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
interdisciplinary opportunities we offer create an engaging professional experience investigating the practice and discourse of fine art. You can choose areas of specialism in drawing from the archive, art in space and place and curating art, alongside your own studio work.
Full-time students use our purpose-built studio space. You have access to a wide range of workshops and technical expertise from all areas of media and fabrication. These include • sculpture • painting • live art • drawing • computer programming • metalwork • video editing • dark rooms • sound studios • film production equipment • printmaking.
Our teaching staff are experts in fine art and art education who not only exhibit their work but also contribute to conferences, journals and publications at national and international levels.
Vibrant and supportive learning environment
The course offers a supportive community to foster your practice and your ambitions as a fine art professional. It is particularly suitable if you are • open-minded • ambitious • keen to experience new personal challenges that expand your creative development • interested in understanding all areas of the fine art discipline.
You are encouraged to create experimental and innovative works and to engage with the critical context of art in our time. Dialogue with peers, practicing artists and structured teaching throughout the course enables you to identify your practice within the wider field of fine art to achieve new goals, develop networks and find new inspirations to enrich your creative ambitions.
Excellent creative resources
We have a comprehensive range of technical resources and an excellent programme of high profile guest artists from across the visual arts spectrum to stimulate debates on issues of art and culture. If you are doing your work placement in another European country there may be funding available through the Erasmus programme.
Dynamic and creative art community
Fine art students work and exhibit in the heart of Sheffield's Cultural Industries Quarter. The course has links with • Sheffield Contemporary Arts Forum • studio groups such as S1 and Bloc • Yorkshire Art Space Society • the Showroom Cinema • Site Gallery.
Sheffield has a dynamic and vibrant creative community. We work collaboratively with artists and curators, as well as researchers and students in other areas. You have access to a network of public galleries, art organisations and artist-run spaces. Opportunities for exhibiting and publishing take place throughout the year.
MA and MFA study
MA and MFA students complete the same modules during the course except that MFA students complete an extra project module. The MFA project encourages you to develop professional skills that help you to identify, instigate, and deliver projects with external partners, such as communities, galleries or businesses. You find a project partner, agree a brief and then deliver the project to a professional standard.
This course is part of the Sheffield Institute of Arts (SIA), an amazing, diverse community of makers – where staff, students and partners work as equals to deliver real innovation and creativity. SIA opened in 1843 and is one of the UK's oldest Art and Design Schools. We have recently moved into the Head Post Office, a redesigned Grade II listed building. It includes state-of-the-art workshops which provide you with a unique studio-based learning environment in the heart of the creative community.
In this module you extend your knowledge of the range of approaches to research that have been used in art, and those that derive from other disciplines. You are introduced to an advanced range of contemporary critical theories, and examine key texts embodying these theories. Principles of research planning and the theory and practice of information searching ensure you are ready to effectively carry out your own research and critical practice.
During this studio-based module, you produce a body artwork in preparation for an exhibition. Your work may manifest itself across a range of contemporary art practices arising from individual intellectual and creative concerns. You have access to specialist workshop surgeries where you can seek individual support and advice to further your practical work.
On this module you produce a body of work in any chosen media form. It draws together strategies of research, professional practice and critical thinking to form an advanced, mature, informed and professional practice. The module holds together these key aspects to reflect, and enable transition into, the wider contemporary art world.
You select from options that are led by research active staff who will introduce you to their own professional interests including • art writing • curating art • art in space and place • drawing from the archive • gallery – public realm: making art inside and out
MFA core module – MFA students only
You reflect on and consider methodologies of fine art to develop an individual method of making.
Your work on this final MFA project involves public presentation of your work supported by a mentor who guides you as you make the leap into the professional world.
Self-negotiated models of examination enable students to present agreed bodies of work for self and peer group assessment as well as evaluation by tutors.
We provide a learning environment that supports your individual needs while developing your involvement in the wider art world.
You are regularly involved in a range of exhibition, curatorial, performance, screening and publishing projects at regional, national and international levels.
