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

Undergraduate Course: Art and Capitalist Life (HIAR10183)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course is concerned with artists' engagement with 'capitalist life', in all its complex, tangled and hidden aspects. Moving from the late 1960s to the present day, the syllabus tracks a persistent demand for the negotiation and documentation of social realities across a range of diverse practices; from performance and participatory approaches through to sound, lens-based and digital media. Asking what is caught by the term 'capitalist life' we will structure our discussions around specific themes including time and the working day, domestic labour, housing struggles, healthcare, sex and intimacy. Our analyses will be closely informed by feminist thought.
Course description Art and Capitalist Life brings a new perspective to the production and dissemination of art since the 1960s. While the course introduces key practices and debates from contemporary art history, a concern with the decisive role that documents and documentation have played in the intersections between art and life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries threads through the syllabus. We will explore the ways in which artists have sought to guide attention away from the representation of 'visible facts' to instead address the complex, hidden dimensions of capitalist life. How have artworks engaged with struggles for alternative futures, the negotiation of post-truth conditions and the demand for new experiences mediated by technology?

Artists and collectives whose work may be encompassed by the course include: UltraRed (sound), Petra Bauer (moving image), Shona Macnaughton (performance), Simone Leigh (social practice), Forensic Architecture (multidisciplinary research), Rasheed Araeen (mixed media), Jo Spence (photography), WochenKlausur (social practice) and Harun Farocki (film). Screenings, exhibition visits, artist talks and a close engagement with the University's Research Collection of Contemporary Art form a core part of the syllabus.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: History of Art 2 (HIAR08012) OR Architectural History 2a: Order & the City (ARHI08006) AND Architectural History 2b: Culture & the City (ARHI08007) AND
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have completed at least 3 History of Art courses at grade B or above, and we will only consider University/College level courses. **Please note that 3rd year History of Art courses are high-demand, meaning that they have a very high number of students wishing to enrol in a very limited number of spaces. These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of key issues associated with artists' engagement with social realities in contemporary art.
  2. Put artists┐ engagements with social realities into historical and theoretical context.
  3. Relate a range of artworks to debates on the document in contemporary art, developing your own interpretations and demonstrating skills in visual and theoretical analysis.
  4. Present your own ideas, and those of others, effectively in writing and in open discussion.
  5. Collaborate with peers to develop creative responses to set tasks.
Reading List
Boris Groys, 'Art in the Age of Biopolitics: From Artwork to Art Documentation,' in Art Power (London: MIT Press, 2008): 53-66
Amelia Jones and Adrian Heathfield, eds., Perform, Record, Repeat: Live Art in History (Bristol: Intellect Books, 2012).
Grant Kester, The One and the Many Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context (Durham [N.C.], Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2011).
Giulia Smith, 'Health v Wealth', Art Monthly, 2018.
Hito Steyerl, 'Documentary Uncertainty', A Prior, no. 15 (2007),
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.
KeywordsContemporary Art,Documentation,Feminism,Moving Image,Performance,Social Practice,Participation
Course organiserDr Kirsten Lloyd
Tel: (0131 6)51 5799
Course secretaryMrs Sue Cavanagh
Tel: (0131 6)51 1460
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