Criticism and Interpretation
Level 2 Elective
October 2009-January 2010
Tutor: Adrian Holme

October 9, 2009

1. Criticism and Interpretation – an introduction.
Camberwell, Ground Seminar, Wilson Road, 12.30-14.30
This first session will introduce the elective programme, discuss its aims and ways of working, and explore some of the basic terms used – terms such as ‘criticism,’ ‘interpretation,’ ‘aesthetics,’ ‘taste,’ and ‘judgement.’
  • Workshop exercise on criticism and interpretation of objects

October 16, 2009

2. Becoming real – the invention of dimension:
Space and time from the Mediaeval to the Renaissance
Colin Wiggins & Karly Allen of the National Gallery present seminars in front of selected works
Meet: National Gallery, 13.45 sharp
Changing concepts of time and space revealed in the transition from Mediaeval to Rennaisance art. An example of interpretation applied art historically.
The understanding and representation of space and time changed dramatically as the Mediaeval world gave way to the Renaissance – that ‘rebirth’ of classical learning. To the Mediaeval mind, space existed by virtue of objects existing, but there was no notion of a continuous space in which objects might relate. Writing in the 1960s, Marshall McLuhan, related perspective to the birth of print culture.

October 23, 2009
3. Visit. The city, the building and the garden:
Visit to Rogers Stirk + Harbor practice, plus the London Maggie’s Centre
Meet: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners Practice 13.30 sharp
(Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, London W6 9HA)
The London Maggie’s Centre, designed by Rogers, Stirk Harbour + Partners, with a garden by Dan Pearson, has won a number of awards and has been nominated for the prestigious RIBA Awards Stirling Prize.
This is an extraordinary opportunity to visit one of the world’s leading architectural practices for a talk by Will Wimshurst, the architect involved in the Maggie’s Centre project. We will then proceed to the Maggie’s Centre itself to see the building and the garden, with a further talk on site by writer and broadcaster Corinne Julius.
The nearest tube station is Hammersmith, with a 15 minute walk to the practice.

October 24, 2009 (Saturday, optional)
Alex Blum’s studio in Dalston.
Meet Dalston Kingsland Station 14.45
An opportunity to meet and see work by Alexandra Blum at her Dalston studio. Alexandra’s work focuses on urban space, and combines drawings from maps and diagrams with those made on location in the city itself. For 12 months she has been in residency in Dalston drawing streets and charting the demolition and the construction of buildings.

October 30, 2009
4. Manet’s Olympia – a matter of taste?

Camberwell, Ground Seminar, Wilson Road, 12.30-14.30
A case study of the Olympia by Manet. Why did it cause such a critical storm when it was first exhibited? Some development of notions of taste and beauty, discussion of Manet’s subversion of the genre of the female nude, plus the influence of photography upon art in Manet’s time – the beginning of Modernism.


  • Discuss responses to weeks 2 and 3.
  • Discuss progress of any collaborative or individual work.
  • Short 5-7 min presentations in groups on set exercise
  • Review writings from exercise and any blog entries?

November 6, 2009
5. Visit: In search of allegory
National Gallery visit – seminars in front of allegorical paintings by
Colin Wiggins & Karly Allen of the National Gallery

National Gallery, 13.45 sharp
One way in which works of art can carry intentional meaning is through allegory. Meaning literally ‘speaking otherwise’ allegory (emblematic works, extended metaphors), with a relationship to shared texts, have been an important genre in Western Art since the Renaissance. An opportunity to experience seminars in front of the allegorical works themselves, presented by experts from the National Gallery.

But why use visual allegory to convey a text? What does the visual do that a text does not? Why did allegory decline, and what has happened to symbolism in art and design since?

November 13, 2009

6. Psychic space
Psychogeography – interpretation of a city?
Lecture by Gareth Polmeer
Camberwell, Ground Seminar, Wilson Road, 12.30-14.30
‘All space is occupied by the enemy. We are living under a permanent curfew. Not just the cops – the geometry.’ (Gray C, 1998, p26).
We may think that we live in mathematical and dimensional space. But do we experience the world in this way? Psychogeography draws upon diverse sources such as the writings of visionaries like William Blake who mapped the spiritual city of Jerusalem onto London, Baudelair’s nation of the ‘flaneur’ wandering the city, and the writings of the Situationist International in the second half of the 20th Century with their ideas of the drift (dérive) and of urban resistance.
A lecturer in Time Based Media at UCA Maidstone, Gareth utilises a wide range of media, including photography, video, computer generated imagery, sound, and text, to explore aspects of landscape, psychogeography and documentary.

