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School for the Contemporary Arts | Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology Simon Fraser University Calendar | Summer 2021

Contemporary Arts

Master of Arts

This master of arts (MA) degree program in Contemporary Arts trains students to think across the media arts in a comparative perspective that synthesizes the historical and theoretical approaches of art history, cinema studies, performance studies, and studies of computer-based arts.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must satisfy the University admission requirements as stated in Graduate General Regulations 1.3 in the SFU Calendar. Applicants will hold a bachelor of arts degree with at least a 3.5 grade point average (GPA) in studies of the arts, or equivalent humanities disciplines. Students with a bachelor of fine arts degree may be admitted if their studies included a substantial scholarly component.

Program Requirements

This program consists of required courses, elective courses, and one extended essay for a minimum of 33 units.

Students must complete all of

CA 821 - Research Methods in Contemporary Arts (5)

This core course is taken in the first term of the MA program. It develops thinking across the media arts in a comparative perspective that synthesizes the historical and theoretical approaches of art history, cinema studies, performance studies, and computer-based media studies. It establishes bases for understanding the relationships among the visual arts, visual culture, performing arts, and art forms that incorporate reproducible and digital media; these include cinema, video, photography, and computer-based media. In addition to this, the course investigates some of the useful emergent methods for making comparisons among media, across history, and across cultures. While other courses in the MA in Contemporary Arts focus on the distinctive nature of specific media arts, this course considers what properties cross different forms of media arts. Students with credit for FPA 821 may not take this course for further credit.

CA 822 - Research Colloquium in Contemporary Arts (5)

The research colloquium, a core course taken in the final term of the MA program, focuses on professional development in careers in the arts or PhDs. Through intensive peer review, students revise their extended essay (CA 829) for publication. They identify their audiences, choose appropriate journals, and other venues for publication, and prepare to submit their work, and plan their responses to journal decisions. We discuss permission, contracts, and other intellectual-property issues. Students practice job and grant applications, prepare CVs and cover letters, and work on their public profiles. Students also explore extending their research into curating and public programming. We devote time to public presentation skills for a variety of venues including the final symposium, in which they present their research to the public. Students with credit for FPA 822 may not take this course for further credit.

and three of

CA 823 - New Approaches in Visual Art and Culture (5)

Empire follows Art, and not vice versa as Englishmen suppose. - William Blake, annotations to Sir Joshua Reynold's Discourses (ca. 1798-1809) For WJ.T. Mitchell, pictures have lives and loves. Instead of seeing images as inert objects that convey meaning, he urges us to see them as animated beings with desires, needs, appetites, demands, and drives of their own. In the past three decades, literature on visual culture has burgeoned in art history, cultural studies, critical theory, philosophy and anthropology, and recently it has taken on a "performative turn." For art history, which is traditionally concerned with the interpretation of art objects, the artists who make them and the interests of patrons, the interdisciplinary field of visual culture has opened up new ways of thinking about images of all kinds. In a culture in which the production and dissemination of images has grown exponentially, it has never been more necessary to pay attention to how images work and what they do. While histories of images tend to locate intentionality in the maker or the patron, this seminar seeks to bring forward the intentions of the image, how, for example, its formal material characteristics, modes and contexts of circulation and use, reproducibility and referentiality, solicit responses: how images seem to take on, in Mitchell's words, "lives of their own." For your paper, you can choose as your main object of study a work of art, a landmark exhibition, or a famous image drawn from popular culture. This image or event will be the subject of student presentations at the end of the term. The topic must be a visual phenomenon about which there is a substantial discourse in print, preferably in both scholarly and popular sources. The final paper will be based on your presentation and should address some of the critical issues and readings discussed in class. Students with credit for FPA 823 may not take this course for further credit.

CA 824 - New Approaches in Moving-Image Studies (5)

This course is an elective in the MA program. In it we examine what are understood as the arts of the moving image: these include film, video, and other time based audiovisual media. We will begin by grounding our objects of study, i.e. specific works and practices, in cinema studies and survey emerging approaches in cinema studies, relating these developments to the longer history of the discipline. Investigating cinema intermedially, we will keep in mind the art forms that informed it historically, including theater, public spectacles, photography, painting, music, sound recording. Then the course will examine how the practice, aesthetics, and reception change when cinema moves to television, both move to digital formats, and all these platforms move to handheld and social media. We will investigate medium specificity in the moving-image arts in light of what is termed "media convergence." We will consider what new forms emerge when moving images shift from the institution of cinema to other contexts such as museums and online sites. The course includes two or three weeks topics of interest that arise in the field, such as new national cinemas, new approaches to documentary, cognitive theory and neuroscience, etc. Students with credit for FPA 824 may not take this course for further credit.

CA 825 - New Approaches in Digital Art Studies (5)

This course will focus on the history and practice of digital art, with an emphasis upon the artistic outcomes of the new methodologies and practices within this field. Digital technology has fundamentally changed the process and products of contemporary creativity in art-making. Although a great deal of contemporary art involves some aspect of digital technology, this course will examine those artists and art-works in which digital technologies play an intrinsic part in the creative process, as well as the realization. A range of processes - from interactive systems through to algorithmic approaches (stochastic, deterministic, chaotic) - will be examined, with particular reference to artistic goals, approaches, and results. Students with credit for FPA 825 may not take this course for further credit.

CA 826 - New Approaches in Performance Studies (5)

This course is an elective in the MA program. It traces the interdisciplinary origins of performance studies and brings its concepts and methods to bear on dance, music and sound arts, theatre and performance arts, and media performance while introducing cross-disciplinary ideas from emergent areas such as neuroscience, cognitive science, and gaming, for example. Course assignments will involve case studies as forerunners for further research. Students with credit for FPA 826 may not take this course for further credit.

