This course deals with representations of power and ideology in the modern age. It examines the role of the visual arts and architecture in the formation and development of nationalist ideologies – both as visual counterparts of national mythologies and as visual expressions of nation and ethnicity. The first part of the course is a general introduction into visual representation, style, iconography, and symbolism. More often than not official imagery is laden with symbolic meaning. Style or subject matter can contain multiple layers of meaning adapted to the requirements of modern ideologies. Careful examination of such imagery provides us with an insight into its content: the intentions of the patron and public reception, but also the intellectual, social, and political circumstances in which a work originated. Students learn to read such internal and external meanings that are conveyed through formal idioms and the language of gestures, poses, costume, emblematic devices, and symbolic motifs. Since these modes of representation have often persisted over the ages and across different cultures or were intentionally revived to legitimize the present by referring to the past, examples used in the introductory part of the course include public and imperial imagery of ancient Rome that have set the standards for public representation of power in the modern age -- from Napoleonic Europe to the Soviet Union and National Socialist Germany. Comparative analysis of seemingly unrelated ancient and modern examples is an exercise in critical observation and approaches to understanding the mechanisms of transmission, mutation, and adaptation of meaning. The second part of the course focuses on subject matter, idioms and aesthetics systems that are perceived as representative of a nation’s ethnic origins or cultural affiliation. Such are the various revivalist idioms that have dominated the urban landscape since the nineteenth century. These idioms evoke historical styles that have been appropriated and transformed into monuments of the ‘national heritage’: Gothic to Renaissance and Byzantine to Ottoman. As forms and motifs on architectural facades can refer to monuments deemed representative of the national past, in visual representations such references can be found in subject and style: subjects that draw from the imaginaries of national or ethnic uniqueness -- history, myth and folklore -- and idioms that comply with perceived national or ethnic traditions – traditional or historical designs, patterns and motifs. In addition to official architecture and public monuments commemorating military and political leaders and significant events from national histories, the course will consider the fine and decorative arts. No less than state-sponsored monuments, works of art and consumer products can betray references to perceived attributes of nation or ethnicity: popular myths and cultural heroes or indigenous designs of ‘folk’ arts and crafts. The lectures will concentrate on several case studies from Central Europe and the Balkans, but will include an overview of developments in the visual arts and architecture of England, Germany, France, Russia, and Turkey.

 

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