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2024/25 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ARTF2064 Live Issues and Contemporary Art Practice

20 creditsClass Size: 30

Module manager: Dr Diane Morgan

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module considers how cultural theory and contemporary aesthetic practice critically engage with current social and political issues. Focussing on two “live issues” (or “BLOCKS”) for five weeks students will be encouraged to focus on subjects that incisively bear on what it might mean to be alive in the C21st. Both issues will be framed with an appropriate theoretical framework that introduces students to the complexity of the topics being addressed. The “issues” focussed on will vary so to reflect recent works and current exhibitions.


This module aims to:
- Reflect current cultural theory;
- Engage with contemporary artworks;
- Encourage students to think critically about key political issues of our time and how cultural production might contribute to some form of resistance to dominant tendencies;
- Provide the students with an opportunity to incorporate their own cultural experiences (e;g. visits to museums and exhibitions) into the academic programme.

Learning outcomes
At the end of this module students will have:
- explored and researched in-depth two topics of major significance for an understanding of contemporary cultural theory and artistic practice;
- produced a research essay that combines both theory and practice;
- developed their understanding of how theory and practice can be combined;
- studied a wide range of texts and media;
- developed their ability to research a topic both as a contemporary “live” issue and as a historical subject matter;
- demonstrated their ability to articulate and structure a written argument whilst working with visual material

Skills outcomes
In this module the students will be encouraged to focus in-depth on two key issues using a wide range of sources.

Their ability to move between written and visual materials will be fostered.


Indicative Issues (that complement the module leader’s current research interests) are:
BLOCK 1 Specularity, Art and Consumer Culture;
BLOCK 2 Reworking Work.
BLOCK 3 Humanity, Animality, Globality;
BLOCK 4 In Transit: Migrants, Refugees, Detainees;
The “Blocks” will change from year to year according to developing research interests and synchronously running exhibitions.
Whenever possible students will be offered the opportunity to develop their interests in each area of enquiry at level three.
Indicative Syllabus Outline (reading list at end of document).
Outline syllabus:
On a rotating basis, two issues (“BLOCKS”) will be addressed per semester.
Indicative Syllabus Outline. (reading list at end of document).
e.g BLOCK 1: Specularity, Art and Consumer Culture
Week One: Introducing Specularity, Art and Consumer Culture.
Topics addressed:
Commodity “culture”; “aestheticisation” and “aura”; “reality effects” and the virtual. Immersion/Contemplation as Paradigmatic Forms of Consumption.
Week Two: The Art Institution and its Public.
Topics addressed:
The “Identity” of an Artwork: the problematic status of concepts of “authenticity” and “originality”.
“Meaning” and Historical Analysis: the difference between the “restoration” and “conservation”.
The Institutionalisation of Art: mediation; democratisation; commercialism and commodification.
Mediation and Art Appreciation: group participation and socio-cultural diversity
Week Three. The latest fashion…
Case Study I: La Fondation Louis Vuitton (LVMH), Paris (Frank Gehry, TESS/RFR 2014).
C/f François Pinault Fondation: Palazo Grassi & Punta della Dogana, Venise.
Topics addressed: The Culture Industry; Manufacturing Taste/ Democratising Art; Patronage and Sponsorship; The Art of Luxury and Fashion; Architecture as Spectacle; Starchitects; The “Bilbao Effect”.
Week Four: Still the lastest fashion…
Case Study II: La Fondation Louis Vuitton (LVMH), Paris (Frank Gehry, TESS/RFR 2014
Topics discussed:
Back to Basics: What is architecture? The Similarities and Differences between Architecture and Other Artforms.
Week Five. Aestheticisation versus Historicisation
A Comparative Study of Quai Branly & Cité de l’histoire de l’immigration”, Paris.
Topics discussed:
The colonial exhibition Paris, 1931; the museological representation of objects from other cultures; working with and without history; the place of architecture as museum.
Week Six: Academic Development Week
BLOCK 2 Reworking Work.
The nature and culture of work is a major issue in contemporary theory. The following issues will be raised: work as necessity and/or creative expression; “attractive work” (and “useless toil”); theories of work practices; the uses and abuses of the workplace. This “block” will analyse artworks that contribute to the discussion of the activity that is work.
Week Seven: Labour: Work/ Toil.
Topics discussed:
The conditions of possibility for a relation between work, play/pleasure; the ownership of work and its organisation.
Week Eight: Living Labour.
Topics discussed: Work as Human (Cre)activity.Week Nine: Manual Labour and Craft.
Topics discussed: Materiality and Skilled Labour. Immaterial Labour.
Week Ten: Work, Postwork, Antiwork Cultures.
Topics: Who Needs Work?
Week Eleven. Art at Work.
Topics: The Artistic Representation of Work; Art-making as Work.
Screening of Adrian Paci’s “The Column” (2013)
Presentation of Chris Killip Work/ Arbeit (Folkwang 2012)
and Jeremy Deller “All That is Solid Melts into Air” (exhibition catalogue 2014).
Students will also be asked to bring along examples of artists’ work that engages with the content of this “block” for group discussion.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Students will be encouraged to visit museums and exhibitions and to incorporate their experiences and findings into the module programme.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3,000-3,500 words60.00
CritiqueCritical Analysis of Set Text 2,000-2,50040.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Critique will be critical analysis of Set Text. The Critical Analysis is intended to mark the ending of the first BLOCK before students move on to the second BLOCK after week six. This provides a means for the module leader to assess their engagement with the module and to detect any potential difficulties.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2024 16:10:27


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