Final reflections on the module and my journey.

This time last year I had submitted my practice of painting assessment and had been feeling very downhearted as I had thought that I might not pass the module. I had struggled through the module with some illness, and had been disappointed with the variable successes and failures that I’d achieved. I’d learnt that success requires sustained practice and I’d really struggled to sustain my painting. I did pass the module however, with a reasonable mark, and was really pleased. The experience had severely dented my confidence however.

I began the Visual culture module determined to make a new start. I have really enjoyed the module, and although I started off a little worried about the sheer density and complexity of the prescribed texts, I soon began to really enjoy them. I had never studied these sort of social-science texts before and they made a very pleasant change from science, my usual subject.

It took me quite a few months to get to grips with digesting the texts and completing the note-taking and BLOG discussions, but I submitted my first assignment eventually and found that it was relatively well received by my tutor. This really gave me an injection of confidence, and I completed the next assignments at a more regular intervals, meeting the tight deadline for completion (Sep 1st 2017).

My tutor’s first feedback report did mention that I’d responded very fully to the brief, and I think he was worried that I might lose focus in the subsequent assignments. I hope I have not done that- I have worked hard to produce detailed but focussed and accurately referenced assignments. On the whole I think my tutor’s response to these has been positive, and I ve been very pleased.

Conversely I have allowed myself to go into more detail in several of the projects. I have enjoyed the opportunity of letting my mind run a little freer and allowed the possibility of making connections between the texts and topics as I proceeded. This may have added too much detail in places, but it has resulted in me developing the confidence to be a bit more creative in my thinking, and not being too inhibited about forming my own ideas about such complex issues.

Early in the course I decided that I would begin to extend the note-taking I was doing into some detailed ‘essay-style’ discussions of the material, allowing plenty of cross referencing, and some of my own thoughts on the material. This also included a few small criticisms of some of the more abstruse writing styles I encountered. I hope this has remained acceptable, appropriate and in the right spirit. Towards the end of the course I realised that this approach was quite time-consuming, and that I needed to get back to simple note-taking for several texts- in the interest of getting the module finished in time.

Much of the experiences in the module have been very new for me, and were certainly more encouraging and confidence-building than my POP experiences. I have learnt from this, and discussed with my tutor that I’d prefer to do a more general BA Fine arts pathway rather than the BA painting. I’d always known I was more of a generalist in Art –more than simply being a painter, but this module has shown me that I find the more theoretical basis of art and visual studies extremely exciting too. I am going to take a level 5 Drawing course next, but I now know that a broader approach to my art practice is the way forwards for me.

Having said this I know there are areas of my BLOG and the module which have not gone as I would have liked. Although the BLOG has plenty of detail, I have not published as regularly as I would have liked, and I have not done as much reflection, exhibition going, or alternative texts analysis as I should have liked or should have been good for me and my development. The BLOG lacks breadth, and it is a little too ‘academic’ and ‘dusty’ I think. I have not sustained it enough to really infuse life into its pages or achieve a large cultural momentum. Perhaps this is because I have not had the benefit of lots of followers, which might have given me more confidence and impetus.

The other major disappointment throughout the module was that I struggled to sustain any meaningful practical creative work in drawing and painting. This is mainly due to my very low confidence levels that I was left with at the end of ‘Practice of Painting’. I have done a little drawing and have included some of these in my exhibition write-ups, but much more was needed and is still needed.

My tutor has been remarkably helpful throughout the year. He has been very encouraging of my coursework and assignments, and has given me several routes forward to re-engaging with my art practice, by taking off a little of the pressure and coming at the problem in a slightly different way. I have just joined an urban sketch-crawler group in my home city of Liverpool, and have enjoyed this way of getting my enthusiasm for practical drawing back. I’ m also beginning to draw in a sketchbook, and have started to draw more regularly with less worries about results- the fear of a blank page can be hard to overcome, and needs to be- but I also need to overcome the fear of an ‘unsuccessful’ page- to draw more often and with greater perspective for the bigger picture.

In short I have really enjoyed the module. I feel it has gone really well for me in many many ways, chiefly as a means of renegotiating my priorities and perspectives for my art practice, and as a big boost to my confidence, energy and enthusiasm for my future study. I am not completely clear about how I will negotiate my future painting and drawing modules- and still have low confidence. But I am in a much better place to carry on and be able to take things and process struggles and challenges as they arise, and am looking forward to further study with OCA.


Formative feedback-Assignment 4




Student name Philip Hepworth Student number 508858
Course/Unit Understanding Visual Culture Assignment number 4



Overall Comments

As I have annotated you work as part of the tutor reports you will need to send the annotated versions as well as the tutor reports with your work for assessment. Ideally these should be in the form of pdf files due to the software used for assessments at OCA


Assessment potential

(after Assignments 2 and 4)


I understand your aim is to go for the Creative Arts* Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, and providing you commit yourself to the course, I suggest that you are likely to be successful in the assessment.


