VISA 480 “Advanced Seminar I”

This course intertwines critical theory towards informing studio art practice.  Along with developing your art practice and the creation of artwork, you will also be refining your knowledge base and articulation of these discourses for discussion of art, written in oral.  This approach will influence the way in which students can expand their thinking towards certain subject matter, and give a rigorous push towards dissecting the deep intellectual issues that can be found in all and any production, in this case –art making.  In order to provide direction but also leave interpretation and entrance points for everyone, the theme of the class will be “nothing”, which will be used to introduce students to a number of theories of how we can deliberate the emotional, metaphysical, philosophical, linguistic, mood and attitude, technological, subjectivity, etc.. of spaces that seem to be unstable, are not known, or simply do not exist for whatever reason.  In understanding how the “nothing” has been theorized in philosophical, social justice and art criticism language, students will apply personal articulations towards areas of their own artistic practice that have still not been named, or what intuitive concepts alluded to in choices of inclusion/exclusion, by way of defense of what cannot be represented or what is represented but cannot be seen.  The “nothing” can expand our notions of what exists, and how that can influence, as well as potential of what can be.  The nothing can be magical, it can be nihilistic, it can be potential, it can be what is not, but by way of saying the word itself, nothing does exist.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Identify and interpret the different ways in which ‘nothing’ can be understood and described, and how it influences ways of knowing.
  • Demonstrate creative, technical, and problem solving skills of the transformation of praxis informing theory, in the creation and output of ideas through completed artistic projects.
  • Draw upon art historical developments, theoretical approaches and medium specificity and integrate these concepts in the development of a personal art practice.
  • Find inspirations, overcome vulnerabilities, and push ideas for the purpose of art making, delivering from conception to output, works that are informed and multi-dimensional.
  • Assemble, organize and communicate ideas visually, through aware formal decisions.
  • Establish a vocabulary and intelligently communicate ideas about ‘nothing’ by way of contemporary art practice, philosophical implications and art history.
  • Evaluate, judge, and critique artworks, and internalize critiques and reception to your work as part of the art-making process.
  • Explore your own sense of ‘nothing’ in your practice and be able to articulate it writing and orally, in a scholarly approach of well-researched directions.

Course Structure

Reading text within copyright standards are available on CWL protected and available on Connect, or as open source available via a web link on Connect.  Please go to “Course Content” on the main menu bar in Connect, then go to “Readings” to see list or links.  If a reading is not located there, it will be in the “Library Course Reserves” section of Connect, where you can enter your CWL into the UBC library to see the section.

You should have all been assigned a studio space if you are a BFA in Visual Art.  If you are using precarious or questionable chemicals or activities, please confirm proper procedures by contacting Nick at  If there is an issue in the studios, please contact Nick or go down one flight of stairs and notify Ian Craig. Please practice UBC’s Working Alone Policy and Procedures, information: and use Safewalk 604-822-5355 if you are walking alone at night.  If there is an emergency, please contact campus security at 604-822-2222, or for Fire, Ambulance, Police and Hazardous Materials Response, call 911.

As a part of this class we will be creating a book that will include every student as a contributor to its contents.  This will be a digitally executed book, therefore I can make many copies, please indicate if you are interested in purchasing a copy and plan on contributing funds if you are interested.  I will consult on specifics in class, but as an estimate, costs would be between $16-$30. This is an open studio class, and your work will be part of your own independent practice and interests.  Therefore, be sure to set aside money for materials that you anticipate using for your work. 

Assignment descriptions, readings, extra links, discussions, lecture notes, journals, grades and other material for the course will be available through the course website on Connect, use your CWL to sign in to  Please check at least once a week and remember there are journals associated with every reading, that are to be done online before the class in which we discuss it.


Art making is a complex and often controversial practice that covers a range of topics of various perspectives. The classroom is a place for the open discussion of ideas and issues. The points of view expressed by the instructor represent a professional perspective on art historical or contemporary issues. If at any time you wish to discuss an issue, please feel free to contact me.

All UBC students are expected to behave as honest and responsible members of an academic community. Breach of those expectations or failure to follow the appropriate policies, principles, rules, and guidelines of the University with respect to academic honesty may result in disciplinary action.  It is the student’s obligation to inform himself or herself of the applicable standards for academic honesty, and information can be found in the Academic Calendar under “Academic Honesty and Standards” and “Academic Misconduct” as well as the “Student Code of Conduct”

This is a fourth yea seminar theory/studio course. Work within your means of budget and time, and be smart about what you can deliver. At this point you should be putting into practice rigorous artistic interests that results in discourse around your work.  The pieces must be finished, final, original, high caliber and show decisiveness. The work must also be considered in how it is displayed and how it is titled.

