Masters Programme (Coursework)

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Courses

CORE COURSES

Academic Skills for Graduate Studies in Museum Studies and Curatorial Practices

This course offers an opportunity to investigate and understand the complex relationship that exists between creative / innovative process and academic research. Through guided reading, discussion, and case-study analysis, students will explore then formulate and refine their own research questions. Accordingly, this advanced study will help not only to consolidate their own ability to integrate and adapt effective research questions, but inform their subsequent research methodology and analysis when writing their MA ‘extended essay’. The course is designed to offer both depth and breadth taking into account the diverse academic backgrounds of the students and the industry-relevant focus desired by those undertaking this graduate study and their potential employers. Emphasis will be placed on: theoretical frameworks, the creation of meaning, analytical reading and academic writing.

Introduction to Curatorial Practice

Curatorial practice has come to play an increasingly vital role in the representation and interpretation of art. This course is designed to introduce students to the complexity of curatorial practice, both in theory and practice. Exhibition can be understood as a tool of knowledge transmission but also a space for new knowledge production. Curating as a practice is therefore in constant flux according to the changes the social, intellectual, cultural and institutional environments are undergoing. Contemporary curating furthermore represents a broad field of “practices” going beyond institutional and exhibition premises and the student will learn about the multifaceted possibilities of curating in a local, yet global context. Special attention will be given to the particular infrastructures in Singapore and the wider SEA region. 

Histories of Arts from Southeast Asia

This course focuses on the study of arts from Southeast Asia, with emphasis on the investigation and experimentation of art historical frameworks in the writing of their histories. The visual materials to be examined include prehistoric, animist, Hindu-Buddhist and Islamic material culture, as well as works of “art” ensuing the transplantation of the modern European construct of “art” in the 20th and 21st centuries. The aim is not to deal with every aspect and plausible topic of the arts in Southeast Asia, but to deploy significant examples of material culture or “art” from this region as points of entry to question the way(s) in which their reception and knowledge have been fashioned. Curiosity and rigour are the ends and prerequisites in the study of both visual and textual materials in this course.

Introduction to Museum Studies

The course in Museum Studies aims to train curators in acquiring and connecting different skills, both in the scientific domain, for the conservation and interpretation needs, and in the management and outreach practices linked to the specificity of the collections, for service activities across a range of museums. The course engages with a variety of museums, from memorial museums to digital museums, from art galleries to science museums, from open-air cultural sites to virtual museums. All are rich sites of intellectual and cultural inquiry. The course also explores current debates about museums and heritage sites in the context of the history of collecting, care and recording (including primary source documents and digital archiving), research, outreach and public engagement, exhibition design and ICT applied to museum collections. The class will guide the students through the history and methodology of the museums work. The core course introduces interdisciplinary perspectives on the study of museums discussing the different aspects of the museum origins, development, social role, management and collection keeping.

PRESCRIBED ELECTIVES [FOR MUSEUM STUDIES TRACK]

Curatorship

This course deals with a wide range of techniques to store and save items that represent diachronic interactions between past and present.  The aim is to gain experience in the care and handling of most common museum materials, including ceramics, glass, stone, metals, wooden objects, leather and organic/biological materials, textiles, works of art on paper, books, archival materials, photographs and modern materials. The course examines the nature and history of conservation, and discusses practical, professional and ethical issues. It focuses on the nature of the objects, their biography, exploring the ways in which objects are made, regarded and used, and the ways in which their condition and meaning can shift over time or in different contexts and their effects on conservation practice. As well it aims to give the students experience in examination and condition assessment of objects, and development of statements of significance. Digital data also needs to be archived in a suitable repository to ensure the long-term preservation and accessibility to be reused to contribute to future research. Policy frameworks and good practices need to be mastered by curators who have responsibility for manual and computerised information systems. They are responsible for the upkeep of an organisation's archives, catalogues and index systems and repository that are used by others.

