week looks at Neoclassicism and Enlightenment as the beginning of modern thinking and world views.

Procedure

Short video by the moderator introducing this week’s topic and expectations.

Students read the Getty Foundation’s website on Neoclassicism and Enlightenment.

Students then look at two portraits of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David, which show his change in attitude towards the emperor, and research background information on them, documenting their sources in the discussion forum. Finally, the class gets together for a video chat to discuss their findings.

While the 1801 portrait of Napoleon shows the emperor as heroic figure, idealized and ready to fight, the second portrait from 1812 depict Napoleon more civil, a little chubby and hunched and thus less powerful. The portraits show the development of David’s stance towards Napoleon, which is related to his personal history.

E-tivity

Figure 8: E-tivity Week 3

Readings and Materials

Getty Foundation Neoclassicism and the Enlightenment (Education at the Getty). Available from: http://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/classroom_ resources/curricula/neoclassicism/background1.html [Accessed November 11, 2018].

Hauptman, W. 2009. ‘The Blood-Stained Brush’: David and the British circa 1802. The British Art Journal, 10(3), pp.78–97.

David, J.-L. 1812. The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries.

David, J.-L. 1801. Napoleon Crossing the Alps.

6.    Conclusion

This course introduces students to the concept of ideologically and politically influenced and motivated art throughout modern times. The purpose of the course is to open students’ eyes to the importance of context and history for understanding art and, by doing so, understanding society. Artists hold a mirror to their contemporaries, which reflects a distorted image of their time and enables us to develop a deeper understanding of history. The main goal of the course is to enable students to become critical thinkers who take responsibility for their learning and who are able to have meaningful discussions in order to contribute to their society.

The form of assessment chosen reflects the need for institutions to trust their students and to work together with, not against, them to produce independent minds. The progression throughout the course, from guided inquiry toward the final projects and virtual exhibitions entirely curated by the students themselves, is designed to support students in their development and guide them toward independence and responsibility.

7.   Bibliography

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Boud, D.J. 1995. Enhancing Learning Through Self-assessment. London, Philadelphia: Kogan Page.

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