Seminar Two, MA Culture, Criticism and Curation, June 19th 2013.


How might we consider the experience of the artwork, or non-art object within the context of the collection or archive?
How is this experience dependent on where this encounter takes place? For instance, in the museum, gallery or as a ‘live’ resource.

How do you feel writing does or can affect your experience with objects?

Does writing reduce or enhance your experience of the object? Whether this is your own writing or that of someone else’s.

When you write, who is your audience?

Let’s return briefly to consider the key headings for writing a traditional academic paper with introduction, thesis sentence, the other side, the topic sentences and supporting paragraphs, the conclusion. Let us consider writing methods to compare and contrast, to identify and think about the cause and effect when writing?

How might we think and write spatially?

As the MA Culture, Criticism and Curation course description outlines, the term ‘culture’ encompasses several meanings and positions, while what defines the word culture is a multifaceted discourse, containing perspectives that are central to debates around the subjects that define the meaning of the word. This is true whether we are speaking about culture as ‘civilization’ or the ‘entertainment and education sector.’

The course outline says that the term ‘culture’ “designates things and processes”, that it is “accompanied by an ongoing negotiation about what might constitute the objects, activities, agents and interpretations of cultural production.” One way to consider criticality or critical thinking is to consider the moments that we think we are engaging in it, and when we are engaging with the ideas and terms surrounding subjects such as ‘culture’.

We can use different forms of writing to explore how and what the parts of this designation are, for often it is difficult to separate the terminology from the object-hood or thingness 1 from the processes, especially when claiming specific ideas in a theory of contemporary visual culture.

One key point to continue to consider is the frameworks within which you position yourself and your writing. Consider that you can negotiate texts that may not appear to be ‘critical’ or ‘theoretical’ in the original sense, but can be evaluated for the purpose of your writing. We can consider this as being from a broader discourse. Furthermore, because the course looks at culture within a historical framework positioning oneself is key. In these moments writing can become critical and an original contribution while bridging scholarly research and the creative industries.

“A problem that writing people have is the idea in their heads that a given sentence, paragraph or paper must be the right one…We have to free ourselves from the idea that there is only one CORRECT way.” Harvey Molotch

“Whatever you do will be a compromise between conflicting possibilities.” Howard S. Becker “The process of meaning making… is essentially imaginative and extrarational, rather than merely reflective and rational.” John Dirkx

So we might ask…
What are the moments when we critically engage with contemporary visual culture and what is it about these moments that makes it ‘critical’?’
What are the material differences we find between contemporary practices now and those of the past and how might we think of these in terms of criticality?
What does it mean to look and critically engage with contemporary creative or a non-creative practice when the physical object might be absent, and how might this engagement vary given the subjects we are working with?
I would like us to consider the materiality and non-materiality of what it is we engage with when writing. To consider our proximity to the writing and to the objects and subjects we are considering and writing about. And perhaps, what are the ways we can shift our position to these objects and subjects through the practice of writing?

Ideas were presented for discussion around essays selected for the session:

This included ‘Good Texts, Bad Texts’, by Ulrich Gutmair and ‘The Rat’s Ass’, By Molly Nesbit.

At the end of this session discussion was steered to the questions and thoughts identified through discussion in both session as a way of concluding. conversation continued to issues of technique, on presenting ideas and knowledge, and how you can challenge the conventions or expectations in the academic environment while ensuring that you produce a thesis that attains the necessary scholastic requirements for the MA.

1 Heidegger, M, (1935-6) ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’

This seminar description is substantially edited. For more information, please contact me