Feedback on assignment

My notes made on your assignment are to make the basis of our discussion along with the following:

  • I think you have made a pretty good attempt at this assignment.
  • You have written it clearly and in appropriate language.
  • There is a logic to the essay
  • Good use of both reference to the item under discussion and your chosen theories
  • You raise a number of questions in the mind of the reader that are beyond the scope of the essay but invite further investigation


Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical review/essay

I think this is coming together well, the posts are filling out and it si not difficult to find what is needed.


Suggested reading/viewing

This is a revised site for the Buffy primer: file:///D:/My%20Documents/Peter/Open%20College/Visual%20Studies/Primer_for_Buffy,_Restless.html

Some people have found Beaudrillard’s The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (ISBN 0-919952-23-X) useful for the coming assignment and you might find some ideas in Ian McEwan’s Saturday (ISBN 978-1400076192), it’s a good book anyway!


Pointers for the next assignment


  • The final assignment is about reality or at least the ways in which contemporary visual culture mixes the real with the virtual (even the word has changed its meaning), uses the term ‘reality’ (particularly in television) to mean anything but and the ways the society needs mass media confirmation before believing something actually happened, not to mention the question of whether some things that are so confirmed did in fact happen. Baudrillard is the main theoretical source, both his Simulacra and Simulation and The Gulf War Did Not Take Place can help. But there is much in Ian MacEwan’s Saturday of interest and you have already looked briefly at Bladerunner and The Matrix in your blog. For this assignment you might like to think about ‘reality’ TV, or computer games and/or discuss the manipulation if images in factual reportage etc.
  • You might want to take this opportunity to go beyond the scope of the module, beyond postmodernism and think about Hal Foster’s ideas about the Return of the Real (ISBN0-262-56107-7) or Terry Eagleton’s After Theory (ISBN978-0-14-101507-1) but that is no more than a suggestion and not really asked for in the brief



Tutor name Peter Haveland
Date 10/09/2017
Next assignment due N/A


Assignment Four- Response to Tutor report


  • I have reflected upon the tutor comments made on assignment 4 and published them in my BLOG


  • in the essay for assignment 4 I have tried to include some additional questions (beyond the essays strict scope) to be thought about by the reader. These are not discussed further, but allow a little more interest and engagement for the reader (a few ideas are left ‘hanging’)- somewhere to go after the essay is read.


  • For the final assignment I decided to use the opportunity to survey several of the texts we have previously looked at, rather than concentrate on new texts. My approach was therefore in the nature of a review, but also an experiment. This included an introduction, method, results ( a table of correlates), discussion and conclusion.I found this was very useful for rethinking many ideas from earlier in the course, in a new light, with some new assessments, and some new connections made. These ideas included Marxism, ideology, photography, (all discussed at length in previous texts) but also discussions on contemporary issues such as the phenomenon of President Donald Trump, the issue of what constitutes history, and whether removal of statues is useful or not.


  • Although I did not concentrate on Jean Baudrillard in assignment 5, I did discuss ideas around the simulacrum extensively in my BLOG as part of the projects in part 5, including the issue of sign-value as an extension of Marxist commodity value.


  • I also checked out my BLOG’s structure and removed several supernumary and confusing categories which had been added by mistake at the BLOG set up. Although this now makes the BLOG more viewer friendly, there is at least one ‘rogue’ category which slightly imbalances the BLOG menu. I hope (and think that) this will not be too confusing for any BLOG viewers.

Assignment 3 : Response to tutor feedback report

My tutor had commented that at the halfway part of the course it was a good idea to take stock, think broadly about how ideas change over time, and also give myself the opportunity to revisit and re-evaluate ideas in the light of my new readings and thoughts.

I had been reflecting upon this and realised that I had a lot of worries, thoughts, and unanswered questions about Structuralism, which were reinforced by certain comments I had found in Don Slater’s text ‘marketing mass photography’ (Slater, 1999). He appeared to think critically about structuralism, structural analysis, and semiotics in a similar way to myself and this encouraged me to write about my worries and thoughts on the matter ( BLOG post ‘Epilogue- some worries about structuralism’. ). It was encouraging and exciting for me to realise that I had had ideas of my own which challenged famous thinkers’ views, and that they were vindicated by the views of other published and recognise thinkers. This has helped my confidence to believe that I have lots of valid ideas of my own, even if they are informed by my knowledge of others’ work.

Assignment 3 : I had continued to enjoy researching and preparing the assignments, and have made a response/reflection on assignment 3 tutor annotated comments.

