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Information and Syllabus

M.F.A. Studio Arts Practice - Fall '14

Location: Communications 1021
Time: W  6:00pm-9:00pm

Professor: Robert Spahr
Contact: rspahr@siu.edu
Office: MCMA 1121E

Office Hours:
W  03:00pm - 05:00pm
R  11:00am - 03:00pm
and by appointment

Course Syllabus Location: http://www.robertspahr.com/557/

Course Listing: MFA Studio Arts Practice - 62842 - MCMA 557 001

Required Text:

Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz: "Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings"

* All other readings will be distributed in class or available online. *


This interdisciplinary production course is focused on the development of each student'spersonal artistic voice. The goal is to strengthen student's understanding of their own work and how it relates to the broad range of techniques, forms and ideas that comprise contemporary arts practice. Students are expected to be self motivated and encouraged to investigate different forms and modes of working, including the still image, time based media, installation, interactivity, and live art performance in an interdisciplinary environment. In this course, students together with their faculty and peers discuss and critique completed works and works in progress. The goal of these in-depth critiques is to have students understand and reflect upon each other’s artistic approach, the ideas, materials and strategies being used, as well the material realization and contemporary cultural context.

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have developed hands-on technical experience in working with a variety of contemporary media. Guided by relevant critical and theoretical research, students will have begun developing and defining a series of philosophical positions as they reflect upon their own work and that of their peers. Students will have worked together collaboratively with their peers to curate a public exhibition of their recent work.


* Be sure to check back often for any updated information. *

Aug 20
Introductions, Thoughts on Tools and Art

To Be Viewed in Class:
Every Day Carry (EDC) Blog
Adam Savage's Everyday Carry (EDC), 08:04
Sebastian Deterding: What your designs say about you, 12:24

Exercise One: Everyday Carry, Tools & Art

Aug 27
Student Presentations of Past Work.
(20 min. presentation / 10 min. Q&A)

Exercise Two: Time, Past and Present

Sep 03
Exercise 1 and 2 are due.

Sep 10
Open Studio

Wickham Flannagan

Readings in TDCA:
PIERO MANZONI For the Discovery of a Zone of Images 109-110
YVES KLEIN Ritual for the Relinquishment of the Immaterial Pictorial Sensitivity Zones 111
DONALD JUDD Specific Objects 138-140
CHUCK CLOSE Interview with Cindy Nemser 253-257
JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT From Subways to SoHo: Interview with Henry Geldzahler 283-285
JESSE HELMS Senator Helms Objects to Taxpayers' Funding for Sacrilegious Art 297-298
ANDRES SERRANO Letter to the National Endowment for the Arts 299
ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE Interview with Janet Kardon 299-304
MIKE KELLY Dirty Toys: Interview with Ralph Rugoff 371-373

Sep 17
Open Studio

Sep 24
Open Studio

Jamie Sheffer

Readings in TDCA:
ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG Statement, Note on Painting, &
                                 Interview with Barbaralee Diamonstein 373-375
JASPER JOHNS Statement, Interview with G. R. Swenson, & Sketchbook Notes 375-378
GEORGE BRECHT Project in Multiple Dimensions 384-385
CLAES OLDENBURG I Am for an Art... 385-388
ANDY WARHOL Warhol in His Own Words: Statements 390-396
JUDY CHICAGO The Dinner Party: A Symbol of Our Heritage 407-411
BANKSY Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall 431-432
BARBARA KRUGER Pictures and Words: Interview with Jeanne Siegel 435-437
SHERRIE LEVINE Five Comments 437-438
JEFF KOONS From Full Fathom Five 438-442
DAMIEN HIRST On the Way to Work: Discussion with Gordon Burn 447-449