Collections, Care, Management

Who controls heritage (the treasure of human experiences)? What is the role of heritage in the constructed narratives of the arts? How is heritage being used as a cultural practice to shape the discourses on nation-building and nation-branding? The process of heritage-making entails various forms of conflict over the definition, ownership, and use of cultural attributes. Originally a concept coined by the nation-state, heritage has become the object of intellectual reclamation by academics, activists, associations, and artists. Institutional and non-institutional social actors in Asia and in Europe are increasingly involved in debating the legitimacy as well as the need to “safeguard” different expressions of heritage in curated spaces. The course will critically explore the genesis and working practices of international heritage administration, charters and conventions. We will also elaborate on the concepts of “collective” and “social” memory, paying special attention to the museum and curatorial practices as a facilitating actor in the process of understanding and showcasing cultural identity as a project for a shared future. Case studies of tangible and intangible heritage from Europe and Asia will be reviewed to see how heritage has taken on new and sometimes unintended meanings in the midst of social change, asserting religious identity and political upheaval. Individual and interdisciplinary case studies will be encouraged. The course is organised around a cluster of lectures and workshops, during which students will be actively engaged in presentations, discussions, and academic paper writing.

Exhibition Design in the Context of Museums

This course will present and discuss exhibition making with a particular focus on communicating knowledge, strategies of audience engagement, interpretative techniques, design approaches, functionality, aesthetic and sustainability helping students to experiment and reflect on the relationship between narrative, space and the visitor experience. As exhibition programmes reflect the hosting institutions’ mission, students will be exposed to a variety of exhibitions: historical, scientific, contemporary, research, and temporary.  The students will be engaged in understanding how museums and cultural heritage sites can communicate with visitors through exhibition planning and design. 

PRESCRIBED ELECTIVES [FOR CURATORIAL PRACTICES]

Spaces of the Curatorial

Curating is a term commonly associated with exhibition formats. But art and culture takes place at a variety of locations especially in the SEA region with highly diverse infrastructures. Also with the expansion of exhibition landscapes wide ranges of methods and media formats exist today, oscillating between the discursive, didactic and immersive. With the increasing role of art and culture as part our everyday society the space of curatorial engagement has also widened. In this course the students will learn about and how to engage in the vast array of spaces ranging from: museums to biennales, from artist run spaces to art residencies from venues that engage in sonic and time based art formats to printed matters as a site. Additionally through site visits students will learn in a one-to-one experience about the different spaces and how curators play a critical role within this expanded field of art and culture. 

Exhibition Histories and Curatorial Narratives

In recent years, scholars and critics have proposed the study of exhibition history as an important complement to traditional art history methods, towards a more comprehensive understanding of the socio-political and cultural context surrounding the production, display and reception of art. This course focuses on developing research methodologies towards the study of exhibition histories and curatorial oeuvres. Areas of study include the history of independent curating in the 20th century and an examination of contexts/conditions specific to the curating of contemporary art in Southeast Asia. The class will analyze and discuss different approaches to studying exhibitions, with particular attention given to how the history of exhibitions, institutional critique, and audience studies can come into play.

Art in Public Space and Critical Spatial Practice

In this course students will be encouraged to discuss the specifics and differences of public domain, semi public and private space, and what role art and cultural projects have within these particular settings. Art and culture play an increasing role in new city development; real estate developers and corporations include art works to make their buildings more attractive. Policy makers discover art as a tool to socially engage with communities. This requires analytic and strategic capacities from a curator as well as capacity in project management and negotiation and communication skills. In this course the student will learn about the variety of artistic and critical practices and how these projects might be received within particular and diverse social environments. The course encourages students to conduct thorough and critical research through case studies and they will be commissioned by the instructor to design their own Art in Public Space proposal applying their knowledge of urban, social, historical, aesthetic and technological cultures.

ELECTIVES FOR BOTH MUSEUM STUDIES AND CURATORIAL PRACTICES TRACKS

3-4 electives will be offered in an academic year 

Writing Southeast Asia Art: Modernism in Context

This advanced reading and writing course initiates students into existing methodologies employed in the study of Southeast Asia arts and its histories, towards devising new approaches that are sensitive to the particular contexts and conditions of the region.  Through the close examination of relevant 20th century texts and lectures/seminars/workshops by guest speakers, students will be exposed to competing (and contested) frameworks employed by art historians and critics, e.g. the Santiniketan school of thought. Discussions will serve to heighten an awareness of distinctions in the arts from Southeast Asia, in specific moments and places, by way of resistance to the homogenizing effects of a hegemonic world – or regional –view. Students are encouraged to critically (re) examine various aspects of art in a dynamic historical and geo-political context, going beyond Euro-American modernist traditions and the flattening influences of globalization today, to propose alternative paradigms. Students will develop a series of focused writing projects over the semester, working on the critical assessment and adaptation of the approaches and methods with reference to selected works of art or an artist's oeuvre.

