Contemporary Art: 1980 to the Present

The details
Art History and Theory
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Monday 13 January 2020
Friday 20 March 2020
05 July 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA V351 Curatorial Studies,
BA V352 Curatorial Studies (Including Year Abroad),
BA V353 Curatorial Studies (including Placement Year),
BA V359 Curatorial Studies (Including Foundation Year),
BA V35B Curatorial Studies (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad)

Module description

This module offers students an overview of the most significant and paradigmatic artistic transformations in Europe and North America from the 1980s to the present. It presents the development, successes and failures of modernism over the late 20th century, and the eventual dissolution of modernist practice into the disparate possibilities of postmodernism.

We will problematize contemporary art as a field where a countless set of artistic theories and practices take place, practices that have constantly challenged and reconfigured our very understanding of art. Students will have the opportunity to closely examine a wide range of artists, projects, and institutional ruptures that will inform our debates on the distinctions between modern, postmodern, contemporary and new media art.

We will be submerged into the world of contemporary art, a world full of paradoxes, contradictions and controversies, in which is possible to buy god's love for £50m (For the Love of God, Damian Hirst) while simultaneously asking the Congolese population to 'enjoy poverty' (Episode III: Enjoy Poverty, Renzo Martens). Questions that are at the heart of this module include: can enjoying a carrousel ride (Golden Mirror Carousel, Carsten Holler) be a more radical gesture than an artist initiated socio-political movement (Immigrant Movement International, Tania Bruguera)?; What is the spirit of contemporary art? Does it have one? What have been the most significant changes in the relationship between the contemporary artist and the art institution? Have the three market booms since the 1980s had an impact on the production, reception, and dissemination of contemporary art? How has the biennial impacted our understanding of the local and the global? What can confessional artworks (Everyone I have Ever Slept With 1963-1995, Tracy Emin) tell us about our conceptions of the public and the private?

Contemporary art has allowed for experimentation with an unlimited range of media, methods of production, dissemination, and engagement. In this module, we will also open up space for speculation and debate: has artistic production exhausted itself? Is there art beyond contemporary art? If there is, what would it look like?

Module aims

The aim of this module is to expose students to the widest possible range of contemporary art practice after the 1980s, and to give them the opportunity to consider this work in a number of different contexts, including those of national and international origins, of media, of politics, and of the institution. Moreover, this module sets out to make clear the intricate connections between artistic practice, art history, theory and criticism, and the wider culture in which art is produced.

Module learning outcomes

At the end of this module students will have knowledge and understanding of:

1. the distinction between modern, postmodern, contemporary, and new media art;
2. the conditions that paved the wave for the emergence of contemporary art;
3. the work of a wide variety of artists, the production of various seminal exhibitions and events in the period, including their reception and social impacts;
4. the role of a variety of media in forming the practices of contemporary artists.

Module information

Gallery visits during the year.

Learning and teaching methods

10 x 2 hour seminars 1 x Gallery visit Week 21 is Reading Week


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework Weekly Reading Summaries TOTAL 10%
Coursework Week 17: Reading Summary 20/01/2020 0%
Coursework Week 18: Reading Summary
Coursework Week 19: Reading Summary
Coursework Week 20: Reading Summary
Coursework Week 22: Reading Summary
Coursework Week 23: Reading Summary
Coursework Week 24: Reading Summary
Coursework 72 Hour Take Home Paper 16/03/2020 40%
Coursework Week 25: Reading Summary
Coursework Essay (2500 Words) 20/04/2020 50%

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Matt Lodder



External examiner

Prof Richard Simon Clay
Newcastle University
Professor of Digital Cultures
Available via Moodle
Of 18 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
18 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

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