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FINAR-604

I see the sublime as coming from the natural limitations of our knowledge...It's about getting in touch with something we know and can't accept... When we are confronted with something that's beyond our limits of acceptability... then we have this feeling of the uncanny. -Mike Kelley, 1992. The sublime exists within us and around us all the time. Recent events in Japan have generated a particularly intense confluence of both the classic nature-inspired version of the sublime in the overwhelming earthquake and tsunami, which then in turn produced its technological contemporary - a nuclear meltdown. Because of its superlative affect the experience of the truly sublime remains profound when it happens to us: recognition of our own limitations when confronted by vast magnitudes beyond all possible measure. Historically the sublime has been defined as a delight at the simultaneous attraction and terror, according to Edmund Burke, as well as "boundlessness" in the mind of Immanuel Kant. Recently, philosopher Slavoj Zizek described "the paradox of the sublime" as "the super-sensible idea" and it's subsequent "failure of representation." However, despite - or perhaps compelled by - these obvious obstacles many artists have sought to capture the adventure of the sublime, creating a sensibility of the [very] fading of the sensible (Jean-Luc Nancy). Why is this precise cognitive dissonance so meaningful to us as artists? This experience-based course will attempt to make contact with encounters that exceed our comprehension and it will offer the time and space in which to develop unique areas of inquiry regarding the contemporary sublime. In a series of field trips we will try to put ourselves in proximity to a sublime experience: both a classic one with the natural world and a current variant with the technological equivalent. Field trips will include a dinner and moonless night walk in the Marin Headlands, a boat ride to the Farallon Islands during "Sharktober", and visits to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the UC Berkeley Space Lab. Through the combination of these field trips, several short readings and studio critques, we will develop dialogues that examine self-transcendent events of overwhelmingness. We will likely raise more questions than answers. Part of an art practice is confronting fear. This fear of failure, fear of the self being subsumed, or obliterated, or obscured can be seen as akin to the terrifying and overwhelming in the sublime. This course will encourage a working-relationship with these fears, and perhaps even a utilization of them. By sublimation of the self, we will seek transformative experience in the here and now. Based on the readings, discussions, and field trips, students will each carry out one individual project. There will be space to work.