AP6001 Introduction to Museum Studies
The origins and meaning of the fluid and ever-changing concept called the “museum” are under constant debate: from the 1925 archaeological discovery of a 530 B.C.E. collection of artifacts and accompanying museum labels curated by the Babylonian princess Ben Shalti-Nannar in Ur (present-day Iraq); to the term’s etymological roots in the Greek mouseion, meaning a seat for the muses, those goddesses of the arts and sciences; to the colonial-era “Wunderkammer” and its cabinets of curiosities; to the emergence of a public collection of art with the Musei Capitolini in Rome in 1471 and the founding of the first university museum, the Ashmolean, in Oxford in 1677. Introducing the complexity of these conversations and eschewing the drive towards linear genealogies or fixed definitions, “Introduction to Museum Studies” focuses on histories of exchange, movement, and debate. We will look at museums as sites for the construction of knowledge and power as well as places in which those epistemologies can be contested and changed. How do we understand the migration of both objects and ideas in relation to politics, history, and society?
This course engages this approach to introducing museum studies in order to provide future museum employees, heritage specialists, arts workers, and curators with a thorough grounding in the following three areas:
- The various historical, social, and political models of museums as expressed via institutional structures, collecting strategies, and modes of exhibition making;
- How these structures, strategies, and modes continue to evolve—and are frequently challenged and critiqued—by academics, artists, and publics working both within and outside the institution;
- The ways in which curators and museum professionals can productively engage both historical models and contemporary critiques in their research, programming, and public outreach.
Students are challenged to put the academic skills and critical insights gained from assigned readings and group discussion directly into practice, as the class will collectively embark on compiling an oral and archival historiography of museums in Singapore. This is not the history of these museums per se, but rather a study of the ways in which multiple histories of this particular society and culture have been written through the institutional structures, collecting strategies, and modes of exhibition-making in Singapore. The scope of this collectively-compiled historiography is bounded by the founding of the National Museum of Singapore (previously known as the Raffles Library and Museum as well as the Singapore History Museum) in 1847 and the creation of the National Heritage Board, alongside Singapore’s four national museums, in 1993.
As members of teams, students will be asked to conduct, transcribe, and edit long-form interviews with key figures in the development of Singapore’s museums: from political and cultural leaders to iconic curators and museum directors. These oral histories will form the basis for independent archival investigation intended to identify significant texts or documents that encapsulate one element of this multi-faceted research. The significance of these texts will be individually elucidated by each student through analytic writing that draws on the methodologies of museum studies.
AP6002 Introduction to Curatorial Practices
Curatorial practice has evolved over past decades and is in constant flux, mirroring the changes that social, intellectual, cultural and institutional environments are undergoing. In addition, curating is a process that requires innovative and new approaches and increasingly investigates its own fields (Curatorial and Exhibition studies etc.).
This taught course is designed to deepen your understanding of the historical development of curatorial practice as well as of the practical and intellectual challenges inherent to the field today.
Hence, you will learn about the complexity and multi-faceted possibilities of curating, as well as understand the diverse positions available within the field, such as Collection Curators, media-specific Curators, Biennale Curators, Curators of Public Art, Curators of Public Programs and Education, their specific required skillsets, and so forth.
Another main emphasis in this course is placed on learning to contextualise curatorial practice within the international and diverse curatorial landscape today. This means paying attention to dynamics such as public/private, local/regional/global, or the impact and requirements of specific regional infrastructures. Curating requires, in addition to art and cultural histories, the ability to analyse the geopolitical and cultural context in which a practice is situated.
Curating represents a broad field of “practices” going beyond the intellectual and conceptual aspects. It also demands in-depth curatorial research and knowledge in ethics, legal frameworks, conservation, preservation, and excellent communication skills to negotiate between artists, institutions, collectors, and the public.
AP6003 Academic Skills, Research Methodologies, and Writing
The research and writing skills required for both museum studies and curatorial practice are a distinct combination of academic methodologies, critical theory, creative writing, translation, and epistolary modes (from letter writing and interviews to logistical correspondence). Engaging such diversity of technique and process, this course provides graduate students with the practical skills, linguistic fluidity, and resourceful problem solving necessitated by this unique professional trajectory.
