This multidisciplinary, visual theory-based course is established around the belief that visual literacy and the impact of visual forms of thinking and working now play significant roles in society. The course introduces you to a range of historical and contemporary debates that inform the theories and practice of visual culture, and enables you to develop a conceptual framework within which to evaluate the role of the visual arts, and other forms of visual production, in contemporary society and culture.
You will acquire creative and professional research skills, such as the ability to work from exhibitions, art works and institutional archives, to be able to operate within different artistic and conceptual frameworks.
This Masters balances historical and theoretical debates in the field of visual culture studies with a rigorous interrogation of cultural practices across a range of topics, including: activism and popular politics; contemporary visual arts, capitalism and culture; globalisation and new media technologies; institutions and their archives; and the material culture of the city. The course also draws upon the cultural institutions and intellectual resources of central London, and has established contacts with other galleries and organisations for work placements.
The following modules are indicative of what you will study on this course.
This extended piece of research work is an opportunity for you to pursue a topic of individual interest, and is conducted through individual study and directed supervision. The module is designed to support and develop your independent research skills.
Visual Culture: Production, Display and Discourse
This module provides a wide-ranging introduction to the history and theory of visual culture by focusing on the production, deployment and discourses of art, particularly as these are theorised in the writings of artists themselves. Philosophical, aesthetic and theoretical perspectives are used to explore vision as a social and cultural process, and the circulation of art as a social, cultural and political process.
Visual Culture: Theoretical and Critical Perspectives
This module introduces you to the theoretical debates that have contributed to the field of visual culture studies, including consideration of the politics of representation, the reproduction of images, subjectivity and the body, new media, globalisation, and the discourse of the ‘other’. You will also focus on an examination of the ways that theories and objects may emerge through and conflict with each other.
Choose four from:
Capitalism and Culture
Beginning with Marx’s famous account of the commodity in the first chapter of Capital, this module explores a range of theoretical accounts of capitalism and examines their significance to the analysis of different cultural forms, including film, literature, and the contemporary visual arts. In doing so, you will consider changing conceptions of ‘culture’ itself, and its varying relations to ideas of art, modernity, production, the mass, autonomy, spectacle, and the culture industry.
Engaging the Archive
Through workshops and seminars, this module introduces you to practical and theoretical issues of using archives for the purposes of research or exhibition. With privileged access to the unique collections of the University of Westminster Archive, the module will enable you to examine: the principles of archival practice; how context, authorship, intentionality and audience participate in the construction of meanings of archive documents; the politics of the archive, including curatorial and artistic intervention, and the creation of alternative histories; the impact of digitisation, and issues of copyright and authorship.
This module will look at different curatorial strategies that organisations use, from group shows around a specific theme to solo artist's exhibitions, from historical shows to contemporary work, from traditional printed photographs hung in frames to art made for public spaces. It examines how exhibiting the digital image, on-line or as a networked image, presents many different concerns as well as opportunities.
Galleries and spaces studied on the module include The Photographers' Gallery, which is one of the first public galleries in the world dedicated to exhibiting photography as art, the Victoria and Albert Museum which was one of the first museums to ever collect photography and therefore has an unrivalled collection representing the history of photography, the Science Museum and National Portrait Gallery.
This module studies the ways that various forms of space are used in cultural life, and how they are represented visually, from architectural spaces, urban spaces, public and private spaces, inhabited and non-inhabited spaces to virtual spaces. The module examines relationships between space and place in order to explore how cultural forms are located in, and productive of, space. The module also includes a range of site visits.
Representing World Cultures
This module examines the issues and practices involved in presenting non-western cultures to a diverse audience through visual practices. You will look at how representation produces meaning, and consider the main frameworks that can help you understand how cultures are represented in a range of contexts. Key issues explored include: postcolonialism; globalisation; the relationship between photography and ideology; the ethics of representation; the birth of the museum; contemporary roles of western cultural institutions; and audiences as citizens and consumers. The module is run through seminars and workshops in London museums and archives.
Using a range of theoretical, historical, literary, cinematic, visual and other cultural texts, you will explore the idea of urban culture as it has developed since the mid-19th century. The module considers a variety of different representations of the city, and the ways in which they understand the specificity of urban experience itself. You will also explore the changing global forms and interrelations of ‘western’ and ‘non-western’ urban forms.
Work Placements in Cultural Institutions
This module aims to enable students to gain first-hand experience of working within a context relevant to their career objectives; to enhance the opportunities for translating theoretical and practical knowledge into professional skills and to encourage students to make beneficial connections within a professional context.
Graduates will be equipped for roles in the creative industries, including museum and gallery work, education, arts administration and marketing, or could pursue further study to PhD level. The course is also suitable for practising artists wishing to further their research.
This school offers programs in:
Last updated March 1, 2017