Virta II  Tko  Taik  
/ Virta II / Opinnot / Positions in Contemporary Art from the 1970´s to the present / Teacher Introduction ||||||||||||||||

Positions in Contemporary Art from the 1970´s
to the present , 5 cr/op

Teacher Introduction

Barbara Sonvilla

Virt@ Course "Aspects in Contemporary Art since the 1970´s"

See this Introduction on video (requires Flash plugin)


Very welcome all to this course on Contemporary Art since the 1970´s which will focus on some major aspects of art making and art reception of the final third of the 20th century in 8 related chapters.

1. First a few words about myself: I am Art Historian from my professional background, and actually of Austrian origins. During my years of studies, I was living in Salzburg and Vienna, and since then I was practically always working in parallel in two fields of activity: teaching art and cultural history on the one hand, art organization and exhibition management on the other. Due to professional reasons, we were leaving Vienna to settle down in Brussels in the year 2001, and finally moved from Brussels to Helsinki some 2 1/2 years ago. In Finland, I was invited to lecture on Austrians Turn-of-the-Century Art at the Department of Art History, University of Helsinki, which finally led to a one-week-excursion to Vienna in September 2005.

2. Coming back to this very course, I want to suggest to you a "Leitmotiv" (motto), and thus invite you to ponder over the following quotation of the American scholar and art historian of Sri Lankan origins, named Ananda Kumara Swami, who gave the following seemingly contradictory statement:

"Despite the term of Visual Art, all works of art represent invisible things"

And Bill Viola, one of the most important and well known contemporary video artists, talks about the very same thing when emphasizing: "Images that are invisible are the ones that mean the most to us".

So, in this course we will commonly figure out, how contemporary artists, like Bill Viola, have been exploring and representing invisible things. This happened, for instance, by the means of using the BODY itself and bodily experiences, as during the 1970´s when artists like Marina Abramovic and Ulay made themselves again and again the topic of performances and actions, up to its physical and psychic limits. In Performance Art, the borderline between art and life, (the fusion of art and life is one of the major themes in 20th century art as a whole), seems to be extremely thin, especially considering how often a real danger becomes part of the artistic concept.

In general, one can also assume, that the whole idea of TIME itself is an underlying current of the 20th century art making, starting with the medium photography, continuing in the media film and video, up to the new digital media. One can say, that modernism has started, as soon as TIME itself got questioned and finally made visible. Video art would become the medium that would capture the time flow, the flow of events.

Barbara M.Stafford, Amercan art historian, is a researcher in the field of linking the image history to our internal mental, neuronal structures, thus referring to a thesis, which talks of the very nature of experience by saying: all experience is simultaneously abstract and sensuous, as well as our material world we live in, is both: real an unreal. The way we are organizing space and time reflects our mental and sensory patterns, as human beings tend to project body parts on to the world. Creating images, thus, is a fundamental part of life and deeply connected to humans´ evolution.

3. In addition to this online course elements, which aims to develop your understanding of contemporary art by introducing a wider range of visual art works and by assisting you to engage in a critical discussion both about these works and about certain philosophical and theoretical issues concerning art more generally, importance will be given to accompanied gallery and museum visits as a way of familiarising you with art works in situ and assisting you in a critical examination of these works. I thought about visiting the Finnish Museum of Photography, currently displaying works of the Finnish photographer Elina Brotherus, and visiting the ARS 06 exhibition at Kiasma.

Additionally an online video-lecture given by the video artist Bill Viola, will be an integral part of the course, as well as a film documentary on the British artist Andrew Goldsworthy.

Last but not least, I would like to let you know that you are always welcome to contact me via email, and that I am very looking forward to meeting you on the occasion of our presence teaching meetings.

Kiitos / Thanks / Danke!



Course Description
Teacher Introduction


Virta II  Tko  Taik