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Theories of the Contemporary Object

  • Module code: CD7106
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: 7
  • Credits: 30
  • Pre-requisites: None
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

This module provides an exploration of key theoretical concepts of curatorial practice. Questions around the object, collection, museum and exhibition will be discussed, supported by historical and current critical writing. You will develop an understanding of the close relationship between theory, history and practice, and engage with methodology as foundation of any critical writing, exhibition making or public debate.

The module radically expands the conventional definitions of the contemporary field of design practice. Using the close connection to design, art, and architecture practice courses at the Kingston School of Art, you will be exposed to a productive and stimulating environment of practice as well as critical thinking and research. Collaborative teaching between museum and university professionals allows you to interrogate with new work and develop a joined up approach to place it through research, writing and debate into historical discourse.

This module also considers the major project and explores its scope, direction and intended aims, through applied research skills and testing of methodological approaches. The project may be a set brief by a project partner, or provide a location and scope for a proposed curatorial intervention, or invite proposals in response to public concerns which might be social, political, ecological or other.

Aims

  • To introduce the development of design culture during the 20th and 21st centuries
  • To promote understandings of the role of objects in museums and exhibitions
  • To enable identifying key theoretical models and critical writings as underpinning of research of historical and contemporary work
  • To develop an understanding of contemporary design practice through its history and interdisciplinary thinking
  • To provide opportunities to engage with the curatorial practice of collecting, caring, displaying and interpreting in museums, galleries and private collections

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of curatorial practices such as selecting, collecting, caring, displaying, interpreting, communicating and its tools.
  • Display employment of design, museological and curatorial theories in research and analyses of design objects for documentation and history writing.
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the complex but close relationships which exist between theory and practice, collecting and curating design.
  • Apply theoretical research in curatorial practice and use theory to support and advance project work.
  • Appraise the role of the object in museums and exhibitions.

Curriculum content

  • Collaborative project with Kingston School of Art practice students to undertake and apply object research
  • Research selected objects from, for example, Kingston School of Art archives, Dorich House Museum or the Design Museum
  • Guided reading of theoretical texts
  • Critical writing workshop
  • Assess contemporary examples of design
  • Presentation skills.

Teaching and learning strategy

This module will be taught by formal lectures, student-led seminars, tutorials, workshops and visits where appropriate.  International lecturers, designers and curators will be invited to contribute individual specialisms. Weekly readings of key texts are a requirement and students are expected to lead the reflection in each session. Students will be expected to draw on, incorporate and further develop skills in curatorial practice, knowledge and experience through readings and debates acquired through other course modules. Students will demonstrate that they can apply knowledge that they gained from reading, lectures and visits for formative feedback.

The module will make use of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) Canvas for communication and dissemination of information between students and staff as well as making online learning materials available to all. Students should check this site on a daily basis for module information, timetables, sign-ups, updates and additional information and teaching materials.

All courses based in the Kingston School of Art offer students free access to the online video tutorial platform Lynda.com. This provides a wide range of subjects to choose from, many with downloadable exercise files, including software tutorials covering photography, graphics, web design, audio and music, CAD and Microsoft Office software, as well as courses on Business and Management skills. Some of these are embedded in the curriculum and offer additional self-paced learning, others may be taken at will by students wishing to broaden their employability skills in other areas.

All courses based in the Kingston School of Art offer students free access to the online video tutorial platform Lynda.com. This provides a wide range of subjects to choose from, many with downloadable exercise files, including software tutorials covering photography, graphics, web design, audio and music, CAD and Microsoft Office software, as well as courses on Business and Management skills. Some of these are embedded in the curriculum and offer additional self-paced learning, others may be taken at will by students wishing to broaden their employability skills in other areas. An example of this is the presentations skills curriculum, which will be delivered through Lynda.com.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive UNISTATS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching Lectures, seminars, tutorials, workshops, visits, project work 45
Guided independent study 255
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

Assessment will be based on three elements: a critical review (1,000 words), a 10-minute individual presentation related to the project work and a 3,000 word essay developed through the module. Class participation is key for students to gain skills in critically assessing work and events, and in constructing convincing argumentation. The essay serves as a reference point against which the progress and development of independent thinking of students with regards to their understanding of the fields (design and curatorial practice), the application of theory and methodology and the formulation of arguments can be measured. The essay should interrogate, challenge and, where relevant, question current curatorial thinking and its engagement with design practice. Formative feedback will be provided on work-in-progress group presentations in seminars, workshops and tutorials.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
1. Demonstrate an understanding of curatorial practices such as selecting, collecting, caring, displaying, interpreting, communicating and its tools. Critical review, presentation, essay
2. Display employment of design, museological and curatorial theories in research and analyses of design objects for documentation and history writing. Critical review, essay
3. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the complex but close relationships which exist between theory and practice, collecting and curating design. Critical review, essay
4. Connect theoretical research with curatorial practice, mainly in project work. Critical review, presentation, essay
5. Appraise the role of the object in museums and exhibitions. Critical review, essay

Elements of Assessment

Description of Assessment Definitive UNISTATS Categories Percentage
Critical review (1,000 words) Coursework 20%
Individual presentation (5 mins) related to the project work Practical exam 20%
3,000 word essay Coursework 60%
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any element of assessment is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module.

Bibliography recommended reading

Antonelli, Paola (2003). Objects of design from The Museum of Modern Art. MoMA. NY.

Bal, Mieke (1996) Double Exposures: The Practice of Cultural Analysis. London: Routledge.

von Bismarck, Beatrice et al (2014) Cultures of the Curatorial: Timing. On the Temporal Dimension of Exhibiting. Berlin: Sternberg Press.

Clarke, Alison (2011) Design Anthropology: Object Culture in the 21st Century. Wien; New York: Springer-Verlag.

Cook, Sarah, Graham, B. (eds). (2010) Rethinking Curating: Art after New Media. MIT Press.

O'Doherty, B. (1999). Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space, expanded edition. University of California Press, London.

Dudley, Sandra H. (ed.) (2012), ‪Museum Objects: Experiencing the Properties of Things, London: Routledge.

Forty, Adrian (1986) Objects of Desire: Design and Society Since 1750. London: Thames and Hudson.

George, Adrian (2015) The Curator's Handbook: Museums, Commercial Galleries, Independent Spaces. London: Thames & Hudson.

Laurel, B., (ed.) (2003) Design Research: Methods and Perspectives. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Knell, S. J (ed.), (2004) Museums and the Future of Collecting, Ashgate Publishing, UK

Lovell, Sophie (2009) Limited Edition: Prototypes, One-Offs and Design Art Furniture. Birkhäuser Publishing.

Martinon, Paul (ed.) (2013), The Curatorial. A Philosophie of Curating. London et al: Bloomsbury.

O'Neill, Paul (2016), The Culture of Curating and the Curating of Culture, Cambridge Mass: MIT

Putnam, J. (2011). Art & Artifact: The Museum as Medium (Second Edition). Thames&Hudson Ltd.

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