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

Postgraduate Course: The Need to Document: Contemporary Art from Performance to Biopolitics (HIAR11089)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course focuses on the deployment of lens-based documentary strategies by artists from the 1960s to the present day including photography, film and video. Though the compulsion to document has undoubtedly taken on new levels of urgency since 1990, it is certainly not a new concern within contemporary art. Incorporating an examination of performance practices, 'global conceptualism', the politics of representation under postmodernism and the complexities of art's recent biopolitical and documentary turns, we will analyse the decisive role that lens-based documentation has played in the heterogeneous intersections between art and life in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Course description The work of a range of international artists and collectives will be considered including Mary Kelly, Tino Sehgal, Grupo de Artistas Vanguardia, Sanja Ivekovi, Martha Rosler, The Hackney Flashers, WochenKlausur, Anton Vidokle, Hito Steyerl, Artur Zmijewski and Hans Haacke. Through close examination of such practices we will consider the ways in which the document relates to artists' radical concerns with performance, dematerialisation, social relations and knowledge production. Particular attention will be paid to why the demand for art documentation increased in parallel with the shifting political and cultural realities induced and accelerated by globalisation.

The seminar format will encourage active participation through class discussion chaired by the course organiser as well as informal student presentations. Local exhibition visits will be built into the seminars as appropriate. Students will be expected to prepare for each seminar by reading key set texts, undertaking independent research on specific artworks and watching moving image works online as directed. A separate weekly screening programme runs alongside the seminars.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Discuss the development of contemporary art since the 1960s both in terms of its theoretical contexts and through the work of key artists, specifically in relation to the use of lens-based documentary modes.
  2. Develop your skills in visual and theoretical analysis, particularly in relation to lens-based media.
  3. Learn how to effectively structure an argument which synthesises theoretical and artistic positions introduced through the course and, in some cases, presents original research.
Reading List
T. J. Demos, The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary during Global Crisis, E-Duke Books Scholarly Collection (Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2013).

Gerti Fietzek, Documenta 11 Platform 5 (Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany: Hatje Cantz, 2002).

Maria Lind and Hito Steyerl, eds., Reconsidering the Documentary and Contemporary Art. #1, The Greenroom (Berlin; Annandale-Ont.-Hudson, N.Y.: Sternberg Press; CCS Bard, 2008).

Martha Rosler, 'In Around and Afterthoughts (on Documentary Photography)', in The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography, ed. Richard Bolton (Cambridge, Mass.; London: The MIT Press, 1989), 303-41.

Julian Stallabrass, ed., Documentary, Documents of Contemporary Art Series (London; Cambridge, Mass.: Whitechapel Gallery; The MIT Press, 2013).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Independent research (locate, access and interpret information)
- Critical analysis
- Presentation (oral and written)
- Communication
- Organisation (the ability to plan workloads and meet deadlines)
KeywordsContemporary Art,Performance Art,Globalisation,Documents,Biopolitics,Feminism,Participatory Pr
Course organiserDr Kirsten Lloyd
Tel: (0131 6)51 5799
Course secretaryMiss Remi Jankeviciute
Tel: (0131 6)51 5773
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