Moore College of Art & Design
Summer in London
Program Course

London Now: Exploring the Visual and Literary Arts

3 credits


London is a city of the imagination. It both stimulates creative responses in the visual arts and in literature and is itself a product of these imaginings. One of the consequences of this reciprocal relationship is that the city constantly reinvents itself. This presents specific challenges for the artist/ writer: how to represent or capture a phenomenon which constantly shifts shape?

Another challenge is the sheer, unprecedented scale of the city. We begin with a simple assumption: our attempts to imagine and represent the city are closely linked to our attempts to understand and perhaps to control in it some way.

We proceed to look at the ways that writers and artists respond to the challenge of representing the city. But we also acknowledge that the material conditions of the city have an all-important role to play both in the ways that we imagine the city and in the limits they prescribe on the possibilities of representation.

Accordingly, the course takes into account the ways that buildings and infrastructure, market forces and politics, publishing and curating all condition the ways that we respond imaginatively to the city. Our exploration of the city takes us through an exciting range of short texts, artworks, exhibition catalogues, and films.

We exploit our location in the city to engage on a very personal level with the work of some of the artists, thinkers, film-makers, curators and collectors who have had an influential role in shaping the way we experience and imagine contemporary London. Some of these personalities will be invited to give talks or to answer questions.

Block OneĀ 
Psychogeographies: Mapping London

In these seminars, we consider the ways that various writers and visual artists have responded to the challenge of representing London by "mapping" particular sections of the city. A particular focus is the consumption of space in the city- the ways that individuals represent their engagement with the architecture and geography of the city.

Clips from London dir. Patrick Keiller (1994)
Short Extracts from Nicholson, Geoff, Bleeding London (1997)
Ackroyd, Peter, London: The Biography (2000)

Southbank and the West End
Self, Will "Introduction: 'Walking to New York' and 'Walk One: Bucolic London', in Psychogeography (Bloomsbury, 2003)
PsychoBuildings: Artists Take on Buildings (Hayward Pub. 2008) (Published on the occasion of the exhibition held at The Hayward, London, 28 May - 25 August, 2008.)
Penton, Tommy, Tate to Tate: An Illustrated walk Along London's Southbank
Visit to Tate Modern and Hayward Galleries.

East End
Espresso Hackney, Memo Mori, and Blight; three short video pieces exploring changes to London's East End
Bird, Jon; Lingwood, James (Editor), House: Rachel Whiteread (Phaidon Press Editors- archival images of Rachel Whiteread's contemporary art piece in Mile End.
Short Extracts from Sinclair, Iain, Hackney, that Rose-Red Empire
Visit to Whitechapel Art Gallery and private galleries on Vyner Street, Hackney.

Excerpts from McCarthy, Tom, Remainder
Visit and guided tour of The Woodmill - a large-scale artist studio and gallery complex based in Bermondsey, South London at the cutting edge of emerging art in the city.


Block Two
The City of Exchange: London and Capital

In this block, we are particularly interested in the ways that market forces shape the arts. We will be thinking about the tension between commerce and contemporary visual art that in many ways defines the art world.

Extracts from O'Doherty, Brian, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space (1978)
Extracts from Velthius, Olav, Talking Prices: Symbolic Meanings of Prices on the Market for Contemporary Art (2005)
Short clips from BBC documentary: Goldsmiths, but is it Art? (2009)
Q and A with London artist Blue Curry, one of the artists profiled in the BBC documentary.
Guest Speaker: 'Funding and the Arts' Daniel Baker, Education and Publicity Officer at Cubitt Art, Islington
Visit to Saatchi Gallery, Chelsea
Selected Private Galleries, depending on current exhibitions


Block Three
Panic in the Streets of London: History, Art Writing, and the Image

This section begins by looking at the ways writers imagine London as a city constantly besieged by threat. In a city over-written by the imagination and powerful traditions of representation, one source of this threat is the past. Paradoxically then, even as disaster is often represented as taking place in the future in the film and literary traditions, we investigate the idea that fear is the concern about historical authenticity. We look at the ways that this concern for historical authenticity conditions contemporary art practice and shapes a new interventions in art writing and the framing of the artwork in contemporary curatorial text.

Spectral London
Short Extracts from Elizabeth Bowen, The Demon Lover
Short Extracts from Martin Amis, London Fields (1989)
Short Extracts from Virilio, Paul, City of Panic
28 Days Later, (2002) dir. Danny Boyle
The Rise of the Celebrity Curator: ArtReview's 2009 Power 100
"Hans Ulrich Obrist - the God of Planet Art" (2009) article in The Observer
Focus on Saatchi: Interviews and Autobiographical Snippets
Visit to the Serpentine, and talk from Hans Ulrich Obrist ( subject to availability): Curator of Serpentine and ArtReviews no 1 in 2009 Power100


Block Four
Other Londons

This section examines the ways that historically marginalised groups, particularly women and ethnic minorities, but including gay/lesbian writers and visual artists have negotiated the city through the imagination in largely enabling ways.

Female artists take on the city:
Focus on Tracy Emin
Visit to INIVA Gallery, with a focus on Black women artists
and talk by Director, Tessa Jackson
Focus on Sonia Boyce, London based Artist

Queer Reconfigurations
David Hockney, Chapman Brothers, David Hoyle (performance), Oreet Ashery (performance/video)
Speaker: 'Queer Art in London', Dr Cuneyt Karkirlar (UCL)

Assimilation/ Immigration
Extracts from Ali, Monica, Brick Lane (2003)
Extracts from Frame, Janet, Janet Frame: An Autobiography (1995)


Course Materials

All of the materials will be provided in a coursepack, or available to view during class. In addition to the primary texts, students will be provided in their coursepacks with some select secondary materials to assist them with their exploration of the city.



Preparation and Participation (15 %): During the course of the programme, students will each be required to present at least two short (3-5 minute) presentations on a specific question relating to the module material. They will also be assessed on their general level of engagement and participation.

Research Project (25 %): Students will have the opportunity to give an extended talk (between 10 and 15 minutes) on one single aspect of visual culture in London. The presentation is intended as an opportunity for students to explore their particular
interests, but should also reflect their experience of the specificity of visual culture in London.

Topics may address, but will not be limited to, questions of curatorial practice at a particular centre for visual art, specific artists, artworks or films, or to specific art performances/exhibitions. The topic will be chosen in consultation with a course tutor. In addition each student will submit a 500 word account of their project.

Essay (1500 words) (30 %): Students will submit one paper for assessment. A selection of questions relating to the concerns of the course will be pre-released, giving students adequate time to consult with course tutors before writing their answers. Students choose one question. They will have two weeks in which to submit their answers.

Exam (30%):
Students will be required to choose two questions from a selection of questions related to the course.