Through lectures, readings, group discussions, writing exercises, and in-class peer feedback, students will gain awareness of the professional debates that drive current conversations regarding academic research in museums and galleries. Students will further gain understanding of the intense, multi-faceted relationship between writing, academia, and the curatorial via readings and discussions that focus on the broad scope of text-based practices and formats associated with the field: from exhibition didactics and curatorial proposals to press releases, exhibition reviews, artist writings, and collective manifestos. The work of exemplary authors—both historical and current—will be highlighted in order to provide students with various stylistic and methodological examples, as they are simultaneously encouraged to develop their own approach towards writing and research in parallel.
Specific topics addressed in the academic skill and research methodology components include analytic approaches (from developing a bibliography or project outline for a research proposal, to archival research and interview formats) as well as critical strategies, which are continually evolving in dialogue with new media and publishing formats. Presented in close conversation with these analytic and creative approaches are a series of assigned and in-class writing exercises that continually challenge students to examine their own position; applying the techniques and strategies to which they are introduced to their evolving research interests and professional ambitions. This reiterative process of writing, self-revision, and group discussion will force students to confront the following questions: How do you fearlessly approach the blank page or screen? How do you discover a singular writing process and style? And what happens when you face writer’s block?
AP6004 Histories of Arts in Southeast Asia
This course equips students with conceptual skills for critical interrogation of the notions of “histories,” “arts,” and “Southeast Asia.” Its discussions encompass key moments and ideas from the premodern and prehistorical periods, to modern and contemporary arts, in a diverse range of media. Through active participation and engagement with a range of primary and secondary visual and textual materials, students will investigate how historical research on arts in this region has been conducted, and how historical narratives have been constructed. Students will also consider how the category of “arts” has been deployed, in ways that have shifted over time and varied according to setting and context. This emphasis on epistemological and methodological concerns in approaching Southeast Asia’s arts facilitates a recurring attention to how historical research intersects with museological and curatorial practices. These conceptual tools may also contribute to a scholarly foundation for further, specialized research in this burgeoning field of scholarly and curatorial activity.
PRESCRIBED ELECTIVES (MS)
AP6101 Collections, Care, Management
This course provides an introduction to the theory and practice of the management and care of museum collections. It discusses practical, professional and ethical issues in relation to the care and management of museum artworks, their documentation, preservation, and presentation.
Students are exposed to principles of conservation and to key functions and concepts of collection care, as well as to current documentation methods, and preventive conservation standards. Designed with hands- on sessions and field visits, the module includes the learning of appropriate procedures of acquisition, handling, documentation, and examination of artworks; storing, moving and displaying collections; as well as security and emergency planning in the context of museums and galleries.
The course introduces the anatomy of the museum building, its role in facilitating preventive conservation, focusing on methods of control of relative humidity, temperature and light in macro and microenvironments for the collections. Special attention is devoted to preserving strategies in tropical environments.
The core sessions of the course aim to engage the students in the handling, examination and condition assessment of objects. Focusing on the object, its biography, the ways it is regarded and used, the nature of the materials it is made of, as well as the ways in which its condition can change over time, in view of its preservation, students will gain experience in understanding and caring of most common museum artworks.
During these interdisciplinary sessions, students are expected to actively participate in practical exercises. They will be assisted to better comprehend the nature of materials and the causes and effects of their deterioration, gaining a foundational introduction on:
- organic materials (paper, wooden objects, textiles, baskets, leather, botanical and zoological specimens, biological pigments);
- inorganic materials (metals, ceramics, glass, stone, mineral pigments);
- man-made materials (polymers, plastic, photographs, and modern materials).
The course intends to discuss current issues in the management and care of museum collections by providing case studies and critical readings, which include diverse perspectives and increase awareness and cultural understanding in preserving collective memory. Students are expected to bring material of interest to the class and actively participate in the discussions.
AP6102 Exhibition Design in the Context of Museums
Exhibition-making means the creation of innovative structures for the presentation of cultural artefacts through interdisciplinary collaboration. The course approaches the definition of the exhibition space as a “narrative environment”, addresses the evolving notion of interpreting and displaying cultural artefacts, and analyses the physical, sensorial and conceptual dimensions of the museum space.
As exhibition concepts and agendas largely reflect the mission of their hosting institutions, you will be exposed to a variety of exhibitions: permanent, temporary, historical, scientific and cultural. Through these, you will analyze the role design can play in the communication of objects, ideas and information, and how the different elements of a display effectively blend together to create a holistic experience.
