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ARTHIST 4AA3 Contemp Art/Visual Culture

Academic Year: Winter 2016

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Kristin Patterson


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 434

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23719

Office Hours: Mondays, 11:30-12:30

Course Objectives:

Students will gain exposure to a wide range of contemporary performance art.

Students will gain an appreciation of the intersections between performance and the social, political, and cultural events of the last fifty years.

Students will engage with theoretical concepts and debates within performance theory and be able to utilize these within class discussions and assignments.

Students will learn to critically evaluate the purpose and significance of a range of discursive texts relating to performance art including artists’ writings, published articles, exhibition reviews, online material and exhibition writing.

Students will refine research and writing skills through course assignments.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Weekly readings are posted on, or linked through, Avenue to Learn.

Method of Assessment:

Readings Presentation, dates as assigned 15%

Article Review, Feb. 7 & Mar. 6, 10% x 2, 20%

Research Presentation, Mar. 14 & 21, 15%

Participation, ongoing, 25%

Final Research Paper, April 4th, 25%

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

 Late assignments and papers will be deducted 5% per day. No assignment will be accepted 7 days after due dates.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

January 11: Introduction to Course: Defining Performance

January 18: Happenings, Environments and Fluxus

January 25: Performance Art, Ritual and Theatre

Reading Presentations Group 1

February 1: Task-oriented and Masochistic Performance

Reading Presentations Group 2

February 8: Curating and Exhibiting Performance Art

Meeting at McMaster Museum of Art with Ihor Holubizky

Article Review Due (Feb. 7)

February 15: Reading Week-No Class

February 22: Feminism, the Body, and Performance

Reading Presentation Group 3

February 29: Staged Photography and Portraiture

Reading Presentation Group 4

March 7: Performing the Postcolonial and Indigenous Identities

Article Review Due (Mar. 6)

March 14: Research Presentations

March 21: Research Presentations

March 28: Queering Performance

April 4: The Altered Body and Contemporary Performance Trends

Final Research Paper Due

Other Course Information:

This course will investigate performance art practices from the 1960s to the present through cultural, political and theoretical frameworks. We will explore the development of this medium through its historical precedents, its expansion through the 1970s and its role in recent interdisciplinary art forms. Throughout the course we will consider a range of expressions of identity and politics through performance including feminist, queer, and post-colonial positions. We will also examine the challenges performance art poses for preservation, research, and exhibition.