Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


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


ARTS331 Contemporary Art in a Globalised World  AND ARTS338 International Study Tour: Venice Biennale

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit aims to explore the complexities facing artists and designers in the 21st century. 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. We will also explore a broad range of emerging practices and engagements with materiality both in class and directly through student visits to prominent shows and galleries. The aim of this unit is not only to acquire a deeper understanding of the comple times we live in but to increase students' capacity to apply knowledge to their own visual art and design practice and/or teaching skills and knowledges. The University’s mission and values underpin this course: we adopt a compassionate, critical and ethical approach to cultural difference and foster an understanding of how empathy, human dignity and personal critical reflection sit at the core of cultural production.

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 - Analyse the relationship between cultural production and contemporary socio-political contexts, including the centrality of Indigeneity and gender in the 21st century (GA1, GA2, GA4, GA8)

LO2 - Demonstrate an awareness of the range and depth of themes and practices evident in contemporary art in both Australia and abroad (GA2, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA9)

LO3 - Articulate cogently the connection of contemporary art practice to the history of art and design (GA4, GA5, GA8)

LO4 - Communicate at a higher level in a range of critical and/or creative forms (GA4, 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 will 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 9/11 era to better understand the articulation of ideas from postmodernism to the posthuman, advanced capitalist era. Exploring the debates around environmentalism, the Anthropocene and green movements.
  • Contemporary art in the Asia-Pacific.
  • Examining notions of displacement, refugee status and identity.
  • Analysing interdisciplinary practices  (including dance, music and culture-specific rituals) in Indigenous communities both in Australia.
  • The drawing of  links between materiality, new technologies and current art and design practice with particular reference to online platforms, social media, film, animation 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. To this end, lectures might be used to provide core content, while tutorials may utilise podcasts, video/web-based materials and field rips to galleries and exhibitions might be used to follow up with more detailed explanation and exploration. In this way studnets experience an integrated and multi-layered approach to learning.

Assessment strategy and rationale

To be able to better understand the complexity of cultural production in the 21st century, students need to be able to communicate complex ideas well. For this reason the assessment strategy encourages a broad range of skills which include a critical approach to theories of exhibition and display and, the opportunity to deploy research and visual analysis skills in an essay and seminar presentations. The purpose of these assessments is also to extend students skills in written and verbal communication skills.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Seminar Research Presentation

To allow students to utilise visual analysis and presentation skills.

1200 words


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8

Critical Analysis Task

To give students the opportunity to consider the range of art in contemporary contexts.

1200 words


LO1, LO2, LO4

GA2, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Research Essay

To allow students to bring together critical research, writing and visual analysis.

1500 words


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA2, GA4, GA6, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Bishop, C. (2012). Artificial hells: participatory art and the politics of spectatorship. Verso.

Coleman, E. B. (2005). Aboriginal art, identity and appropriation. Verso.

Elderton, L., & Morrill, R. (2017). Vitamin C: Clay + ceramic in contemporary art. Phaidon Press Limited.

Foley, F. (2006). The art of politics, the politics of art: The place of indigenous contemporary art. Keeaira Press.

Griffin, J., Harper, P., Trigg, D., & Williams, E. (2014). The twenty first century art book. Phaidon Press Limited.

Kocur, Z. (2011). Global visual cultures: An anthology. Wiley-Blackwell.

Kocur, Z., & Leung, S. (2012). Theory in contemporary art since 1985 (2nd ed.). Wiley-Blackwell.

Morrill, R., & Melick, T. (2016). Vitamin P3: New perspectives in painting. Phaidon Press Limited.

Millner, J. (2010). Conceptual Beauty: Perspectives on Australian contemporary ART. Artspace Visual Arts Centre.

Price, M., & Garrett, C. (2013). Vitamin D2: New perspectives in drawing. Phaidon Press Limited.

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