Art and Visual Culture MA
Alternative attendance modes for this course
View course-specific entry requirements
You should have a good Honours degree (usually 2:1 or above, or equivalent) in a relevant subject area, including any discipline in arts and humanities, fine art and performing arts, as well as some social science subjects. Relevant work experience might also be taken into consideration, especially in the case of applicants who don’t meet the standard entry criteria.
If your first language is not English, you will need an IELTS score of at least 6.5 with 7.0 in writing (or equivalent). Applicants may also be asked to provide an example of previous written work as part of the application. The University offers pre-sessional summer programmes if you need to improve your English before starting your course.
This interdisciplinary, visual theory-based course is established around the belief that visual literacy and the impact of visual forms of thinking and working play significant roles in our society. On the course, we interrogate visual perception and representation in high and popular culture, explore how these produce meanings, and how such meanings shape societies and individuals.
The course introduces you to a wide range of historical and contemporary debates that inform the theories and practices of visual culture, and supports you in developing a conceptual framework within which to evaluate the role of the visual arts, and other forms of visual production, in contemporary society and culture.
The course gives you a solid grounding for careers in the art and cultural sectors as well as academia, and it is also suitable for practicing artists wishing to further their research.
This MA 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; digital culture and new media technologies; theory and practice of archive research; material culture of the city; representation of the cultural ‘other’, among others.
Many of these modules include class visits to leading museums, galleries and archives in London: this provides a fantastic opportunity to engage directly with the city’s cultural institutions and intellectual resources, in doing so providing you with sophisticated critical thinking skills as well as practical knowledge of how the cultural sector operates.
The following modules are indicative of what you will study on this course. For more details on course structure and modules, and how you will be taught and assessed, see the full course document.
This extended piece of independent research (12,000 words) gives you an opportunity to pursue a topic of interest, and is conducted through individual study and directed supervision. You will work with a supervisor who has expertise in a discipline relevant to their project and who will provide guidance and individual academic support with developing, researching and writing the dissertation.
The dissertation is the final component of the programme and is completed in the last few months of the MA. The period of independent dissertation research is supplemented by a series of workshops, which you attend in the second semester of their studies. These workshops are designed to support you working on the dissertation and help develop a range of relevant skills, including: advanced research skills, academic writing skills, engagement with visual material and critical thinking.
Visual Culture: Theoretical and Critical Perspectives
This module offers a critical introduction to contemporary visual culture studies through analysis of the major approaches underlying the interdisciplinary, cross-cultural study of politics and society. It is built around the key theorists in the field, and through their work examines the complex interactions of culture in relation to politics, economy and society.
This module aims to give a critical introduction to contemporary visual culture studies; to offer a sound critical understanding of the diverse themes in the development of visual culture studies; to explore the various links and tensions between different approaches and problems raised by cultural studies, as a basis for more advanced study; and to develop an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural framework for analysing the complex interactions of visual culture in relation to politics, economy and society.
VISUAL CULTURE: PRODUCTION, DISPLAY AND DISCOURSE
The keys to this module are interpretation and analysis. The module aims to question what is visual culture in relation to the cultural, political and economic context of contemporary visual arts. It aims to make links with the theoretical debates studied in the parallel module ‘Theoretical and Critical Perspectives’ and the practice of visual culture in its diverse forms paying particular attention to contemporary art practice, including film and photography.
The module explores visual culture through three areas. Production: the creation of artworks and other creative forms; Display: the way that these forms are then represented, collected, made available to the public. Discourse: how critical debate and interpretation has been developed around them both through theory and practice, such as museum curating. This module also aims to examine historical and contemporary notions of institutional collection, curatorial, archival and display practices. Attention will be paid to objects as evidence of their original production and use, their cultural biographies and the way they are interpreted in relation to exhibition spaces.
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.
Specifically, this module aims to investigate the relationship between capitalism and the culture of modernity; to assess and investigate a number of different theoretical accounts of capitalism; to relate these different accounts to a range of cultural forms under capitalism, including art, literature, architecture, film, and television; to consider changing conceptions of ‘culture’ itself, and its varying relations to ideas of art, production, the mass, autonomy, spectacle, and the culture industry; and to explore the idea of a specific visual culture of capitalism, and its relationship to the commodity form.
Engaging the Archive
This module aims to explore the practical and theoretical issues of using archives for the purposes of research or exhibition and, in doing so, to evaluate critically the complex relations between archival practice and theory. Specifically, the practical issues that the module aims to examine relate to the management of and access to archives, and how these impact on research and curating; while the theoretical issues considered relate to the politics of the archive, including curatorial and artistic intervention, the construction of meaning and memory. The module is taught through workshops and seminars, and gives you privileged and guided access to the unique collections of the University of Westminster Archive.
