Issues in Public Art
Fall 2006
HER H400 26532 - HER R511 27196
Thursday, 3:15pm – 5:45pm, HR 191
Mario A. Caro
Herron 240
735 W. New York St
Office phone:  278-9483
Office Hours: by appointment




This course will explore contemporary issues that affect the production and consumption of public art. Claims for this art can range from this genre being perceived as government or corporate propaganda to it being seen as an egalitarian possibility for the voice of the people to be heard.  We will survey current local, national, and international efforts to produce public art that is diaologic, art that furthers dialogue among communities. We will also look at the history of public art in order to gain an appreciation for its present state. Because much of the contemporary work emphasizes the performative aspects of dialogue, works may not always be recognizable as art. The ultimate challenge for us will be in being able to recognize public art when we confront it.


  • You will be introduced to the history of public art, which incorporates how notions of the public and art have changed over time.
  • You will learn to identify current political, economic, and social issues addressed by public art.
  • You  will be able to evaluate the efficacy of public works of art to address audiences by establishing their intended function and assessing their success
  • You will have engaged in the strategic production of critical responses in the form of written, oral and visual projects requiring the development of
    • research skills that lead to an analytical engagement with the issue under study
    • writing skills that allow for an organized and persuasive thesis and
    • the development of projects (oral, written, visual, performative) that present their research and analysis

All work in this course is intended to fulfil the University's Principles of Undergraduate Learning. The class focuses on critical, self-reflective thinking, integrates knowledge from a variety of disciplinary and sociocultural perspectives, examines social and cultural complexity, and probes the impact of knowledge on ethical, everyday decision-making.

Required Texts:
  • Grant Kester, Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art (Californa UP, 2001). [CP] This books is available at the Jag Store, not at the main bookstore.

  • Most readings will be made available via pdf format files available at Oncourse. These readings are identified with the file name in brackets after the titled. Please note that you will need access to a computer with Adobe Reader software installed. You can get a free copy of the software at



From time to time, we will be dealing with controversial issues pertaining to images that you may consider explicit. It is possible that you will be made uncomfortable or may even be offended by some of what is shown in class. It is not my intent to make you uncomfortable but, because of the nature of the issues we will be covering, it is impossible for me not to address these images.





The following is the percentage breakdown of your grades for assignments and participation.


Site Visits 2@ 5% 




Mid-term Examination


Annotated Bibliography & Thesis


Research Paper


Final Exam


Grading Scale:

 100-95% = A   

78 - 75% = C

 94 - 92% = A-

74 - 72% = C-

91 - 89% = B+

71 - 67% = D+

88 - 85% = B

66 - 63% = D

84 - 82% = B-

62 - 59% = D-

81 - 79% = C+

59% or below = F




Weekly Readings:


               You are required to complete the specified readings by the time our class meets. (Graduate students will read their assigned readings in addition to those required for the rest of the class.) You should be prepared to formulate questions based on your engagement with the readings. Our in-class discussion will be an opportunity for an informed investigation of the issues raised by the authors. It will also be a chance for you to critique their positions and offer alternative approaches.


               In addition to the weekly reading assignments, there are three required assignments for the course: 1) site visits 2) the development of an annotated bibliography and thesis statement; and 3) a research paper focused on a topic of your own choosing.


Site Visits

              There are two site visits assigned. The first will be involve a site of your choosing and the second will be a field trip we will plan as a class. For the first assignment, you are asked to visit a public site that you will assess in terms of its function as a public art venue. This is meant to be an introduction to the analysis and critique of the public consumption of space. Part of this first assignment will require that you visit your chosen site at two different times of the day. A more detailed description of the assignment will be provided.


First Site Visit Due: September 28th

Second Site Visit Due: November 16th


Annotated Bibliography and Thesis Statement


               As a way of defining the scope of your research you will be asked to develop an annotated bibliography with at least fifteen entries (twenty for graduate students). In addition, you will also write a thesis statement, based on your bibliography, as a first attempt to formulate the topic for your research paper. We will do a workshop in class on how to develop this assignment.


Due Date: October 12th


Research Paper


               The bibliography and thesis statement assignment will prepare you to develop a research paper that will engage an issue dealing with visual culture. It will be a topic of you own choosing and will be based on original research. In addition to a bibliography, the length of the papers should be 10-15 for undergraduate students and 15-20 for graduate students. We will discuss the proper ways of citing and formatting your paper in class.


Due Date: December 7th


Graduate Students


               You will be asked to rotate in leading seminar discussion. This means that you should come to class prepared to present your response to the readings, attempting to integrate all the readings in such a way as to open up various possibilities for inquiry. This is not meant to be a summary of the reading but, instead, is meant to be an opportunity for you to synthesize the readings around a them of your own choosing. We will determine a schedule for these presentations early in the semester. These presentations will count toward the “participation” portion of your grade.




               As you can see, your participation makes up a large portion of your grade (25%). It is imperative that you attend class. Therefore, it’s better to come to class unprepared than not to come at all. Attendance at all classes is mandatory and you are responsible for all lecture material.  Three absences within the semester constitute automatic failure.  Students who repeatedly arrive late and or leave early will be counted tardy.  Three tardies equals one absence.  Missing 45 minutes of class is considered being absent.


Late paper/work policy:


               No late assignment will be accepted. All assignments are to be submitted at the beginning of class on the date due. Please note that all assignments must by typed.


