Kenneth Frampton—A Commodifying Effect of Modernism on Art

Until recently, the received precepts of modern curatorial practice favored the exclusive use of artificial light in all art galleries. It has perhaps been insufficiently recognized how this encapsulation tends to reduce the artwork to a commodity, since such an environment must conspire to render the work placeless. This is because the local light spectrum is never permitted to play across its surface: here, then, we see how the loss of aura, attributed by Walter Benjamin to the processes of mechanical reproduction, also arises from a relatively static application of universal technology.

Frampton, K. (1983) ‘Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance’ in Foster, H. (ed.), The anti-aesthetic: essays on postmodern culture, Cambridge (Mass.) and London, 1983, pp. 29–30.


…and this is what I said to Goldsmiths:

As much as Art excites me intensely and has been an interest and practice throughout my life, I struggle to understand and come to terms with aspects of it. I see this course at Goldsmiths as an environment in which to address and build upon those struggles so that I can develop an informed practice. I can see the course enhancing my intellectual resources and abilities, allowing me to articulate my excitement practically and meaningfully.

I pretty much ran the full gamut of artistic practices in an attempt to define my artistic practice, ultimately leading to conceptual/critical activities by the end of my BA. During my final year I worked on pieces which targeted various ready-made situations within the college, including my colleagues’ works, the library and gallery spaces. The resulting pieces were accompanied by or comprised of a series of talks addressing my problems with the situations and Art in general.

During the degree I was heavily involved with the work experience programme run by the college, spending time with artists, a couple of commercial galleries and an artist’s agent. I originally chose to do this as it keyed into my interests regarding the workings of the art-world. I was aware that here was the site of a broader perspective on art and the art-world than was available to me within the confines of the college.

This led me to work with the artist Peter Fend whose (semi-)deliberate conflictual activity and aesthetic production I had already become aware of and found of interest. We began a dialogue which led to my inviting him to exhibit in my Degree Show. We more or less worked in parallel producing this event, the final form of which was an installation of his pieces with a small book of Peter’s and my own writings. Perhaps predictably bringing another artist to exhibit was not popular with the University, but I was very fortunate to have understanding tutors who defended my work.

Leaving college led to a crisis of confidence in my work. This, in combination with my personal circumstances encouraged me to settle into employment as a graphic/web designer. A little over a year ago my circumstances changed again leaving me free to re-assess and reinitialize my concern with art.

On a practical level, the PGDip in Contemporary Art History will provide a strong basis on which to build my future activities. Goldsmiths always had a great reputation when I was at Middlesex University, and I enjoyed my visits to the site – there seemed to be a good community there. The fact that this course is concentrates on Contemporary Art is a definite bonus given my areas of interest and the College’s location in a major hub of the art-world make Goldsmiths a logical and attractive choice for me.

…and they said: “accepted.”


Having just handed my notice in at work, many people have been asking about what I will be doing once I leave. When I tell them that I’m going back to college, there is some confusion over what the course entails.

The title “Postgraduate Diploma in Contemporary Art History” could be either Contemporary-Art History or Contemporary Art-History, hence an emphasis on the Art or the History. When this first came up I initially DID NOT KNOW how to answer the question, it was one of those situations where your perceptions of a subject are radically altered by a simple question, revealing the shallow roots of your understanding. If I wanted to be hyperbolic, I could claim I’ve just accepted a place on a year-long course without knowing what it was about.

In reality, the choice between the two definitions would have made little difference to me, but the course outline clears up any misconceptions I may have been left with:

…the Core Course…is a lecture and seminar series that introduces you to a range of critical perspectives that have shaped the history and theory of the discipline. As such, the course encourages you to develop a fuller awareness of art’s cultural and political significance in the past, whilst also asking you to relate your historical understanding of visual art to current debates among artists, critics and historians. [my emphasis]

Reading the outline further shows an aspect that tickles me about the conception and presentation of the course:

The Core Course is accompanied by a Laboratory, which gives you the opportunity to process the taught materials further through a variety of strategies such as museum and gallery visits, film screenings and experimental projects.

“strategies”! Very military. I suppose you could see the course as defining the territory that I will be attempting to conquer.