HKUK03722U Art History/Visual Culture: Afterlife of the Object

Volume 2018/2019

Afterlife of the Object


Among the various meanings of the French word object, the Littré dictionary gives this: 'Anything which is the cause or subject of a passion. Figuratively and most typically: the loved object'.


                                                                                            Jean Baudrillard, 'The System of Collecting'

This issue-based course considers the role played by collecting and making (museums, individuals, artists, even the making of the world's matter, energy, animal, rock). The readings, lectures and assignments will focus on the ‘life’ of artworks and other objects (poems, photographs, clothing, artist's books, paintings, the moon, the song of birds) after their physical production. By making presence out of absence, good out of loss, 'The Afterlife of the Object' contemplates how we establish narratives of the past and the self through collecting and making.


Case studies include: serendipity as method; liking versus loving; the color gray; the essay as failed success; the house as museum (the Anne Frank House, London's Foundling Museum, Frida Kahlo's House); the diary as a house (Chantal Akerman and Anne Frank); the Moon Museum; the muttering of  trees (Sally Mann, Francesca Woodman, Steve McQueen); shoes as magical objects; gorgeous nothings (Emily Dickinson, Anne Carson, Isaak Dinesen); the signs of birds (Rachel Carson, Lee Edelman, Alfred Hitchcock, John Keats); the afterlife of animals (Swan Lake, Richard Learoyd, the Lion-Man of Hohlenstein-Stadel cave)


Seminar requirements include essays and the making of artist's book of an imagined exhibition.

Readings and images are attended to for animating and changing history.  A range of theorists, philosophers, art historians, poets and artists are tackled: including Susan Stewart, Michael Anne Holly, Jean Baudrillard, Anne Carson, Miyako Ishiuchi, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Rachel Carson, Sally Mann, Langston Hughes and Roland Barthes.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Exam
  • 84
  • Guidance
  • 1
  • Lectures
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 279
  • Total
  • 420
Type of assessment