AH4009 - History and Theory of Visual Arts

What will I learn on this module?

You will learn about key artistic practices, histories, theoretical concepts, themes and methodologies that have contemporary significance in terms of artistic activity. You will be introduced to different contexts in which art is produced, understood and disseminated, and to historical, theoretical and social discourses in which art has been situated and contextualised. You will develop an appreciation of the forms and diversity of historic and contemporary art practice and the ability to reflect critically on historical and contemporary art practices. The module will help you to develop competence in skills enabling you to undertake critical visual analysis, independent research and present findings through the medium of discursive writing. You will be exposed to a series of topics which are aimed to aid you in identifying a theme or issue of historical, theoretical or critical significance, and survey and assess available material on this theme or issue. This critical approach to the history and theory of art will inform and support studio activity at level 4 and further exploratory research and practice at level 5.

Lectures will explore major historical, theoretical and critical themes influencing the production and reception of art practice in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Topics covered in the lectures may include:

- Concepts and context of the avant-garde
- Semiotics
- Psychoanalysis
- Surrealism
- Feminism
- Marxism
- Popular culture as art practice
- Art and technologies (including film and video, the Internet and video gaming)
- Photography and the image
- Art and the environment
- Art and the body

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn on this module via a series of lectures that are designed to give you a critical overview of key themes, concepts and debates in relevant areas of the history and theory of art and culture that feed into contemporary art practices, which will be supported by seminars in which your active participation is encouraged. The seminars will aid in your development of key communicative skills, the practice of visual analysis and argument. They also provide an important opportunity to test out your ideas and raise lines of inquiry in a comfortable environment which offers the opportunity for formative feedback.

This approach will help you to develop an aptitude for intellectual enquiry, critical reflection and creativity through a range of contexts, individual and peer, in both oral and written forms. You are encouraged to explore material of particular interest to you and your studio practice whilst also being able to develop a broader picture of art history and theory. Time management is regarded as an important professional skill and you are expected to organise your research for assignments in an appropriate manner. You will be expected to undertake a sufficient amount of independent work in preparation for the assessments for this module and seek support from your tutors where necessary.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Academic support beyond the seminars may be provided through individual and group tutorials as required and appropriate, and extensive use of the eLearning Portal. The eLP will provide you with the module guide, course documentation, teaching materials, and detailed assignment briefs and tutorial videos where appropriate. Assessments will be clearly defined and discussed in class with you, and examples provided where possible. In relation to your self-directed study, you will be expected to identify examples and case studies to work with that are relevant to you individually and utilise skills and concepts learned from other modules. Nevertheless, you will be clearly guided in the appropriate parameters and methodologies of this self-directed research either through seminars focused on the requisite research skills or by the provision of check lists of learning goals. You will be encouraged to discuss your chosen examples in seminar sessions to identify appropriate methods of analysis. Formative assessment is therefore ongoing throughout the module, and summative assignments will receive written feedback within 20 working days of assignment submission.

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: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Demonstrate a critical appreciation of the forms and diversity of historic and contemporary art practice.
2. Demonstrate an evolving understanding of creative research processes and their application in progressing written and practical outputs.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. Demonstrate intellectual enquiry, critical reflection and creativity through a range of contexts, individual and peer, in visual, oral and written forms.
4. Demonstrate the ability to independently and collectively generate creative research, identifying and evaluating information from a range of relevant historic and contemporary art sources and scholarship.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
5. Evidence good practice through safe and ethical working methodologies led by curiosity and a desire to learn

How will I be assessed?

There are three summative elements to the assessment for this module. You will undertake a short (500 word) analysis of a known artwork with reference to one scholarly article taken from the Northumbria library search engine, one book (or ebook) from the university library (or equivalent) and one additional source appropriate to academic enquiry. This will help you develop visual analysis skills and research skills including the ability to critically review and assess sources.

This will be followed at the end of the semester by an Essay (1500 words), responding to set questions relevant to the lecture series, designed to facilitate understanding of the historical and theoretical context of contemporary art practice. These topics are prepared by the module tutors to help you to develop a transferable understanding of academic writing and critically respond to the lecture and seminar programme.

These first two assignments will help you develop the communicative skills for formulating written assignments at level 5.

The third assignment will be a short test, reviewing the classroom materials. This will help you to develop your own effective note-taking skills, as well as help you measure and adapt your engagement with the materials for level 5.





Module abstract

You will experience a range of historical and contemporary ideas, practices and debates relevant to contemporary art. You will learn about why artists do what they do and different ways in which their activities have been understood and evaluated. You will be able to see your own studio practice in relation to different historical and theoretical moments, and begin to articulate a broader context surrounding your studio practice. You will explore critical contexts through which practices might be evaluated, unpacked or otherwise contextualised, including some of the key 20th Century debates on culture, identity and meaning. You will learn through participation in weekly lectures supported by seminars that will help to develop your study skills appropriate to level 4. You will be assessed by three assignments: an artwork analysis (500 words), an essay (1500 words) and a test covering the taught classes.

Course info

UCAS Code W100

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 2023

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing.

Full time Courses starting in 2023 are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but may include elements of online learning. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to flex accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with additional restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors, potentially to a full online offer, should further restrictions be deemed necessary in future. Our online activity will be delivered through Blackboard Ultra, enabling collaboration, connection and engagement with materials and people.


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