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Study information

Contemporary Visual Practices

Module titleContemporary Visual Practices
Module codeAHV2007
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Daniel Fountain (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

In this module you will be introduced to a diverse spectrum of critical issues in contemporary visual culture. You will explore the links between the historical and the contemporary, and learn how to apply critical theory in visual and discursive analysis. You will engage with a wide range of visual practices in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, drawing on examples of high art, popular culture and new media, as well as experiences of urbanism and the environment. Topics may include curation, heritage, migration, performance, gender, and race.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to allow you to:

  • gain the knowledge and skills necessary to critically approach a range of issues in contemporary visual culture
  • develop a good understanding of historical discourses and critical theory, and how these can be applied to things we see and experience in institutions and everyday life
  • consider the production, circulation and consumption of visual culture, as well as the dynamics between past and present, social and political
  • address issues of identity in the contemporary global world – such as class, gender, race, and sexuality – in relation to emerging technologies and heritage industries
  • consider circuits of visual culture within built and virtual environments, both locally and globally

In addition to the refinement of critical thinking skills, there will be a strong emphasis on practices of making and display; this will include the development of curatorial skills and creative interactions with archives, museums and other cultural institutions. This will enhance your research interests and transferable skills, preparing you for further specialisation in the final stage.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. critically evaluate the dominant concepts, methods and debates informing the study of visual culture
  • 2. apply a variety of methodologies and theoretical approaches to the interpretation of examples of contemporary visual culture
  • 3. analyse the ways in which visual culture operates in a wide range of contexts and media
  • 4. develop skills in curatorial practice and community-engaged research

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. independently research, present and critically evaluate examples of visual culture in relation to wider intellectual and socio-political discourses
  • 6. critically engage with relevant scholarly texts and cultural documents, and relate them to a range of visual practices

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, and construct a coherent, substantiated argument based on visual analysis and scholarly literature
  • 8. demonstrate proficiency in information retrieval and analysis
  • 9. develop confidence in verbal communication
  • 10. develop appropriate time-management skills for private study, and work collaboratively with peers

Syllabus plan

The module will consist of a series of lectures and workshops. Lectures will be structured around a weekly theme and the critical analysis of relevant images. Workshops will give you the opportunity to engage with specific themes in greater detail, discuss and analyse scholarly texts, and explore more practical aspects of visual culture and its dissemination. Topics may include:

  • Visual culture and the environment
  • Visual culture and migration
  • Visual cultures of gender and sexuality
  • Community participation in contemporary arts
  • Contemporary heritage industries

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities11Weekly lectures (11 x 1 hour)
Scheduled learning and teaching activities10Workshops (5 x 2 hours)
Guided independent study127Independent study including reading, research, preparation for workshops and assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Mini-essay750 words1-8Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Small group project5-10 minutes1-10Peer-assessment recorded on feed-back sheet with tutorial follow-up

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1002,500 words1-8Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (2,500 words)1-8Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to redo the assessment(s) as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Appadurai, Arjun. Modernity at large. Cultural Dimensions in Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.
  • Berger, John. About Looking. London: Bloomsbury, 2009.
  • Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. London: Routledge, 1990.
  • Clark, T. J. The Sight of Death: an Experiment in Art Writing. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006.
  • Demos, T.J. The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary During Global Crisis. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2013.
  • Hall, Stuart, ed. Representations: Cultural Representations & Signifying Practices. London: Sage, 1997.
  • Hebdige, Dick. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London: Routledge, 1979.
  • Henning, Michelle. Museums, Media and Cultural Theory. Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2005.
  • Marcus, Greil. Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989.
  • Mitchell, W.T.J. Image Science: Iconology, Visual Culture and Media Aesthetics. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2015.
  • Mirzoeff, Nicholas, ed. Visual Culture Reader 3rd edition. London: Routledge, 2012.
  • Rabinow, Paul. Marking Time: On the Anthropology of the Contemporary. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2008.
  • Storey, John, ed. Cultural Theory & Popular Culture: A Reader 5th edition. London: Routledge, 2008.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Visual culture, visual practices, art history

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date