Art + Critique
CRITICAL & CONTEXTUAL STUDIES IN ART PRACTICE: ONLINE COURSE
This course integrates practice and theory in a comprehensive programme that emphasises critical inquiry in art practice and research. The course will help you develop your practice and research in a series of lectures, seminars, workshops, group tutorials and off-site visits. The syllabus offers a solid background in essential histories and discourses of contemporary art to help artists address questions about their practice and its context: about what art is, how it is judged and how it relates to society.
The curriculum fosters experimentation and collaborative study in a community of peers and provides a supportive environment to explore, expand and enhance your practice and research, and raise your awareness of the issues and stakes. You will extend and develop your ability to discuss, write about and judge contemporary art. You will also develop your ability to reflect on and contextualise your own practice.
The programme of participatory lectures and seminars constitutes the Critical Studies component. Regular group tutorials and workshops on creative practice, research and writing constitute the Studio Practice component. These are integrated throughout the course to emphasise the reciprocal dynamic between practice and theory, discourse and action.
The Critical Studies component maps the theories and discourses that inform the production and reception of contemporary art. We will look at the impact of philosophical, cultural and political discourses on art practice, and examine different theoretical perspectives and critical debates.
The lecture/seminar series will familiarise you with key concepts and historical transformations that underpin contemporary art production and reception. The lectures demystify the art world and provide multiple entry points into critical theory from the Frankfurt School to the present. They foreground influential discourses, debates and controversies on the critical role of art practice, the tensions between artistic autonomy and political art, the institution and the ontology of art, the dichotomy between art and life, the relationship between identity and materiality, and the potentials and complicities of socially engaged practice. You will extend and develop your ability to discuss, write about and judge contemporary art. You will also develop your ability to reflect on and contextualise your own practice.
What kind of knowledge and skills do contemporary artists need? What is the social role of art? Can art bring about social change? Is there a tension between the values of art and political values? Why does art have to be critical? What is critical art, critical of? Who is art for? How do we recognise art? What distinguishes art from other forms of cultural production? Is art a commodity? What is aesthetic autonomy? These are some of the questions we will address as we explore the historical and critical contexts in which contemporary art is made, circulated, viewed and understood.
The Studio Practice component is composed of regular group tutorials and workshops on creative practice, research and writing. These modules are designed to provide you with tools, references and feedback to help you develop, articulate and contextualise your practice. Writing workshops are an opportunity to develop your skills in writing critical reviews and artist’s statements or research proposals.
Group tutorials are structured peer-review sessions that will help you develop a project or body of work with critical feedback and peer-support. You might have work-in-progress and a set of problems or questions about how to proceed, or you may produce new work in response to a studio assignment. We will discuss research methods, process, technique, materials, professional practice etc. Following each tutorial you will receive written feedback and documentation to reflect on the session and plan your next steps.
Course aims, outcomes & learning objectives
The course aims to support artists as they develop, articulate and contextualise their practice within the broader contemporary and historical field of production in art and society . They will develop their writing skills and formulate research questions to guide their practice, achieving a clear sense of direction towards their stated goals.
By the end of the course:
- Participants will have a sound grasp of key historical underpinnings and current debates in contemporary art.
- They will be able to critically discuss and evaluate contemporary art in relation to the broader contemporary and historical field of production in art and society.
- They will be able to articulate and contextualise their practice within or against relevant practices, discourses and histories.
- They will be able to critically evaluate their own work and provide constructive feedback for their peers.
Participants will leave the course with critical awareness of contemporary art practice, a road map and a toolbox of methodologies for their continuing practice and the confidence to pursue it independently.
Who is it for?
The course is open to everyone at any stage of their career or level of experience but it is particularly suited to those who have a background and experience in art and wish to develop their practice and extend their knowledge of contemporary art practices and discourses.
You will be expected to develop a project or line of inquiry, commit to the course, participate in the co-learning space, support your peers and have an interest in alternative art education.
You may have reached a pivotal stage in your practice, preparing a new project or portfolio, applying for a degree course or residency, encountering contradictions or asking questions about your practice in the context of the art world and society more broadly, or you may have already formulated a set of questions and need to develop a critical framework to address them.
The course will benefit socially engaged artists, performance and installation artists, video and sound artists, media and digital artists, sculptors, painters, print-makers, designers, artist educators, curators, writers, researchers and anyone who is pursuing a career in the arts.