For every class you are expected to have required reading or projects done, and are ready to participate in discussions.  If you are having a critique, and need extra equipment such as a projector or lap top computer, or need to do your critique in a location other than in Audain, please notify me by the Wednesday before class to make arrangements.

All assignments are due within the first half hour of the class or it will be considered late.  Artwork assignments will be accepted up to four business days after the due date with a letter grade deduction for each day, unless I have granted an extension.  This means that an A+ work handed in 3 days late will be downgraded to a B+.   You may also hand in the assignment in my mailbox in Lasserre 403, but be sure to have an official date stamped on it or it will be dated the date it is picked up.  Furthermore, not participating in a critique is detrimental to your critique grade, as well as your own personal growth and education.  Even if you do not have something to show, you are expected to join in critiques.  Reading discussions and prepatory journals are time-sensitive, therefore late submissions are not possible.

If you must miss a class, I suggest you speak with me at least a week in advance, or if this is not possible, ask someone in the class what you have missed. Students with more than 3 unexcused absences are subject to a 3% deduction of their final grade per absence thereafter.  Being more than an hour late is considered an absence.  In general, this class is intensive and it is not wise to miss it at all.  There is no way to replace the discussions that take place in the class, and many of the activities we will be doing.  If there are emergency or extenuating circumstances, please go to student services with a doctor’s note to officially document the situation.  Academic advising is a useful tool the University has set up to deal with special circumstances.  Do not be afraid to use it at any capacity, from stress management, to special cases etc.

90-100% = A+ Distinguished work
85-89% = A   Original thinking, superior grasp of subject matter
80-84% = A-   Evidence of extensive knowledge base
76-79% = B+  Evidence of critical capacity and analytic ability
72-75% = B   Reasonable understanding of relevant issues
68-71% = B-   Familiarity with subject matter, competent performance
64-67% = C+ Understanding of the subject, and solve simple problems
60-63% = C   Not seriously faulty, but lacking style and vigor
55-59% = C- Acceptable but uninspired work
50-54% = D   Adequate work
0-49%   = F    Inadequate work for credit value (Fail)

The first point is written in the UBC Calendar, the second point is an extension of the description by your instructor, this follows in the extended description below as well.

  • From the UBC calendar: The following guidelines offer a broad-brush characterization of the type of work that might be associated with various ranges of grades.
  • The following are guidelines towards studio work grading. They are not followed as rigid regulations and there are times that they may be adjusted as is appropriate for specific circumstances, project challenges, and other factors.  More definite rubrics or comments will be given specific to the studio project assignment and level.

80% to 100% (A- to A+)  “Exceptional”

  1. Exceptional performance: strong evidence of original thinking; good organization; capacity to analyze and synthesize; superior grasp of subject matter with sound critical evaluations; evidence of extensive knowledge base.
  2. Artistic work shows significant originality, ambition and a distinguished degree of critical thinking. A sophisticated analysis of complex theoretical and conceptual thinking towards proven execution and active engagement with project goals.  Preparation, research, engagement with process and outcomes of the project are exemplary.

68% to 79% (B- to B+) “Competent”

  • Competent performance: evidence of grasp of subject matter; some evidence of critical capacity and analytic ability; reasonable understanding of relevant issues; evidence of familiarity with the literature.
  • The work engages the viewer and the project goals at an above average attempt. There is a demonstrated reference to research and comprehension of the challenges set up by the project goals.  Process in execution has been sufficiently developed and demonstrates knowledge of technique towards a successful and impressive outcome .

50% to 67% (D to C+) “Adequate”

  • Adequate performance: understanding of the subject matter; ability to develop solutions to simple problems in the material; acceptable but uninspired work, not seriously faulty but lacking style and vigour.
  • The project demonstrates a less than satisfactory engagement, or simplistic comprehension with process and outcome of the project goals.

00% to 49% (F) “Inadequate”

  • Inadequate performance: little or no evidence of understanding of the subject matter; weakness in critical and analytic skills; limited or irrelevant use of the literature.
  • The work does not meet the minimal requirements of the assignment and fails to prove comprehension of project goals.


As this is a studio course, you will execute accomplished art works that investigate discourses tackled in the readings into your own visual conversation.  Your work should not illustrate the readings and terms learned in class, but act as an extension to how they are complicated by your interests, and strategies of representation, process, medium, and concept. You are expected to create two works for the course; one to be completed to entirety and critiqued at the mid-term dates; the final project will be critiqued in the last week and week after the course.  There are six reading discussion sessions that you will participate in; they will be accompanied by online journals and sometimes in-class group projects to put into practice what was read.  The journals will be assigned through Connect as the course progresses, so please check in with Connect on a regular basis.  There will also be a class ‘dictionary’ that you will all be contributing a letter/word/definition towards, and will turn into a printed book as a representation of the class endeavors.  This book will require a small fee to be printed, so that you may each have a copy.  A 4-page essay is due at the end of the class, wherein you are to articulate your position in the idea of nothing, and how it applies to your work.  This essay is expected to be of graduating academic quality, should be researched and show an overall understanding of class concepts and your placement within them.  Critique participation, reading discussion participation, and other independent contributions by attending artist talks, openings, and other events, will be accounted for in class credit because of how integral they are to your personal growth as an artist, resulting in success in this course in class discussions and references.  The “Overall Artistic Growth” category contributes to recognizing the many obstacles you may challenge and overcome, through the duration of the course, that are essential to your growth as an artist.  What this means is that what is usually considered a ‘mistake’ I see as an integral challenge that should excite you to conquer and overcome.