Exhibition environments today can be enlightening, immersive, and interactive, and use different kinds of media: artworks, historical objects, specimens, hands-on exhibits, audio-visuals and innovative technologies. The course will provide you with a historical overview and offer a structured platform to discuss how exhibition solutions have evolved to become more engaging and participatory. There will be a critical discussion on the latest design trends in the context of museum exhibitions to help you to reflect on the relationship between the narrative, the space and the visitor experience.
The knowledge and skills required to participate in the development of museum exhibitions are specialized, and many professionals with different roles are needed: art, historic or scientific advisors, content developers, conservators, architects, designers and multimedia developers. State-of-the-art exhibition case studies, field visits and workshop sessions with experts will expose you to the elaborate development process behind an exhibition. There will be a particular focus on different design approaches, conservation and transportation requirements, strategies of audience engagement, interpretative techniques, as well as functionality, aesthetic and sustainability evaluations.
The course is designed to create an environment in which you will gain practical experience in exhibition-making and learn to think critically about the issues involved. You are expected to bring material of interest to the class and to actively participate in discussions and workshops. Interdisciplinary design methodologies, presentation tools and collaborative techniques that enable you to conceptualize and document exhibition projects will be introduced and utilized. Final projects include independent research and the development of creative design strategies combining the understanding of space, storytelling, collections and media in conjunction with ongoing museum programs in Singapore.
Who is a curator, or, what exactly does a curator do? The word derives from the Latin term “cūrāre”, which means to attend to, take care of, or provide for. This etymology is frequently interpreted to mean that a curator is a subject specialist who oversees and maintains a specific collection of objects belonging to an institution. However, this notion of “care” can also be applied to the care of communities, of artists, of historical memory, or of collective cultural narratives. Thus, while requiring both practical understanding and applied skills, curatorship also engages ethical issues of representation, inclusion, diversity, and access. This expanded understanding of care is central to the evolving field of curatorship in the twenty-first century.
Traditionally, a curator is a civil servant who is selected on a competitive basis after receiving a Master or PhD degree and having contributed a consistent body of publications in a specific academic field. This field is primarily oriented towards collections of objects understood to be part of “material culture”: artworks, collectables, decorative objects, historic items, photographs and film, or scientific collections. Curators work in broad interdisciplinary teams across the museum to coordinate activities that range from growing these collections through soliciting donations and managing acquisitions, overseeing their conservation and care, identifying and managing loans from both personal and institutional collections, and articulating forms of exhibition-making and display. Curators further engage the collections’ potential audiences through public programming, the crafting of didactic texts, and giving talks or lectures to groups at multiple levels of specialization.
However, in recent years, the role of a curator has evolved alongside the changing role of museums and cultural institutions, expanding beyond the traditional expertise required and making room for other roles in curatorship, such as “guest curators” from an affiliated organization or university, or “freelance curators” who work on a consultant basis and design temporary shows. Contemporary art centers, biennales, gallery-based exhibitions, and projects in non-traditional venues or site-specific interventions require the skills and expertise traditionally developed in museums. Curators now work in fields as diverse as magazine editing and book publishing, museum and community education, and the art market or commercial gallery system. They take on roles like production manager, archivist, and registrar; work as art advisors for private and institutional clients; form integral parts of artist studios; and initiate independent curatorial platforms.
PRESCRIBED ELECTIVES (CP)
AP6103 Exhibition Histories and Curatorial Narratives
This course focuses on developing research methodologies and curatorial approaches that can generate new platforms for discourse in the contemporary art world.
Students will study the history of independent curating and examine the contexts/conditions specific to the curating of contemporary art in Southeast Asia, particularly Singapore, through case studies of key exhibitions in local/regional museums and art spaces.
Students will analyze different methodologies and discuss alternative approaches to studying exhibition histories, with particular attention given to how curatorial practices, institutional critique, and audience studies can come into play. There will be critical discussions on current trends and topics in the contemporary art world, e.g. relational aesthetics, para-fiction, social practice, participatory art and ethics in curatorial practices.
Final projects include independent research papers, exhibition proposals and catalogue essays that are developed in conjunction with ongoing programs at the CCA and other institutions such as the National Gallery of Singapore, the Singapore Art Museum and the NUS Museum.
AP6104 Art in Public Space and Critical Spatial Practice
The course is an introduction into the field of Art in Public Space (also known as Art in Public Sphere, Public Art, Urban Art), which has arisen as a consequence of artistic developments since the beginning of the 20th century. Students will not only look into modern and contemporary art practices outside of the “white cube”, be it in the museum or gallery, but also into the wider field of critical spatial practices in urban environments.
