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The University of Southampton

ARTD6096 Contemporary Curation: Practices

Module Overview

The module is designed to introduce you in more detail to contemporary practices, and in turn the practical consideration, of curation today. Drawing on lectures, seminars, tutorials, and visits to world-leading professional arts organisations, this module helps you develop your critical analytical skills alongside practical experiments in the art of exhibition formation in all its variety of tasks and concepts. Continuing to explore the themes, theories, debates, and histories from Semester 1, this practical module involves an interim group exhibition project offering you the first opportunity to test the attainment of the Learning Outcomes via professional experience of curation in and around the Winchester campus. This module provides you with the chance to learn first-hand from professionals in the curatorial field about the challenges and opportunities curation presents today. You will experience what it is like to curate as part of a group and will have your first chance to devise and realise an exhibitionary project from start to finish.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The sources, principles, concepts, rules, structures and, where relevant, procedures of the module.
  • The interrelationship between the history of curation and the state of professional curation today
  • Selected points of comparison with the academic study of art history and visual cultural studies
  • The nature and limits of curation within its contemporary expanded field, particularly in relation to new media and the digital humanities
  • The broader critical, intellectual, social and economic contexts within or as part of which the curator operates
  • Visual cultural thought and theories, processes and practices appertaining to contemporary curation
  • The function and practical application of theories of curation in the contemporary art world and beyond
  • Core and specialist areas within contemporary curation including exhibition history, critical debates on current directions in the profession, developments within new media and the digital humanities in relation to the art of curation today, the function and critique of the biennial system, challenges faced within curatorial practice, and the current salient cultural aims, political questions, and practical skills needed within the profession and discipline
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Solve problems by applying knowledge of curation and visual cultural studies theory and historical and contemporary approaches of practice in order to address actual problems or hypothetical fact-based situations involving questions of display, authorship, finances, and education-focused exhibition needs, to select key issues, and argue convincingly for possible solutions
  • Apply information gained through instruction and/or self-study to inform, support or critically analyse curatorial positions in context
  • Identify problems and analyse key issues requiring curatorial and visual cultural research, and pursue an independent project to produce a coherent and structured essay or final project, as well as record and reflect upon your intellectual journey in the Learning Log / Blog component of this module
  • Carry out curatorial and visual cultural research in terms of the ability to discover, identify and use up to date primary and secondary curatorial and related visual cultural sources, including academic writings, using both paper and electronic sources
  • Make reasoned arguments in curatorial and visual cultural studies based on appropriately selected source materials
  • Apply curatorial and visual cultural theories to practices (e.g., collaborative curation), understand, and evaluate how different perspectives in theory relate in practice to, for instance, relational aesthetics, feminism, collaborations, education-focused exhibition structures, questions of authorship, biennial systems and networks of contemporary art, institutional critique, critique of spectacle, amongst others.
  • Recognise multiple perspectives and integrate/apply these to curatorial and visual cultural studies and their related core issues, such as audience formation, educational-focus within exhibition structures, the relationship between the curator and the artist / practitioner, the relationship between the curator and the ‘object’, the politics of subjects and subjectivity as activated / implicated by / in the exhibition space
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Structure in coherent manner information and materials from disparate sources, sifting the relevant from the irrelevant.
  • Use a range of electronic information sources including the worldwide web, electronic retrieval systems, and on-line curatorial and visual cultural studies materials
  • Work effectively as a participant in a group project, and appreciate the possibilities of learning with the support of your peers studying curatorial and visual cultural studies
  • Evaluate concepts, principles, histories, theories, and practices and make critical judgements of the strengths and weaknesses of particular arguments.
  • Reflect constructively upon your learning, and make effective use of feedback received
  • Demonstrate proficiency in the use of the English language, including correct use of curatorial and visual cultural terminology, both orally and in writing
  • Present knowledge and argument in a clear, structured and comprehensible manner, adapted to the needs or requirements of a particular audience or exercise
  • Understand rhetorical and topical, textual, curatorial, visual cultural, historical, and practical problems raising investigative issues of sophisticated complexity and considerable depth
  • Evaluate arguments based on evidence from the curatorial profession and visual cultural institutions
  • Understand the aesthetic, pedagogical, political, socio-economic, and cultural impact of curatorial practices
  • Produce word-processed documents complying with presentation and referencing practice within the academic discipline of curatorial and visual cultural studies
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Appreciate curatorial issues of fundraising, budgets, and of arts commissioning
  • Demonstrate consideration of exhibition design, construction and installation issues and identify historical examples and various theoretical approaches to resolving such curatorial issues
  • Identify and engage various audiences and publics, including demonstrating an awareness of diverse audiences and their needs, along with the ethical and health & safety issues implicated within these considerations
  • Provide considerations of what the “public intellectual presence” of an exhibition and its ancillary outputs will be and how it can prove most effective
  • Identify the critical and creative interdependence of learning and public programmes teams with curatorial roles within various institutions
  • Explore critical curatorial writing approaches
  • Create professional relationships and networks with artists, curators and other professionals


