professor
Benjamin Buchloh

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

Jun 2005

don't let the "intro" in the title fool you.. as someone with no art history background i found myself incredibly lost for the first 3 months of this course. when professor buchloh lectures you get the sense that you're around someone of genius status, and i would have loved to sit in on his lectures without being graded for understanding them (as it appears many people did each class). he knows what he's talking about, and his theories and methods of teaching are very interesting. that said, i found this class to be one of the hardest i've ever taken. because i didn't really understand i was forced to do ALL of the reading and take down almost everything he said in lecture notes to get a decent grade. this turned out to be helpful for the mostly-open-book exams, which weren't as bad as i had expected. we did not have discussion sections with the TAs for some reason, and i think this had a lot to do with my classes mounting confusion. overall i think he's a great teacher and very knowledgeable, i would just recommend this class to someone who already has an art history background, or at least an intro course!

Jun 2005

The class is fascinating and no matter how much art history you may know, or how much you know about photograph, you still learn alot. Buchloh is a little arrogant but then again when you know as much as he does why wouldn't you be. At first it is really hard to understand him but after a week or two you can slowly begin to work through each one of his sentences, which could drag on for 10 minutes at a time. Reading is fairly interesting but there is alot of it. 3 Readers and 2 books...the books you don't really need to know but they help with the exams but the readings from the Readers are heavily emphasized and tested on. And it helped that the TAs were fairly nice and understood that no one could possibly cover the amount that Buchloh expected from everyone.

Apr 2005

Professor Buchloh is a remarkable teacher and a very generous one. He approaches art history from a perspective of Marxist critical theory, which can seem severe and intimidating at times, but it's really quite rooted in humanism, in a question of how art can benefit or harm society. I absolutely understand the complaints about his lectures being filled with a vocabulary that can be difficult to understand, but it's not the kind of professorial speech that superfluous or decadent. His concepts are complex, but they're not at all irrelevant or overly interested in the formal aspects of art that can seem irrelevant. I suggest writing down everything he says and then asking TAs or other students or Buchloh himself what a word or a phrase means. I have heard mixed things about the TAs (although mine have been intelligent and helpful) but Buchloh himself is consistently generous in office hours, whether you're totally confused or you understand the material and want to ask a follow-up question. He seems quite committed to not being remote and to making sure that undergraduates really do have a grasp on what he teaches

Sep 2003

If you bear in mind that Prof. Buchloh is many a time a little too arrogant and that he tends to bring up pointless questions, then DO take this class and you may realize you are in for a treat. I thought I knew photography until I took it. The course is very comprehensive but at the same time it investigates very interesting issues that emerged throughout the history of representation. Most readings assigned are interesting, but usually extremely long -- so allow yourself some time if you are at all interested in these essays. Beware that some of them are plain boring and pretentious. Attending sessions is mandatory, and although they are in fact of very little help, the TA who holds your session is the one who is ultimately responsible for your grade, so get over it and show up.

Aug 2003

Oh where to begin? The kiss-ass reviews of Buchloh are completely ridiculous. While Buchloh is a nice guy who sometimes cracks a joke, his TAs can be unbearable. Sure this guy knows what he's talking about -- too bad all he talks about is Dada. Come on! He fails to address many of the 20th C artists that are of central importance (Dali, Mondrian, etc) AVOID this class if you don't want to unnecessarily kill your GPA and your brain cells. If you DO decide to take this class... get a huge cup of coffee before every class and make sure to find a TA that hasn't been brainwashed by Buchloh... yeah, good luck finding that!

Jun 2003

This professor is remarkable. Even though his first couple lectures seem incomprehensible to the average art history dilletante and above average art history major, one eventually gets over his haughty Teutonic affectation of Parisian French and the constant barrage of art historical terms that he throws at you in his lecture because 1) heÂ’s infinitely smarter than you 2) one lecture in his course is infinitely more rewarding than an entire semester worth of almost any class at Columbia (and in my case, four years of economics). HeÂ’s an artistic tour de force: he digresses as lecture, maligns French names with an undeniably Buchlohian patois, makes overly sophisticated art history rejoinders, and even inserts the occasional polemic against mass culture. If youÂ’re expecting a survey course that will allow you to get by at the MoMa, seek elsewhere; however, if youÂ’re looking for a course that will allow to eloquently bulls**t in a Kurt Schwitters independent gallery exhibition, youÂ’ve found youÂ’re course. Highly suggested: Find a TA that can (patiently) explain some of the theories and terms that Buchloh covers in his lecture.