You gain confidence to exploit opportunities for practicing artists and work in associated fine art-related culture. You can also register for further study at MPhil/PhD level within our Art and Design Research Centre.
Graduate successes include
Learning how to make new discoveries that will contribute to a better understanding of the historical and social significance of works of art, artefacts and other cultural products from classical antiquity to the present.
Art is an expression of the human spirit. The study of art deals with cultural, social, religious, political and aesthetic meaning in the time it was created, the present and the eras in between. Think of how the Greek mythology of Narcissus – who has been portrayed in countless sculptures and paintings over the ages – was used by Freud to name a psychological disorder and is today used by politicians to symbolise the flaws of modern society. And think of how the destruction of art, be it by Byzantine iconoclasts, sixteenth-century Dutch protestants, or present-day adherents of IS, teaches us that the emotional and political significance of art goes far beyond the loss of objects.
The research Master’s in Art and Visual Culture studies the relationship between art, the past and the present from various angles, including the interpretation of the cultural contexts of visual expressions and their transformations throughout the ages up to now. This programme is geared towards classical archaeologists, art historians and cultural scholars alike. You’ll gain insight into general humanities methods and theories as well as those specific for those three fields. You can then go to focus on your own topic in the field of Art-Historical, Cultural Studies and Archaeology.
See the website http://www.ru.nl/masters/arts-culture
The programme welcomes students with interest in all forms of art and visual culture. Our own research primarily focuses on Europe and ‘its worlds’, including how European artefacts interact with and differ from the rest of the world. Our research studies artefacts in the broadest sense, ranging from the more traditional forms as sculptures, paintings and architecture to modern ones as film, digital art, the performing arts and even fashion. All our research is performed in collaboration with scientists from other fields within the Institute for Historical, Literary and Cultural Studies (HLCS). We are joined in thirteen themed research groups .
- We teach you to look at the physical, artistic and visual qualities of an artwork or artefact, seen from the perspectives of three different disciplines: Classical Archaeology, Cultural Studies and Art History.
- In your first year, you take several courses with students from the other HLCS research Master’s specialisations in Historical Studies, and in Literary Studies. This unique construction will allow you to view your own field from the perspective of the other humanities.
- A personal tutor will guide you throughout the entire programme. He/she will give you advice on how to tailor our programme to best suit your interests, act as a sounding board for your research ideas, and help you make the right connections in the academic arena.
- You’ll receive thorough preparation for PhD research, including the writing of a publishable scholarly article and a proposal for a PhD project.
- This programme strongly encourages you to go abroad for at least a semester. Students can use our connections to other universities (IRUN network ) and research institutes to find a place that meet their academic interests.
Any research done by students of the Master’s in Art and Visual Culture will be supervised by a researcher at the Institute for Historical, Literary and Cultural Studies (HLCS) in Nijmegen. HLCS research focuses around the theme Europe and its Worlds and questions whether ‘Europe’ consists of different worlds, how it is addressed, how it differs from the rest of the world, and how it interacts with other worlds. Researchers from a variety of humanities disciplines collaborate in thirteen different thematic groups to explore the spaces, cultural practices, beliefs, texts and ideas related to Europe and its World.
Thematic research groups
There are art and cultural scientists in many of these thematic groups. Although all the groups could be of interest to an art and cultural researcher, our experience is that the following generate a lot of interest among the Art and Visual Culture students:
- Matter And Culture: Analysis, Discourse & Aesthetics of/in Material Culture
The common framework of this group is research into material culture as the bearer of meaning in the broadest sense.
- Creative Industries: Society, Culture and Aesthetics in the 21st century
This group aims to gain a socio-cultural understanding of the creative industries. The group views the creative industries as a dynamic sector of autonomous and applied arts that range from theatre, music, media, literature and museums; to gaming, film, fashion and television, as well as to design, arts education, heritage and festivals.
- Memory, Materiality and Meaning in the Age of Transnationalism
This group studies the material as well as immaterial media and forms of embodiment through which we create memory through meaning-making and performative practices.
