What Happened to Art History in Class?

Some while ago I was critically complaining about the superficial and old fashioned way in which modern Western art history is being taught in our art schools. In my first years as an art student I wanted to be exposed to more contemporary art theories, to learn about current events, places, contexts and changes in the artworld. Yet I couldn't help seeing that the typical art student is actually scared about art history in such a way that, at least for the undergraduate level, this exam is one of his hardest. At the same time, he complains that art history classes are boring and he finds no connections whatsoever between this and his work.

As an art student, you have no excuse not to find interest in art history. Don't blame it on the teacher - it is not about empathy or compatibility, but rather about responsibility. Your responsibility. For me it gets really sad when I see young aspiring artists struggling to invent projects that no one has done before, yet they can't refer to previous historical events to which they can assign their ideas.

As many art students (and unfortunately many art history teachers) still think or presume that art history comes from the big book, I feel obliged to quote Ute Meta Bauer's easy going definition on the "art historical canon":

"It is not until later that I understood that art history isn't made in the garage; the art historical canon is to a certain extent still in the hands of the major museums (and their trustees), based on what they choose to collect, exhibit and publish." 
     - Ute Meta Bauer, "Under Pressure", published in Art School (Propositions for the 21st Century), MIT Press, 2009

While still waiting for art history to actually be in the hands of these artworld institutions (at least in the Romanian context), so that only after this we could rescue it and re-think it, do feel free to explore this Art and New Media Timeline for the 21st Century designed by Rama Hoetzlein, which, as he says, explores the "relationships between art, new media art, science, technology, war and media theory".

             Assistant Professor  / Department of Architecture and Media Technology Aalborg University at Copenhagen, Denmark

So what is your position regarding art history?


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