Documents of Contemporary Art: 10 Year Anniversary

  • An image of the Documents of Contemporary Art range on display at the Whitechapel Gallery

Past Event

This event was on Fri 5 May, 2–6pm

What are the urgent themes of our times? Why have ‘participation’, ‘education’ or ‘utopia’ become crucial to think about the current moment? This event celebrates a decade of art and ideas in the iconic Documents of Contemporary Art book series co-published by Whitechapel Gallery and The MIT Press.

Guest editors Claire Bishop (Participation), Felicity Allen (Education), Gilda Williams (The Gothic) and Richard Noble (Utopia) are joined by series editors Iwona Blazwick and Ian Farr to discuss different approaches to art and publishing.

The event considers ideas of the anthology as a form: its origin, its impact on teaching and its role today, when the internet has redefined our access to knowledge and information.

Claire Bishop delivers a keynote reflecting on how our understanding of participation has changed in the decade since the release of her widely-read edition. Ian Farr explores the historical and cultural context of the series.

This is followed by a panel discussion including key guest editors, to explore the process of selecting from sources across disciplines, how thematic approaches offer critical, interdisciplinary tools and covering issues ranging from feminism and psychoanalysis to art and politics.


14.00 Introduction by Iwona Blazwick, Director Whitechapel Gallery

14.15 Claire Bishop, Professor, CUNY Graduate Center, New York

15.00 Ian Farr, series editor of Documents of Contemporary Art, Whitechapel Gallery/MIT. Followed by Q&A.

15.40 Break

16.00 Panel discussion with Felicity Allen, Richard Noble, Gilda Williams. Followed by Q&A.

18.00 End

About the Speakers

Felicity Allen is an artist and writer. As well as Education (2011), her article Situating Gallery Education (2008) was the first of five on the subject, for which her guest scholarship at the Getty Research Institute (2011) was catalytic. While running education at Tate Britain (2003–2010) she curated Nahnou-Together Now (2008) from a durational project with artists in Damascus, Amman and London. She continues to work with friends in Syria and later this year will be working on exhibition & pedagogic projects curated by George Vasey in Newcastle and Alexander Ivanov and Joana Monbaron in St Petersburg.

Iwona Blazwick is Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, London since 2001 and is a curator, critic and lecturer. She was formerly at Tate Modern and London’s ICA as well as working as an independent curator in Europe and Japan.  Blazwick is series editor of Whitechapel Gallery/MIT Documents of Contemporary Art. She has written monographs and articles on many contemporary artists and published extensively on themes and movements in modern and contemporary art, exhibition histories and art institutions.

Ian Farr is commissioning editor of Documents of Contemporary Art and formerly worked at Phaidon Press as project editor on Contemporary Artists series monographs from Jenny Holzer to Roni Horn (1997-2000) and series editor for titles in the Themes & Movements series (2000-2005): Art and Feminism (Helena Reckitt, Peggy Phelan), Conceptual Art (Peter Osborne), Art and Photography (David Campany), Surrealism (Mary Ann Caws) and Pop (Mark Francis, Hal Foster).

Gilda Williams is an art critic, editor and teacher. She has been London correspondent for Artforum since 2005 and is the author of How to Write about Contemporary Art (2014). She teaches in the Art Department at Goldsmiths College, University of London and has guest lectured at the Royal College of Art, London; Central St Martins, London, and many other universities. She is a consultant for contemporary art for the website