Due to Covid-19, this course will be delivered live online with the possibility of hybrid Off-site Visits and/or other course modules wherever appropriate and possible, depending on the existing circumstances and pending the collective decision by all participants.
The course will be delivered via Schoology, a virtual learning environment (VLE) and Zoom, a web conferencing platform. Both of these are user-friendly and you will receive a course pack with detailed guidance on how to access them at least three days before the course begins.
The course programme includes modules and support in the form of:
- A programme of six participatory lectures and reading seminars
- Regular group tutorials to discuss your practice, process and work-in-progress, followed with written feedback and peer review
- Research and creative practice workshops: with exercises, assignments and insights on the relationship between practice and theory
- Writing workshops: to develop a project, curatorial or research proposal, improve your artist’s statement, exchange feedback and practice your critical review and interpretive skills
- Off-site visits: participate in critical discussions, articulate aesthetic judgments and build analytical skills
- Present your project for a final round of discussions and written feedback. The format is up to you, although it will typically consist of a summary of central formal and conceptual issues in your work or the overall argument and key points of your project proposal, ending on a question about your practice. This will be followed by critical discussion and feedback.
What you will need
- A reliable internet connection
- A computer with webcam, mic and speakers or headphones
- Register on Schoology with an access code
- Download and install Zoom
- Notebook and pen
- Examples of your work in physical or digital form for group tutorials
- A computer, laptop or iPad with internet access for assignments, research and preparation for your final project presentation
- Money for potential travel and exhibition entry (optional)
Upcoming course dates & fees
23 Apr – 6 Aug 2022, Saturdays 10:00-12:30 BST
Registrations for this course are closed, dates for future courses will be published soon.
We can view online exhibitions and/or we can visit London-based galleries and museums in a hybrid format. Galleries and museums in London are operating with restrictions, reduced capacity and hours. We will review the situation closer the date, discuss the options and come to a collectively agreed plan.
If we opt for hybrid sessions you will have a choice between physically visiting museums or galleries in London with our group, or viewing the exhibitions and participating via Zoom.
Pedagogy, participation & accessibility
The course is informed and structured along collaborative, co-operative and collective principles and pedagogical models, employing alternative models of art education. The course structure is responsive, it is designed to initiate student-led discussions and encourage participants to help shape and steer the course.
Using the course outline as a starting point we will use collective decision-making to modify and adjust the course to our needs. Current conditions under Covid-19 give us the opportunity to cast aside our expectations of what education should be and think in terms of pedagogical practice as a collaboration between participants who are teaching each other what they need to learn. Be prepared to take an active role in deciding how the course unfolds and making your voice heard in discussions.
To ensure that we all start from an equal footing please include any access requirements or concerns in the registration form. This includes anything that might prevent you from participating fully in the course.
Sophia Kosmaoglou is an artist, tutor, curator and researcher. Her work addresses the construction of identity through relationships and more recently her research and practice is oriented toward group dynamics, collectivity, cooperation and self-organisation. Blurring the boundaries between art, education and activism, her work questions the ontology of art, its social functions and institutional contexts, and creates opportunities to experiment with collective economies and learning environments. In 2015 she founded ART&CRITIQUE, an alternative art education network, which was succeeded in 2019 by the Radical Pedagogy Research Group, a peer-led participatory action-research project. She is currently working on a project to start a co-operative art school that will provide a self-organised and sustainable alternative to mainstream art education.