Today most people live in cities. This course will ask: What artistic and spatial practices have emerged in the urban realm, and what curatorial and educational models have followed these developments, especially of engaging citizens into the public sphere of art?
The analysis and exploration of a variety of artistic and critical practices will also show how artistic and educational developments since the 1990s have not only changed the aesthetics but also how we think about (public) art and how artists constantly redefine their role in society and in diverse urban and political settings.
Relevant political and social as well as spatial and aesthetic theory will be introduced together with artistic examples, thus equipping students with methodologies to enter the field of public art. Field studies will explore local practices, and investigate how these projects are received within particular social and political settings.
The course design allows students to conduct critical research on existing conditions and diversities in the arena of the public sphere addressed, followed by a project proposal that involves in the urban space of Singapore.
AP6106 Spaces of the Curatorial
In this course you will focus on addressing the expanded field of the curatorial and its diversity of spaces, ranging from art institutions to artist-run spaces, from large-scale exhibitions such as biennales to site-specific work outside the gallery space, and from themed institutions to private collections. The diversification of curatorial practice beyond traditional art institutions, methods, formats and communication requires a new approach across geographies and cultures and a variety of skill sets. Furthermore, you will investigate and discuss how to create a public space that extends to curatorial practices in non-art spaces and, even further to TV, radio, printed matter, online realities, social media, etc., respecting the diversity of audiences we seek to address today.
This course engages in the underlying philosophical, social, cultural and political conditions that determine content and form. It will help you to reflect on curatorial positioning and its ethical implications.
AP6201 Global Art Histories
This intensive, one-semester lecture course aims to provide you with an in-depth understanding of global art histories (content, methods, theories) alongside academic writing, reading, presentation, and research skills.
Although the study of art history is compartmentalised into the seemingly fixed categories of western and non-western art with further specialisations along national boundaries, religious art, historical periods, and mediums, the turn towards what has come to be known as World Art Studies, Global Art Histories, or Connecting Art Histories has made the field rethink such fixed boundaries and their feasibility in a globalized world.
Specifically, this course examines the connected nature of art, not only in modern and colonial art worlds, but also in the ancient, medieval, and early modern art worlds. We will study objects in museum collections in Singapore that lend themselves to narrating global art histories, and also briefly discuss networks such as religion, trade, and technologies as systems that have connected premodern art worlds. How have networks, contacts, and encounters been theorized in the field of art history and other related disciplines? What are the various histories and methods in researching global art histories for academic research and for exhibition spaces?
Alongside deep engagements with theoretical readings, we will conduct field trips to examine art works, galleries, and exhibitions at local museums that reflect such global art histories. Conversations with curators, critiques of installations, and exhibition catalogues will further enhance this course.
AP6203 From Colonial to Post-Colonial Art: A Critical Survey
The course provides an understanding of the influence of colonialism upon the visual arts. It explores a historical narrative that presents global artistic production between colonialism and post-colonialism.
The survey begins by analyzing European art created in interaction, influence and interpretation of colonized cultures. Cultural, philosophic and aesthetic concepts - such as “good savage”, orientalism, Indian picturesquism and primitivism – are the subject of critical analysis.
The course studies a number of western and non-Western international art blockbuster exhibitions that played a decisive role as ground builders of current notions such as “international”, “global” and “post-colonial” art.
Finally, the course concentrates on the artistic, symbolic and emancipatory strategies developed by former colonial territories under new post-colonial conditions such as intellectual diasporas, cultural (mis)translation and emerging identities; and new agencies such as trans-cultural curating.
AP6204 Education and Outreach
This course allows students to explore the expanded field of art education and public outreach and to learn its interactions with institutional as well as curatorial and artistic practices on the one hand. On the other hand, public programs are as important as other programs for audience development and marketing in museums, heritage centers, galleries, libraries, community centers, as well as in temporary cultural spaces like biennales, festivals, and summits.
In addition to studying the history of museum education and art education, students will learn about curatorial and artistic practices in the field, as well as the latest tools for audience definition, development and outreach for targeted groups, such as new media and digital technologies, learning displays as well as educational methodologies and last but not least creative tools for evaluation.
