History of Art


Helena Vilalta


Helena Vilalta is a contemporary art critic, editor and lecturer. She is the former senior editor of Afterall journal, where she worked from 2012-2016. Prior to this, she held curatorial positions at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at the New School in New York and the Exhibitions Department of the Centre for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona. She has contributed to periodical publications such as Afterall, Moving Image Review & Art Journal, Cahiers du Cinéma and Concreta, and has curated exhibitions at Gasworks and The Showroom in London, amongst others. She is currently an associate lecturer at Central Saint Martins and has been a visiting lecturer at Birkbeck, King's College and Westminster. She holds an MA (with distinction) in Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art in London, as well as an MA in Contemporary Film and Media Studies and a BA in Humanities from Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.


Beyond 'Information': Embodied Conceptualism circa 1970

In How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics (1999), N. Katherine Hayles describes the transition from the human to the posthuman as the story of how 'information lost its body'. In dissociating information patterns from their material instantiation, she argues, post-War cybernetics naturalised the Cartesian subject as a pre-eminently cognitive construct. Hayles's account of the virtualisation of subjectivity is reminiscent of how, over a similar historical period, contemporary art also appeared to lose its body. A great deal of ink has been spilled on art's depleted physicality in the turn from the 1960s to the 70s, its much-debated dematerialisation. The aim of the project is not to expose this foundational myth of contemporary art but to provide an alternative account of how materiality, and embodiment specifically, came to be experienced as a problem in the art of the period. To reprise Hayles's formulation, did artists at the time experience the information revolution as a loss of the body? And if so, how was this sense of loss differently inflected by specific personal, social and political conditions?

Supervisor: Briony Fer


Critical Histories of Art Studentship, UCL, 2016-19

Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grant, 2015

British Council-"la Caixa" Fellowship, 2009-11

Erasmus Fellowship, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, 2004-05


Publications (Selection)

'Empty Fields and Crying Stones', Afterall, no.42, Autumn/Winter 2016, pp.144-155.

'Hacking the Self: Sidsel Meineche Hansen's "INSIDER"', Moving Image Review and Art Journal, vol.4, issues 1-2, December 2015, pp.278-285.

'Juan Downey: Yanomami, Let's Talk' (co-author Manuela Carneiro da Cunha), Afterall, issue 36, Summer 2014, pp.29-37.

'Researchers Researching Research: 1st Bergen Biennial', Afterall Online, 4 February 2014.

'The Blind Viewer', in Ciao, Peter Gidal, London: Benedictions, 2011, pp.44-61.

'Landscape in Motion', in Filipa César: Montrage, Berlin: Argos Books, 2010, pp.161-63.

Conferences and Talks (Selection)

'Lee Lozano: A Materialist Reading', Transmission, Glasgow, 21 October 2016

'Mattering Information: Lee Lozano's Infofiction', AAH Annual Conference, Edinburgh, 8 April 2016

'In Conversation with Helmut Draxler', Whitechapel Gallery, London, 18 September 2014

Lecture on Agnès Varda, Freud Museum, London, 3 June 2014

Curated Exhibitions and Events

'Human Capital' (with films by Darcy Lange and Duncan Campbell, and talks by Mercedes Vicente and Olivia Plender) at La Virreina, Barcelona, 27 May 2012, curated with Antonia Blocker and Robert Leckie

Screening programmes 'Black Audio Film Collective' (12 February 2012, with films by the Black Audio Film Collective and Isaac Julien) and 'Black Liberation' (19 May 2012, with films by René Vautier, Carole Roussopoulos and Edouard de Laurot), Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, curated with Gonzalo de Lucas

'All I Can See is the Management' (Pauline Boudry & Renate Lorenz, KP Brehmer, Filipa César, Eulàlia, Amy Feneck, Pil & Galia Kollectiv, Darcy Lange, Stuart Marshall and Allan Sekula), Gasworks, London, 7 October-11 December 2011, curated with Antonia Blocker and Robert Leckie

'Shadowboxing' (Mariana Castillo Deball, Sean Dockray, Marysia Lewandowska and Wendelien Van Oldenborgh), Royal College of Art, London, 18 March-3 April 2011, curated with graduating MA Curating Contemporary Art students

'Gossip, Scandal and Good Manners: Works by Ulises Carrión', The Showroom, London, 12-26 June 2010, curated with graduating MA Curating Contemporary Art students

Other Roles

Member of the editorial boards of Afterall journal and Object

Member of the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art, UCL