Course Content

Two pathways through the course are offered both of which begin with two semesters of course-work. Then students can take the following pathways:
MA Art in the Contemporary World (90 credits) with a major research project completed over the summer (1 year FT/ 2 years PT)
MFA Art in the Contemporary World
(120 credits) with another 2 semesters to complete a major project related to the student’s practice (in this instance practice can be mean art making, writing, curating, research or other related and relevant activities

For further details regarding applications, admissions and other college matters see the NCAD website

2023/2024 Curriculum:

Four main strands of study form the structure of the course, with each strand containing discrete thematic modules. These strands are as follows.

(1) CONTEMPORARY ART PRACTICES: A year-long seminar series (comprising 2 modules) exploring the range and diversity of current international and local art practices.
[5 credits in each term]
This is a collaborative seminar run for the various Masters programmes at NCAD concerned with contemporary art practice: the ACW students and the studio the Masters in Fine Art. At the centre of these classes is reflection on the discourses relevant to contemporary art and so a motivating question for the seminars is ‘How do we talk about contemporary art?’. Various ways in which this question might be answered are explored through close analysis of the processes, forms, ideas and effects of recent art. During each academic year, the specific choices of contemporary artists, practices and discourses referenced in the discussions will be determined by a guiding theme identified in response to a topical issue in the field of art.

The themes and topics for the seminar change from term to term and year to year to reflect contemporary practices and debates.

(2) SITUATIONS: Incorporating a range of seminar series, each one addressing cultural and social contexts for art practice today and points of crossover between art and related disciplines.
[5 credits per ‘Situations’ module; two to be taken each term]

All Situations seminars are focused on a specific research area or issue. They address a variety of cultural and social contexts for art practice today. They also, frequently, concern the crossover between art and related disciplines. Key features of Situations include: (i) seminars on specific research interests of contributors; (ii) invited/ guest contributions; (ii) collaborative initiatives with other institutions.

2023/24 seminars include:

Critical Race Theory (John Wilkins, IMMA); The Future of Money (Rachel O’Dwyer) and a collaborative seminar with the National Gallery of Ireland (Nathan O’Donnell)

Previous seminars have included:

(2017) Petrified Tutor: Amelia Groom
In everyday language, stones will often stand for ‘inhuman’ emotionlessness – as when we speak of her blank stony stare, the stone cold killer, or somebody with a heart of stone. When something is as solid as a rock it does not break or shift; when it is set in stone, it is fixed and unchangeable. Again and again, rocks come in to language as the antithesis of change, outside of time, without process, stone dead. Beginning from the premise that rocks are not actually atemporal, ahistorical or apolitical, this seminar will be structured around various points of encounter and contamination across the biological and geological realms. Focusing on a range of artistic, literary, theoretical and mythological references, participants will explore questions pertaining to nonhuman ecologies, queer and feminist neo-materialisms, extraction, ‘deep time’, inorganic erotics, pearls, petrifications and other rocky relations

(2017) Rising from the Hill: Local Systems in Global Contexts in collaboration with Cow House Studios. Tutor: Kelly O’Brien et al.
A Systems Aesthetics/ Mapping Systems Seminar in Collaboration with the “Rising from the Hill Residency at Cowhouse Studios, Wexford
This postgraduate seminar is about systems: the aesthetics of systems; how they can be mapped; and how systems are present in various environments.
The general philosophical approach taken is a phenomenological one. We will explore methods of giving aesthetic forms to real-life situations through using ideas of System. Through a series of reading-based discussions, participants, including the residents, will be encouraged to use ideas, strategies, and metaphors of systems to consider the complex relationships between local contexts and larger global systems such as economics, telecommunications, meteorology and so on.

(3) KEY THEORIES: This strand runs throughout the year with different thematic modules. Participants will gain an understanding of key methodologies, philosophies and theories with respect to the study of contemporary art and its cultural and historical contexts.
[5 credits for each ‘theories’ module]

In 2020/21 there was particular emphasis placed on Decolonizing Modernism and Public(s)

(4) ART & WRITING: This is a student-led seminar comprised of 2 modules. Participants explore and critique different models and strategies for writing on art. Students will also reflect on their own practice as writers and engage in peer review critiques.
[5 credits per 12 week seminar module; 1 to be taken per semester]

Module leaders 2023/ 24: Nathan O’Donnell and Sue Rainsford

This module concentrates on the many forms of criticism that are relevant to the theory and practice of contemporary art. The classes will address the conventions and characteristics of very different modalities of critical practice, ranging from long-form academic essays to the types of critical essays and reviews found in specialist art magazines, to forms of art criticism that take place in the pages of general interest publications (such as newspapers) and the forms of criticism that take place within the broadcast media. Addressing both contemporary and historical examples, these seminars allow students to look carefully at writing style as well as to understand contexts of writing, whether institutional, social or historical. Weekly readings of key critical writings are set, with each class based around a close-reading of the chosen text.

RESEARCH METHODS module is also a feature of the course. This helps students to gain knowledge about how to develop a credible research topic within a useful critical, theoretical, historical or practical framework. [5 credits relate to research methods learning in semester 1; this work relates to the preparation of the research project to be delivered at the conclusion of the overall course.]