Spring 2021 - CA 314 D100

Readings in the History of Art, Performance and Cinema (3)

Art and the Commons

Class Number: 8261

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    CA (or FPA) 117 (or 167), 186, and 210W (or 210).



Investigates a selected topic in the history of art, performance and cinema. This course can be repeated twice for credit if the topic is different.


In everyday usage today, the commons stands for relationships of reciprocity and mutual co-creation. Commons economies were the predominant form of livelihood for thousands for years. The main characteristic of the commons is that “it does not distinguish between users and objects, but binds all agents together in a vast interconnected network of giving and receiving, which is meant to create the greatest possible fertility for all” (Weber). Protest movements such as Occupy and Black Lives Matter construct both material and political commons based on ideas of spatial, financial, and racial equity. Global ecological movements use the commons to denote the entire planet, understood as an evolving, living ecosystem. Alternatively, the commons in cyberspace is the user-produced content which copyright licenses define as fair-use by others.

The concept of the commons has also been vital in the creative arts since the early twentieth century. The arts of the commons are those that value inclusivity, the exchange of ideas, and play and creativity between human (and nonhuman) entities. More recently, scholars and artists have sought to reconceive aesthetics through modes of relationality and subjectivity in a world beset by environmental and political crises. Many branches of contemporary theory and aesthetics engage in these reformulations, such as participatory art, collaborative art, practical aesthetics, posthumanism, affect theory, and new materialism. The goal of this course is to perform close readings of selected essays and artworks on topics as diverse as the pluriverse (Mignolo, Escobar), the undercommons (Harney & Moten), enlivenment (Weber), the Green New Deal (Klein), landscape as pedagogy (Betasamosake Simpson), and mnidoo-worlding (Tisawii’ashii Manning), to gain an understanding of some of the radical ways that visual artists and scholars are rethinking the commons in the Anthropocene.


  • Attendance and participation 20%
  • Blogs and comments on blogs (5 x 5%) 25%
  • Facilitating discussion on one of the readings 10%
  • Proposal (abstract and annotated bibliography) 15%
  • Presentation on paper (ungraded)
  • Final paper 30%



The course readings will be available as pdfs on Canvas.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).