Summer 2024 - CA 877 G100

Selected Topics in Contemporary Arts (5)

Curatorial Practice in our Current Times

Class Number: 3796

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 6 – Jun 17, 2024: Tue, Thu, 2:30–5:20 p.m.



Study of particular artistic techniques or issues. The topic varies from term to term.


The SFU Art Collection—which has grown since the establishment of Simon Fraser University to include over 5,800 works—is a fascinating repository of modern and contemporary art, and is unique in its capacity to trace the complex social and cultural life connected to this region. The Collection’s holdings have grown to encompass a diverse range of work, with particular strengths in painting, photography, prints, and sculpture by such artists as Rebecca Belmore, BC Binning, Germaine Koh, Roy Kiyooka, Ken Lum, Marianne Nicholson, Susan Point, Jack Shadbolt, and Jin-me Yoon, approximately 1,100 of which are shown in public locations on SFU campuses year-round. Some at the university view the Collection (rather cynically) simply as a financial asset; others dismiss it as an inert, dusty and burdensome accumulation of things. However, this seminar approaches the SFU Art Collection as an important catalyst for dialogue, a propellant that can ignite new research inquiries, and argues that we have an obligation (and privilege) to learn with and through it.

The aim of this seminar is to introduce students to curatorial work by querying the SFU Art Collection’s capacity as a tool to ask urgent and difficult questions, surface suppressed histories, and connect seemingly disparate trajectories of thought. Grounded by an initial exploration of what curatorial work is and what it can do in the specifics of our time and context (a discussion focused via a series of intra-disciplinary readings by queer theorist Lauren Berlant, Black and Religious Studies scholar Ashon Crawley, writer Irmgard Emmelhainz, ethico-political theorist and artist Denise Ferreira da Silva, choreographer and theorist Erin Manning, poet and critical theorist Fred Moten, and/or feminist curator Helen Molesworth, among others), students will be introduced to the SFU Art Collection, its strengths and gaps, and tour the Collection vault on Burnaby campus. Following this, seminar participants will develop their own curatorial inquiry through the rigorous study and selection of a tight constellation of artworks drawn from the SFU Art Collection itself. Emphasis will be placed on curatorial work as an iterative process, involving (often primary) research, presentations of initial selections, multiple drafts of writing, listening to feedback, editing, and re-presenting. Opportunities to actually mount the students’ selections of Collection work may emerge from this seminar.


Goals include: becoming familiar with the ethics and process of curatorial practice, presenting ideas comfortably before peers, accepting and responding to feedback, and strengthening writing and editing skills.


  • Engagement in seminar readings discussion 10%
  • Project proposal presentation and abstract 25%
  • Project proposal peer review 10%
  • First draft of major paper 25%
  • Final draft of major paper 30%


Required and recommended readings will be available on SFU Canvas as PDFs.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university.