May 2003

Oh, Buchloh. I disagree with the horrendously negative CULPA review on him... like many Columbia profs, he's chock-full of experience, brilliance, and pretension but comes off as a bad teacher because his lectures are so difficult to understand. I gave up on taking notes during class about halfway through the course and found that I enjoyed audibly absorbing the material far more than I did scrambling to record each twelve-syllable word that came out of his mouth. Thankfully, lecture notes weren't really needed because my TA did a wonderful job of decoding Buchloh-talk for us and compressing his endless lectures into a list of essential concepts we needed to know. About that: your TA will make or break the course for you; he/she grades your papers and exams, so if you get one who's nitpicky about details, watch out. (Don't worry; most of them were friendly, patient, and understanding, having taken the course themselves as undergrad Art History majors at Columbia and Barnard). We barely got through half of the syllabus this semester, but still got a lot out of the class. Be prepared to spend a lot of time untangling Saussurean semiotic theory, too. Buchloh himself can be quite a riot ("This next painting is... well, this painting is utter crap, don't you think? It's not even worth talking about. Ugh, next slide, please."); his dry humor comes out at the most random times, and when it does, he seems so pleased to find that the class is still awake, listening, and laughing at something HE said. Aww.

May 2003

(if you haven't read the negative review of Buchloh, this review will make little sense.) Ok, this is a matter of being truthful. The horribly negative review on Buchloh is just so unbelievably exaggerated. Yes, the lectures have the occasional jargon words, but if you have read any art history at all, you know you are going to be faced with some jargon from time to time. Jargon just comes with the territory. It doesn't mean that that's all there is. As for making up terms. Philosophers and Art Historians do this frequently. Buchloh doesn't fling these words around. They're relatively established art historical words. To the reviewer: read a book. As for the quote this person uses? He basically took fragments from different classes and pieced them together to make no sense at all. I believe the linguistic fragmentation refers to Surrealist traditions, while the part on dismantling verticality has to do with Krauss's essay on Pollock. And as for Divisionism, that's something Seurat developed...in the 1900s. Also, Buchloh has always been open to new perspectives in class. He asked us questions in the beginning of the year, but no one ever offered a perspective. Therefore there was no room to get rejected. Buchloh did not once reject a question or perspective in class. I have spoken to him one on one and he was actually open to my perspective that I gave him on one of his recent essays. So he guides the class in his own direction. At least he has a passion for what he teaches. (It's quite clear that Buchloh really loves the material, and he wants you to love it too) Saying that he is a Marxist is really stretching it, but yes, Buchloh is selective at times. I was quite offended when he looked over De Kooning in one lecture, but hey, so it goes. So he didn't mention Dali....To be honest, Dali kinda sucks, and he wasn't really that successful in the context of Surrealism. Miro did a much better job, hence his concentration on him instead of Dali. Six or Seven lectures on Dada?? Oh c'mon. Buchloh didn't spend that much time on anything. He always wanted to get so in depth, but there was never enough time. This is my biggest criticism of Buchloh. He cannot manage time at all. We didn't get past Minimalism, which was a huge disappointment. This isn't some brief survey course where they give all the movements everywhere in the world. Buchloh focuses in on Europe because that's where the most exciting things were happening. Even the reviewer gave no example of influential modernism from other parts of the world. I'm sorry that this person had a bad TA, my TA was great. She had her own views, didn't like certain articles, and helped us out all the time when necessary. I wish she wouldn't been a little more secure with her views, considering she knew the material extremely well, but oh well. I highly recommend this class. I'm no drone to Buchloh, he definitely has his faults, but he is a true resource at this University and he's a good guy.

