MA Contemporary Art Theory

MA Contemporary Art Theory

Re-imagining the Art School Since 2001

About this Course //// Curating


An overview of:

  • the Course Philosophy and Aims
  • briefly remind you of the key teaching methods we will use (Collaborative Inquiry, Jigsaw Classroom, authentic and blended learning)
  • briefly remind you of the learning environments we will use (MS Teams for 1:1 tutorials, seminars, meetings and the use of WordPress for Portfolio work)
  • the project management software we will use to programme the CAT project (Miro)

Course Philosophy

This curating course supports and develops how you interact with contemporary art as it happens in ways that are both relational and responsive.

‘Curating’ forms a discursive concept for learning about, and taking part in, contemporary art practice.

The course practises ‘authentic learning’, placing you at the  heart of contemporary art in the making. To enable this, you will collaborate to curate a programme of contemporary art for public engagement.

You may commission, produce, disseminate and archive art practices, locating your approach in relation to the expanded field of curatorial theory and practice.

This course supports curatorial praxis in the broadest – anthropological – sense of the curatorial and encourages you consider curating to be something that we all do.

It facilitates you in generating your own organisational structures as a group; to design ways of working collectively that generate a cultural scene wherein others may join you.


  • some of the ways in which contemporary art is produced (programmed), distributed and ‘prosumed’
  • how such programming integrates transdisciplinary research through different methodological lenses
  • about the many forms of knowledge that contemporary art produces and makes openly available and how these knowledge are openly contested by art (dissensus)
  • how contemporary art organisations facilitate creative practice, widen cultural participation and support open learning across a wide range of communities
  • how contemporary artists, critics, curators and programmers contribute collectively to the organisation and development of art
  • how they can directly contribute to, and be supported by, the programmes of contemporary art organisations

As an individual, you will work toward the realisation of a curatorial project of your own design.

As a cohort, you will work toward the realisation of programme wherein your own curatorial project will reside.

Supported by your tutors, you will collectively determine the direction and focus of a) your project b) the programme.

The programme will run towards the end of Semester 2.

Collaborative Inquiry

We will continue to develop the model of ‘collaborative inquiry‘ (Heron and Reason, 1997) that you engaged with in Open Learning (and will continue to work with in Art + Anthropology) and seek to further develop some of the paragogical and ‘scene’ research practices that you learned in Semester 1.

You will form a community of practice that establishes and completes an ambitious programme of propositional, practical, experiential and presentational curatorial inquiry.

The process of collaborative inquiry may be integrated around any pressing method or theme.

The Curating course forms a common programme purpose around which we can join forces to conduct research, enabling you, as individual curators, to pool and share your curiosities and resources with wider audiences.

Authentic learning

We will begin by engaging with some of the conventional locations and settings wherein artworks continue to be displayed and consumed: professional institutions such as museums, galleries, festivals, biennale and art fairs. We will, equally engage with challenges to the professionalisation and institutionalisation of curating that have emerged from grassroots, artist-run and citizen-led cultures, learning from open, public, socially engaged organisations. Additionally, we will work with the ever growing body of cultural and epistemological practices that are described as the ‘curatorial turn.’

As a group, you will start to engage with some of the politics, artistic development and programming practices of Scotland’s art infrastructure. To enable this, we will be working in close partnership with Alchemy Film & Arts (Hawick, Scottish Borders). This will consistently engage you with our alumnus Rachael Disbury (MA CAT graduate), Production Director at Alchemy Film & Arts.

Alchemy will provide us all with a key example of an authentic organisational context. Alchemy is a ‘live’ context that has a wide range of stakeholders to consider. Alchemy, in this sense, will act as a model for how you might understand and develop your own stakeholder relationships. This provides a window onto real-life challenges that will foster your professional development as a curator.

Rachael Disbury will be teaching regularly on this course. Additionally, we will have guest curators working in a freelance capacity who will run short workshops and seminars on Tuesdays.

Organisational Practices

The MA CAT has developed an ‘organisational’ approach to artistic practice. What this means is that you – as a cohort – will consciously form an organisation. You will study why and how artistic organisations form and use this knowledge to inform your own organisational praxis.

A key task, in this course, is to build a ‘programming organisation’.

As you do so, you will begin to work within this organisation to develop your own contribution to its artistic programme.

In creating a programming organisation, you will effectively learn how to determine, develop and play your own role within it.

With generous peer support your curatorial research and practice is supported is improved and, crucially, put to the test in an organisational context of your own choosing.

This aspect of the course will be supported by regular group meetings, tutorials and through Miro’s Kanban project management system.

Finally, for your Curating Project you will present the focus of your own curatorial inquiry in the form of the public programme that you develop together as an arts organisation.


No lurkers!

Remember you are all responsible for pulling your weight to your mutual benefit as a programming organisation. If you are a ‘lurker’, your peers will suffer as a whole.

Your programming organisation’s ability to conduct research and development, to organise and programme will be impeded.

If you let your organisation down, you will let yourself down. If you let yourself down, you will let your organisation down.

Reflect 👀

Your personal and collective critical reflection on the formation of your organisation structure is required in your Curatorial Portfolio (Course Blog).

Miro for Project Management

We will continue to use Miro in this course as a way of planning and time-managing your cohort’s collective programme.

In particular, we will make use of Miro’s Kanban system (similar to that supported by Trello or Notion). We will learn how to use a Kanban and how to link it to the mind-mapping properties of Miro.

We will use this through the whole course to organise and archive your research and planning as a curatorial organisation.

Miro will continue to be fully integrated with the General Channel of the CATs 2020-21 Team.


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