Time-Based Curating

In this module we explore both the traditional and the rapidly changing ways (multi-screen, installation, online, broadcast TV and performative forms) in which films and artists moving image practice are curated. The old and the new coexist: audiences still watch films in cinemas, but digital technology and the internet have multiplied ways of relating to moving images. Digital technology has also transformed the relationship between film and art: galleries and museums now routinely exhibit film in shows and installations. Film festivals are flourishing in new formats and locations as never before. 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 moving image work in major gallery and museum collections in Singapore and the wider international art world.  In this module we explore this development from the 1960s to the present day. We focus on case studies of particular artists and exhibitions, influential critical texts and discuss how the development of the art market impinges on art and exhibition practice. We discuss the old and the new aspects of programming and curating; theoretical considerations of audience; spectatorship and reception; and the changing spaces and temporalities of film and moving image exhibition, but also the challenges to present moving image within traditional art venues such as a museum and museum collections.

The System of Art Biennials in the Asia-Pacific

The course analyses the historical conditions and the cultural agendas behind the proliferation of international art blockbuster exhibitions in the Asia-Pacific region. The biennale system as a platform for the production of aesthetic, allegoric, socio-politic and intellectual enquiry is scrutinized within the global situation of emerging economies and fast-changing urban and financial cartographies.

From Colonial to Post-Colonial Art: A Critical Survey

The course explores a historical narrative that portrays 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 subjects of critical analysis. The course covers a number of exhibitions –such as Magicien de la Terre and Cocido y Crudo - intending to examine multiculturalism from the Western institutional perspective. 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. 

Education and Outreach

This course introduces students to how collections and exhibitions form as a basis for learning for diverse audiences. Through a combination of lectures, reading and writing workshops, guest talks, field trips, presentations, and hands on projects, students will develop the necessary skills to plan dynamic public programming within museums, art institutions, heritage centers, gallery spaces, local libraries, community centers, and other public spaces. Apart from studying the history of museum education, students will study current educational and outreach programs in Singapore taking into account inreach versus outreach programs. Specifically, students will interview current educators and curators regarding programming with local schools and colleges, corporate clients, intergenerational gallery spaces, and other public programs. For their final project, by engaging with collections at specific cultural institutions in multi-cultural Singapore, students will implement their participatory programs for various age groups ranging from toddlers to active agers. Finally, students will also be introduced to a range of new technologies used in interpretive spaces such as augmented reality, apps, QR coding, touch tables, exploratory stations, and holograms.

Global Art Histories

Although the study of art history is compartmentalized into the seemingly fixed categories of western and non-western art with further specializations along national boundaries, the turn towards what has come to be known as World Art Studies, Global Art Histories, or Connected Art Histories has made the field rethink such constructions. New academic positions moreover emphasize studies about relationships between local, regional, and global art worlds, clearly reflecting the strong interest in this new framework of understanding. This course examines the connected nature of art not only in the colonial and contemporary art worlds, but also in the ancient, medieval, and early modern art worlds. We will study networks such as religion, trade, and technologies as systems that connected premodern art worlds. How has networks, contacts, and encounters been theorized in the field of art history and other related disciplines? Beginning with Fernand Braudel, we will examine the frameworks of Mary Louise Pratt and Monica Juneja, as well as theories proposed by contemporary artists such as Azra Aksamija. Alongside deep engagements with theoretical readings, we will conduct field trips to examine art works from local museums that reflect such connected art histories.