This module looks 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.
Specifically, this module aims to examine: how arts organisations and museums present photography through exhibitions and displays; the range of approaches towards exhibiting contemporary photographic images; the role of historic photographic collections and their interpretation; issues around fine arts practice in photographic exhibitions; and how photography is discussed and how curatorial initiatives contribute to critical discourse.
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.
Representing World Cultures
This module aims to explore the issues surrounding the practice of representation, focusing in particular on the role played by western cultural institutions in presenting non-western cultures to a diverse audience through visual practices. Specifically, the module aims to examine and critique how world cultures are represented in a range of contexts; the power relations embedded in the practice of representation and, in a related way, its ethical dimension; the ways in which the representation of non-western cultures in the context of western cultural institutions produces meanings about the ‘Other’; and how this impacts on the formation of social identities and relations.
Through seminars, workshops and site visits to London museums and archives, the module aims to bring the analysis of specific theoretical frameworks to bear on the evaluation of ethnographic and historical collections and exhibitions. In doing so, it aims to encourage you to engage with and initiate critical discussions into the ways in which current representations of non-western cultures influence our ways of seeing the ‘Other’.
Using a range of theoretical, historical, literary, visual and other cultural texts, this module explores the idea of urban culture as it has developed since the mid nineteenth century. Focusing, in particular, on the distinctive concept of the modern metropolis, the module considers a variety of different representations of the city and critically examines the divergent ways in which they understand the specificity of urban experience itself.
Specifically, this module aims to examine the formation and representation of modern urban culture through the analysis of specific theoretical, literary, visual and other cultural texts; to investigate developing conceptions of a distinctive metropolitan experience from the mid nineteenth century onwards; to introduce and assess different theoretical and critical accounts of urban culture; to consider the relationship between urban cultures and capitalism as a social form; to explore the relationships between the particular histories and cultures of specific cities and general conceptions of the urban as a social-spatial form; to consider the changing global forms and interrelations of ‘western’ and ‘non-western’ urban forms; and to examine the implications of interdisciplinary study in relation to the city.
This module looks in detail at the Museum of London. On each session a guest curator will present their individual approach to curating. You will discuss the many ways that museum exhibitions are constructed, how texts and displays are designed and why learning and education is a central part of the museum’s narrative. This module will explore different subject areas, such as archaeology, contemporary history or fashion and reveal the challenges to curators in interpreting and displaying material for exhibition.
Specifically, this module aims to examine contemporary museum and gallery displays and exhibitions in London, with case studies of the Museum of London; to interrogate the concept of narrative, and how it is used to ‘construct’ social and cultural history; and to examine how objects and images are used within curatorial display practices.
Work Placement in Cultural Institutions
This module aims to enable you 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 you to make beneficial connections within a professional context. We have established contacts with a range of galleries and organisations for work placements and support you in finding an appropriate host institution.
Recent work placements on the module have included the Museum of London, the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, Camden Arts Centre, Arts Catalyst, Film London, Jessica Carlise Gallery, the British Film Institute, the Chinese Film Festival and the Wellcome Trust. We also work with the University careers office to help you develop skills for entering the job market.
DIGITAL CULTURES (new, subject to approval)
This module addresses one of the most urgent and, at the same time, elusive contemporary issues: the relationship between culture and the rise of digital media. It explores the production, circulation and cultural impact of digital technologies and considers how their emergence influences society, contemporary culture, and the relationship between the two. The module introduces key themes and debates in digital culture and explores ways I which digital environments impact how we produce, engage with, and thus understand, their cultural formations.
Specifically, this module aims to interrogate the impact of digital technologies in relation to contemporary culture through discussions of representative digital phenomena and critical and theoretical debates in digital culture; to apply theory in practice by participating in digital culture; to develop advanced capacity to critically analyse digital cultures; to develop an interdisciplinary framework for analysing the complex interactions of digital technologies and diverse forms of cultural production today; and to examine the implications of the ubiquitous digital technologies for cultural institutions.
Many of our students have gone on to pursue successful careers in the creative industries as curators, artists, cultural consultants, events and communications managers, learning producers, art educators, arts administrators, media arts project managers, editors, and public relations and marketing specialists. Many others have instead gone on to MPhil/PhD study in fields such as art history and visual culture, cultural studies and new media. The course is suitable for practising artists wishing to further their research.
We also work with the University careers office to help you develop key skills for entering the job market.
Additional costs information
To check what your tuition fees cover and what you may need to pay for separately, see our What tuition fees cover page.
