/ / / / What is the MA CAT?
/ / / / Re-imagine the Art School
//// Who is CAT for?
//// Our Philosophy and Values
- MA CAT students often work on collaborative forms of practice and inquiry, therefore the programme faculty are eager to support applicants based on their ability to work as part of a creative team as much as we are interested in their artistic and academic potential. We attract students with very different backgrounds and experiences. This difference generates dissensus, diversity and a richness that is key to learning about, and expanding, the field of contemporary art. The focus on building a supportive creative community through innovative forms of peer-generated knowledge (such as paragogy, open networked learning and swarming), on the rigorous and experimental combination of theory and practice and the international profile of the student body makes our Masters programme unique.
- The CAT programme’s faculty and our partnership organisations regularly identify and examine what are (currently) accepted notions of artistic production as a means of encouraging CAT students to develop a highly ambitious research-practice. To this end, faculty seek to provide specialist support for students wishing to pursue research on and in established fields of contemporary art practices and theory while fully engaging with the ever changing context of emerging media and innovative forms of critical and organisational praxis.
//// CAT Programme Director’s Overview
Professor Neil Mulholland
An Introduction to the Masters of Contemporary Art Theory Programme
//// A Vision for Artistic Research
“Research is not a particular thing you do for so many hours each day. It is rather a way of living curiously – that is, with care and attention.”
//// Transformational Curriculum: A Crucible of Research-led Teaching
Semester 1 | Teaching Blocks 1 & 2 :
Contemporary Art and Open Learning ARTX10064 (20 Credits) – This course is built upon four learning sprints.
Themes in Contemporary Art ARTX11044 (40 Credits) – This course is built upon four learning sprints.
Semester 2 | Teaching Blocks 3 & 4 :
Contemporary Art + Anthropology ARTX11042 (20 Credits)
Curating ARTX11047 (40 Credits)
Summer | Teaching Block 5 :
Contemporary Artistic Research ARTX11050 – (60 credits)
//// Radical Perspectivism: Contemporary Art as Anticipatory Organisational Praxis
By consciously rooting our CAT curriculum in our collective inquiry, we seek to continually expose contemporary art’s Hidden Curricula to scrutiny.
If the contemporary artworld is to become a learning organisation this process of unlearning and decolonising art education is a crucial first step.
The Contemporary Art Theory programme adopts a ‘perspectivist’ approach here. The programme begins by acknowledging that the perspectives faculty offer to our students shape and valorise their identities. Here, the CAT programme seeks to develop a holistic approach to materiality, begining with the provocation that:
the production of objects is always simultaneously the production of people and social relations
Graeber, David. ‘Turning Modes of Production Inside Out, or, why capitalism is a transformation of slavery..’ Critique of Anthropology 2006 26: 1, 70.
By engaging equally with the production of people and social relations and the production of material objects, MA Contemporary Art Theory students shift from seeing parts to seeing wholes, from being helplessly reactive to actively creating their artworlds. For this is to happen, our art students can’t simply learn how to see things from an artist’s viewpoint.
The MA Contemporary Art Theory programme is, thus, an integrated curriculum (ICM) – specifically crafted to develop an understanding of multiple perspectives in ways that open up different possibilities for our graduates to those offered by cookie-cutter MFA Studio and Curatorial programmes.
This means focusing not only on what we teach, but on on how we learn, AND on the many different environments we learn in.
In the CAT programme, artistic learning and research is conducted in a wealth of settings: in galleries, biennale, residencies, art fairs, AND – of course – through artistic and theoretical practice itself.
Artistic learning and research is an exploded network; we will learn how to pool and share our resources to cultivate a climate in which all communities flourish.
//// Our Curious Commons
Artistic research is not just for artists: everyone is curious and everyone cares. Indeed, as a (Scottish Funding Council) SFC-funded charity, the CAT programme strives to be a democratic intellect for the public benefit, visibly upholding the value of research-led art education as a means to develop a learning society.
In 2021, open research became the new norm. A Plan S for artistic research has presented the MA CAT with a major opportunity in the form of a challenge:
How can the art school common more of its research and educational resources to foster new publics?
As it stands, a lot of contemporary art is freely accessible in public contexts. Open Access (Plan S), however, additionally offers insight into the ‘workings’ of artistic research.
The CAT programme has seized on this unique opportunity to lead on The University of Edinburgh’s Open Education and Widening Participation initiatives by researching AND teaching ‘in the open’.
Open Art Education – initiated and supported by our new Semester 1 course Contemporary Art and Open Learning – generates vital informal learning resources and for formal accreditation such as Access to Creative Education in Scotland (ACES).
You can watch to Professor Neil Mulholland presenting a reflective practice paper on the 10-year incubation of this unique open art course here (link – 15mins):
//// Who Cares?
The shared experience of lockdown during the COVID pandemic has led everyone to realise that we deserve better care and attention.
To transform CAT’s vision of open artistic learning and research into a practice, good intentions must become good habits. To collectively instill good habits, CAT faculty have nurtured a unique peer-to-peer mentor culture: a paragogics that ensures all staff and students have a core group of peers (‘basho‘) who will listen to them. Active listening is, of course, the best form of feedback…and the most difficult to provide!
Mentoring is a vital skill we can co-learn. Hosting all staff AND students within mutually supportive basho enables us to effectively support each other as researchers.
These are but a few of the ways in which CAT’s transformational curriculum germinates a holistic and integrated art school culture.
Making our wide variety of practices more porous for students and our broader publics, the Masters of Contemporary Art Theory programme dissolves barriers to learning and ensures that we can all feed our curiosity.