This unit of study introduces students to the philosophical underpinnings of postmodern discourse as a way to deepen their understanding of contemporary art, aesthetics and art criticism. Students engage with fundamental analytical tools of philosophy and traditional concepts, arguments and theories of and art. The unit aims to equip students with an understanding of the history and structures within art theory and criticism, contextualised with contemporary art practice. Lectures address key topics of contemporary art. In weekly group discussions, students explore pertinent issues and develop critical dialogues. One of the sessions is conducted on site at various galleries.

Unit details

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Students enrolled in course code ABAB and LBLA must complete at least 72 credit points (equivalent to 6 units) in Year 1 before undertaking any Level 2 units.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:
  1. Analyse and appraise key theories underpinning contemporary art theory and criticism;  
  2. Interpret and apply principles of contemporary art theory to current art practice in the form of a written exhibition review and research paper on artists' work;  
  3. Articulate and defend, in both verbal and written essay form, an individual response to the problems raised by set topics; and  
  4. Evaluate and synthesise appropriate and meaningful information from a range of art historical and theoretical sources.  


Assessment type Description Grade
Exercise A series of group discussions and activities on key contemporary theories 20%
Review Art exhibition critique and review 20%
Research Paper Masterpiece study and exhibition 60%
The total combined assessment word equivalence is approximately 3,000 words.

Required reading

Why is that art? Aesthetics and criticism of contemporary art
Barrett, T 2007,
US/Oxford University Press

Further reading will be given during lectures and seminars

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