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Assessment Criteria/Titles

Pecha Kucha assignment brief (Autumn)

Working in pairs (or as a threesome) you are asked to take or, if need be, legally locate, 20 photographs of urban situations/contexts. The premise of this collection of 20 images is

EITHER: to present an A-Z of the performing city whereby each image should correspond to, in some cases perhaps directly show, a different letter of the alphabet and a different aspect of ‘urban performance’. If you choose this option you are at liberty to present the full 26 letters of the alphabet (ie. 26 images) should you wish.

OR: to present a unifying narrative thread or linking theme on the performing city. This should be reflected in the title you give your presentation and in the continuity of the images presented.

For each image you are asked to provide some form of commentary lasting no longer than twenty seconds, the overall idea being to develop a form of ‘kaleidoscopic mapping of the city’ that implicitly demonstrates the way it can be viewed as a performing phenomenon.

You are asked to present your 20 images as a power point that is timed automatically to change the image every twenty seconds. While you are entirely free to perform the commentary as you wish (rehearsed, improvised, read out), both or all participants should contribute to its conception and presentation equally. You are asked to submit the power point and, if possible, the text of the commentary (either hard copy or as a file) at the end of the presentation. The presentations will also be filmed as they occur.

The assignment will be assessed as a practical presentation/performance according to the following criteria:

  • the understanding shown of visual and textual conventions applied
  • the ability to select and synthesize material arising out of a practical working process
  • the ability to select appropriate means of communicating visual and textual/spoken material to an audience
  • evidence of an engagement with relevant theoretical concepts and issues relating to performance and the contemporary city
  • initiative and contribution within a collaborative process
  • commitment to the development and articulation of creative and critical ideas

Essay/Creative writing assignment (Spring)

Produce a piece of creative writing of 3,000 words (or equivalent) to be submitted on Thursday 6th February 2014 (Week 5).

1. In his reflections on Tokyo Roland Barthes declares “to locate a place is to begin to write it” (Empire of Signs).

With this basic view of encountering urban space in mind, choose a part of the built environment of a city – street, square, junction, district, underground station, café etc – and draw out its various interlocking narratives via a process of factual research, first-hand observation and ‘plausible speculation’.

Your written response should seek to relay a sense of the selected location – what might be called its place-ness - giving clues as to what it appears to you to be like: what it contains, what is and has gone on there; and to people’s ways of interacting with it. In short: how the location performs.

It will be important to make clear decisions about your own positioning within this portrayal (first, second, third person?) as well as to the form it takes. You are invited to use visual material, to experiment with ways of writing and to present the text in innovative forms.


Choose one of the following questions and write an essay of 3,000 words to be submitted by Thursday 6th February 2014 (Week 5).

2. Is surveillance (in the form of CCTV) a necessary precaution that contributes to a sense of security in urban space? Consider its effects on urban behaviours.

3. Drawing on at least two examples of artists/performers who make use of urban walking in their working practices or performances, account for the recent surge in interest in being ‘on foot’.

4. Christo/Jean-Claude’s veiling of the Berlin Reichstag building after the fall of the Wall and Rachel Whiteread’s artworks House in Tower Hamlets, London and the Holocaust installation in Vienna’s Juden Platz were seen by some inhabitants of those cities as inappropriate invasions by international artists with no direct connections to these respective places. Is this view justified or just ‘petty localism’? You may wish to illustrate your discussion with reference to other public artworks that you have encountered in urban space.

5. According to Henri Lefebvre the rhythmanalyst ‘is always “listening out”, but s/he does not only hear words, discourses, noises and sounds; s/he is capable of listening to a house, a street, a city as one listens to a symphony, an opera’.

In what ways does the notion of rhythmanalysis serve as a useful means of understanding how urban space is used?

6. ‘For children, Walter Benjamin insisted, are not interested in the pre-formed world or in the given meanings of things. They are essentially creative: they take hold of objects with established functions and put them to new uses’ (Bavidge and Gibson, London: from Punk to Blair).

To what extent does this view serve as a useful point of departure for a consideration of ‘unofficial’ urban practices or interventions – some of which are considered illegal – such as skateboarding, parkours/free running, graffiti, silent raves and flash mobs?

7. What was the Situationists vision of an urban future? To what extent was that vision a viable one and how much of a legacy has it bequeathed to 21st century urban living? Illustrate your answer with contemporary examples.

8. In what ways do films such as Chain (Jem Cohen), London (Patrick Keiller) and London Orbital (Iain Sinclair/Chris Petit) present an illuminating vision of the late 20th/early 21st century metropolis and what kind of vision is it? You may focus on just one of these films or compare two or all three.

9. Using examples you have come across analyse the way in which urban architecture, monuments and/or public art perform memorial functions.


Practical exam assignment (Spring Term)

The practical assignment represents 50% of the overall assessment for the module and is an examination that is allocated a group mark. The work should demonstrate your capacity as a group to make productive connections between practical ideas, concepts and theories by creating a small-scale performance/artwork that takes contemporary city life/culture as its point of departure and pursues a particular (or series of) practical research question(s). A wide range of creative and critical responses to the city have been considered in this module and the possibilities for the form that your group’s piece takes are endless. The work can be presented as a studio-based performance or in an outside urban location (nearby); alternatively it may be an installation, an exhibition, an audio CD, video, website and so on, though obviously within practicable bounds. Groups will develop their own specific practical research questions as suits their purpose but essentially they should be investigating how to engage in a creative and critical negotiation of, or intervention into, the contemporary city and the Departments stated criteria for the assessment of practical work apply (see module outline).

As a way of helping to focus and gauge intentions each group is asked to produce a 300-word rationale for the piece it produces. This should not be an explanation or interpretation of the meaning of the piece but an outline description of what the group is setting out to do and the key ideas informing the work. It should be submitted at the same time as the performance of the work in Week 10 of the Spring Term (and certainly no later than the Friday of that week). The aim is for all groups to present their work during the scheduled Monday session that week (3.30-5.30pm, Studio G55), but there may be good reasons for some groups to present their pieces at a different time during that week. Questions of date and venue should be finalised with my agreement by the Monday of Week 8 (Spring Term). Groups should also have clear notion of their technical needs by this date since that is when Ian O’Donoghue will be available to discuss options.

We will continue to meet in Millburn Studio at our scheduled time each week during the remainder of the Spring Term, but groups may wish to organise themselves to meet at other points during the week for the sake of developing the work with adequate intensity and continuity. Monday sessions will serve as an opportunity to keep me abreast of developments and to run ideas past me, but also as a fixed point for groups to meet and work on their pieces. These Monday sessions should not be viewed as optional. If, once groups have talked to me, there are specific research tasks they wish to undertake, or if they are developing a site-specific piece, for example, then I would have no objection to them going off to do whatever is required. However, it is vital to me in an assessing capacity that I retain a sense of how the work is developing on a week by week basis.

Groups themselves are responsible for booking any extra space or camera/editing equipment they might need. This is of course subject to availability and groups should be aware that there are all kinds of other practical projects and exams occurring in this period. Each group has a budget of £50. You are asked to keep hold of receipts until the work has been presented, then to list all spending separately and to submit both list and receipts to me in one go for reimbursement.