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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : History of Art

Postgraduate Course: Utopia Zones: Modernism and Abstraction (HIAR11100)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe desire to transform art, cancelling and rejecting its previous histories and beginning again, lay behind much twentieth-century artistic experiment, and above all the development of abstraction. This impulse was often allied to the desire to remake society anew, finding new models for individual living and for social relations. This course will explore these twin desires and the art to which they gave rise: offering a way of re-examining and expanding the histories of abstract art, traversing the tradition of heroic, or visionary, 'utopian' modernist abstraction and its key forms and paradigms (including the monochrome and the grid) as well as those emerging from more alternative or counter-traditions (such as silence, or the refusal of work). Digging out the ambivalences and tensions within these paradigms, the course will study both idealist and anti-idealist traditions in the theorisation of abstraction, including both Breton and Bataille, and Baudrillard as well as Mondrian.
Course description Each class is structured around a particular model of form, or way of making or viewing, originating for the most part in the early decades of the twentieth century and further developed in the post-war and contemporary periods; considering how it has been developed, explored and complicated, even undermined or reversed, by artists working at different times and in different places. These may include the monochrome; the grid; colour and colourlessness; the everyday; idleness; the studio; sacrifice; formlessness; the city; nature; the collective; chance. Artists whose work we may examine include Piet Mondrian, Kasimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, Robert Delaunay, Sonia Delaunay, Marcel Duchamp, Agnes Martin, Gerhard Richter, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenberg, Yves Klein, Lucio Fontana, Eva Hesse, Lee Lozano, John Cage, Bruce Nauman, Roni Horn, Gabriel Orozco, Hélio Oiticica, and Tacita Dean.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2018/19, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) You will write a 4,000 word essay (worth 100%), choosing a title from a supplied list. Each essay question will relate to themes and topics studied on the course, and will ask you to demonstrate skills relating to the learning outcomes, including your ability to look closely at works of art, read difficult texts skillfully and with understanding, and present your ideas clearly. You are also required to give one oral presentation during the course, which is not assessed, but which you can use as a basis for your essay.
Feedback After your presentation you will be given feedback in a one-to-one meeting, which will identify strengths and weaknesses to help you develop your work for your essay.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Acquire knowledge and develop understanding of key twentieth-century artists and artistic movements, including Constructivism, Dada, Minimalism and Post-Mimimalism
  2. Perceive and analyse the ways in which forms and ideas, including the monochrome, the grid and collage developed within earlier twentieth-century art continue to underpin later twentieth-century and contemporary art
  3. Develop the ability to perceive and argue for connections across a range of artistic practices
  4. Gain confidence in handling a range of theoretically sophisticated methodologies including post-structuralism and psychoanalysis
  5. Develop their existing abilities to look closely at works of art, read difficult texts skilfully and with understanding, analyze ideas and arguments successfully, present their own ideas clearly and well in writing and in debate, Prepare and organize their work effectively to deadlines
Reading List
Benjamin Buchloh, 'The Primary Colours for the Second Time: A Paradigm Repetition of the Neo-Avant-Garde', October, vol. 37 (1986), 41-52.
David Batchelor, Found Monochromes, vol. 1 (London: Ridinghouse, 2010).
David Batchelor, Chromophobia (London: Reaction Books, 2000).
Briony Fer, Eva Hesse: Studiowork (Edinburgh: The Fruitmarket Gallery, in assoc, with Yale University Press, 2009).
Anna Dezeuze, 'Thriving on Adversity', Mute magazine, 2006. Available online at
Gabriel Orozco, 'Lecture' (2001), in Yve-Alain Bois ed., Gabriel Orozco (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009), 85-104.
Jo Applin 'Hard Work: Lee Lozano's Dropouts', October, 156 (Spring, 2016), 75-99.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Visual and critical analysis
Clear thinking and the development of an argument
Independent research
Presentation and communication skills
Organisation and planning
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Tamara Trodd
Tel: (0131 6)51 3120
Course secretaryMiss Remi Jankeviciute
Tel: (0131 6)51 5773
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