Sep 31
The 78 Project @ Morris Library at 7pm

Oct 08
Midterm Group Critique

Oct 15
Open Studio

Mike Maxwell

Readings in TDCA:
GUSTAV METZGER Auto-Destructive Art 470-473
JEAN TINGUELY Statement 473-474
BILLY KLÜVER Theater and Engineering—An Experiment: Notes by an Engineer 480-483
LAURIE ANDERSON Interview with Charles Amirkhanian 487-491
NAUM JUNE PAIK Afterlude to the Exposition of Experimental Television & Cybernated Art 494-497
MARTHA ROSLER Video: Shedding the Utopian Moment 512-523
BILL VIOLA Video Black—The Mortality of the Image 525-529
ROY ASCOTT Behaviourables and Futuribles & Is There Love in the Telematic Embrace 570-578
STELARC Beyond the Body: Amplified Body, Laser Eyes, and Third Hand 578-581
ROBERT SMITHSON The Spiral Jetty 633-636
JAMES TURRELL Mapping Spaces 649-650
FRED WILSON No Noa Noa: History of Tahiti 680-682

Oct 22
Open Studio

Oct 29
Raspberry Pi Workshop

Jenny Johnson

Readings in TDCA:
ROBERT MORRIS Notes on Sculpture Part III: Notes and Nonsequiturs 700-704
EVA HESSE Letter to Ethelyn Honig & Statements 704-707
MARTIN PURYEAR Conversations with Hugh M. Davis and Helaine Posner 708-711
RICHARD SERRA Rigging 713-717
BRUCE NAUMAN Notes and Projects 717-721
JOSEPH BEUYS Statement & Appeal for an Alternative 745-754
REBECCA HORN The Concert in Reverse: Description of an Installation &
                     The Keep: History of a Building 761-763
JOHN CAGE Composition as Process, Part II: Indeterminacy 831-833
ALLAN KAPROW Guidelines for Happenings 833-838
YVONNE RAINER Statements 838-840
WOLF VOSTELL Manifesto & dé-coll/age 846-848
DICK HIGGINS Statement on Intermedia & A Something Else Manifesto 851-852
YOKO ONO  To the Wesleyan People 858-860

Nov 01
Chicago Trip

Nov 05
Open Studio

Nov 12
Open Studio

Jessica Edmond

Readings in TDCA:
CHRIS BURDEN Statements & Border Crossing: Interview with Jim Moisan 899-904
ADRIAN PIPER Ideology, Confrontation and Political Self-Awareness 921-924
CINDY SHERMAN Statement & Interview with Els Barents 926-928
MARCEL DUCHAMP The Richard Mutt Case, The Creative Act & Apropos of "Readymades" 971-974
JOSEPH KOSUTH Statement & Art After Philosophy 976-982
SOL LEWITT Paragraphs on Conceptual Art & Sentences on Conceptual Art 987-992
HANS HAACKE Statements 1023-1025
JENNY HOLZER Language Games: Interview with Jeanne Siegel 1036-1040
FELIX GONZALES-TORRES Being a Spy: Interview with Robert Storr 1056-1058
CRITICAL ART ENSEMBLE When Thought Becomes Crime 1066-1068

Nov 19
Open Studio

Nov 24-27
Thanksgiving Break

Dec 03
Final Comprehensive Group Critique

Dec 10 - 06:00pm-07:45pm
FINAL - Final Comprehensive Group Critique, continued


Attendence to all classes is expected. There are no acceptable number of absences. More than two unexcused absences may result in failure for the class. Two lates are the equivalent of one absence. Leaving a class early is considered equivalent to arriving late.

Journal/Sketchbook: Each student will regularly write responses to the class readings and the lecture/workshops, as well as the individual and group critiques. Students should also document their creative process, and artistic development within the journal. Have your journal/sketchbook with you at every class. Think of the journal as a resource to contain your present ideas and hints of future directions to explore.

Readings & Art Research / Presentations Each student will lead a class discussion of assigned artist writings from the book Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art. Students will also prepare a 30 minute presentation outlining the theory and historical context of the artists and their work. Details regarding this presentation will be discussed in class.

Individual Meetings/Critique:
Students and instructor will regularly schedule individual meetings to discuss and critique works in progress and after completion.

Group Critique:
Participation in all critiques is required.
Formal Group critiques will begin promptly at the beginning of class and will allow students the opportunity to further develop the skills necessary to verbalize about their own work and artistic intentions and influences, as well as to provide meaningful and respectful feedback for their peers.

Your final grade will be determined by the following:

  • 20% Participation/Readings/Presentations
  • 10% Journal/Sketchbook
  • 30% Individual Meeting/Critiques
  • 40% Group Critiques

Extra Opportunities for MFA Students

Exhibition in CP Gallery:
There are opportunities to show individual and group curated work in the CP Gallery. Details will be discussed in class.

