The MA in Visual Arts and Culture at Durham is a distinctive interdisciplinary programme that invites students to develop their knowledge and understanding of the visual arts and of visual culture. To study visual arts and culture is a way of paying attention to phenomena that are literally everywhere. The concept of ‘visual culture’ acknowledges the pervasive nature of visual phenomena, and signals openness towards both the breadth of objects and images, and the range of theoretical and methodological perspectives needed to understand them adequately. Drawing upon research strengths across the departments that contribute to the programme, the MA in Visual Arts and Culture encourages you to take a broad view of geographical and chronological scope, while allowing you to engage with a wide range of visual phenomena, including fine art, film, photography, architecture, and scientific and medical imaging practices.
The importance of critical visual literacy in the contemporary world cannot be exaggerated. ‘The illiterate of the future’, wrote the Bauhaus artist and theoretician László Moholy-Nagy, ‘will be the person ignorant of the camera as well as of the pen’. This observation was made in the 1920s, when photography was first used in the periodical press and in political propaganda. The rich visual world of the early twentieth century pales in comparison with the visual saturation that now characterises everyday experience throughout the developed societies and much of the developing world. But the study of visual culture is by no means limited to the twentieth century. Turning our attention to past cultures with a particular eye to the significance of visual objects of all kinds yields new forms of knowledge and understanding.
Our programme facilitates the development of critical visual literacy in three main ways. First, it attends to the specificity of visual objects, images and events, encouraging you to develop approaches that are sensitive to the individual works they encounter. Second, it investigates the nature of perception, asking how it is that we make meaning out of that which we see. Finally, it investigates how our relationships with other people, and with things, are bound up in the act of looking.
The course consists of one core module, two optional modules and a dissertation. The core module sets out the intellectual framework for the programme, offering a broad overview of key conceptual debates in the field of Visual Culture, together with training in analysis of visual objects of different kinds, an advanced introduction to understanding museum practice, and key research skills in visual arts and culture. The optional modules provide further specialised areas of study in related topics of interest to individual students, and the 12,000-15,000 word dissertation involves detailed study of a particular aspect of a topic related to the broad area of visual culture.
Previously, optional modules have included:
The Centre for Visual Arts and Culture (CVAC) brings together scholars from across and beyond Durham University in order to provide a dynamic setting for wide-ranging interdisciplinary research and debates about visual culture, a field that entails the study of vision and perception, the analysis of the social significance of images and ways of seeing, and the attentive interpretation of a range of visual objects, from artworks to scientific images.
The Centre brings together scholars from across and beyond Durham University in order to provide a vibrant and dynamic setting for wide-ranging interdisciplinary research and debates about visual culture. The Centre provides a focus for cutting-edge research on visual arts and cultures: it aspires to train new generations of scholars through innovative postgraduate programmes, it fosters informed debate both nationally and internationally, and it offers an engaging, open environment for researchers at all levels.
CVAC takes a generous view of what constitutes visual culture and it is broad in both geographical and chronological scope, encouraging debate about the range of approaches, methods and theories that are most generative for research on visual phenomena. Durham’s current visual culture research includes the study of word and image, art and religion, medicine and visual representation, film, the history of photography, architecture, urban culture, heritage and philosophical aesthetics. It also includes the development of pioneering visual research methods and the study of vision.
Durham’s location itself provides a rich and inspiring environment for this field of research. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that also includes Durham Cathedral; its acclaimed Oriental Museum is a significant asset which houses three Designated Collections, recognised by the Arts Council as nationally and internationally pre-eminent; alongside an outstanding collection of twentieth-century and contemporary art. CVAC has many established relationships with major national and international cultural organisations, and aims to develop further its links with museums, galleries and heritage sites.
For further information on the Centre see http://www.durham.ac.uk/cvac
The MA Digital and Visual Communication offers study in a broad range of digital and visual communication theory and practice.
The Course attracts students from a wide range of disciplines and from all over the world, giving it a strong international flavour. The current cohort comes from as far afield as China, Nigeria, India, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Poland, Greece and Germany, as well as the UK.
The course gives you the opportunity to develop your creative design abilities but also equips you with marketing and branding skills and knowledge essential for a career in the competitive market place that is International Visual Communications.
- Computer Games Design
- Design for Advertising
- Graphic Communication
- Multimedia Design
- Video and Film Production
- Creative approaches to digital & visual communications research and practice
- Understanding and defining Digital and Visual Communication Practice
- Critical, contextual and theoretical enquiry
- Critical, contextual and theoretical frameworks
- Masters Project in Digital and Visual Communications
This course is designed to develop your creative and intellectual abilities through the investigation of a bespoke project aligned to your own particular interests and aspirations. The course is intended to promote ‘Thinking practitioners’ who will be well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities available within the growing global industry of Digital and Visual Communication.
The course attracts students from all over the world as well as from the UK. Current students hail from China, India, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Germany and Greece. This course has a truly international perspective reflecting the global nature of the visual communications sector.
"Studying in an artistic environment where different design disciplines are working close together and the well-balanced level of guidance and independency really helped me to investigate and improve my work in graphic communications." Yvonne John
"As an Illustrator studying for my Master degree, The MA Digital and Visual Communications course and its layout has allowed me to further develop my work and to get it out there and more importantly noticed whilst giving me a greater knowledge and understanding of professional Illustration. As well as offering me excellent opportunities to communicate with those in the world of commercial publishing, This is largely down to the expert experience and brilliance of the staff and how they run the course." Matt Jones
“The course is Interesting and it broadens the mind of any MA student, especially to those who are involve in Advertising programme.” Mohammed Abba Aliyu
Employment opportunities include:
- Self-employment: Establishing yourself in your own business, or as a sole trader or freelance designer.
- A career in design, practice and/or industry in the UK and internationally.
- Advancement in current employment: education, public sector or the creative industries.
You will gain the intellectual and creative confidence to enable you to embrace the challenges and rewards of the Global Digital & Visual Communications industry. Through the investigation of a personally designed project you will have the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge to a Masters Level, culminating in a showcase exhibition and portfolio. Opportunities exist to further develop your portfolio through PhD study within the department. From the 2010 cohort three students have progressed successfully to our PhD programme.