Special Topics in History of Art
Visuality and the Law
T 4:00pm - 7:00pm
210 Tappan
3 Credit Seminar

From the contested use of photographs as evidence in the 19th century to the controversy over Jeff Koons's practice of appropriation over a century later, this seminar considers the long history of the encounter between law and visuality. Commonly assumed as exclusively verbal in nature, law -broadly defined here to include case law, government regulations, as well as normative and deontic codes imposed by an institutional suprastructure --often encounters visual forms in ways that compel serious rethinking of art's relationship to a broader social field. Photographs, scans, and diagrams regularly appear in court as evidence, while artworks are castigated (or exonerated) for prurient content or for copyright infringement. In many cases, visual material illustrates the limits of the law in ways that can expand our understanding of art's relationship to the social. How does law "see" art? How does art "look" back at the law by showing, for example, the limitations of present legal consensus, or by engaging with its precepts? More intriguingly, how might visual forms affect the morphology of law as a structure upon which social activity depends? This seminar considers such questions through close readings of artworks, primary accounts, as well as relevant secondary literature. Materials will be drawn primarily from the U.S. context by way of focus.