Gray, Christopher, editor, Leaving the 20th Century: the Incomplete Work of the Situationist International, London: Rebel P, 1998. p26

November 20, 2009

7. Alternative views of space and time from John Latham. Flat Time House Camberwell, Ground Seminar, Wilson Road, 12.30-13.45 followed by walk at 14.00 to nearby Flat Time House for seminar delivered by staff at the House
John Latham famously (aided by his students) chewed up and spat out a library book of Greenberg’s critical writings ‘Art and Culture’for which he was relieved of his teaching post at St Martins – the regurgitated remains, installed in a travelling case, now reside in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
A radical view of space and time from this conceptual artist, sculptor, filmmaker - criticism and interpretation of conceptual art, sculpture, film
We will meet as normal at Camberwell at 12.30-13.45 with a visit to nearby Flat Time House, at 14.00 (for 14.30).


  • Feedback on psychogeography
  • Review of work / writing exercises

November 27, 2009

8. Sophie Calle – talking to strangers
Lecture by Adam Brown
Camberwell, Ground Seminar, Wilson Road, 12.30-14.30
Although Sophie Calle is sometimes thought of as a photographer, her practice encompasses performance, narrative and writing with a strong relationship to the cities (including the following of strangers). An retrospective exhibition of her work is showing at the Whitechapel from October 16, 2009 to January 3, 2010
Adam Brown is a senior lecturer in photography at UCA Maidstone. His Research interests cover the politics of the representation of the built environment, and the application of relational, technological and scientific enquiry to pedagogical practice. He is also a practising artist working in the field of photography and electronic construction and installation.


  • Feedback on Flat Time House
  • Review of work / visits / writings

December 4, 2009
9. The Kitsch
Camberwell, Ground Seminar, Wilson Road, 12.30-14.30
The importance of mass culture in people’s lives. The centrality of the idea of the kitsch to Greenberg’s modernism. Why is kitsch beloved of dictators? How can we judge the kitsch? Can we make evaluative judgements at all - including discussion of relativism in postmodernism.

  • Workshop - Exhibition and discussion of kitsch objects and images
  • Feedback on visits / progress of work

December 11, 2009
10. The Turner Prize – review

Camberwell, Ground Seminar, Wilson Road, 12.30-14.30
Students will have visited the Turner Prize show (Tate Britain, October 6 to January 13, 2010) in their own time. This session will discuss responses to the Turner Prize and review the progress of any other work
  • Presentation / discussion of reviews of the Turner Prize
  • Analysis of reviews in the media / art journals.
  • Feedback on progress of work in general

January 15, 2010
Hand in of project/journal and evaluative report
Review of progress and plans for the Elective Event (21-22 January)

Camberwell, Ground Seminar, Wilson Road, 12.30-14.30

January 15 2010 is project/journal plus evaluative report hand-in deadline (to Adrian, or via administration)

January 21-22, 2010

12. Elective Event
Afternoon / evening of Thursday January 21 and all day Friday January 22
Venue and details to be decided (will include Wilson Road)

January 29, 2010

13. Assessment feedback session
Written feedback and all work returned
Camberwell, Ground Seminar, Wilson Road, 12.30-14.30

Other visits in your own time
As a minimum it will be necessary to visit the following three exhibitions / museums. Of course you will probably make other visits during the elective in conjunction with your research.

The Sir John Soane Museum Tuesday to Saturday, 10.00-17.00. Free
13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields (near Holborn Tube)
London WC2
Highly recommended – probably London’s best kept secret...
Very relevant for considering notions of space and cities, the idea of collections (London’s first public museum) and display. Also contains Hogarth’s paintings of
A Rake’s Progress hung on walls that fold like leaves of a book.

Sophie Calle – Talking to Strangers (Oct 16-Jan 3) 11.00-18.00 Tues-Sun, Free
Whitechapel Gallery
77-82 Whitechapel High Street
Nearest tube: Aldgate East

The Turner Prize Daily, (Oct 6-Jan 3) 10.00-17.50, Admission £8
Tate Britain
London SW1
Nearest tube: Pimlico