This course will be divided between theory and practice. A practical component will follow the above-mentioned theoretical reflections and analysis. After visiting venues that offer innovative education programs and speaking to institutional experts, student will be encouraged to plan and budget for a hypothetical program for selected cultural institutions and formats, as well as for different target groups. These target groups may include children, school students, adults, families, or visitors with specific needs, as well as newer categories such as friends of the museum, social media users, millennials, etc.
The course not only aims to create a deep understanding of education in cultural institutions, but also of how institutions and cultural events become shared spaces of learning and engagement for not only visitors but also for artists, other cultural producers, staff members and donors, amongst others.
AP6205 Curating Time-based Media
Time-based media works have not only been one of the emerging fields in contemporary exhibitions, but also one of the fields that has intensely changed the processes of curatorial practice.
To understand the impact and specific requirements of these works, it is key to understand the scope of time-based media, since it refers also to works beyond the moving image. Parallel to classic formats like the single screen or monitor film/video, this area has unfolded to include multi-screen works, installations, and expanded cinema. Furthermore, this module will also put artworks that stem from fields like net art, interactive online formats, broadcast TV, radio, sound works or different performative forms into perspective.
In other words, after re-defining and understanding the scope of the field, this course will explore how time-based media connects to more traditional art forms and what the possibilities, challenges and differences that significantly impact the ways of curating are.
Therefore the course will address two specific aspects:
- Spatial implications
Audiences still watch films in cinemas, but digital technology and the internet have multiplied ways of relating to moving images.
- Technological implications
Digital technology has also transformed the relationship between film and art: galleries and museums now routinely exhibit film in shows and installations.
These changes have profoundly affected practices of curating and programming. Artists in particular work extensively with the moving image and this is reflected in the presence of time-based art in major gallery and museum collections in Singapore and the wider international art world. Also, film festivals are curated, flourishing in new formats and locations as never before.
Hence, we will take a closer look at the development of the field from the 1960s to the present day. We will focus on case studies of particular artists and exhibitions as well as influential critical texts and discuss how the development of the art market impinges on art and exhibition practice.
We discuss diverse aspects of programming and curating; theoretical considerations of audience; spectatorship and reception; the changing spaces and temporalities of film and moving image exhibition; as well as the challenges to present the moving image within traditional art venues such as a museum or museum collections.
AP6206 Planning and Designing Exhibitions for Art Galleries and Public Spaces
This course will present and discuss current issues in the conceptualisation and planning of art exhibitions, with a particular focus on design approaches and interpretative techniques used in the context of art institutions and public spaces.
Exhibition-making involves the understanding of the spatial dimension and the presentation of artworks and art installations through interdisciplinary collaborations. There will be a critical discussion on the latest exhibition design trends in the context of large collection-focused art museums, contemporary art institutions, galleries and public spaces, helping the students to reflect on the fundamental relationship between the artwork, the space and the visitor experience. As exhibition concepts and agendas largely reflect the mission of the hosting or commissioning institution(s), students will be exposed to a variety of exhibitions: permanent, temporary, the staging of site-specific artworks in the public domain of the city, as well as larger exhibition formats, like art biennials.
As it is challenging to think about the diverse approaches that might be taken to displaying artworks, the course approaches the definition of the exhibition space as a “narrative environment” and discusses the evolving notion of interpreting, displaying and communicating art, while analysing the physical, sensorial and conceptual dimensions of galleries and urban public spaces.
Artists today use a large spectrum of materials and media, including sound, video, projections, digital interactivity and often the integration of complex technologies in large installation pieces. The course will provide a structured platform to discuss how exhibition solutions and art professionals have evolved to respond to these needs when planning to exhibit, handle and install contemporary artworks.
The knowledge and skills required to participate in the development of such exhibitions are specialized, and many professionals with different roles are needed: artists, curators, architects, designers, lighting and multimedia developers and technicians. In addition, the communication strategies of exhibitions also involve the understanding of key graphic design and visual communication principles, as the exhibition image is communicated through the larger framework of catalogues, collaterals, printed and digital support materials, and sometimes requires the design of navigational wayfinding.
Exhibition case studies, field visits and workshop sessions with experts will expose the participants to the elaborate development process behind art exhibitions. Interdisciplinary design methodologies, presentation tools and collaborative techniques that enable students to research, conceptualize and document exhibition projects will be introduced and utilized.
Final projects include independent research and the development of creative design strategies, combining the understanding of space, communication, collections and media in conjunction with ongoing contemporary art projects in Singapore.