Credit points


Campus offering

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



Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit aims to immerse students in the cultural experience of travelling abroad and seeing the range of contemporary art on show in the oldest and one of the most prestigious global art exhibitions. Students will draw on their knowledge of art history to analyse art works in situ and to extend their critical skills by considering the diversity of concerns, viewpoints and cultural influences that inform and underline art making practices across the world. The University’s mission and values are explored in the focus on cultural, social, ethical and spiritual themes and their effect on local, national and international communities. The unit allows students to develop a global perspective on cultural production and human experience. Consideration of art making practices and materiality will also be a focus, increasing students' capacity to apply knowledge to their own visual art and/or teaching practice.


The main aim of this unit is for students to apply their previously acquired knowledge of art and design history in a multi-layered and critical manner, to develop greater awareness of global issues and to foster empathy and worldliness through an immersive and transformational, in-situ, learning environment.

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 - analyse 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 the following, notwithstanding the focus and themes of each year’s individual Biennale:

  •  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.
  • Exploring the debates around environmentalism and green movements
  • Particular interest in 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.
  • Specific discussion around Australian Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander identities and the appropriation and commercialization of their cultural production.
  • 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

This unit is taught intensively at the Venice Biennale across 10 days in a two-week period. Each day students will visit part of the official Biennale exhibits and will also experience a range of associated art exhibitions on offer to compliment the main exhibition. Students also have the opportunity to attend a range of other cultural events such as theatre, music and dance shows if they wish. The learning and teaching strategy used within this unit is to introduce students to a broad range of visual art and culture creating an immersive learning experience in which students are actively involved in building on their previously acquired knowledge of art history and theory in the context of live, in-situ, experience of art objects and cultural diversity. 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, to develop greater awareness of global issues and to foster empathy and worldliness.

Assessment strategy and rationale

Assessment types for this unit include a pre-tour background research task to contextualise and develop some awareness of the destination and Biennale; a research essay; and, a seminar presentation in-situ with a range of key works. One purpose of these assessments is to extend students essay writing skills as well as critical, visual analysis and research skills. Another is to scaffold learning to give students a chance to acclimatise to the immersive environment, to research and discuss works whilst we are in Venice and then to complete a research essay upon return which also requires students to reflect on cultural production in the wider global context.

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

A range of exhibition catalogues from previous Venice Biennales are available in the Library for your perusal. There will also be on-line resources for electronic access whilst you are abroad.


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

Bishop, C., (ed.) (2006). Participation: Documents of Contemporary Art, London; Mass: Whitechapel Gallery and MIT Press.

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

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

Filipovic, E., (2005). ‘The Global White Cube’ in Vanderlinden and Filipovic eds, The Manifesta Decade: Debates on Contemporary Art Exhibitions and Biennials in Post-Wall Europe, MIT Press, 2005.

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.

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.

Thomas, N,. (1999). Possessions. Indigenous Art/Colonial Culture, London: Thames and Hudson

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