VA4015 - Visual Material Culture 1

What will I learn on this module?

Through this module you will begin to develop a creative and critical research practice that compliments your investigations in the studio. You will learn how to identify and discern different voices and opinions within the field that equip you with essential research skills and offer ways of working through your own thinking and making. The module builds a foundation for you to develop your own artistic and conceptual positions as you move forward through the programme.

How will I learn on this module?

The teaching takes place through a range of activities, including fieldwork, workshops, lectures, and public-facing presentations by academic and creative professionals. You learn through a range of student-centred and dialogical teaching approaches that allow you to identify positions within contemporary debates and art practices. You develop vital communication skills applicable to a range of professional contexts. Fieldwork and workshops offer a lively space of discussion and participation. Additionally, learning takes place through online and library-based resources including books, e-books, journals, gallery press-releases and examples of artist self-publishing. The teaching contact, presentation-based components, and directed tasks and assessments equip you with the necessary artistic and research skills to progress in your studies.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You are supported by an academic team, which teaches you across the various modules and a personal tutor to aid your wellbeing and provide general support. Your learning is mapped out for you in a series of briefs given to you during the semester. You are provided guidance notes and key dates for the semester to help you organise and plan your time. Teaching materials, notices and guidance are made available to you through our online electronic learning portal. This is accessible online both on campus and externally. You will have a University email that we contact you through, and all teaching schedules are published in your online timetable. To support you we provide you with on-going formative feedback through the teaching contact. You have twenty-four-hour access to the University Library.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:

1. Demonstrate informed connections between your individual interests and creative research that are relevant to contemporary art.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:

2. Evidence emerging creative research skills including accessing high quality material and evaluation of critical voices.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):

3. Show you have acquired and applied new transferable skills around self-organisation, art world experiences, and individual curiosity.

How will I be assessed?

Summative Assessment:
1. Research Portfolio
2. Written Critical Analysis (1000 words)

Summative Assessment Feedback:
You will receive written feedback within 20 working days. There will be a drop-in session after feedback is released, so that you can ask any questions or seek further support.

Formative Assessment: To prepare you successfully to undertake the summative assessment(s) on this module, formative assessments will be set by the module team. These may take the form of in-class tasks or projects, developmental activities undertaken between classes, or learning exercises/activities set over a longer period. Feedback (written and/or oral) will be provided to help you learn from, reflect on, and develop in light of these formative assessments.

MLOs: the components address all MLOs





Module abstract

The overall approach to the module is collaborative and discursive. You will be introduced to historical narratives, critical voices, and key debates relevant to contemporary art. This will primarily take place through attendance and participation during a range of activities and events that can include lectures, artistic and research presentations, film screenings, talks, panel discussions, exhibitions, and workshops by Northumbria University faculty and visiting artists. Areas of focus include, but are not limited to highlighting diversity in subjects of representation (gender, sexuality, race, disability, and migratory perspectives), dominant art historical narratives in visual culture and the challenge to them through decolonisation and the exploration of local , national and transnational perspectives.

Course info

UCAS Code W105

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Arts

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


Useful Links

Find out about our distinctive approach at

Admissions Terms and Conditions

Fees and Funding

Admissions Policy

Admissions Complaints Policy