The Course Breakdown is as follows:

Mid-Term Project                                       20%
Final Project                                                22%
Reading Discussions & Journals             30%
Dictionary Page                                           7%
Artistic Practice Essay                                8%
Studio & Critique Participation                8%
Overall Artistic Growth                              5%
                    TOTAL                                     100%

You will be required to critique your fellow colleagues work in class oral and written, as well as present your work for critique. Participation considers the activity of the student during critiques and conversations, reading discussions, respectful attitude towards other’s in the class, active engagement in the class work, individual progress and response to challenges put forth by the instructor.

We will monitor comprehension and applications of methodologies used in completing assignments as well as level of challenges the student undertakes.  There will be an evaluation of the assignments on the basis of quality, originality, appropriateness, presentation, creativity, attention to subject matter and credibility as an artist.  As well, formal aesthetics such as composition, framing, technical proficiency, and adequate use of materials and their implications will be assessed. 

Specific project evaluations: 

  • 15% Technical execution, quality and craftsmanship
  • 30% Presentation, includes formal delivery and attention to detail
  • 35% Originality and creativity, strength in conceptual framework and/or risk-taking
  • 20% Overall success of project as a contribution to contemporary art discourse


There are many wonderful talks and events set up for your extended education at University of British Columbia and in the community.  I will be listing weekly events on the Announcements board in Connect that I highly recommend that you attend. 

Another way to keep up with the art world is through contemporary art magazines.  Even if you just look at the pictures! There is a great section on the third floor of IK Barber book stacks that houses a large amount of art magazines and renews them monthly, spend at least one day each month looking at what is going on in the art world through these sources.  Magazines can also be found for purchase at bookstores and specialty magazine shops, and many have quite a lot of material online.  My recommendations are as follows. • Canadian Art • Artforum • C Magazine • Border Crossings • Parachute • Frieze • NY Times Art Section (online as well) • October • Fillip • Art in America • ArtNews  **There is a great art bookshop in front of the Charles H Scott Gallery on at Emily Carr.

If you are passionate about art, need inspiration or further guidance, my main recommendation for this class (or any art class) is to see how it is done at a professional capacity.  We are very lucky to live in an active art city, where openings, events, talks and exhibitions are happening all the time.  Here are some of my recommendations for galleries, (most of which are free or by donation) that you should make a point of visiting sometime during the term. •Vancouver Art Gallery (Robson & Hornby) •Belkin Art Gallery (on campus, in front of Lasserre building) •MOA (on campus @ 6393 N.W. Marine Drive)•Charles H Scott (1399 Johnston St., Granville Island)•CAG (555 Nelson St.)•Presentation House Gallery (333 Chersterfield Ave, North Van) •Richmond Art Gallery (7700 Minoru Gate, Richmond)•Anvil Centre New Media Gallery (777 Columbia St.  New Westminster)•Surrey Art Gallery (13750 88th Ave,Surrey)•Burnaby Art Gallery (6344 Deer Lake Ave, Burnaby)•Simon Fraser (8888 University Dr, Burnaby)•Access (222 East Geogria St.)•Artspeak (233 Carrall St)•221A (221 East Georgia) •Burrard Arts Foundation (108 E Broadway) •Field (17 West Broadway)•Centre A (229 E Georgia)•CSA (2414 Main St, ask for key from Pulp Fiction Books) •Western Front (303 East 8th Ave)•VIVO (2625 Kaslo)•Or (555 Hamilton) •Audain (SFU 149 West Hastings)•Catriona Jeffries (274 1 East Ave)•Macaulay & Co (293 East 2nd)•The Nest AMS (gallery located in the SUB @ UBC)•Gallery 295 (295 East 2nd Avenue)•Equinox & Monte Clark (525 Great Northern Way)•AHVA Gallery (1001 Audain Art Centre, 6398 University Blvd)

Most people in this course will have a major role as artist in the upcoming BFA graduate show in term 2.  Part of this course is to create a collegial environment that will participate and contribute to the exhibiting artists’ personal growth and group successes.  You are expected to contribute to this process, as part of your professional development, whether you are in the exhibiting show or not.  You are also encouraged to extend this contribution to those who are not in the class.