Studio 1: The Narratives are Getting Restless

Studio brief

From the eyewitness account to the tabloid exposé, any record of a given event can only indistinctly point at its actuality. History is slippery and while it’s hard to swallow that there’s no such thing as absolute objective truth, this may be a necessary condition of liberalism.

In response, how do artists exploit the faulty mechanics of approaches to media reportage and the archive? Identity politics have shifted with the onset of social media too, ever more entwined with notions of aspiration, desire and fantasy. So when current participatory art practices re-imagine social histories, what are the implications?

Setting out to explore the tangle and stutter of contemporary story-telling, this studio aims to penetrate the fog of narratives surrounding the ‘real’, now generated by the dynamics of globalisation, digital technology and capitalism. The sheer pace of cultural production - its instant assimilation into baffling assemblages of genres, styles, gestures and histories - is either deadening or exhilarating, depending on the commentator. As a methodology, postmodernism’s old jumbling of decodable sources packs far less of a punch in a culture which is now very familiar with infinite combinations of context-less materials, all crammed together in cyberspace.

Under these conditions of over-saturation, how are artists to shape today’s stories and narratives?

To explore this question, the studio teaching will look at strategies employed by cultural practitioners from a broad range of disciplines (theatre, literature, TV, film, comics, music and comedy) to reflect the widespread plundering of narrative formats at work inside art practice today.

This studio will address these key themes in response to your developing interests via a structured programme of lectures, workshops, gallery and studio visits. In return, we expect students to bring their own research materials to the group for review at a series of student-led seminar sessions.

The emphasis in this art studio is on nurturing an engaged attitude of play, curiosity and spontaneity. At the same time we’ll research and discuss critical ideas with confidence, as an integral part of building a sustainable art practice. An itinerant panel of external curators and writers will intermittently feed into all stages of the development of a group show as a central project in the autumn term. Confirmed guests include Marie McPartlin, Director of Made at Somerset House (a new creative community and experimental interdisciplinary production hub) and writer Sally O’Reilly, whose recent commissions include the libretto for The Virtues of Things at the Royal Opera House in 2015. We’ll also be examining critical and creative writing over ten years for publications including Art Monthly, Art Review, Frieze and Cabinet.

Artists to look at

Omer Fast, Alain Resnais, Mike Kelley, B S Johnson, Kim Noble, Elizabeth Price, Dickie Beau, David Shrigley, Louise Hervet and Chloe Malliet, Tamy Ben Tor, Luigi Pirandello, Ben Rivers, Tom Stoppard, Anja Kirschner and David Panos, Chris Morris, Ruth Ewan, Chris Ware, Ryan Trecartin, Andy Kaufman, Imogen Stidworthy, Benedict Drew, Nate Lowman, Jonas Wood, Nancy Spero, Simryn Gill.

Reading list

  • Fictions Jorges Luis Borges: London – Penguin, 2000. Class mark: 868.5 BO
  • Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship – Claire Bishop: London – Verso Books, 2012
  • Walter Benjamin’s Archive: Images, Texts, Signs – translated by Esther Leslie, edited by Ursula Marx; London – Verso Books, 2007. Classmark: 839.91209 WA
  • Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting – Robert McKee: London – Methuen, 1998. Classmark: 808.23MCK
  • Visual and Other Pleasures (Language, Discourse, Society) - Laura Mulvey: London - Palgrave Macmillan, (2 edition) 2009
  • Between the Psyche and the Polis: Refiguring history in literature and theory, eds. Michael Rossington and Anne Whitehead, Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2000
Dummy makeup for ‘The Act of Killing’ (2012)


Course Fine Art BA (Hons)
Tutor Mel Brimfield
Dr Jonathan Whitehall
Where Central House, 2nd Floor Studios
When Monday and Thursday

Serena Geromel
Rachael McMeekin
Ascha Paul
Grace Radford
Samuel Robinson-Thorley
Milda Stasaityte
James Stovell
Evelina Tamulionyte
Hebe Vermeulen

Lauren Andrews
Georgette Annobi
Alison Baptiste
Jamie Bowden
Jake Edey
Maria Gonzalez de Corral
Evangeline Hawes
Kim Heywood
Paul Johnston
Konstantins Nikiforovs
Laura Peltonen
Janet Pitt
Madeleine Salisbury
Violeta Sandu
Tracey Smith
Aimee Wonnacott

Cass Studios archive by year