Theory course at the Rietveld Academy

Fine Arts and Photography Departments


theory course and thesis supervision

My theory course at the Photography department focuses on introducing a network concepts and texts that chart out the discursive context around photography:  photography theory and philosophy, aesthetics and art theory, anthropology of images, visual studies, media theory. The selection of texts is tailored to the interests of the students and varies every year. The course is designed to help the students to develop conceptual tools and strategies, skills to formulate productive questions, and to build an awareness of the broader context of their creative practices.

Theory class on a weekly basis. During the year we read a selection of key texts and essays by: Roland Barthes, Italo Calvino, David Campany, Hans Belting, Walter Benjamin, Vilem Flusser, Siegfried Kracauer, David Claerbout, Michael Fried, Bruno Latour, Raymond Belour, Laura Mulvey, Roger Caillois, WJT Mitchell, Ariella Azoulay, Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa and others.


Next to my theory course, I supervise the written thesis of the students in the Fine Arts department. During the third year of their study the students  have to complete a written thesis, which is an integral part of their graduation trajectory. Writing a thesis is a challenging task and entails a process of reflection and engaging with ideas and concepts, images, and objects, which constitute the broader context of one’s creative practice. Such objects and concepts are researched, re-imagined, re-negotiated, and presented in a thesis, which also outlines a set of key conceptual questions specific to the students’ work. The thesis is designed to help the students to develop skills to formulate relevant questions, which strengthen their artistic practices, and simultaneously allows them to shape their own voice and position by testing the potentials of different modes of writing. Theory is considered a field that ideally provides students with conceptual tools and strategies in their creative practices. The border between the theoretical and creative practice is porous and allows for interpenetration of ideas, strategies and approaches.

The writing of a thesis contributes to the students’ practices by way of developing abilities to think, speculate, develop a line of argumentation, verbalise concepts and ideas. As such, it forms a major impetus to their creative practice and serves as a basis for future work and projects. It is closely related to, and developed in parallel with, the artistic practice during the graduation year. The research process associated with writing a thesis allows students to develop awareness and knowledge of their positioning, and the identity of their artistic gestures. They also develop skills to critically reflect on their practice and its context, to do independent research, to write and communicate complex ideas, and work with different types of visual and textual material.


Instead of producing result that claims the certainties of definitions, artistic thinking takes place as an action-thought that questions the distinction between the processes of research, making, and the artwork or a text as their outcome. The experience of reading and writing is understood as equally a process of thinking and a creative process. We approach theory creatively, in a sense anarchically, and learn how to appropriate complex theoretical fragments in order to create conceptual tools for one’s own practice. We develop our intellectual curiosity and desire to discus, hear, view, read, experience, and look further.