SAIC's Master of Arts (MA) in Visual and Critical Studies program integrates scholarly, studio, and hybrid research practices. It is designed for students who wish to pursue a scholarly and creative investigation of practices of looking and the production, circulation, and impact of visual images. Through immersive research intertwined with studio practice, writing, or both, students explore ways of seeing and representing social, cultural, and visual phenomena. The curriculum balances topic-based seminars, independent work with advisors, and electives to create a singularly interdisciplinary course of study.
At the heart of the Master of Arts degree in Visual and Critical Studies is a core structure of visual theory surrounded by a flexible curriculum in which students, guided by SAIC faculty advisors, design their own course sequence to match their interests. The Visual and Critical Studies program aims to redefine disciplinary practices, and explores interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and postdisciplinary thinking and making.
Each year artists, curators, and scholars from both inside and outside SAIC participate in critiques of MAVCS student work. This opportunity enables students to understand their production in a broader context and develop professional connections.
Depending on students’ research interests, the final thesis may be a written work of criticism, a creative writing project, a body of work presented in a gallery during the annual student-run exhibition, or a hybrid-platform production. Graduate students also organize an annual symposium to share their research in a professional context.
MA in Visual and Critical Studies faculty are internationally recognized practitioners in their fields and share a common interest taking disciplinary knowledge beyond the borders of conventional practice. The faculty include artists, designers, critics, writers, and scholars with diverse backgrounds: sculpture and anthropology, design and feminism, photography and social history, conceptual practices and textual criticism as well as a range of emerging disciplines. Visual and Critical Studies faculty have won Guggenheim awards for both studio practice and critical scholarship.
Recent visitors to the Visual and Critical Studies department have included:
- Nicholas Mirzoeff (on political activism and visual culture)
- Boris Groys (on changing the world through art)
- Alum Gordon Hall (on object lessons)
- Pierre Von Ow (on conversation pieces)
- Ben Kinmont (on social sculpture)
- Mitesh Dixit (on “Complex Projects” at Delft University of Technology, Netherlands)
- Nico Dockx (on archives)
- Åbäke (on socially reflexive design)
- Zak Kyes (on Fighting With Inanimate Objects)
- Carlos Fernández Pello (on Caillois, camouflage, and night-sky constellations)
- Erica Barrish (on post-reductive minimalist practices of women from 1960–present)
- Alumna Szu-Han Ho (on transnational collaboration)