Below is the essential content for the syllabus in Contemporary Issues, Art Today (Printmaking), a 200 level course I teach at OCAD University. This information is posted as a preview for any students interested in enrolling in the course. Please contact me with any questions it raises. 

Course Outline Fall/Winter 2015-2016

Course Code: PRNT 2015
Course Title:  Contemporary Issues: PRNT
Course Type: Studio/Seminar
Course Section: 01                       
Semester Offered: Winter 2016
Course Meeting Time: Tuesdays 3:10PM – 6:10PM
Course Location: Room 511, 205 Richmond Street West      

Professor: Shannon Gerard                                
Contact Information:, 647 928 5306
Office Hours: 12:30 pm – 3 pm, Tuesdays, Room 376 at 100 McCaul                                          


This introductory studio-seminar course exposes students to some of the theories, visual and material strategies, and conceptual frameworks that inform contemporary art practice. Each weekly seminar explores issues and problems through the following forums: readings and discussions, analyses of texts and artworks, lectures, gallery visits, and student presentations of projects. Seminar topics include: modernity and post-modernism; the mediation of the world through technology; issues of representation, difference and identity; the ideological and political dimensions of art; and the impact of globalization on art practices today.



What kind of art are you for? Responses to Claes Oldenburg’s writing of the same name will be generated in class, printed by Shannon, and distributed around campus the following week.  Each student will work with a set of generated statements to “creatively repurpose” the text and rework it as an installation, performance, writtenwork, or print machine.

2. advocates for essays

Reading is an art, and like all art, you have to work at it like a skill. Deep reading—for love and analysis—is one of life’s singular joys. This semester I asked some of my all-time favourite contemporary artists to name an essay that:

1)    They think every art student should read, and,
2)    Moved their life forward.

No big deal. These beloved Advocates For Essays may be visiting our class to share with us their great enthusiasm for selected essays on the course Reading List.

Your assignment is to respond to the essays in a variety of ways:

Part 1: Annotations
Written or drawn annotations of each reading are due by the end of the class on which they are discussed. We will thus build an aggregate response to the ideas of the course and hopefully achieve a fun knowledge base made of one another’s questions and ideas. These annotations will become part of a Course Reader we will be making at the end of the semester.

Part 2: Meal (Appetizers for Advocates)
In groups, students will take turns hosting a small meal during classes where readings are discussed.

Part 3: Analysis
Students responsible for each meal will also submit a short analysis (250 words max, NOT group work) on one of the essays due that week. Please note that analysis does NOT include a summary of the reading but is rather a critical reflection on the essay, or a series of questions the essay raised for you.

 3. would you like to participate in an artistic experience? bring me 25 ideas

Discoveries in the studio are made sometimes by accident and sometimes by design. This assignment gives you only the most minimal beginning point—an object randomly distributed in class. Using play as a strategy for analysis, interrogate the object from as many perspectives as possible.

Part 1:
Generate 25 ideas in response to your object. These 25 responses should include a variety of permutations—questions, lists, sketches, maquettes, written pieces, and proposals (to name a few).

Part 2:
After peer critique, pursue 1 of these ideas and make a final work in any medium.


It is very important to participate in the field of contemporary art, incuding (ack!) the gallery system. But there are many competing agendas as well as numerous cultural brokers vying for our attention. Context has a lot to do with how the art-artist-viewer relationship is mediated. Is the way and the place in which we encounter works of art sometimes more impactful than the work itself? How does context affect what the work means to us, its cultural value, its market value, and its longevity? How do artists work within or subvert art contexts?

We will be taking class trips to galleries at 401 Richmond and The Power Plant this term. Start by sharing your personal reaction to works encountered in these spaces. Evaluate the work according to one of these categories:

a) You know it’s good and you like it.
b) You know it’s bad and you dislike it.
c) You know it’s good but you dislike it.
d) You know it’s bad but you like it.

In a 1000-1250 word essay, defend your choice. What made you assign the work to your chosen category? Take into account multiple factors such as gut reaction, conceptual resonance, material qualities, context, information provided by the gallery, and your knowledge (or not) of the artist’s broader career. Analyze the cultural position of the chosen work within the contemporary art market.



How do I start? What do I use for bait?

1. Dillard, Annie. The Writing Life. New York: Harper Perennial, 1989. Pages 12-13.
2. Oldenburg, Claes. I Am For An Art. The Artist’s Joke: Documents Of Contemporary Art. Ed. Jennifer Higgie. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007. Page 59

B. studio/seminar: reading as making & Making as reading
How do I read and write about art theory? Are theory and practice separable?

3. Plato. “The Allegory of the Cave,” The Republic. London: Oxford University Press, 1971. Pages 227-235.
4. Grant, Catherine. “Fans of Feminism: Re-Writing Histories of Second-Wave Feminism in Contemporary Art.” Oxford Art Journal. 34:2, 2011. Pages 265-286.

c. PUT YOUR THING DOWN, FLIP IT & REVERSE IT: contextualizing contemporary PRINT practice
How is authority constructed? How is meaning assigned?

5. McKay, Sally (editor). A Beginner’s Guide to Quantal Strife. Exhibition Catalogue. Toronto: Doris McCarthy Gallery, 2006. Pages 8-15, 37-46, 66-69
6. Tallman, Susan. Introduction. The Contemporary Print: From Pre-pop to Postmodern. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Pages 7-14.

d. GOOD ART, BAD WALLS: Cultural Capital & The Art Market
How is the cultural field organized? Who creates value?

7. Hickey, Dave. Dealing. Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy. Los Angeles: Art Issues Press, 1997. Pages 102-113.

When art objects become too valuable, is the art object no longer valuable? Does art have a social or political responsibility?

8. Maciunas. George. Manifesto on Art / Fluxus Art Amusement (1965). From
9. Helguera, Pablo. Education for Socially Engaged Art. New York: Pinto Books. 2011

F. ONE OF THESE THINGS IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER: identity & performance
What is the word Other about? Who defines & defies the margin? What does it feel like for a girl?

10. Brand, Dionne. This Body For Itself, Bread Out of Stone. Toronto: Coach House Press, 1994. Pages 25-49
11. Pelle, Susan. The “Grotesque” Pussy: “Transformational Shame” in Margaret Cho's Stand-up Performances, Text and Performance Quarterly, 30:1, Pages 21-37

How am I supposed to be an artist? How do I make a life, not just a living?

12. Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet. New York: WW Norton & Company, 1962.