Barry Curtis


  • Barry Curtis
  • Area

    School of Arts & Humanities



  • Barry Curtis is a Tutor in Critical and Historical Studies at the Royal College of Art, where he has taught since 2006. While his teaching relates directly to students in Architecture and Interior Design, he has also contributed to the Fashion, Textiles, Curating Contemporary Art and Critical Writing in Art and Design programmes, as well as the Research Methods Course.

  • Biography

  • Barry graduated from Cambridge University with degrees in English, Art History and Architecture, from Birkbeck (Cert and Dip.Film), the University of Westminster (M.A. Film Studies) and has a Certificate in Counselling from the Tavistock Institute. He worked at the Workers’ Educational Association, Hornsey College of Art and subsequently at Middlesex Polytechnic and Middlesex University where he was Head of the School of History of Art, Design and Film, Director of Research and Professor of Visual Culture. He was the link tutor for Fashion/Textiles and Three-Dimensional Design and one of a team that devised and taught: B.A. Contemporary Cultural Studies, M.A. History of Design, M.A. Race and Culture, M.A Teaching Visual Culture and M.A. Gender Studies.

    Barry was a founder and editor of BLOCK magazine and four related conferences and publications: Travellers’ Tales, Mapping the Futures, Future/Natural and the BLOCK Reader in Visual Culture (1979-96). He interviewed and published an influential essay on Archigram in 1999, contributed to Simon Sadler’s Non-Plan in 2000 and to the collectively authored Strangely Familiar exhibition and publication (Kerr, Rendell,Borden,Pivaro) in 2005. Barry has also worked for the Open University, been an active member of the ‘Visual Pleasure Group’ at the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies and taught film and media studies courses at the British Film Institute and Birkbeck College from 1982–1993. 

    From 2003–13 Barry was a Fellow of the London Consortium teaching on MRes (he taught semester-long modules on ‘The Baroque’ and ‘Melancholy’ with Patrick Wright) and tutored PhD students. He has been a visiting Professor at the Jagellonian University in Krakow and at the L’Orientale in Naples and has been an external assessor at 27 Universities, supervised 30 PhDs to completion, examined 60 and chaired over 30 vivas. He edited the ‘Locations’ series (with Stephen Barber) for Reaktion and have been on the editorial advisory panels of ‘Parallax’ and ‘Film, Fashion, Consumption’. He is a regular editorial reader for Routledge, Berg and numerous University Presses and regularly contribute to lecture programmes at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

    Show more
  • Practice

  • Barry's research practice and areas of interest are far-reaching. In 2008 Barry published a book on Architecture and Film (Dark Places, Reaktion) which developed from an interest in the persistence of the past and the visual rendition of interiors and their relation to states of mind. Barry also has a long-standing scholarship in relation to the avant gardes and popular culture of the 20th century and has contributed to exhibition catalogues on the popular and experimental culture of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s for exhibitions held at the Tate, Tate Liverpool and V&A. He also remains engaged with teaching film and television and is currently co-ordinating a collaborative essay for a special edition of Screen on Television and Architecture, with Joe Kerr and Naomi House. Barry’s fascination with fashion and self-styling originated in a pre-University experience of ‘Mod’ culture. He contributed to Fashion and Modernity (ed. Breward and Evans) to Fashion and Film (Uhlirova) and to Glam: The Performance of Style at Tate Liverpool. He recently contributed an essay on Hollywood dress to the Journal of Film, Fashion and Consumption and serves on the editorial board of that journal. Barry also has an interest in travel and tourism, perceptions of ‘otherness’ and the exotic. He has contributed to Here, There, Everywhere (ed. Blamey) and edited and contributed to Traveller’s Tales (both with Claire Pajaczkowska).

  • Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes

  • Selected Publications:

    Curtis, B. (2015) ‘Dressing the Future: Speculative Fashion in 1930’s Hollywood’  in Fashion, Film Consumption, Vol 3 no.2, 47-59

    Curtis, B. and Patrick, E. (2014) 'Implicated: A Review Paper on Guilt', Economy and Society, 43 (1), 136–151

    Curtis, B. (2012) 'Negotiated Modernism: British Suburbia Between the Wars' in Making a New World: Architecture & Communities in Interwar Europe, Leuven University Press

    Curtis, B. & Pajaczkowska, C. (2008) ‘Looking Sharp’ in Uhlirova, M. (ed), If Looks Could Kill, London: Koenig Books

    Curtis, B. (2008) Dark Places: The Haunted House in Film, London: Reaktion Books

    Curtis, B. (2008) ‘The Festival of Britain’ in Stephens, C. (ed), The History of British Art 1870 – Now, Tate/Yale

    Curtis, B. (2008) ‘War Games: Cold War Britain in Film and Fiction’ in Pavitt, J. & Crowley, D. (eds) Cold War Modern, London: V&A

    Curtis, B. (Otober, 2009) ‘Review essay: Hannah Higgins: The Grid Book’ in Journal of Design History (Oxford University Press)

    Curtis, B. (2010) ‘Dinosaur Design’ in Atzmon, L. (ed) (2011) Visual Rhetoric and the Special Eloquence of Design Artifacts, Indiana: Parlor Press, 245-276

    Curtis, B. (2013) 'Tomorrow' special issue of Journal of Visual Culture on 'The   Independent Group’ vol.12  no.2  August 2013, 279 – 29


    ‘Victorian Futures’ in V&A online journal

    Collaboratively authored essay on Television and Architecture for Screen.
    Show more

Selected work


Research interests

Barry Curtis’s research is largely directed to preparing teaching materials. He is interested in a range of literary, political and cultural phenomena and texts. He is particularly interested in notions of alternative cultures and utopian conceptualisations and practices. He maintains an interest in film and media, increasingly in digital and games culture. His current research is devoted to testing the claims of OOO and Speculative Realism and considering ways of understanding objects by bringing to bear recent theorising, as well as the long tradition of imaginative, aleatory and disruptive thinking in visual and literary practices.

Current and recent research

Council for Inordinate Design

In an ongoing attempt to engage with practitioners, historians, curators and writers who have an interest in exploring the mysteries and imbrications of the object, Barry is currently engaged in developing The Council of Inordinate Design. The Council stems from a college-wide symposium entitled ‘The CSI of Things: Crime Scenes and Suspect Objects’ (2015). The project stems from an interest in Speculative Realism and the long history of avant-garde engagements with the mystery of objects. A collaboration with Naomi House and Monika Parrinder, Nina Trivedi and other staff and students within the RCA has secured internal funding to develop the project which will engage with other institutions in investigating the relevance of current theories of the object, seeking to develop research and teaching that involves a fuller recognition of the complexity and ambiguity of the object.


Research students