Critique and Curating

The details
Art History and Theory
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 18 December 2020
11 May 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA V35612 Curating,
MA V356PP Curating with Professional Placement

Module description

This module investigates the interrelationship between critique and curating from the 1920s to the present. To this end, we will focus on the concept of 'critical curating', which broadly refers to the ways in which curatorial activities assume, or have the capacity to assume, a critical function: for example, by offering experiences to a spectator that heighten his or her capacity for critical thought, or by turning an exhibition into a form of social or political critique.

Organized roughly chronology, the module is divided into three parts. The first part explores the foundation for critical curating set by the historical avant-garde during the interwar period, including some ways in which avant-garde display practices got used as forms of political propaganda. Our discussion then shifts to a series of developments that expanded and changed the field of critical curating from the 1960s through the 1980s, including the rise of the curator as 'author'; the role of curation in alternative art spaces; and the emergence of 'institutional critique'. In the final part of this module, we focus on key developments in critical curating over roughly the last two decades, which we consider in relation to the concepts of relational aesthetics, postcolonialism and paracurating.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

To investigate the interrelationship between critique and curating;

To hone students’ ability to analyse and conceptualise diverse curatorial practices for their critical potential;

To expose students to a range of approaches used in secondary scholarship about curatorial practice and critical theory;

To help students develop skills in written communication through assignments and seminars.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module the student should have:

To acquire an in-depth knowledge of the curatorial practices and critical theories addressed in this module;

To understand the historical and conceptual relationship between critique and curating;

To think ‘laterally’ and creatively in order to discern connections and possibilities between curatorial practice and critique;

To demonstrate these competences in assignments.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

1 x 2 hour seminar each week for 9 weeks and 1 reading week with no seminars. All teaching events will be accessible to students on and off campus either face-to-face or remotely through online teaching. Discussion will be encouraged throughout.


  • Buchloh, Benjamin; Martin, Jean-Herbert. (1987-) 'Interview: Benjamin Buchloh & Jean-Herbert Martin', in Third text, London: Routledge. vol. 3 (6) , pp.19-27
  • Krauss, Rosalind E. (2011) '1971', in Art since 1900: modernism, antimodernism, postmodernism, London: Thames & Hudson., pp.545-548
  • Fraser, Andrea. (2005) 'From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique', in Artforum. vol. 44 (1) , pp.278-283
  • Lissitzky, El. (2008) 'Exhibition Rooms', in Public photographic spaces: exhibitions of Propaganda, from Pressa to The Family of Man, 1928-55, Barcelona: Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona., pp.75-77
  • Enwezor, Okwui. (2002) 'The Black Box', in Documenta 11_Platform 5: Ausstellung/exhibition: Ausstellungsorte/exhibition venues, Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz., pp.42-55
  • Enwezor, Okwui. (2015) ''The State of Things'', in All the World's Futures. 56 International Art Exhibition. La Biennale Di Venezia. 2 vols, Venezia: Marsilio Editori., pp.16-21
  • Alberri, Alexander. (2011) 'Institutions, Critique, and Institutional Critique', in Institutional critique: an anthology of artists' writings, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press., pp.2-19
  • Foucault, Michel. (1992) 'What is an Author?', in Art in theory, 1900-1990: an anthology of changing ideas, Oxford: Blackwell., pp.923-928
  • Lucy Lippard. (c2002) 'Biting the Hand: Artists and Museums in New York since 1969', in Alternative art, New York, 1965-1985: a cultural politics book for the Social Text Collective, New York: Drawing Center. vol. Cultural Politics Series, pp.79-102
  • Benjamin, Walter. (1992) 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction [1936, excerpt]', in Art in theory, 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Oxford: Blackwell., pp.520-527
  • Foster, Hal. (2011) '1942b', in Art since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism, London: Thames & Hudson., pp.329-333
  • Jolles, Adam. (2013) The Curatorial Avant-Garde: Surrealism and Exhibition Practice in France, 1925-1941, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press. vol. Refiguring modernism, pp.93-137
  • Bryan-Wilson, Julia. (2009) Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era, Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Altshuler, Bruce. (2013) Biennials and Beyond: Exhibitions that Made Art History, 1962-2002, London: Phaidon., pp.325-340
  • Altshuler, Bruce. (1994) The Avant-Garde in Exhibition: New Art in the 20th Century, New York: Abrams.
  • Bronner, Stephen. (2011) Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction, New York: Oxford University Press. vol. Very Short Introductions
  • Enwezor, Okwui. (2015) ''Exploding gardens' in All the World's Futures: La Biennale Di Venezia, 56 International Art Exhibition', in All the World's Futures: La Biennale Di Venezia, 56 International Art Exhibition, Venezia: Marsilio Editori., pp.90-95
  • Bourriaud, Nicolas. (2006) 'Relational Aesthetics', in Participation, London: Whitechapel. vol. Documents of contemporary art, pp.160-171
  • Claire Bishop. (2004) 'Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics', in October: The MIT PressThe MIT Press. vol. 110, pp.51-79
  • Breton, Andre. (1992) 'Second Manifesto of Surrealism [excerpt]', in Art in theory, 1900-1990: an anthology of changing ideas, Oxford: Blackwell., pp.446-450
  • Staniszewski, Mary Anne. (c1998) The power of display: a history of exhibition installations at the Museum of Modern Art, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
  • Tymkiw, Michael. (2018) Nazi exhibition design and modernism, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • O'Neill, Paul. (2012) The Culture of Curating, The Curating of Culture(s), Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   4000 word essay     
Practical   Presentation on work in progress      

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Michael Tymkiw, email:
Dr Michael Tymkiw



External examiner

Dr H Camilla Smith
University of Birmingham
Lecturer in Art History
Available via Moodle
Of 22 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
22 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Art History and Theory

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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