Visual Cultures Lecture Series

The School of Fine Art's flagship lecture series

The Visual Cultures Lecture Series enables us collectively to learn as we produce new knowledge. The lectures address questions pertinent to our understanding of Fine Art and its broader context today. Guest speakers range from distinguished artists and writers to curators and academics, who are invited to speak about their work in relation to a given line of enquiry. Each lecture series, together with related seminar and workshop activity, contributes towards a body of material which is collated as a source of new insights in the field and made available within the Royal College of Art and to our broader community.

Visual Cultures Lecture Series 2016/17: Orientations – Locate & Reshape

During the last academic year our Visual Cultures Lecture series addressed the theme of global transformations. The series facilitated discussions between artists, historians, theorists and cultural critics. 

Next year, in order better to understand the context in which art is made and received, we plan to extend the debate from our cultural and contextual awareness of global change through a focused engagement on cultural identities – considering such themes as national or cultural belonging, gender identities and the politics of technology.

We aim to create a platform for knowledge exchange through this series of public talks. Each event will host two guests in a conversation chaired by one member of RCA staff to debate subjects that we feel need to be addressed not only within art and education but also in a broader context. Observing societal changes, with instability and uncertainty of this year ahead, we will ask how we can transform, orientate or re-orientate existing practices, disciplines and structures in order to meet these challenges.

The big questions for us are to do with how can we address and reshape presumed territories, ideas and models to create other ways of seeing the future. 

18 October 2016: Esther Leslie & Mike Stubbs, chaired by Jonathan P Watts
The Politics of Technology

1 November 2016: Johnny Golding & Shumon Basar, chaired by Tom McCarthy
The Post-Human & the Future of Humanity 

24 January 
2017: Marvin Gaye Chetwynd & Nina Power chaired by Michael Newman 
Do we still have a subconscious? How to interpreted the contemporary? 

7 February 2017: Heather Phillipson, Anthea Hamilton & Eddie Peake chaired by Antony Hudek 
The Performative body, Law, Obscenity & Eroticism

Visual Cultures Lecture Series 2015/16: Rise Up and Envision

In 2014/15 the Visual Cultures Lecture Series addressed the theme of contemporaneity as an ungraspable concept always to be defined. The series started with presentations from artists and expanded to include contributions from historians, theorists and cultural critics.  

Questions included how we continue to operate effectively and sustainably in a context of huge political and economic uncertainty; with diminishing resources, we can’t simply continue to build new structures, so how can we recycle our existing disciplines and institutions without becoming determined by their all too apparent shortcomings? How can we deconstruct presupposed territories/ideas/models and create other ways of seeing the future? 

16 October 2015: Special Frieze Event 
ÅYR and castillo/corrales(6:30–8pm) with an afternoon of performances by Bar Vulkan (4:30-6:30pm & 8–9pm)

With presentations by ÅYRBRB and Castillo/Corrales, who will be part of Frieze Projects. Both talked about their respective projects. Bar Vulkan from Berlin also performed Bar, for the afternoon/evening.

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17 November 2015: Noboru Hidano & Suhail Malik

On understanding values and economics in art.

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19 January 2016: Richard Sennett & Jonas Staal

On the public sphere and global transformations. How do we operate in a changing political environment and what makes sense?

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16 February 2016: David Cunningham and Adrian Lahoud

On stories of the city. How can we repurpose our environment and places?

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8 March 2016: Marina Warner, Arabesque

On myth and gender politics, feminism, minorities and representations.

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Visual Cultures Lecture Series 2014/15: Contemporaneity and Other Tales

In 2014/15, the RCA School of Fine Art hosted its third Visual Cultures public lecture series with a focus on today’s art production and culture. The theme, Contemporaneity and Other Tales, invited audiences and cultural figures to consider the world around them through various artistic mediums. Guest speakers, including distinguished artists, writers, curators and academics engaged audiences in conversations about today’s artistic production process and the broader cultural discussion that their art inspires.  

The series began with leading American artist Richard Tuttle to coincide with the opening of two of his major London exhibitions at Tate Modern Turbine Hall and the Whitechapel Gallery. Additional speakers included the 'father of conceptual art' Joseph Kosuth in conversation with Serpentine Gallery co-director Hans Ulrich Obrist; artist Susan Hiller; curator Mihnea Mircan and academic Saskia Sassen.

Lectures are available to watch on RCA Talks.

17 October 2014: Richard Tuttle  

Richard Tuttle is one of the most significant artists working today. Since the mid-1960s, he has created an extraordinarily varied body of work that eludes historical or stylistic categorisation. Tuttle’s work exists in the space between painting, sculpture, poetry, assemblage, and drawing. He draws beauty out of humble materials, reflecting the fragility of the world in his poetic works.

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28 October 2014: Joseph Kosuth in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist

Kosuth is an American artist who is often referred to as 'the father of conceptual art'.

Hans Ulrich Obrist is a Swiss curator and currently holds the positions of Co-director of Exhibitions and Programmes, and Director of International Projects at the Serpentine Gallery in London. 

