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Course content

This unique transdisciplinary course, open to people from all backgrounds, offers a special focus on contemporary social sculpture, ecological citizenship, connective eco-social practices, cultural activism, expanded art practices and transformative, creative action. It enables you to explore strategies of engagement, agency and the relationship between imagination and transformation. The programme also makes special reference to the proposals and legacies of Joseph Beuys, Schiller and Goethe, as well as other pedagogies of transformation such as Joanna Macy's and Paulo Freire's. It introduces theoretical and philosophical frameworks, with a special emphasis on phenomenology and experiential knowing; explores the relationship of social sculpture to ecological sustainability and offers practice-based research methodologies and creative strategies as the basis for developing individual and collaborative social sculpture processes, interdisciplinary expanded arts and reflective social practice. 

The MA is Social Sculpture is, with the MA in Sound Arts, one of two taught postgraduate courses for socially-engaged artists, composers and transdisciplinary practitioners currently offered by the School of Arts at Oxford Brookes University. These MAs share two core modules in Creative Strategies and Phenomenological Methods of practice-based work. These shared modules enable cross-pollination and potential for collaboration between social sculpture and connective practice practitioners and those working in the field of sound arts. The MA in Social Sculpture is linked to the Social Sculpture Research Unit and is part of a thriving post-graduate research culture. There are opportunities to volunteer in social sculpture projects like University of the Trees: Lab for an Eco-Social Future. 

Why choose this course?

The MA in Social Sculpture is an internationally renowned programme, running since 2006, linked to the Social Sculpture Research Unit at Oxford Brookes. A dedicated team of international specialists and emerging practitioners delivers innovative cross-disciplinary and socially-engaged creative practices that many students have described as 'life changing'.

  • Participating in a community of dialogue and reflection: the unique 'Feedback Forum' approach which runs throughout the programme replaces the traditional art-school 'crit', offering a radical, supportive and creative form of feedback on your work. Another special feature is the regular MA Forum, in which students and staff meet to discuss creative practice in a supportive and stimulating environment. It also offers fortnightly individual tutorials and small group supervision.
  • Coherent and unique teaching approach: a carefully sequenced set of modules enable you to uncover, explore and develop your own concerns within the field of contemporary social sculpture, creative cultural action and other interdisciplinary connective practices.
  • Research culture and opportunities beyond the programme: MA Social Sculpture students are welcome to participate in 7 day-long 'PhD Social Sculpture Fora' per year. This is part of a stimulating environment where tutors, alumni, research fellows and student interns work closely together in the Social Sculpture Research Unit, and in projects like University of the Trees: Lab for New Knowledge and an Eco-Social Future. 
  • Based in the School of Arts' beautiful Richard Hamilton Building: situated very close to the city centre in a wooded landscape and arboretum, it offers excellent technical support; well-equipped workshops in video, photography, sound, artists books, printmaking and a variety of 3-D processes; a well- equipped library with materials appropriate to our programme and dedicated support for practice-based research students. There is bookable installation space, a group studio base and 24/7 studio access.
  • Wider context: research and teaching programmes in the School of Arts are linked to some of Oxford’s leading cultural organisations such as Modern Art Oxford, and the annual Social Sculpture Festival of MA student work takes place in an around Oxford, using accessible local venues as a hub. You are encouraged to make links with local communities and social and ecological organisations as well as being able to design certain projects related to their home contexts. Once you graduate from the programme you have the opportunity to participate in the annual Social Sculpture Platform which is open to the public.

This course in detail

MA in Social Sculpture students take five compulsory modules - Creative Strategies 1 and 2, Social Sculpture 1 and 2 and a Major Project - in which they develop their particular concerns.

PGDip in Social Sculpture students take four compulsory modules - Creative Strategies 1 and 2 and Social Sculpture 1 and 2. 

Teaching and learning

Our teaching methods include:

  • seminars and lectures on interdisciplinary creative practice, practice-based research, phenomenological root methodologies and social sculpture
  • team teaching in group seminars, involving research methodologies for practice-based research
  • feedback from staff and students during group feedback sessions, in which you receive constructive feedback on your work
  • staff-led group discussions arising out of practical presentations
  • regular individual tutorials that address your research concerns
  • introductions to creative strategies for generating and making practice-based social sculpture and other forms of connective cultural action and reflective social practice.
  • introductions to the School of Arts technical facilities
  • induction sessions with subject librarians.

The learning methods include:

  • regular forums where staff and students formulate and articulate responses to work
  • social sculpture and interdisciplinary creative practice presentations
  • presentations of practical research
  • the researching and writing of reflective reports, assignments and self-evaluations
  • private research and study 
  • presentations to peers and group feedback via the 'feedback forum' approach to 'reception theory' in practice.

Approach to assessment

The approach to assessment can be described as dialogic. You interrogate your own work using a form of phenomenological analysis, and we assess and respond to this careful 'dialogue' that you have with your own work. 

The assessment forms and methods include: 

  • practical presentations of resolved social sculpture, interdisciplinary creative actions and reflective social practice 
  •  written self-evaluations on the evolution, development and resolution of all creative practices and projects 
  • written case-studies 
  • a final presentation of practical work as part of the MA Social Sculpture and Connective Practice Festival which includes projects in specific contents and related documentation, interventions, exhibitions and events.

Visit the MA/PGDip Social Sculpture and Connective Practice page on the Oxford Brookes University website for more details!

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