In my personal life I am frequently to be found discussing my ideas about art and politics in terms of my new found knowledge of topics like  structuralism and Marxism, and my new found role as a vegetarian. This new confidence has helped me ground my new knowledge, and also allows one to sift about and place the different issues into a hierarchy of importance, which is a necessity when summarising and reinforcing verbal discussion and argument.

Unfortunately I have found it very difficult to progress with my own painting and drawing this year. I’m on the Ba Painting, though I will probably change to BA Fine art after discussions with my tutor. It’s a disappointment to me that my experience of my previous module Practice of Painting had left me lacking in confidence. I’d had a difficult time with some negative tutor comments, and illness, and the protracted time I took to complete the module.

My struggle to get back to my drawing and painting is probably more to do with my lack of confidence than my taking this module, which has fewer overt instructions to go and practice my art (or any lack of available time).

I am going to attempt to get back into things by gradually allowing myself easier ways of returning to practice, including sketch crawls, just drawing painting without worries, finding alternative ways to be creative (such as collecting objects), or joining an art club…..

At this point I had made some progress in reading articles from Mirzoeff’s visual culture reader (edition 3 ). These articles a little different in style to the articles in the OCA reader. They are more contemporary and are often situation/topic specific contrasting with the broader subjects discussed in the OCA reader. They are also notably more political and often involved power struggles and the idea of visuality.

As well as increasing my knowledge of visual culture issues and texts this happily provided me with a lot of research on assignment 4 which I thoroughly enjoyed writing. I deliberately pushed my comfort zone by picking a ‘first-person shooter’  computer game (Battlefield 4). I have never talked meaningfully about this sort of text, nor before this course would I have even realised this was a ‘text’ ! It was very rewarding therefore to see just how much I could find in terms of ideology and visuality within the text. I included lots of illustrations as a powerful way of reinforcing my points.

In terms of my module completion schedule I continued to work at an acceptable rate and completed part 3 in about 9 weeks. This was important because due to illness and suspension I had a deadline of September the 1st for assignment 5 to reach my tutor.

Assignment 2 : Response to tutor feedback report

  • I really enjoyed the process of annotating images on an A3 sheet, but recognise that assessors may need a little guidance of where to start and finish. I will try to address this in the annotations which I do later in the course.


  • I have been challenged with learning about artists who I was not previously familiar with, and who are more conceptual than those I am more familiar with. These included Cindy Sherman whose work is made recognising a host of feminist issues. As a man, it was genuinely revealing to think about her subversion of the pornography theme in fig. 4 assignment 2.


  • I have reflected on my tutor comments on each of the six annotations, and have included these in my BLOG.


  • I have taken my tutor’s advice and increased the amount of exhibitions and reflection which I have included in my BLOG. These were Exhibition visit: Building the civic and Exhibition visit: ‘Hidden Gallery’- photos and paintings of The Beatles. These visits allowed me to think about some (not all) artists who were


  1. not hugely famous
  2. photographers not painters
  3. amateur not professional
  4. non –western, not western

None of these artist’s characteristics are usually part of my looking thinking and talking about art.  It was also unusual for me to think about the exhibition space and to ask questions of the gallery staff as I did with the Beatles visit.

  • I have increased the rate at which I finish projects and publish on my BLOG. It took me nearly 5 months to get my first assignment in. I think this was due to some initial difficulty reading and understanding the complex texts. My second assignment was sent in about 9 weeks after the first- an improvement. This will allow me to hopefully finish the module in approximately one year as I have some time pressure due to a suspension through illness in a previous module.


  • I have bought some new texts in order to increase my knowledge of different authors and ideas. These include
  • Williamson, J., 1978. Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising. London:    Marion Boyars
  • Pooke, Grant and Newall, Diana. (2008), Art History: the basics, London: Routledge.


  • I have also downloaded the following book online – Chandler, D., 2002. Semiotics: The Basics. 2nd ed. Abingdon: Routledge, and this has proved excellent for ideas for assignment three.

Assignment 2- Response and reflection on selected tutor comments


o   Fig 1- Laura Keeble: I’d like to teach the world to sing (everyday objects)

o   Fig 2-Banksy : Rock with marker pen (work of others)

o   Fig 3-Picasso: still life with chair caning (everyday objects)

o   Fig 4- Cindy Sherman: untitled #93 (everyday objects)

o   Fig. 5- Andy Warhol: Marilyn diptych(work of others)

o   Fig 6-Sherry Levine: after walker Evans (work of others)

Fig. 1

Number: 1   It has a much older tradition than that going back to Duchamp and the Dadaists at least. I rather think that it is not inappropriate to think of this as part of a revival of interest in Dada and Duchamp in particular since the beginning of the 21stC as well as a continuation of the use of found objects coming out of PoMo.