May 2003

I felt compelled to write a review after reading the overwhelmingly negative one that was recently posted. While Buchloh of course has his faults--like any professor--many of the claims made by the recent reviewer are completely unfounded. It's a pity that many students may choose not to take this enjoyable and stimulating class based on the review of someone who apparently has been placed with a narrow-minded TA. (Also a pity that our overall impression of large classes such as these is so strongly affected by the way our TAs grade papers...) "Obnoxiously boring" lectures? I laugh out loud several times a class. Sure, his humor is dry, but it's still pretty damn funny. It's true that his lectures are somewhat convoluted, but it's pretty simple to get the idea of what he saying, which is usually quite interesting. These claims of him teaching from an exclusively Marxist perspective, not mentioning Dali, and being obsessed with Dada are strongly exaggerated. Yes, he does teach from a Marxist perspective--most profs who are passionate about their work indicate their perspectives when teaching—but the Marxism is not nearly as consuming as the reviewer claims. Buchloh mentioned Dali, he just didn't spend a huge portion of the lecture on him. Get over it. Perhaps Dada was covered in a bit more detail than other topics, but this doesn't merit the reviewer's claim of Buchloh's "obsession." As a non-art history major, I felt like I learned an extraordinary amount about the art and social history of the twentieth century. I highly recommend the class to anyone with those interests—art history major (based on what I have heard from many art history majors in the class) or not.

Apr 2003

this is the best class i have taken as a first-year. if i decide to major in art history, it will be because of professors like Buchloh. yes, this class is painful at times but just to hear this man talk is astounding and well worth the effort. he is really at the top of his game. i thought of myself as extremely lucky that i even got to be in a seminar class with Buchloh as a first-year. he's also very approachable during his office hours and has a very good sense of humor! you will have to work but i find that i write a lot of my essays for his class with pleasure. however, i do have to say that i think he plays favorites. ive seen him be a little downright rude and difficult to students he doesn't like as much (our class is really small) but i suspect that is not a problem in the huge lecture classes he usually teaches. all in all though he is a brilliant professor.

Apr 2003

dude. This seminar rocks my teenage-party world. Words cannot express what an interesting, engaging, and generally brilliant wealth of knowledge this guy is. Part of the privilege of attending a univerisity of this caliber (shout-out to all the pretentious mo-fos) is being able to leech information off of wonderful professors with diverse views/opinions of works within their fields, so don't let the rumors of his biased views keep you from taking the course, these opinions are part of what make the class so intriguing. Plus, he's always willing to listen to your opinons, in discussion as well as in papers, as long as you back it up. Buchloh creates in his class what is probably one of the most difficult fy-seminars at the barnyard...but come on! y'all know y'all are sick of women and culture or friggin' Reacting to the Past and all that malarchy!! If you even think you might be interested in art history, this is a great introduction to the practices and methods of art historians, and it will expand your mind in ways you never thought possible...so big deal if you have to break out the dictionary to read the articles. If what you want is a watered-down easy way out, don't take this class, but if you're up for a challenge, Buchloh is brilliant. So make like a sponge and soak it up.

Apr 2003

Despite his interesting commentary on the works which we discuss in class, I find my art history seminar extremely painful at times. Having no background in art history, the immense amount of jargon is very hard to swallow, and he'll say a sentence that takes 5 minutes to spill out (by the end, no one's even trying to copy it down). I would not say that he's an easy grader by any means: when I tried to use secondary sources in a paper, I got faulted for using too many, and when I didn't use that many, I got faulted for not using enough. During his office hours, he talks down to you and brushes you off to "go to the writing center" when asked what specifically is wrong with the paper (you'll get a grade at the end with no comments otherwise). I do find his lectures interesting, but most people tune out, even in the small room, because no one knows what he's talking about - he doesn't tailor the class to the class' ability as a whole. In conclusion: you will learn a lot, but it will be a painful experience.

