Module 4 Assignment: Experiential Paper
This assignment is designed to get you out into the community to experience art and artifacts firsthand by visiting a museum. It is highly recommended that you visit a museum with art from the period that we are studying in class.
***Note: Due to the current situation with COVID-19, and directives for social distancing (including many museums, performance venues, and galleries closing for periods of time), the Module 4 Experiential Paper will not require an in-person visit to view art or a performance.
You may fulfill the requirements of the assignment by taking a virtual tour of a museum, and doing some extra research on a particular artwork or artifact. Incorporate as much of the guidelines in the assignment as you can, and expand your study of the historical and cultural context of your chosen artwork. I still recommend trying to focus on art from the periods we are studying in this class, if possible.
Seek out reputable and robust virtual tours that will allow you to examine an artifact/artwork closely, and learn about it in context.
Here are some options to consider for online study of a museum/artwork/artifact:
- The Louvre in Paris
- The British Museum in London
- The Met Museum in New York
- The Getty Museum in Los Angeles
- The Vatican and its Sistine Chapel in Rome
- The Uffizi Gallery in Florence
Your selected virtual tour/study does not necessarily need to include a museum listed above. Consult your instructor about alternatives if you are unable to find a suitable place with ancient, medieval, or religious works. Imagine that you are a present-day Herodotus examining the world around you. As a historian in the humanities, you will want to relate your experience and knowledge to others. If museums are open in your area, use your best judgement in regard to visiting in person.
This assignment is an experiential paper. This means it will not follow the same format as the essays you wrote in Modules 2 and 3. See your Writing Guide for writing guidelines.
You should spend approximately 11 hours on this assignment.
- This writing assignment should be 1,000–1,200 words.
- A bibliography is required. Use at least two sources (one of which may be the course readings) and cite them in-text and in the bibliography.
- In your paper, follow the organization below:
Section 1. Context: Describe and reflect on the experience.
- Give the art museum or gallery name and location, and the date visited. (Take a picture with your phone, or scan in a museum or gallery brochure if one is available.) Give background information on the art museum or gallery, and the exhibit.
- What is the overall theme or message being communicated?
- What piece will you analyze? Provide basic information such as the work’s name, the artist’s name, the date, the location, etc.
- Briefly describe what the art meant to you. How did it make you feel? Your reaction can be based on basic elements of the work, on the quality of exhibits, on the setting (visual, comfort level, etc.). How did the presentation of the exhibit affect your experience and how you perceived or thought about the piece? Was there a particular theme or angle you could discern?
Section 2: Analysis
- Choose one specific piece of art or artifact you saw (e.g., a painting or sculpture), and then, following the steps below, analyze what the piece tells you about the culture and the era in which it was created. Focus on the time period of the types of art/artists you have discussed and read about.
- You will analyze the piece using three steps from a four-step method introduced by Edmund Feldman, a professor of art at the University of Georgia. Each step should include specific support for your points. Write up your analysis.
- Step 1: Description (comprised of two parts: description of context and artwork)
- Description of Context: Imagine, for instance, that you are an archaeologist, and you want to write a report about what you have seen. You would want to write a very objective account—the facts—of what you had just discovered. Start your description by relating the work to the historical era and type of artistic movement/style in which it was created. Discuss the ways in which the work’s content/style are characteristic of that historical era and artistic movement. (Include specific examples, and demonstrate your learning from our textbook.) You may want to briefly touch upon other artworks nearby that reflect similarities in the time period/style and artistic movement that they represent.
- Description of Artwork: Next, describe in objective terms everything that you see in the artwork. Imagine that you are telling someone who has never seen a work of art what the artifact looks or sounds like to you. Describe its size, shape, color, texture, material, placement, etc.—all facts that you can gain from a good photograph and/or factual description. You may want to consult an outside source here, but this section should focus mainly on your immediate perceptions of the work of art. Use your readings as a starting place for basic descriptive information. You’ll have the chance to analyze and interpret the work in the following two sections, so make sure to focus entirely on descriptive elements here. It doesn’t matter if you understand the cultural context of the artifact or composition at this point. You are just describing and documenting what you perceive through the understanding of someone living in modern times.
- Step 2: Formal analysis consists of exploring the elements of composition. The tools of the artist, architect, designer, photographer, movie maker, sculptor, etc., are color (light), texture, space, and shape (form). Through formal analysis, you will explore how the artist uses these elements to create a work of art and meaning within the composition. You will need to name and discuss each of the elements of composition. This is the section where you will need to rely on outside sources of information. (If you cannot locate sources, you may want to switch your topic.) As you analyze the piece, you’ll break it down into its component parts and focus on the relationships between these parts in hopes of gaining an understanding of how the parts work together to form a unified whole. Ask why the artist used this color, shape, texture, and/or size. Ask why the artist included this particular design element. Ask how the artist produced a certain effect.
- Step 3: Interpretation is the overall meaning through the perspective of the individual viewer. What does the artifact “say” to you? How has the artist created meaning or content for you, the viewer, within the artwork? What is the function of the piece? What cultural values are suggested by or in the work? Provide examples from the work to support your answer. (Feldman’s fourth step is judgment or evaluation of the artwork. For this assignment, in section 3, you will instead connect your analysis to a wider reflection on cultural values.)
Section 3: Generalizations and Comparisons
From your analysis, consider one value or idea represented or relevant to the artwork or artifact. This idea or value can be something the artist intended to communicate (for example, to convey a religious teaching, honor heroism in war, express courtly love, etc.) or something unintended or less obvious. How was this value or idea expressed in the work? How does this value or idea fit into a wider context or worldview? What is one factor (e.g., geography, war, political organization, law, religion, social changes, etc.) that might have led to, or contributed to this value or idea? What examples would support your view on this?
Conclude this section with a summary of your thoughts on how your learning might have an impact upon you in the future. In preparation for this, ask yourself the following questions:
- How will I implement my new knowledge?
- How have my thoughts or behavior changed as the result of what I learned from the experience?
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