CA 827 - Practicum in Contemporary Arts (5)

This course is an elective in the MA program. Students are placed with an arts organization in order to carry out a specific project of finite length. The student's labor time in the practicum should total approximately 120 hours, to be carried out over the course of a term. Projects are initiated by the student in consultation with the supervisor at the organization and the MA program supervisor. Projects can involve research, writing, organizing events, curating exhibitions and programs, public relations, media production, archiving, and related activities. The student submits a proposal that indicates the project's purpose, schedule, plans for documenting and reporting, and planned outcome. Final outcomes will vary depending on the placement. The MA program coordinator and the supervisor at the organization approve the project. In some cases, the project must be approved by the Ethics Review Board. SFU’s code of conduct and academic dishonesty policies apply to students while on practicum. The MA program coordinator assigns a grade in consultation with the supervisor at the organization. May be repeated once for credit.

Section Instructor Day/Time Location
G100 TBD
G200 TBD

and one graduate elective course

and an extended essay by completing the following

CA 829 - Extended Essay in Contemporary Arts (5)

This essay is the final capstone project of the MA. The extended essay builds on knowledge students have gained in course work. Students research in-depth a topic in comparative media arts and develop and polish an original argument, with the goal of producing a publication. The length of the essay should be that of a typical journal article in the media arts, around 5000-7000 words. Students may also write catalogue essays or similar nonacademic publications. Students research the extended essay with the supervision of two faculty members. They prepare the essay for publication in the Research Colloquium, CA 822. Grading: The faculty supervisors jointly assign a grade of satisfactory/unsatisfactory. Prerequisite: CA (or FPA) 821 and two of the following: CA (or FPA) 823, 824, 825, or 826. Students with credit for FPA 829 may not take this course for further credit.

Section Instructor Day/Time Location
G100 TBD
G200 TBD

Program Length

Students are expected to complete the program requirements in four terms.

Other Information

Course Work

CA 821, Research Methods in Contemporary Arts, taken in the first term, prepares students for research across the media arts, while each elective deepens the student's knowledge of the history and theory of individual media arts. The graduate elective course should be relevant to the student's research and be within the School for the Contemporary Arts, or from another department with permission of the MA Program coordinator and the faculty member teaching the course.

The following are suggestions for the elective course

CA 811 - Interdisciplinary Graduate Seminar I (5)

Critical study of contemporary issues in the fine and performing arts, with emphasis on concerns common to diverse artistic disciplines and the interaction between art and society. Students with credit for FPA 811 may not take this course for further credit.

CA 812 - Interdisciplinary Graduate Seminar II (5)

Continuation of CA (or FPA) 811. Prerequisite: CA (or FPA) 811. Students with credit for FPA 812 may not take this course for further credit.

CA 877 - Selected Topics in Fine and Performing Arts (5)

Study of particular artistic techniques or issues. The topic varies from term to term. Students with credit for FPA 877 may not take this course for further credit.

Section Instructor Day/Time Location
G100 Kimberly Phillips
Tu, Th 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM
GCA 4350, GOLDCORP
CA 889 - Directed Study in Fine and Performing Arts (5)

Students with credit for FPA 889 may not take this course for further credit.

Section Instructor Day/Time Location
G100 TBD
G200 TBD
CMNS 855 - Selected Topics in Communication Studies (5)

Specialized one-time graduate course offerings on topics related to the current research of school faculty of visiting professors.

CMNS 857 - Selected Topics in Communication Studies (5)

Specialized graduate course offering on a topic related to the current research of school faculty or visiting professor.

ENGL 811 - Studies in Theory II (4)

Explores specific critical issues, approaches, or movements in literary and cultural theory. The course will vary according to theoretical and historical focus.

ENGL 820 - Studies in Print Culture Theory (4)

Introduces the history of print culture along with a variety of theoretical approaches. Students enrolled in the Print Culture program are required to take this course.

ENGL 821 - Studies in Manuscript, Print and Media Culture (4)

Explores critical issues, approaches, or movements in manuscript, print, and media culture. The course will vary according to geographical and historical focus and theoretical approach.

GSWS 823 - Feminist Cultural Criticism (5)

Examines the development of feminist cultural criticism, with particular reference to the principles of literary, cinematic, media, and/or art forms.

HUM 802 - Themes in the Humanities (5)

Focuses on one of five following thematic modules: classical and medieval thought and culture, modernity and its discontents, religion and culture, cross-cultural translation, humanities and citizenship.

HUM 805 - Special Topics (5)

An in-depth study of a theme or aspect in the Humanities; topics will vary from offering to offering in order to meet the needs of the graduate cohort.

SA 875 - Ethnographic Methodology: Social/Cultural Anthropology (5)

In depth study of ethnographic methodology as practiced, theorized and debated by social and cultural anthropologists. Course will include anthropological analyses of multi- and interdisciplinary approaches to, and adaptations of, ethnographic methodology and methods. Elective course for MA and PhD students in Sociology and Anthropology. Students from other departments and faculties may enrol with permission of instructor. Course will be offered in response to student demand, dependent on availability of departmental resources.

Extended Essay

For the extended essay, students research in depth a topic in comparative media arts and develop and polish an original argument. CA 822, Research Colloquium, taken in the fourth term, supervises the preparation of the extended essay for publication, and prepares students in research presentation and other aspects of professional development. The program concludes with a public symposium in which students present their research. The extended essay is examined by two readers and does not need to be deposited to the library.

Academic Requirements within the Graduate General Regulations

All graduate students must satisfy the academic requirements that are specified in the Graduate General Regulations, as well as the specific requirements for the program in which they are enrolled.