Master’s thesis topics in Art and Visual Culture:
For their Master’s thesis research, students can work together with researchers from one of the HLCS research groups or choose a topic in a non-related area. A small sample of thesis topics that you could research in this programme:
- Understanding the Post-Pompeian Era: Wall painting in the Roman Empire (AD 79-395)
- Crime in a Nordic Space: The Production of Space in Forbrydelsen
- William Marlowe in his time: an eighteenth-century view painter rediscovered
- Unravelling the Fabrics of Time: A New Materialist Perspective on Slow Fashion Becomings
- A Pyramidal Structure along the Via Appia. Documentation and reconstruction
See the website http://www.ru.nl/masters/arts-culture
The History of Art MA at UCL draws on the world-leading research and teaching expertise within the department, and is designed to enable students to acquire specialised knowledge pertaining to the field of art history and to develop independent research skills.
Students develop skills for engaging with visual materials and gain historical knowledge, enabling them to interpret artefacts in relation to their social and cultural contexts. They are introduced to current methodological debates in the field and encouraged to define their own position through reasoned historical and theoretical arguments.
Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.
The programme consists of a core module (30 credits), two optional modules (60 credits) and a research dissertation (90 credits).
Options may include the following:
All MA students undertake an independent research project which culminates in a dissertation of approximately 13,000 words.
Teaching and learning
The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, tutorials, as well as gallery and museum visits. Assessment is by two essays for each of the taught modules (six essays in all), the dissertation and a viva.
Further information on modules and degree structure is available on the department website: History of Art MA
UCL's History of Art graduates have an excellent record of success in entering PhD programmes, careers in museums and galleries, the art trade, the heritage industry, art publishing, and art conservation. The unique combination of visual analysis and intellectual rigour offered by the MA has also proven valuable in diverse careers including journalism, publishing, and advertising. For those aspiring to an academic career, the MA is a requirement for a PhD, and many former MA students have successfully received funding for research degrees, and subsequently obtained academic positions, at prestigious institutions in the UK, North America, and elsewhere.
Recent career destinations for this degree
Our History of Art MA provides focused training in the history of art and its methodologies. It encourages students to develop original critical thinking on all aspects of visual culture, and promotes a serious engagement with historical and contemporary cultural debates. You will learn how to work collaboratively as well as independently to develop your skills in written and oral communications. The MA is an excellent starting point for a career in academia, curating, for working in the heritage industry, commercial art galleries, and other sectors of the cultural industries.
Careers data is taken from the ‘Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education’ survey undertaken by HESA looking at the destinations of UK and EU students in the 2013–2015 graduating cohorts six months after graduation.
UCL History of Art is one of the most dynamic centres for the study of art history and visual cultures in the world. It is one of the leading departments in the UK for research; and all staff are active researchers in a range of specialist fields. Our teaching and research move beyond traditional forms of art history to address visual and material cultures more broadly, and we are committed to a wide range of critical and historiographical enquiry.
The MA in History of Art is a challenging and versatile degree; you will study in a community of approximately 40 graduate students; at the same time you will work in smaller groups and in close contact with tutors in your special subject courses.
The department is located in Bloomsbury, close to the Warburg Institute, the British Library, and the British Museum. The National Gallery, Tate Galleries, and the Victoria and Albert Museum are also within easy reach. UCL's own Art Museum holds many rare and important works.
The Research Excellence Framework, or REF, is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The 2014 REF was carried out by the UK's higher education funding bodies, and the results used to allocate research funding from 2015/16.
The following REF score was awarded to the department: History of Art
85% rated 4* (‘world-leading’) or 3* (‘internationally excellent’)
Learn more about the scope of UCL's research, and browse case studies, on our Research Impact website.
Designed for students interested in new ways of exploring and understanding the social world through the use of visual, sensory and other experimental approaches, this programme allows you to study sociological issues alongside innovative methods.
The MA will enable you to examine, represent and intervene in the social world. You will develop the ability to undertake empirical research and present it publicly in a variety of media and materials. You will engage with sociology as an inventive research practice, deploying creative research methods to address classic and changing sociological problems.