Sophia has a practice-based PhD in Fine Art from Goldsmiths. Her research interests include institutional critique and the relationship between art and politics, institutions, independent organisations and collective practices. She is a visiting tutor at Chelsea College of Arts and previous teaching experience includes BA Critical Studies and Studio Practice at Goldsmiths. She is a former member of Exploding Cinema, The Field, Deptford Cinema, Body Politic and other collectives. For more information please see https://videomole.tv
Sophia’s lectures, incredibly rich in content, remained accessible and inspiring even though my prior knowledge of contemporary art theory was little to none. The Liz Lerman feedback model used in Group tutorials was the perfect backbone for constructive group tutorials, and the commitment of everyone in the course to the process and to helping develop one another’s work exceeded my expectations. I can’t say enough about how personalized and detailed Sophia’s feedback was – so many of the works, articles and essays she recommended to me brought on huge Aha moments for my work. Additionally my favorite assignment was probably the studio practice assignment where we all responded to set briefs. It was the perfect opportunity to apply various acquired ideas from the course, and the resulting tutorial allowed us to reflect on one another’s practices in a new light under a common variable. Sophia has so much knowledge to impart and will help you and develop, articulate, and embrace your artistic practice – whether you already have the confidence to call yourself an artist or not. I studied art and architecture in undergrad and this course is on par with even my in person thesis level courses. —Anon, 27 Dec 2020
The course was a very well balanced mix of reading, viewing, discussion, writing and art practice. I found the assignments achievable but challenging and engaging. I felt that my work benefited from having to consider a deadline and final presentation whilst working on it. The lectures covered a lot of ground and very well developed. Sophia is a skilled, motivating and approachable teacher. The personal feedback and reading recommendations were very generous and valuable to individual development, and the reading list has given me enough material to sink my teeth into for the next year at least. I think that it helps to be actively making art whilst undertaking this course. It’s a hugely informative training outside of conventional art school. The zoom format allows people living outside of London to access it. Sophia teaches with passion and integrity- this is pivotal. The programme was run with care, and an attitude of openness and equality. —Anon, 17 Dec 2020
The course was organised in a very useful way with the mixture of lectures and theoretical grounding plus the tutorials and assignments. The tutorials and assignments were of most use to me as it enabled me to develop work and participate in a structured, focused and practical way. The feedback was wholly useful in helping me to reflect on my practice and develop further lines of inquiry. Another aspect that was very useful was being in a supportive space to discuss work with other artists. The tutorials were a very useful resource for me, as well as the studio assignment brief. The assignments generally gave me a framework to explore ideas in a constructive way. It is a brilliant course that not only provides a huugeee wealth of knowledge, resources, time and experience but is within a structure that is supportive, safe and outside an institutionalised model. I was able to feel comfortable sharing my work by the end of the course and it was adaptable for me to reach my own goals. —Anon, 12 Dec 2020
This course was just what I needed to inject energy, and life into my practice. It gave me the weekly discipline to keep reading, researching, writing and making, and it also gave me the confidence to finally apply for my MA! The lectures were very informative and well organised. Readings and outlines ahead of lectures helped to provide a foundation of learning so that you are ready for the lectures. This course has really helped me to re-examine my practice, to find the theory to map where my ideas fit and the language to articulate them more clearly. The regular discipline of reading the often complex theoretical texts, and then analysing them as a group has also helped to develop reading and research skills. Another useful skill is the ability to write about my practice. This is something I do struggle with, and the regular assignments have helped me to make this more of a regular habit, and is something I intend to continue. The lectures are packed with information, and so is the feedback for each critical or assignment. The feedback is both supportive and challenging where it needs to be. The group crits were also really useful, and well organised. The 1:1 crits were also very good and were great for getting to know other students. The course was delivered via zoom and I found this very useful as it made the course accessible as I don’t live in London.
1) Very informative and stimulating lectures.
2) Readings and assignments that stretch and challenge.
3) Comprehensive feedback on assignments.
4) Lessons were well structured, with a good balance of information delivered alongside contribution and participation.
5) A wide range of students make the sessions interesting and stimulating – great to hear so many different points of view. —Anon, 4 Jul 2021
I learnt a lot by doing all practical assignments and group tutorials as well as by reading the texts and discussing them. What I found most useful were the feedbacks, references and the possibility to learn from my peers. What also I really enjoyed about the course was being part of a non-judgmental and supportive environment where I felt free to express myself and my ideas. The group was amazing and I am very grateful to have learnt a lot from everybody and to have had the chance to experience many different points of view. Those have helped me to see things differently and explore multiple unexpected ways of thinking. It is very exhaustive, well organised and well structured. There is a good balance between theoretical and practical. Moreover, the fact of being structured around learning from peers makes it more dynamic and with a sort of communal feeling where each contribution enriches everybody’s experience. Sophia teaches with passion and is always available for any question or anything one might need. She is highly competent, very generous and knowledgeable when providing feedback and sharing references and resources. Thank you again very much for this course! I really enjoyed it and it helped me go back to and feel more hopeful about my practice! —Anon, 8 Jul 2021
If you have any questions about the course or concerns about accessibility, or if you encounter any problems with the website please use the contact form to get in touch.
Registrations for this course are closed, dates for future courses will be published soon.
Developed with support from the Arts Council Emergency Response Fund