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
Toioho ki Āpiti, the Māori Visual Arts programme, was established in 1995. It is the leading provider of advanced indigenous visual arts education in New Zealand, and has an unparalleled list of significant New Zealand artists amongst its alumni. There is also plenty of exciting new talent amongst our current students and recent graduates.
The programme encourages students to ground their practice within a kaupapa Māori paradigm. International students from other indigenous cultures are encouraged to engage in research and applied practices relevant to their individual cultural contexts.
The programme is especially strong in its ability to embrace customary practice from carving to weaving alongside contemporary practice from painting to moving image.
The Master of Māori Visual Arts at the College of Creative Arts offers:
Option one: studio-only. This includes a written exhibition report.
or option two: mixed studio/theory
At the Masters level, most students opt for a studio-only programme. Internal students get a studio space on campus. The exhibition is submitted together with an exhibition report that resolves research and practice, or a database that contextualises the body of work within the student's personal oeuvre (if they have over 10 years of practice). Students are encouraged to negotiate an exhibition space in the public domain, in sites relevant to their kaupapa.
Study a degree which develops your arts practice through the expressive world of creative computation. The Masters provides you with the historical foundations, frameworks and critical skills to produce a series of projects for public exhibition.
Computation consists of all the changes brought about by digital technology. Art is an open set of ways of acting inventively in culture. Mixing the two together in a systematic way gives us computational art. This is a very open field, and one that is set to expand enormously in the coming years. It is where the most exciting developments in technology and in culture can already be found. This degree will place you in the middle of this fast-evolving context.
This degree develops your arts practice through the expressive world of creative computation. Over a two years (full-time) or four years (part-time) you will develop your artistic work and thinking through the challenge of developing a series of projects for public exhibition which will explore the technological and cultural ramifications of computation.
Since computational artworks don’t necessarily involve computers and screens, we also encourage students to produce works across a diverse range of media. Supported by studio technicians in state-of-the-art facilities, our students are producing works using tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters, robotics, wearable technologies, paint, sculpture and textiles.
You will also study contextual modules on computational art and the socio-political effects of technology. Modules provide students with the historical foundations, frameworks, critical skills and confidence to express their ideas effectively. You will have the opportunity to learn the cultural histories of technology, to reflect on computation in terms of its wider cultural effects, and to understand the way in which art provides rigorous ways of thinking.
Through our masterclass series, we regularly invite world-class artists and curators to explain their work and engage in critical dialogue with the students. This allows you to develop a wider understanding of the contemporary art scene and how your work sits within the professional art world.
As well as the MFA, we also offer an MA in Computational Arts. The MA is 1 year (full-time), the MFA 2 years (full-time).
The first year of the MFA is identical to the MA. You take the same classes and you learn the same things. The differences between the two courses is that in the MFA you get a 2nd year in which you take additional courses which help you develop your arts practice further. These courses mean that you get a space to work under a tutor's supervision.
Year 1 shares the same core learning as our MA in Computational Arts programme:
The follwing are core modules:
You may then pick modules of your own choice from the optional modules listed below:
In year 2 you will study the following:
In Year 2 you will be assessed by: self-evaluation report of 2,500 words; essay of up to 6,000 words; viva voce; exhibition of final work.
The programme will equip you with a broad training in the use of creative computing systems that are currently most important in artistic, design and cultural practices and the creative industries, as well as technologies that are yet to emerge.
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