The Museum of the Unclothed Body, located in a place of your choosing, has opened a new exhibition on the naked body from the Renaissance to the present, focusing on the Early Modern and Modern periods of the Euro-American tradition with Mediterranean roots (the material we have covered in the last part of our course). The goal of the exhibition is to question stereotypical representations of identity that have dominated this visual production through depictions of the naked body, by pairing works that can be considered traditional, conventional, mainstream, or dominant with works that are non-traditional, unconventional, alternative, or subversive. The director of community outreach has asked you to write an exhibition review for their website. The goal is to help the general public understand the main objective of the exhibition. To do so, discuss three pairs of images of your choice (for a total of six highlights) and explain how, in each pair, one image upholds and the other questions stereotypical identity constructs.
The main objective of the exhibition is to raise awareness about the ways in which the representation of the naked body in this artistic tradition is implicated in the construction of unequal power relations and stereotypical and oppressive identities of the self and Other (for example in terms of gender, sexuality, class, race, ethnicity, culture, etc.) in 850-1000 words. For this reason, exhibited works are organized around a number of sections (for example, on specific subjects or specific identity markers) and in each section, works are grouped in pairs of opposite depictions: traditional versus non-traditional, conventional versus unconventional, mainstream versus alternative, dominant versus subversive. This pairing is meant to highlight not only that the traditional and mainstream representations are limiting, oppressive, and exclusive of diversity broadly understood but also that visualizing alternatives is essential, hopefully, and done by many artists. In other words, the exhibition exposes the distorting effects of traditional identity politics and gives visibility to cultural producers and visual expressions that advocate for and contribute to change.
In order to publicize the exhibition, support its potential to make a significant cultural intervention, and educate the public through outreach in the local community, the director of community outreach has given you the responsibility to write a review essay for the website.
The goal in this essay is two-fold
Requirements for the selection of your six highlights
Please note that an engagement with diverse identity markers (e.g. race and gender) can coexist in the same pair of highlights. You still have to discuss three pairs for a total of six highlights.
The comparisons made between each two highlights paired must be meaningful and viable; the two works must have specific commonalities and differences that allow comparisons and contrasts in terms of traditional versus non-traditional, conventional versus unconventional, mainstream versus alternative, dominant versus subversive, etc. Choose the most appropriate of these terms and explain why they are applicable to the highlights.
To develop convincing comparisons, pair highlights that are:
If there is no obvious “quotation” between two works that otherwise fall within the same thematic category (e.g. heroic fighters) you need to explain why a comparison between them is meaningful. For example, if you compare Donatello’s Judith as an unconventional work with Cellini’s Perseus as a conventional one, then you need to consider things like the following: for some time they were both displayed in the same space but projected rather antithetical messages in term of gender; Judith is faithful to the Biblical story but rare because potentially threatening to the patriarchal status quo, while Perseus introduces some innovations in comparison to the story (such as the nakedness of Medusa) which further support the patriarchal status quo.
As long as the above requirements are met, feel free to analyze whichever works from the relevant time periods, even beyond material discussed in class, and to group them under three themes of your choosing. Since the museum has unlimited funding resources, it can borrow for the exhibition any movable paintings, sculpture, manuscript or other object, and it can also order reproductions of any immovable piece, like architectural sculpture, doors, mosaics, wall-paintings, etc. that cannot be moved from their original location.
Detailed guidelines attached below please read them carefully.
The learning objectives of all essays in this class are similar: the assignments prompt you to reflect on class material, synthesize observations about it and present them in a coherent way that highlights prominent socio-cultural meanings and functions of the naked body in different periods and cultural spheres. As you write down your thoughts according to the prompts, you enhance your comprehension 6 and retention of the material. You have a chance to explore main topics in more detail, and to develop your own observations and arguments about them. During this process, you also cultivate your visual literacy, critical thinking, and writing skills.
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