Credit points


Campus offering

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ARTS112 Art in the Early 20th Century OR ARTS237 Postmodern Art in the 20th Century


ARTS338 International Study Tour: Venice Biennale

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit aims to explore the issues facing artists and art practice within the context of contemporary art in a globalised world. There will be significant engagement with the social, political and environmental issues which contribute to the concerns and preoccupations of contemporary practice. We will examine debates around nationhood, refugees and the relationship between local community and global citizenship. There will be a specific focus on both contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creative practices as well as indigenous art from other places. Consideration of art making practices and materiality will also be a focus with a range of contemporary art being experienced directly through student visits to prominent shows and galleries. It is expected that the ideas in this unit will increase students' capacity to apply knowledge to their own visual art and/or teaching practice. The University's mission and values underpin this course: we adopt a compassionate and ethical approach to cultural difference and foster an understanding of how human dignity and the common good sit at the core of cultural production. We also examine cultural, social, ethical and spiritual themes in contemporary art through the lens of the Catholic tradition of intellectual pursuit and social justice.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Research the cultural nexus between visual culture and technology (GA4, GA8)

LO2 - Articulate relationships between design systems and production (GA4, GA5, GA9)

LO3 - Apply forms of discourse analysis to a variety of creative situations (GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9)

LO4 - Cogently evaluate cultural products in contemporaneous and contemporary contexts (GA1, GA2, GA8, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - Demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA2 - Recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA4 - Think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - Demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - Solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA8 - Locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - Demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics may include:

  • Examining the theoretical and practical issues of globalisation and associated dialogues around nationhood, nation states, nationality and global versus local.
  • An examination of the social, cultural and historical contexts of the 1990s and 9/11 era to better understand the current political agendas in an artistic context.
  • Exploring the debates around environmentalism and green movements
  • Contemporary art in India and South-East Asia.
  • Analysing the growing emphasis on art practice (including dance, music and culture-specific rituals) in Indigenous communities both in Australia and abroad with a similar spotlight on the growing numbers of ‘displaced’/refugee communities around the world.
  • The drawing of illustrative links between materiality, new technologies and current art and design practice with particular reference to web platforms, film, photography and design.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

The learning and teaching strategy used within this unit is to deliver research informed and culturally rich lectures. The tutorials are based on constructivist theories of learning where the student becomes actively involved in the primary construction of knowledge through student participation. The main aim in doing this is for students to develop multi-layered critical responses to the analysis and research of art history and theory.

Assessment strategy and rationale

Assessment types for this unit include a critical exhibition analysis, a research essay and seminar presentations. The purpose of these assessments is to extend students English and essay writing skills as well as critical, visual analysis and research skills.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Seminar Presentation



GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9

Exhibition Review


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9




GA1, GA2, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Basualdo, C., ‘The Unstable Institution’ in P. Marincola (ed) What Makes A Great Exhibition, Philadelphia Centre for Arts and Heritage, 2000, 52-61.

Bennett, T., Emmison, M, and Frow, J. (1999). Accounting for Tastes: Australian Everyday Cultures, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bishop, C. ‘The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents’ in Artforum, Vol 44, no 6 pp178-83.

Coleman, E. B,. (2005). Aboriginal Art, Identity and Appropriation, Aldershot, (UK): Burlington.

Elkins, J. & Newman, M., (eds.), (2007), The State of Art Criticism, Routledge.

Foley, F., (ed.) (2006). The Art of Politics, the Politics of Art: the place of indigenous contemporary art. Southport, Queensland: Keeaira Press

Janke, T., (2007). Visual arts: Protocols for producing Indigenous Australian visual arts (2nd ed.). Surry Hills, N.S.W.: Australia Council for the Arts.

Kocur Z. & Leung S., (eds.) (2006). Theory in Contemporary Art since 1985. London: Blackwell Publishing.

Limpert, D., (2011). The Politics of Space in Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art: How Aboriginal Art is Received, Perceived and Read in Intercultural Context. GRIN Verlag.

Millner, J,. (2010). Conceptual Beauty: Perspectives on Australian Contemporary Art. Sydney: Artspace Press.

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