Planning and Designing Exhibitions for Art Galleries and Public Spaces

Exhibition environments can be enlightening, immersive, interactive, and use all kinds of media: video projections, historical objects, specimens, hands-on exhibits, innovative technologies. The knowledge and skills required to participate in the development of such exhibitions are specialized, and many professionals with different roles are needed: historic or scientific advisors, content developers, architects, designers, and multimedia developers. What are the challenges and opportunities for exhibitions to communicate? How is exhibition design evolving to become more engaging, participatory and ultimately more effective? How can the different roles of an exhibition team effectively blend and with an efficient schedule? This course will present and discuss exhibition making with a particular focus on communicating knowledge, strategies of audience engagement, interpretative techniques, design approaches, functionality, aesthetic and sustainability helping students to experiment and reflect on the relationship between narrative, space and the visitor experience. As exhibition programmes reflect the hosting institutions’ mission, students will be exposed to a variety of exhibitions: historical, scientific, contemporary, research, and temporary. 

Critical Issues in Contemporary Art

The course is an introduction to the latest issues, concepts and problems that characterize contemporary art as a platform for the production of critical thinking. The course approaches the definition of ‘contemporary art’ by three areas: new forms, new contents and new environments.  ‘New forms’ include art as idea, gesture, material, specific site and the trans-disciplinary relationship with other artistic forms like music, theater and dance, literature and new media. ‘New contents’ comprise manifestations of research-based art implicating interdisciplinary approaches to a number of scientific and social fields like nature, politics, and cultural heritage. ‘New environments’ implicate the agenda of contemporary art within the new global scenario. (Dis)connections between the three south – Asia, Africa and Latin America – and the rising voice of the formerly called ‘peripheries’ or ‘subaltern cultures’ is regarded as the playground for the analysis of the new dialogue with the canonical principles of Western Modernity. 

Social Practice and Community Art

This theory/practice seminar will involve a critical discussion of a series of case-studies from inside and outside Southeast Asia of projects seeking to engage, dialogue, interact with or situate themselves inside various, more-or-less pre-identified communities. A series of readings will be deliberated in tandem with these case studies pertaining to key contextual and international, art historical and cultural-theoretical legacies of such approaches. The seminar will finally involve a series of experiential, hands-on exercises, crafted as a means of working-through the problems, provocations and possibilities of curating community, socially-engaged or participatory art works. 

Creative and Critical Writing

In this course students will be introduced to a variety of text publishing formats as common practice in the core of curatorial practice and museum studies. There is no such thing as one style of writing within this context. The student is encouraged to produce within this course several formats of written texts ranging from exhibition reviews, to conceptual project outlines, to text programs, thesis abstracts, amongst others. The presentation of texts will be peer reviewed in this course in order to learn through reflection and analysis of each others written presentations. 

New Media and Technologies in the Context of Exhibitions

Exhibitions are increasingly developing a strong interest in technology, as they are more than ever before in the circuit of leisure activities, faced with the challenge of having to offer appealing experiences and handling a large volume of visitors. They have become a fertile ground of experimentation and innovative design in the attempt to become more engaging, inclusive, participatory and unconventional.The use of an extensive range of digital tools, narrative media, and interactive systems are increasingly shaping our experience when visiting an exhibition. What is the impact of the use of these new media and techniques in the spatial narrative of the exhibition? What is the connection between the physical and social experience of the exhibition and the digital dimension? What are the possibilities for museums and cultural institutions to reach a wider public or engage their visitors using innovative media? Is it possible to extend the visitor experience outside the time and space of the exhibition? This course will introduce new trends in technologies for narrative, immersive and interactive experiences that are strongly influencing the design of exhibitions today. The aim is to explore and develop an understanding of crucial aspects that influence the relationship between the visitor experience and the use of different media and new technologies in the context of exhibitions.

Writing the Curatorial

This course places emphasis on the development of each participant’s MA thesis project. In this course all MA participants with a focus on curatorial practice will study together to enrich each others working methodologies through regular class presentations and discussions about the topics of their MA thesis. The objective of this course is to engage students in critical and intellectual reflection on the subject presented, to improve and strengthen articulation, communication skills as well as presentation formats. Through regular meetings the MA students are in constant exchange with each other and the instructor, which increases their knowledge and experience of working methods and presentation formats and strengthens their vision and reflection on intellectual discourses and context. The outcome of this course is to strengthen and support the students’ capacities in challenging curatorial practices with ever new and expanding concepts and practices.

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