The syllabus is designed to provide you with a focus on the practical questions within contemporary curation. • What Display and Where? Addressing & Deconstructing Questions of Place, (Im)materiality, & Stories of Rupture & Continuity in the Spaces of Contemporary Curation • Displaying What to Whom? Questions of Audience & Publics • Engagement: Methods of Critically Involving Audiences & Publics in Curatorial Practice • Deal or No Deal? Finances, Fund-raising, Budgets, & Curatorial Commissions • The Art of Installation • Assemblage, meanings, and formations • The selection and organization of signs and texts • Language, material/immaterial objects, and social practices – the relation in curation • Collaborative Practices • Curating the Digital World • The Ignorant Curator: Rancière & the Role of Educational Practices • Conceptions of discourse, language, and cultural practices within Curatorial Project Formations

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: The module is taught through a series of lectures and seminars and tutor accompanied visits. Teaching methods will place emphasis on practical applications of theoretical and conceptual curatorial and (visual) cultural understanding, and will include individual study, guided reflection, and group work. You will be guided to engage in individual study of module materials and discussion of curatorial and (visual) cultural theories, aesthetic and political concepts, and key ideas associated with the field such as audience engagement and the role of the learning team and interpretation materials, especially in the digital age. A Learning Log/journal/blog will evidence your individual learning journey and contribution to the group curation project. The expectations, principles and responsibilities associated with how you work in a group will be set out in a module handbook and Blackboard VLE and discussed during seminar sessions, in order to clarify how this learning and teaching approach facilitates the assessment of subject specific and employability skills delivered in the module. In the 25% assessed group work assignment for the module all students in the group will receive the same mark. School-level guidance and key principles on learning in a group will be developed, disseminated and made available to all students on the module through handbooks and Blackboard. The key principle is that a module that includes a group assessment must also include an individual component/mark for part of the assessment. Other guidance will include: (a) a student group should comprise of between 3 and 5 people: numbers above this discourage effective collaboration (b) groups will be briefed on clear guidance as to how they will be assessed against the criteria set (c) detailed guidance on the principles of learning and working as a group will be provided, and (d) clear guidance on how the module leader will deal with any controversies or disputes will be provided. Internationalisation This module puts great emphasis on developing an appreciation of the complexities that are inherent in realising curatorial projects in our era of globalisation. The content of the module will consider contemporary curatorial approaches and practices in light of globalisation – for example, in terms of the rise of biennial culture and networks of international artists and artist collectives – and students will engage with practices and networks that embody the current cultural diversity exhibited both in the student cohort and in the wider research and practice-based community. Learning activities include: Seminar discussion Peer group learning Reflective writing in a learning log /blog format Presentations

Independent Study350
Total study time400

Resources & Reading list

Hoffmann, Jens (2014). Show Time: The 50 Most Influential Exhibitions of Contemporary Art. 

Barker, Emma (1999). Contemporary Cultures of Display. 

Adamson, Glenn (2007). What Makes a Great Exhibition?. 

Manifesta Journal issue no 8, 2009/2010, special issue: Collective Curating.. 

Hoffmann, Jens (2013). Ten Fundamental Questions of Curating. 

Graham, Beryl and Sarah Cook (eds) (2010). Rethinking Curating: Art after New Media. 

Smith, Terry (2012). Thinking Contemporary Curation. 

O’Neill, Paul (2014). The Culture of Curating and the Curating of Culture(s).. 

Journal of Curatorial Studies. 

Obrist, Hans Ulrich (2012). Ways of Curating. 

Steedman, Marijke (ed) (2009). Gallery as Community: Art, Education, Politics. 

Manifesta Journal: around curatorial practices. 

Nairne, Sandy, et al (2000). Thinking About Exhibitions. 

O’Doherty, Brian (2012). Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space. 

Manghani, Sunil (2012). Image Studies: Theory and Practice. 

Martinon, Jean-Paul (ed) (2013). The Curatorial: A Philosophy of Curating. 

Thea, Carolee. On Curating: Interviews with Ten International Curators. 



Essay proposal


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 25%
Essay  (2500 words) 50%
Group Exhibition Interim Project 25%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Optional Visits (e.g. museums, galleries)

Taking part in this module need not incur any additional costs, as the key texts are all available in the Winchester School of Art/Hartley libraries, and the main costs for mandatory off-campus visits to professional art and design organisations have been factored into the programme fees.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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