n Image & Text : a Journal for Design - Sightseeing in art and visual culture

Volume 2008, Issue 14
  • ISSN : 1020-1491



Deceptively straightforward, the contemporary visual terrain in westernised, post-industrial cultures is increasingly developing into a complex smorgasbord of visual spectacles available to potential viewers. Discourse dealing with issues arising from this field of the visual, or 'visual culture', is evidence of an intellectual acknowledgment that present-day (post-industrial) social, political and cultural life is undeniably entangled with (and complicated by) images. As a result, over the past two decades or so, institutions worldwide have adapted their teaching programmes to accommodate the field of visual culture as a site that requires serious academic attention. Recent enquiry into the ideological underpinnings of images in general, as well as the assumption that vision is a learnt activity, has led to new questions being asked in (and of) art history. In response to the disciplinary challenges that have now been lodged against the subject art history the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Pretoria has significantly modified its theoretical subjects to 'deal' with the visual with a view to affording students opportunities to develop critical thinking skills in the present image-laden world. In response to the tone of the University's centenary celebrations - based on retrospection, evaluation and looking to the future - this article considers the rising production, reproduction and consumption of images that have dominoed into academic unease over the most suitable way / s in which images should be dealt with as both and sites in art history and / or visual culture studies by briefly contextualising the programme offered by the Department of Visual Arts within these debates.

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