FA2IWC-What is the Contemporary?

Module Provider: Art
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Prof John Russell

Email: j.a.russell@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module provides a rigorous critical forum where students consider their own artistic concerns in relation to the experiences of visiting speakers. Module content will centre on Contemporary Art's debates and trajectories as well as diverse models of practice through presentations by visiting artists, theorists, writers, curators, and others involved in visual culture. Students will critically analyse the artist presentations through seminar discussion, course reading, art historical research and written response.


  • provide students with a practical and critical understanding of the contemporary discourses and trajectories of art through first-hand engagement with artists, writers and curators: presentations and descriptions of practice.

  • enable students to compare and analyse a range of contemporary ideas, practices and discourses both through seminar discussion, and theoretical research.

  • provide analytical skills, theoretical understanding and facilitate the development of appropriate methods of research

  • develop students' own communication skills through oral seminar discussion and written presentation

  • foster awareness of relationship between first-hand account, archival resources and theoretical research.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module it is expected that the student will be able to:

  • demonstrate ability to develop analysis through first hand engagement with presentation by artists, writers and curators.

  • develop this analysis through archival and theoretical research and seminar discussion

  • identify and critically develop a question informed by independent research and group seminar discussion

  • develop a critical written response to the question, drawing on appropriate theoretical research and resources as frames of reference

Additional outcomes:

The practical work encourages interpersonal and oral communication skills through the student's participation in group discussion in bi-weekly group seminars. Students will also develop their research skills in the relevant use of art works, books, catalogues, magazine articles, reviews and their IT skills by use of web resources and databases

Outline content:

A series of presentations by visiting artists, writers and curators creates a platform for debate about contemporary art practice and its trajectories, through history, theory and politics. An introductory lecture addresses the different modes of Art ‘History’ and methods of art criticism in relation to ideas of tradition, ‘schools’ and ‘fashion’.  The weekly seminar discussions, following the artists talks, extend this focus to analyze convergences and differences in content, themes, methods and styles, and then through theoretical and archival research link this to (or contrast this with) trajectories in the wider contexts of contemporary art.

Global context:

The module introduces themes, ideas and approaches prevalent within the international field of contemporary art. Through the course of the module students are made aware of the global context of ideas, artworks and practices.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module content is largely delivered through presentations by guest speakers over the Autumn and Spring Terms. The content of the talks will provide a focus for bi-weekly seminar groups led by the module convenor which will support students in further independent learning through art historical and theoretical research, including use of the Art department's archives of filmed presentations by visiting artists and art publications and journals. Relevant readings will be made available in advance to help students prepare for interaction with the ideas that presenters put forward. Students will develop written responses to the talks and discussions with and/or about each speaker.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 9 9
Seminars 10 10
Tutorials 1 1
Guided independent study 80 80
Total hours by term 100.00 100.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Students will submit a 3000-4000 word paper at end of Spring Term

Formative assessment methods:

Students will submit a 1,000 word paper at end of Autumn Term

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Re-examination in August/ September. Students will submit a 3-4000 word essay during the re-examination period.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 20 April 2018


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