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Critical Writing in Art & Design

About This Masters Degree

Course Description

The MA programme in Critical Writing in Art & Design offers students opportunities to develop the literary and intellectual skills required for art and design criticism in an age of rapid technological and cultural change. More new books, magazines and journals – online and in print – are being published than ever before, many exploring experimental and new approaches to writing about art and design. At the same time, media, the gallery, the studio and the practice of writing itself are being transformed by the deep penetration of new technologies into all aspects of our lives.

This full-time, two-year MA explores different aspects of writing about and for contemporary art and designand other fields of contemporary culture. On joining the programme, students will be encouraged to develop specialist knowledge of a field of art, design, architecture, fashion or the applied arts. They will follow a common programme of classes designed to develop their skills as writers, editors and thinkers. On graduation, Critical Writing in Art & Design students will have written many different kinds of texts, produced actual publications and shaped their own individual major project.

The programme also organises numerous one-off events. In spring 2014, for instance, we held a two-day international conference on the phenomenon of the essay as a literary and visual object at which Wayne Koestenbaum, the Otolith Group and Deborah Levy spoke. In recent years, Ali Smith, Tom McCarthy, Chris Kraus and John Calder, amongst others, have spoken at our events.

Students on this Master’s programme benefit from working among artists, designers, architects and applied artists studying in Britain’s only wholly postgraduate university of art and design. The Royal College of Art is a major centre of the arts, with a distinguished history as a publisher of books under the Lion & Unicorn imprint, as well as Ark magazine. It is a stimulating and intellectually provocative setting; world-leading artists, critics and designers exhibit, lecture and teach here.

Drawing on the teaching methods of the art school, this programme makes full use of the ‘crit’ (group reviews of student work), briefs and writing workshops. Breaking the isolation that characterises much writing practice, it forms a lively environment for intellectual exchange and collaboration.

Writing is strongly shaped by the contexts in which it is practised and where it appears. The programme offers the opportunity to develop writing skills in a variety of contexts including radio and the internet. Students on the programme publish their work – interviews, reviews, polemics, sustained critical essays and scripts – online and in print. Working alongside graphic designers and other postgraduate students in the College, they produce a major publication in the second year of their studies.

On graduating, Critical Writing in Art & Design students will have a portfolio of different kinds of writing, editing skills and critical understanding, as well as membership of a formidable network of RCA graduates. This MA will enhance their opportunities to pursue a career in the arts and the cultural industries. Our graduates are working as freelance writers for print and radio, editors of magazines, curators, publishers and educators.

The MA programme includes:

- Masterclasses – Prominent visiting writers and critics set briefs and lead crits of student writing.
- Writing Workshops – Students are set 15 or more projects over two years. They conduct interviews, write texts that explore London’s diverse faces, write polemics, explore the ‘borders of fact and fiction’ and many other themes.
- Media Platforms and Contexts – Running throughout the first year, these classes examine the practice of writing in different media fields including radio and television, print and web-based media. They are taught by leading media industry professionals.
- Critical Reading: Reading Critically – Good writers are keen readers and critical thinkers. This rolling seminar – running through both years of the MA programme – explores concepts and ideas with high currency in contemporary art and design.
- Critical & Historical Studies – These lecture and seminar series introduce students to major contemporary issues in different fields of art and design.

Entry Requirements

Applications are encouraged from anyone with a good BA degree in a humanities/arts subject (including studio courses in art and design). Applicants will need to demonstrate a commitment to writing and a strong interest in contemporary art and design practice.

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