The MA in Art and Visual Culture prepares students for careers in the art and cultural sector as well as academia. The combination of seminars, workshops and field trips that the course offers equips students with sophisticated critical thinking skills as well as practical knowledge of how the cultural sector operates. As a result, many of our students have gone on to pursue successful careers as curators, artists, cultural consultants, events and communications managers, media arts project managers, editors and public relations specialists.
Many others have gone on to MPhil/PhD study in fields such as art history and visual culture, cultural studies and media. As part of the course students have an opportunity to take a work experience module, which involves placements in art and cultural institutions in London and a chance to build a career profile. We work with the university careers office to help students prepare for entering the job market.
Study in the city
If you study at the University of Westminster, everything that London has to offer is on your doorstep.
Our central London campuses are ideally located for the city's fantastic learning institutions including libraries, archives and museums, as well as opportunities for shopping, eating out, enjoying London's nightlife or just simply relaxing.
After choosing your course, one of your biggest decisions will be where to live, and we aim to make that choice as easy as possible. Whether you want to apply for our Halls of Residence or live in private housing, we can help you to find the right accommodation.
Fees, funding, bursaries and scholarships
In recent years the University of Westminster's scholarship scheme has been the largest university scholarships scheme in the UK, and our Scholarships Department won the Times Higher Education inaugural Award for Outstanding Support for Overseas Students.
All students on courses of a year or more and who are registered for more than three modules will be allocated a personal tutor.
Your personal tutor will be there to support you from induction onwards, helping you to integrate into the University, academically and socially, at an early stage. They will be able to give you advice and support on academic and personal matters affecting your study, as well as developmental advice through regular individual and group tutorials.
Polylang is a University-wide programme through which you can study a language as a free choice module.
Personal advice and counselling
While most students overcome any problems with help from friends, family or a personal tutor, the University's free counselling and advice services are there if you need them.
With one of the UK's largest international student populations, the University of Westminster has plenty of experience in giving you the help and support you need to make the most of your time with us.
Study Abroad and Summer School programmes
Westminster's Study Abroad programme has been running for more than 15 years, and is one of the largest in the UK – each year we welcome hundreds of visiting students from universities all over the world.
If you are already studying outside the UK, the programme offers you the opportunity to study with us for one or two semesters, or for a period in the summer.
Sport and recreation
The University has extensive sport and recreation facilities, with a sports hall and gym at Harrow, a state-of-the-art gym at Regent Campus, and the University sports ground by the River Thames at Chiswick.
University of Westminster Students' Union (UWSU) aims to make sure you have the best university experience possible by providing a range of activities and support, from sports clubs to society groups, educational advice and social events.
“Studying on the Art and Visual Culture MA at Westminster was a thoroughly rewarding experience. The course's modules were structured extremely well, enabling me to establish strong understandings of key theoretical concepts and texts in order to engage in pertinent debates about contemporary culture.
"I would highly recommend the MA to anyone who has an innate curiosity about the world we live in. You will not only be taught by knowledgeable, energetic tutors, but will have many thought-provoking conversations with a culturally diverse mix of fellow students. I can genuinely say I didn't want the course to end!”
Verónica Posada Álvarez
“During my year on the Art and Visual Culture MA, I gained critical thinking skills for the analysis of contemporary social and political issues through the investigation of culture. Moreover, living, working and studying enriched my experience as an international student.
"I have met incredible academics and fellow students at the English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies department, who gave me an opportunity to see the world from another perspective. Indeed, with the knowledge and skills that I obtained doing my Masters, I hope to keep contributing to the production of knowledge about Latin Americans in the UK.”
“As a student who does not have a former background in art or cultural studies, my own interests have been fully encouraged in the open-minded environment here and I felt guided and supported.
Academics and students from all around the world have inspired me to question critically, to practice creatively, and to research comprehensively.”
"I decided to return to university and study for a Masters as I felt a need to better understand the increasingly complex society we live in and explore my interest in art. I hoped to marry a better understanding of contemporary visual culture with an increased confidence in engaging with current debates to take me to the next step in my career.
"At Westminster, I was able to work interdisciplinarily, supported by enthusiastic tutors and developing my interests in human and animal studies and art and representational practises. The programme offered me a grounding in critical theory and philosophy, both current and historical, which has given me a strong foundation from which to examine Art and Visual Culture. I am confident it will prove a useful springboard to future learning and my career."
"After a few years of working in the creative industry, the Art and Visual Culture MA gave me the theoretical depth I was missing. The interdisciplinary design of the program covered a range of my interest fields - from contemporary art and literature to urban and digital culture. I now pursue a career in cultural insight and innovation research."
Visual Culture - why Westminster?
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