Yes, this object is to an extent more similar to those of the Dadaists. It is found,  but has been altered in a very artistic individual, non-reproducible way, unlike the everyday objects often associated with minimalism and the post-modernists.

Number: 3 is it important that it was a can? What difference if it had been a beer can? Is it merely chosen because it is red?

The can is important because it is deformable and therefore able to carry the evidence of the event which happened in the past into the present. The red colour is useful artistically –it symbolises fire and hell, but is less important than the Coca-Cola brand I think. This brand is one of the most recognisable symbols of youth, and corporate global power-elements important within the political message. For the same reason the Cola can carries a more powerful message than any beer can/brand could.


Fig 2

Comment 3: as we cannot read the text, would it have been a good idea to reproduce it here or is that not necessary?

In hindsight, it would have been good to have an image where the text is in focus and legible.

The text is very important to the artwork’s impact-it’s highly sceptical and humorous and aimed at political and artistic institutions.  I tried to convey this with a few hand-written quotes from the text.


Comment 4 : A ‘joke’ would indicate a lack of seriousness, you don’t mean that so perhaps you need to find another work or words to make the point clear…wit, humour etc.        

Perhaps pastiche is more appropriate than joke- but I’m not sure. I think Banksy might have been happy with the word joke, and jokes can still carry political punch.


Fig 3

Number: 2 How many of the allusions that we can find in his choice of materials was conscious do you think?

I think the playful and intelligent Picasso was conscious of all these allusions- ‘nothing is but what is not’ in Macbeth’s words.

Number: 3 however collage and bricolage were well established craft activities…were they questioning these distinctions?

Yes I’m sure this was the case. By 1912 the arts and crafts movement had spread across Europe and had already questioned this distinction between fine art and craft.



Number: 1 So why does Sherman not in these? she certainly doesn’t shy away from these things as you show?

Sherman’s point is to always subvert the appropriated image/idea. In this image she has taken the idea of pornography but has denied the viewer access to typical body parts, and has added the vulnerability of the object. Where she has showed graphic anatomical details (the thumbnail untitled #250) she has subverted the object in a different way- by making the face ugly, old and male…..

Number: 3 Does the Marxist see the subjects of pornography as being any more exploited than other workers? Is there any conflict between a Marxist Feminist analysis of pornography and a Radical Feminist one? What about Gay etc. pornography?

No a Marxist feminist would concentrate on the class aspect of the exploited person, whereas the radical feminist concentrates on the unequal political, psychological and social power of  men over women (quora, 2016). In this respect I think Sherman’s analysis is radical feminist more than Marxist.

Number: 5  I think it is important to think of here work additionally at least, dealing with questions of identity, its construction, fluidity, plurality, the expectations of society and so on. Particularly in terms of the demands on women in these respects.

Yes I think this fits with a radical feminist view of her work.


Quora (2016) What-is-the-difference-between-a-Radical-Feminist-and-a-Marxist-Feminist [online] at [accessed 31st January 2018]


Fig. 5

Number: 1 You need to think about the ideas behind Minimalism here


Developed in 1960’s USA, often consisting of simple shapes. Minimalism is concerned with the idea that the artwork does not allude to any reality outside of the given object. Practitioners include Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin and Robert Morris. It is related to conceptual art as both are concerned with challenging traditional views of making and viewing art (Tate, 2018).


Tate (2018). Minimalism [online] at [accessed 31st January 2018].


Fig 6

Comment 2: does this matter?

Photographing someone else’s work and exhibiting it is deeply political and philosophical. Why ? – the instant reaction of a viewer is – ‘this is not art !- this person is simply stealing someone else’s work!’……so in this broader sense the  image and what it highlights must be meant to be thought about. In this sense it does matter. In the narrower view- it doesn’t really matter if it’s fine art or ‘low art’; this is often decided by institutions, and is therefore to be viewed with scepticism. It’s the politics that matters.


Comment 3:would all this have worked so well if she had rephotographed other images?

The photographs are of rural poor farming families in the USA. They are the dispossessed, and we are drawn to these subjects and have some sympathy with them. This makes the subjects highly relevant to the question of artistic, and more broadly political possession and disposession.

Comment 5 : I think it also poses the question about subject matter.  If something is worthy of being photographed it must be worth looking at so if something is worth looking at (such as Evans’ photograph) should it not be photographed?

Yes this is a good point. The artist is saying that looking at this photograph is very valuable for others, and this cannot be overridden by institutional ideas of copyright. This could be interpreted as strong belief in the power that rephotographing (reproducing) has to (what Walter Benjamin described as) reactivate the original.