Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College


Art and Art History 398. Experimental Courses

The Art of Collecting

From the cabinets of curiosities known as Wunderkammern to Renaissance studioli to contemporary museums, the human compulsion to collect has shaped traditions of knowledge and possession for centuries. An inherent aspect of the activity of collecting objects and memories is the relationship formed between the objects, the collector, and his/her chosen or accidental audience. This course explores the history of collecting, its ideologies and theoretical groundings by focusing on case studies that illustrate various moments at which practices of collection and exhibition have coalesced into coherent or chaotic visual displays of our world and the wonders within it.

Critical readings of texts, original research, and engaged participation will be emphasized throughout the course.


Energy and Culture

Oil seeps into our everyday lives, shaping countless dimensions of our modern material and social worlds from imaging technologies to modern transportation to industrial agriculture and beyond. Oil has been called “black gold” by some and labeled “the devil’s excrement” by others as its powerful properties have also brought about the rise and demise of numerous governments, the toxification of environments, and exploitation of native and migrant labor in oil-producing countries. And yet oil itself has been kept largely invisible from our everyday lives, rarely entering the visual field.

For decades, prevalent scholarship has concentrated on a narrow framing of oil as rent, or money, and provided top-down analyses of economic and political corruption in oil-producing states. However, this seminar will engage an emerging body of recent literature that reframes oil in terms of culture and seeks historically-grounded understanding of the social and spatial dimensions of the petroleum industry. Further, this seminar will explore the ways in which architects, painters, sculptures, photographers, filmmakers, and activists in producing countries have rendered oil and its effects on society, geopolitics, and the environment visible through significant spatial and visual interventions.