Art in theory: identity and the self

Course Dates: 24/09/19 - 29/10/19
Time: 17:30 - 19:30
Location: KS - Keeley Street

This critical studies for artists and makers explores concepts of the self and identity, drawing on a range of cultural theories and work by creative practitioners to help inspire and enhance creative and critical thinking.


What is the course about?

This course is about us and how we understand, express, and explore ourselves through creative and visual arts. Through a critical engagement with theoretical texts, artistic and creative practices and your own work, this course provides an exploration of key ideas that inform and inspire contemporary creative and cultural practice. The course is designed to enhance the thinking that underpins work in the creative arts, and is ideal for those wishing to think, research and make in relation to the world around them and key issues and debates concerning identity, race, ethnicity, gender and other key areas of contemporary identity politics.

What previous students liked most about their course:
“Innovative course for artists! Brilliant tutor, fantastic group! Material covered was approached in a very accessible way.”
“The group and the lively discussions that came out if it which continued well into the evening after the class finished”
“The reading - great material I wouldn’t have encountered otherwise”


What will we cover?

This course takes identity, the self and the body as stimulating concepts within historical and contemporary creative work, and will encourage you to explore the concept of the identity from both a creative and theoretical perspective. Drawing on historical and contemporary examples and theories, this course challenges and encourages you as artists, creative students or practitioners to consider and explore your sense of self in relation to your work and world. Through engagement with artist statements, theoretical writings, talks from practising curators and theorists, and using historical and contemporary examples, as well as your own presentations, you will be encouraged to define and re-define your sense of self and critical positions as artists and maker.

The course will draw on a range of ideas from broad areas of thought such as identity politics, psychoanalysis, feminist and gender theory, film studies, art history, sociology and philosophy, to provide a broad perspective from which to approach, reflect on, and explore your own practice and the work of others. Analysis and case studies will include an exploration of portraiture and self-representation; artists and image makers who represent identity in terms of gender, race and ethnicity; body art; performance; and contemporary notions of the self such as online identities and avatars.

This course explores contemporary practices and debates and as such you can expect to be stimulated and challenged by some of the ideas and images discussed.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

- Read and discuss a range of critical and theoretical ideas and texts with greater confidence
- Recognise and analyse creative practices in relation to identity and the self
- Draw on critical and theoretical ideas and texts to enhance your own creative and artistic practice
- Develop and present your own critical and creative thinking through discussion, debate and group crits.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This course aimed at an intermediate and advanced level, and is ideal for art, design, craft, creative writing, and performing arts students as well as established practitioners, and those working in the creative sectors such as art teachers, curators or arts professionals. Ideally, you will have experience in one of these areas, or be actively involved in developing creative work through study or independently, and have a desire to extend the theoretical and critical basis of your work. The course is ideal for supporting study on City Lit courses such as the Contemporary practice: personal project, the City Lit Fine art course, Developing art practice or any equivalent creative art or design courses. Th course may also be of interest to those who have completed a degree in an arts subject and wish to continue their critical exploration of ideas and theory.

You will need a good handling of written and spoken English necessary to engage with set readings and for participation in paired and group discussion, as well as produce and present basic written or creative exercises. Some experience in reading theoretical texts about art and culture would be beneficial, but a willingness to read and engage with theory and build your skills is essential. An explanation of your existing experience can be provided through completing the questionnaire in the sidebar, however if you have any questions about the course or the enrolment requirements please do not hesitate to contact

A basic ability in using the internet is required to access online reading materials provided by the course, although a demonstration and guidance on how to access the materials from City Lit's Virtual Learning Environment will be provided at the start of the course.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

You will be taught through a mixture of illustrated talks by practising artists and/or theorists, paired and group discussions, debates and presentations, supported by theoretical readings and visual analysis exercises. Students will be expected to be developing their creative work outside of classes, and support their study through independent theoretical readings, gallery visits, and some short preparatory tasks.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

You are encouraged to bring a notebook and pen to record notes from talks and discussions. You may wish to buy some of the books or journals on any reading list given out in class. You will also need access to a computer, and will be expected to access or download readings from the City Lit virtual learning environment in preparation for classes. Each class we will invite you to bring in examples or images related to the themes explored to invigorate and personalise discussions.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

You may be interested in other critical thinking courses, such as What is an artist? - looking at theories of the self, but in relation to the identity of the artist and exploring what it means to be and establish yourself within the art world. Other themes in the series include space and place, politics and society, contemporary art theories, and perception and experience.

You might also be interested in art history courses, or philosophy or anthropology courses within the humanities department.

General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details


Book your place

Course Code: VB645

Tue, eve, 24 Sep - 29 Oct '19

Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)

Full fee: £149.00
Senior fee: £149.00
Concession: £91.00

Or call to enrol: 020 7831 7831

Download form & post

Any questions?
or call 020 7492 2652

Please note: we offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. For more information visit our online Help Center. You can also visit the Information, Advice and Guidance drop-in service, open from 12 – 6.45, Monday to Friday.