The disciplinary anxiety that has emerged between art history and visual culture studies increasingly dominates academic research and institutional practice both in global and South African contexts. The research posed here explores the contested relationship between the discipline of art history and the newly-emerging field of visual culture studies. For, despite the fact that art history has already transformed itself due to ideological pressures, this transformation is evidently no longer sufficient to ward off the visual cultural onslaught. Since the disciplinary boundaries between art history and visual culture studies intersect - or, more aptly, collide - this research examines whether these two fields are complementary or antagonistic endeavours. The proliferation of multitudes of ambiguous visual images, perpetuated by the rise of new media technologies, has complicated image production and consumption. As a result, a critique of all image-making technologies - including art - has gained momentum in light of the increasing entanglement of images with human existence. In particular, this research argues that art history can no longer maintain its allegiance to hierarchical distinctions between images, nor can it rely on traditional art historical methodologies only in its analysis and interpretation of images. This research proposes that art history visual culture studies can critically analyse the ideological functions of images in our postmodern era more appropriately than traditional art history is able to do.
Dissertation (MA (Visual Arts))--University of Pretoria, 2007.