Apr 2003

Some kids hate him, some kids hurry to sign up for ANY course he'll teach. Personally, I think if you have any interest whatsover in 20th century art you should stay the hell away from this class. Buchloh's lectures are obnoxiously boring, COMPLETELY full of jargon (I once asked another art history professor what a word he used meant, and she looked at me and said simply: "That isn't a word. It's not a real term. He said that? Well, he made it up"). Just an example of my notes from that class: "-complete breakdown of analytical surface, linguistic fragmentation that dismantles verticality through divisionist technique; nonmimetic construction according to different logic that ruptures/accelerates the system" Right. His lectures are mostly bullshit, he interprets art through an almost exclusively Marxist perspective (if you dare propose that a piece of artwork is not directly responding to the alienated condition of man as a result of industrialization you will be immediately shot down). This narrow view leaves no room for any of your OWN interpretation at all, and it's so narrowminded that it becomes frustrating to no end. Buchloh is also extremely self-important, constantly referring to his own writing and other famous art historians which he bashes relentlessly for their problems. Worst of all, he refuses to teach any artist that does not address the condition of alienated labor or some other purely Marxist view on the effects of urbanization. He bashes any artist who paints members of the upper class (Renoir, Degas, Rodin, etc) and will not mention them at all. He even taught an entire lecture on surrealism without mentioning Salvador Dali. This guy is OBSESSED with German/Russian Avant-Guarde artists, so if you're not a fan of dada, RUN. He spent a good six or seven lectures on those. Also, this is NOT a 20th century art class--this is a course in modern art. The class begins in 1850, and right now it's the second week of April and we haven't even reached the 1920s. He becomes dreadfully behind in his lecture schedule. Moreover, as a modern art class, anything he doesn't perceive as "modern" (see above examples) no matter how significant or influencial he refuses to deal with. If you have any interest in what's going on in parts of the world OTHER than Germany, France, and Russia, god help you because he is completely Eurocentric. My TA, Nadja, was even worse. She's a complete drone to him, totally believes in his word as gospel, and thinks you're a total turd unless you repeat his ideas back to her. Will assign mammoth amounts of extra reading (70 page articles), and give you a B+ if you barf up everything you ever heard in lecture. A total waste of intellectual time and energy. If you have any self respect you'll formulate your own opinions on Modern art and leave the obnoxiously controversial stuff to Buchloh and his followers. On a positive note, Buchloh seems like a nice guy. I hear he's really easy to approach and talk to. What I found truly unbearable was his narrowminded view of the art he dealt with, as well as his refusal to teach anything that can't be interepreted in a Marxist way. Also, in the second week of April, he's only mentioned ONE female artist, and not a single black/asian one. When asked about it, he said "Oh, well none of the women impressionists/ primitivists/ etc were worth mentioning." Ick.

Feb 2003

Buchloh is definately one of the best art historians that Barnard/Columbia has to offer. He's outrageously smart and well read but can be intimidating. Although his German accent can make some of the lectures confusing, once you get used to his style, you will be glad you took his class. I loved the class and would defiately take another class with him.

Jan 2000

This is a prof. who clearly knows his stuff. Even though he can appear to be intimidating - he's not (just go to his office hours if you have questions). His lectures are bound to expand your vocabulary. As a Columbia student, I had thought that I was verbally well versed, but the lectures in this class have illustrated just how many words there are in the English language. The subject manner is great, the class efficiently run, and the prof. even has a dry/keen sense of humor. The quality of TA's can vary greatly. My TA, Beth, makes or section write added "book reports" if it appears that we haven't done the reading. This is an unnecessary hassle for an adult college student.

Jan 2000

Professor Buchloh is definately one of the best assets the Columbia/Barnard Art History program has to offer. As a Marxist Art Historian, he takes on a different view of art in general. His lectures are interesting although his choice of vocabulary requires some outside effort from a dictionary. I love 20th Century Art and enjoyed watching his enthusiasm in the work. He seems intimidating but is very approachable and has a dry sense of humor. His fetish for Duchamp is funny, he even admits to it.

Jan 2000

Buchloh replaces the venerable Rosalind Krauss as Columbia's resident photography guru, and it's a good fit. Bored with intro art history lectures which consist of names, dates, and little else? Buchloh's lectures won't necessarily keep you awake, but his opinions are sometimes fascinating, often controversial, and filled with enough jargon to make attendance at the weekly sections a necessity. Buchloh is at the top of his game, however, and the jargon is perhaps necessary to keep the course on such a high level. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the theory behind photography, and modern art in general.