As announced recently on this blog, the OCA is developing an MA in Fine Art in conjunction with the University of the Creative Arts – see here. Last week we were invited to their Epsom campus in Surrey for an “M”-ness workshop, the task of the day being to define what it is that makes an MA an MA, as opposed to a BA, and how to reflect this in the course. The workshop was led by Dean of Teaching and Learning Hilaire Graham, who is passionate about course design, and what might have been a dry session sifting through QAA MA benchmark statements turned out to be a fascinating discussion.
The traditional definition of a Masters is, of course, mastery or a high level of expertise in a certain area of knowledge and set of skills. What emerged from the meeting was that it was much more than that. The aspirational aim of the MA is no less than the transformation of an individual, through rigorous practice, reflection and research, to a whole new level of seeing, creating and being in the world.
It involves a thorough understanding of your own creative process but also the development of certain objectivity, the freeing yourself from being embedded in what you already know and do, and moving into the territory of what you don’t already know. It’s an understanding that although the work is personal and comes through you, it is shaped by hundreds of thousands of years of artistic practice, and is coloured by multiple overlapping circles of influence — personal, cultural, social, political, economic, philosophical, historical….. It involves being able to synthesise this complexity and identify where you stand now, and where you are going. And however small, what your unique contribution will be and what impact it will have in the outside world. It has also to do with taking personal responsibility as a practitioner in your field to be informed, to be aware of the current debate, to participate in it and move it forward.
Challenging and thrilling stuff!