Master of Arts in Visual Critical Studies

Master of Arts in Visual Critical Studies

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Stephanie Brooks.

October 23, 2013
Master of Arts in Visual Critical Studies

Applications are due February 1, 2014.

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
36 South Wabash Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60603

The Master of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies (MAVCS) program at the School of the At Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is designed for students who wish to pursue a scholarly and creative investigation of the production, dissemination, and impact of visual images, objects, experiences, and practices. With the visual as a starting point, students use multiple methods of critical investigation to study the interactions between visual phenomena and their historical, disciplinary, and social contexts. VCS students study canonical and non-canonical phenomena with equal care. They also study failure as a form of research and as an outcome.

The program culminates with two semesters of directed thesis work, where the emphasis is on the development of the student’s own critical and/or creative production. Additionally, VCS graduates organize a symposium and exhibition every year.

A Postdisciplinary Program
At the heart of the MAVCS program is a core structure of visual theory surrounded by a flexible curriculum in which students, guided by faculty advisors from across SAIC, design their own course structure to match their interests. The VCS program is designed to redefine disciplinary practices as a mash-up of interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and postdisciplinary thinking and making. A unique aspect of the MAVCS program is the option of combining creative and critical practices: some students have studios; some have desks; some have both.

A Diverse Faculty
MAVCS faculty are internationally recognized practitioners in their fields and share a common interest in taking disciplinary knowledge beyond the borders of conventional practice. The faculty include artists, designers, critics, writers, and scholars with diverse backgrounds: sculpture and anthropology, design and feminism, photography and social history, conceptual practices and textual criticism, as well as a range of emerging disciplines. VCS faculty have won Guggenheim Fellowships for both studio practice and critical scholarship.

Recent visitors to VCS have included Ben Kinmont (on social sculpture), Mitesh Dixit (on ‘Complex Projects’ at Delft University of Technology), Nico Dockx (on archives), Åbäke (on socially reflexive design), and alumna Szu-Han Ho (on transnational collaboration). Future visitors include Todd Norsten (on duck hunting as a studio practice) and Erica Barrish (on post-reductive minimalist practices of women from 1960–present).

MAVCS graduates have produced theses with titles like Sympathetic Resonances: Relationality and Affect in the Sonic ‘Field’ and Revising the Pharmacist and Its Imaginary Twin: A Strange Cartography & An Intentional Agent in the Process of Being Distinguished Again. They make and do things the faculty can’t imagine making and doing, even on a good day.

Applications are due February 1, 2014. To apply, visit

For more information, contact [email protected]

About the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
A leader in educating artists, designers, and scholars since 1866, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) offers nationally accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees and post-baccalaureate programs to more than 3,200 students from around the globe. Located in the heart of Chicago, SAIC has an educational philosophy built upon an interdisciplinary approach to art and design, giving students unparalleled opportunities to develop their creative and critical abilities, while working with renowned faculty who include many of the leading practitioners in their fields. SAIC’s resources include the Art Institute of Chicago and its new Modern Wing; numerous special collections and programming venues provide students with exceptional exhibitions, screenings, lectures, and performances. For more information, please visit

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