The article argues that academic art history, as it is taught in undergraduate courses throughout the Western world, is based on an obsolete assumption. The very heart of art-historical education - the grand narrative tour of the survey course - amounts to the student's inculcation and symbolic duplication of the great journey of Art through the ages. The curriculum's tacit goal is typically to establish a habitus for responding to art, and to expose the student to a certain kind of experience, rather than to a proper education in the "art of art history" (Preziosi) or the analysis of visual culture, old and new. The latter task would arguably serve today's students better, regardless of whether or not they will pursue academic careers. My brief proposal for a reformation of the conventional education aims to subsume historiography, in an extended sense of the word, as well as a meta-historical reflection into the art history introductory course. The key pedagogical strategy, which reflects elementary research procedures, would be to begin each carefully selected historical inquiry with what is considered - or contested - knowledge of the object of study (work of art, period, artist, problem, etc.) today. To proceed, one could, for instance, compare a current position (alluding to both place and point of view) with an older position or "historiotopy," in order to systematically dramatize the discursive production of art-historical objects through history, as well as convey the fact that knowledge is situated, prespectival and essentially preliminary. The point is, ultimately, to exchange a largely passive reception of a quasi-Heglian meta-narrative overview for a meta-historical insight, and to initiate active, critical engagement with the production/interpretation of images, contemporary as well as historical.
2001. Vol. 70, no 1-2, 32-39 p.