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25 November 2014: Mihnea Mircan  

The RCA School of Fine Art is pleased to welcome Mihnea Mircan for the third Visual Cultures lecture of the series 2014/15. Mircan will give an insight on his latest project at Extra City Kunsthal in Antwerp. 

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2 December 2014: Susan Hiller in Conversation with Sarah Wilson

Emerging in the early 1970s, after initially studying as an anthropologist, Hiller is now one of the most influential artists of her generation. Hiller’s practice has infused conceptual and minimalist strategies and aesthetics with the influence of feminism, popular culture and psychoanalysis, creating works in a diverse range of media: notably sculpture, performance, video, photography, drawing and installation.

Sarah Wilson is an art historian and curator whose interests extend from postwar and Cold War Europe and the USSR to contemporary global art. Throughout her career she has worked with intellectuals and curators and artists from Europe, contributing to several Centre Pompidou catalogues, including Max Ernst, Kurt Schwitters, Face à l'histoireFéminin-masculin, Le Sexe de l'art, Beaubourg La Trentaine, Traces du Sacré(2008), and Voids (2009)

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17 February 2015: Saskia Sassen

Systemic Edges as Spaces of Conceptual Invisibility

Saskia Sassen is the Robert S Lynd Professor of Sociology and Chair, The Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University. Her new book is Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy (Harvard University Press 2014). Recent books are Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages ( Princeton University Press 2008), A Sociology of Globalization (W.W.Norton 2007), and the fourth fully updated edition of Cities in a World Economy (Sage 2012).

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2013/2014: Current Modes of Artistic Production

The 2013/14 Visual Cultures lecture series focused on sculpture and moving image. The series invited artists to investigate various aspects that contribute to the production, circulation and reception of their work. Through in-depth focus on a specific project of each guest speaker, the series aims to give an insight into the complex fabric of artistic production and explore what it means to work as an artist today.

12 November 2013: Mark Leckey

Leckey's practice ranges across performance, film, sculpture and sound, often creating a space where personal and cultural histories merge and transform. Leckey has exhibited widely, with recent solo exhibitions at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Serpentine Gallery, London, Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne; ICA, London; and Le Consortium, Dijon. Leckey was awarded the Turner Prize in 2008.

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26 November 2013: Gerard Byrne

Gerard Byrne is a visual artist working with photographic, video and live art. In 2007 he represented Ireland in the Venice Biennale. Other major presentations of his work at international biennials include the biennales of Gwangju and Sydney in 2008, Lyon in 2007, the Tate Triennial in 2006, and the Istanbul Biennale in 2003. Solo exhibitions of his work have been presented at the ICA Boston and the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen (both 2008), Dusseldorf Kunstverein, the Charles H. Scott Gallery, Vancouver (2007), the Frankfurter Kunstverein (2003) and at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (2002). In 2006 he was a recipient of the Paul Hamlyn award.

11 February 2014: Christine Borland and Brody Condon

UK-based artist, Christine Borland, works around the topics of ethics and bio-politics in art. She investigates collaborations between arts and medicine. Borland was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1997 and has shown internationally in numerous museums and large-scale exhibitions, most recently at Glasgow Sculpture Studios and Camden Arts Centre, London. Borland collaborated with artist Brody Condon for the Edinburgh Art Festival 2013. Condon, based in New York and Berlin, creates performances, videos and sculptures that relate to obsession with fantasy in contemporary culture. 

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25 February 2014: Laure Prouvost

Laure Prouvost works with films and installations characterised by richly layered stories, translation, and surreal moments. Her seductive and disorienting tales toy with the audience’s ability to become fully absorbed by a single narrative. Her unconventional approach to text, montage, cinematic conventions, and imagery create a distinct visual language that is engaged in an ongoing conversation with the history of art and literature. Prouvost lives and works in London.

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4 March 2014: Ulla Von Brandenburg

Ulla von Brandenburg lives and works in Paris. She works with film, drawing, installation and performance, and creates multi-layered narratives that explore boundaries between reality and artifice. Von Brandenburg engages with popular cultural forms from multiple epochs as a means through which to explore contemporary collective experience. Working within seemingly archaic traditions such as the tableau vivant, von Brandenburg appropriates historical source material and transforms it into the present to tacitly reveal the rules that govern our social reality. 

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11 March 2014: Thomas Hirschhorn                                                                           

Swiss-born artist Thomas Hirschhorn creates mixed-media installations, often using everyday materials such as cardboard, foil and duct tape, juxtaposed with found imagery such as violent scenes and pornography. Hirschhorn previously worked in a group of political graphic artists in 1980s Paris which influenced his use of common materials as a political statement. With each exhibition - in museums, galleries, alternative spaces – as well as with specific works in public space, Hirschhorn asserts his commitment toward a non-exclusive public. 

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RCA Visual Cultures Lecture Series

Gorvy Lecture Theatre, Dyson Building, 1 Hester Road, London SW11 4AN

Lectures are free and begin at 6.30pm | No booking is required but early arrival are advised | Doors will open 10 minutes ahead of the event.

For enquiries please email

View recorded talks here.