Master of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies
Designed for students who wish to pursue a scholarly and creative investigation of the production, dissemination, and impact of visual images, SAIC's Master of Arts (MA) in Visual and Critical Studies program integrates scholarly, studio, and hybrid research practices as part of an evolving paradigm that addresses the complexity of visual and critical practices in the 21st century.
The graduate program in visual and critical studies is designed for students who wish to pursue a scholarly and creative investigation of the production, dissemination, and impact of visual images. Through immersive research intertwined with the process of making (whether through 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.
Depending on students' research interests, the final thesis may be either a written work of criticism or a creative body of work presented in a gallery during the annual student-run exhibition. Graduate students also organize an annual symposium to share their research in a professional context.
A Postdisciplinary Program
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 structure to match their interests. The Visual and Critical Studies program is designed to redefine disciplinary practices as a mashup of interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and postdisciplinary thinking and making.
The curriculum balances topic-based seminars, independent work with advisors, and electives to create a singularly interdisciplinary course of study. Depending on students’ research interests, the final thesis may be either a written work of criticism or a creative body of work presented in a gallery during the annual student-run MAVCS exhibition. Graduate students also organize an annual symposium to share their research in a professional context.
A unique aspect of the MA in Visual and Critical Studies program is the option of combining creative and critical practices: some students have studios, some have desks, and some have both. Each semester, curators, gallerists, and scholars from both inside and outside SAIC participate in critiques of MA in Visual and Critical Studies student work. This opportunity enables students to understand their work within a broader context and develop professional connections.
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:
- Boris Groys (on changing the world through art)
- 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)