Academic Misconduct


               All work in the course is conducted in accordance with the University’s academic misconduct policy. Cheating includes dishonesty of any kind with respect to exams or assignments. Plagiarism is the offering of someone else’s work as your own: this includes taking material from books, web pages, or other students, turning in the same or substantially similar work as other students, or failing to properly cite other research. Please consult the University Bulletin’s academic misconduct policy if you have any questions about what constitutes academic dishonesty.


Need Special Assistance?


               If you have learning problems that might require special accommodation for completion of class assignments, please notify me of these matters within the first two or three class periods. I’ll make every effort to make things work for you. You may wish to contact Adaptive Educational Services (AES), Cavanaugh Hall, Suite 001E , 425 University Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46202–5140, Tel: (317) 274–3241, TDD/TTY: (317) 278–2050, Fax: (317) 278–2051, Email: Staff there can provide a range of assistance.


The Student Advocate Office


Do you have a problem you don't know how to solve? Is there information you cannot find? Do you have a question that needs an answer or a problem that is affecting your class attendance? The Student Advocate Office is here to help. It will answer your questions, direct you to the appropriate departments and people, familiarize you with university policies and procedures, and give you guidance as you look at ways to solve problems and make choices. The Student Advocate Office is located in UC002 and can be contacted by phone at 278-7594 or email at For more information, see the Student Advocate website at:



Please note:  The following schedule is meant to be a general guide to our investigation of public art. I will probably make changes to it during the course of the semester. You will be notified of these changes in class and through Oncourse e-mails and, therefore, are responsible for those changes.



Defining Public Art

  • Hilde Hein, "What is Public Art?: Time, Place, and Meaning." [Hein.pdf]


Whose Public Art?

  • Gregg Horowitz, "Public Art/Public Space: The Spectacle of the Tilted Arc Controversy." [Horowitz.pdf]
  • Michael Kelly, “Public Art Controversy: The Serra and Lin Cases." [Kelly.pdf]
  • Douglas Crimp, "Redefining Site Specificity." [Crimp.pdf]


Constituting Communities

  • Grant Kester, Chapter 5: "Community and Communicability [CV]

  • Miwon Kwon, "The (Un)Siting of Community." [Kwon.pdf]


No Class


Public Art Event: My Daily Constitution by Linda Pollack, Sept 17-24.

For a schedule of events visit:



The Aesthetics of the Public

  • Grant Kester, chapter 2, "Duration, Performativity, and Critique" and chapter 3, "Dialogical Aesthetics." [CP]


Memorializing the Unforgettable: Commemorating War

  • James Young, "Memory and Counter-Memory: The End of the Monument in Germany." [Young.pdf]
  • Daniel Abramson, "Make History , Not Memory: History's Critique of Memory." [Abramson.pdf]
  • Kirk Savage, "The Past in the Present: The Life of Memories." [Savage.pdf]
  • Jay Winter, "Remembrance and Redemption: A Social Interpretation of War Memorials." [Winter.pdf]
  • Jochen Gerz, "Invisible Monument: Jochen Gerz in Conversation with Jacqueline Lichtenstein and Gerard Wajeman." [Gerz.pdf]

Assignment Due:

Site Visit Analysis


Environmental Art - Environment as Art


10/12 Art as Activism/Activism as Art
  • Robert Stam and Ella Shohat, "Patriotism, Fear, and Artistic Citizenship." [patriotism.pdf]
  • George Yúdice, "Public and Violence." [Yudice.pdf]
  • Kirsten Dufour, "Art as Activism, Activism as Art." [Dufour.pdf]

Assignment Due:

Annotated Bibliography and Thesis Statement

10/19 Mid-Term Examination

Nostalgia and/as Nationalism


  • Svetlana Boym, "Restorative Nostalgia: Conspiracies and Return to Origins" and "Reflective Nostalgia: Virtual Reality and Collective Memory." [Boym.pdf]
  • Svetlana Boym, "On Diasporic Intimacy: Ilya Kabakov's Installation and Immigrant Homes." [Boym2.pdf]
  • Richard Schechner, "A Polity of Its Own Called Art?" [Schechner.pdf]
11/2 Tourism and the Consumption of Space
  • Jon Goss, "Once-Upon-a-Time in the Commodity World: An Unofficial Guide to Mall of America." [Goss.pdf]
  • James Clifford, "Four Northwest Coast Museums: Travel Reflections." [Clifford.pdf]
  • Terry Smith, "Public Art between Cultures: The "Aboriginal Memorial," Aboriginality, and Nationality in Australia [Smith.pdf]
11/9 No Class
11/16 The Museum as Public Art
  • David Carrier, "The End of the Modern Public Art Museum." [Carrier.pdf]
  • Douglas Crimp, "On the Museum's Ruins." [Crimp2.pdf]

Gender(ing) of/and Space


  • Anna Novakov, "La Fille Publique." [Novakov.pdf]
  • Marina Abramovic, "Role Exchange: Desire, Beauty, and the Public." [Abramovic.pdf]
  • Irit Rogoff, TBA. [Rogoff.pdf]
12/7 The Virtual Public Sphere
  • Jim Costanzo, "REPOhistory's Circulation: The Migration of Public Art to the Internet." [Costanzo.pdf]
  • TBA

Assignment Due:

Final Draft of Research Paper


Final Examination

3:30 - 5:30