Lehna Kitzel "Formal Analysis Essay: Nose Ornament, Turbaned Head (excerpt)"
objects as history
Objects as History asks you to look, with care, at how the world of “things” defines who we are and where we have come from. You will learn to ask fundamental questions that allow you to “read” an object: What is it? What are its visual characteristics? Who made it? How was it used? When we look at objects we will consider questions about material, style, context, function and process. We will make connections across time periods and cultures from prehistory (times before recorded human histories) to the 19th-century. Can we trace a path from Neolithic tools to the first desktop computers? From medieval armor to contemporary drones?
In this course we will address historical objects in ways that allow you to make connections to the present and to the disciplines you plan to enter as artists, designers and strategic thinkers. This includes critically engaging the frameworks we use to determine what “counts” as art and design, how it is understood, what is considered valuable, and to whom. This might include engaging with current debates about museums as institutions, restitution of objects to the places and cultures from which they were taken, and where art and design even belongs. The course aims to create a common visual vocabulary useful to all students through lecture, analysis, discussion and direct experience with works.
The student work featured here outlines the objects students are studying by creating a chronological timeline of objects that have appeared throughout world history. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection is utilized for the images featured here, and each object is complemented by the student's understanding of these items and the roles and purposes they serve.