Field Trip to Chicago
If there is student interest, a field trip to Chicago could be planned for this semester. Details will be discussed in class.

Web Resources:

Creative Commons

Creative Commons Filmmaking - A Swarm Of Angels remixes modern cinema

Paul Graham: Taste For Makers

Aspen: The Multimedia Magazine in a Box

Dadaism by Tristan Tzara


The Fluxus Home Page

Electronic Arts Intermix

Building Emergency Response Protocols

University’s Emergency Procedure Clause:

Southern Illinois University Carbondale is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for study and work. Because some health and safety circumstances are beyond our control, we ask that you become familiar with the SIUC Emergency Response Plan and Building Emergency Response Team (BERT) program. Emergency response information is available on posters in buildings on campus, available on BERT's website at www.bert.siu.edu, Department of Public Safety's website www.dps.siu.edu (disaster drop down) and in the Emergency Response Guideline pamphlet. Know how to respond to each type of emergency.

Instructors will provide guidance and direction to students in the classroom in the event of an emergency affecting your location. It is important that you follow these instructions and stay with your instructor during an evacuation or sheltering emergency. The Building Emergency Response Team will provide assistance to your instructor in evacuating the building or sheltering within the facility.

Students With a Disability:

Instructors and students in the class will work together as a team to assist students with a disability safely out of the building. Students with a disability will stay with the instructor and communicate with the instructor what is the safest way to assist them.


During the spring semester we have a Storm Drill.

Pick up your belongings and your instructor will lead you to a safe area of the basement. No one will be allowed to stay upstairs. Stay away from windows. The drill should not last more than 10 minutes. You must stay with your instructor so he/she can take roll. Students need to be quiet in the basement as the BERT members are listening to emergency instructions on handheld radios and cannot hear well in the basement.


During the fall semester we have a Fire Drill.

Pick up your belongings and your instructor will lead you to either the North or South parking lot depending on what part of the building your class is in. You must stay with your instructor so he/she can take roll. As soon as the building is all clear, you will be allowed to return to class.

These drills are to train instructors and the Building Emergency Response Team to get everyone to a safe place during an emergency.

Bomb Threat:

If someone calls in a bomb threat, class will be suspended and students will be asked to pick up their belongings, evacuate the building and leave the premises. Do not leave anything that is yours behind. We will not allow anyone back into the building until the police and bomb squad give us an all clear. DO NOT USE YOUR CELL PHONES. Some bombs are triggered by a cell phone signal.

Shooter in the Building:

If it is safe to leave, move to a safe area far from the building away from where the shooter is located.  If anyone has any information about the shooter, please contact the police after they have gone someplace safe.  

If it is not safe to leave, go into a room, lock the door and turn out the lights. Everyone should spread out and not huddle together as a group. Don't stand in front of the door or in line of fire with the door. Students' chair and desks should be piled in front of the glass and door as a barricade and the teacher's desk, podium and anything movable can be pushed against the door. This is intended to slow down any attempts to enter the classroom. If it looks like the shooter is persistent and able to enter, make a lot of noise and have the students use everything in their backpacks to throw at the shooter to distract him.

Silence all cell phones after one person in the room calls the police and informs them of their location and how many people are in the room. Be quiet and wait for the police to arrive.  The police are looking for one or more shooters, and they have no way of knowing if the shooter is in the room people are hiding in.   For this reason, when the police enter the room, no one should have anything in his/her hands and each person MUST raise his/her hands above his/her head.  


In the event of an earthquake, you are advised to take cover quickly under heavy furniture or crouch near an interior wall or corner and cover your head to avoid falling debris. Outside the building are trees and power lines and debris from the building itself that you will need to stay away from. In the building, large open areas like auditoriums are the most dangerous. Do not try to escape on a stairway or elevator. Do not hide under a stairway. We do not recommend that you stand in a doorway because the door could shut from the vibrations and crush your fingers trapping you there.

Women's Self Defense Classes are offered to female students faculty and staff by the Department of SIU Public Safety. For more information, contact Officer Russell Thomas russellt@dps.siu.edu.

SIU Syllabus Attachment