20th-Century Texture: Mechanical Transcription of the Real

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Digital technology has indisputably affected the way we produce, distribute, and consume artworks. Today, more often than not, when we take a picture, record a sound, or write a poem, it is notated in the lingua franca of a sequence of 0s and 1s. While optimists argue that these technologies revitalize traditional practices and present entirely new fields for artistic exploration, other critics have been more sanguine, noting that the very uniformity of the digital language inevitably reduces and even eliminates the textures specific to any given medium. For some critics, digitization has altered our relation to “the real.” At issue in either position is the tension between form and content—precisely the tension that has sustained key modern debates in music, literature, and the visual arts. Understanding our 21st-century position to be one of retrospection, this course will explore the notion of “texture” in advanced artistic practices of the 20th century. Reading draws from Heidegger, Freud, Benjamin, Kafka, Beckett, and Lacan, as well as from more current art historical analyses by Foster, Krauss, and others.