The MA in Visual Sociology provides an introduction to the range of debates in visual research, encouraging you to build on these by using visual, sensory and inventive methodological practices to carry out critical social research in your areas of interest, whether this is science and technology, contemporary capitalism, gender and sexual cultures, race, human rights, globalisation, or other aspects of social life.
The programme combines lectures and seminars with practical sessions and workshop-based projects in which you develop a hands-on approach to sociological research, providing a skills base in methods which could be used in public sector contexts, art/media research, design or commercial application.
As well as presenting your ideas through writing, during the MA you will have the opportunity to produce different outputs, including film/video, photography, sound and multi-media pieces. You will also organise and curate some of this work in an exhibition. Critical feedback sessions function as a testing ground for individual projects, and themed projects allow you to further develop a portfolio of research outputs geared to a variety of audiences.
Throughout the programme is a concern with the research process, and you will have the opportunity to design and reflect on your own research projects. The dissertation allows you to undertake a substantive research project on your individual interests, supporting by one-to-one supervision with a member of staff. You will have access to the Visual Media Lab, which offers post-production and editing stations, as well as equipment for photography and video. Students can also borrow equipment from the Media Equipment Centre.
The MA is based in the Department of Sociology, home of the The Methods Lab and at the forefront of research using live methods. It is taught by staff with a wide range of experience in both sociology and interdisciplinary research, including visual and experimental approaches. The course is suitable for applicants from a wide variety of backgrounds, including art, design, anthropology, media and communications, cultural studies, geography, and sociology.
In the first part of the course you will take ‘Empirical Social Research’, a module that takes you through the empirical research cycle in the context of the transformation of sociology in the age of visual, digital and other empirical methods. The module Theories and Debates in Visual Research' enables you to address debates within visual sociology, and also encompasses more recent issues surrounding the notions of media, interdisciplinarity and translation which become significant if sociology works with visual and other sensory materials. Assessment of these modules is by essay.
Alongside these modules you will take a core practical component, ‘Visual and Inventive Practice A’, that offers the opportunity to gain skills in photography, sound and video and to develop materials that engage a sociological imagination. A central focus is on how to translate a research question into a variety of materials or media and to be able to critically discuss the selection and use of these.
In the second term you continue with a practical module in inventive sociology, ‘Social Research for Public Engagement’, in which you will work individually or in groups to respond to a theme to create a visual, sensory or experimental object or media to be exhibited to a particular public. Assessment of the practical work includes a diary of research process alongside documentation of work.
These core modules are taught in Sociology. In the second term you will also take an option that may be chosen from Sociology or may be taken from departments across Goldsmiths including the Departments of Anthropology, English and Comparative Literature, Politics and International Relations, Media and Communications, Educational Studies, Music, and the Centre for Cultural Studies.
In the summer term you will complete a dissertation involving a major practical project consisting of any media and addressing a specific sociological problem. You will meet for individual supervision with a member of the Sociology staff. The dissertation is a substantive piece of research in which you develop a visual, inventive or experimental approach to a topic of your choice.
If you follow the MA part-time over two years, you will take ‘Empirical Social Research’, ‘Visual and Inventive Practice’ and ‘Social Research for Public Engagement’ in year 1, and ‘Theories and Debates in Visual Research’, the dissertation and an option in year 2.
You will chose an option module to the value of 30 credits from Sociology or from departments across the College including the Departments of Anthropology, English and Comparative Literature, Politics, Media and Communications, Music, Educational Studies, and the Centre for Cultural Studies.
Modules in Sociology address themes such as:
Assessment consists of coursework, extended essays, reports, presentations, practice based projects or essays/logs, group projects, reflective essays, and seen and unseen written examinations.
This programme attracts students from a wide range of backgrounds, including art and design, business, and the third sector, as well as those with social science degrees. This means the careers that they are interested in pursuing are wide and varied.
Find out more about employability at Goldsmiths.