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Postgraduate courses

The Honours and Masters coursework degrees have a wide offering of courses to choose from. Each course is a semester in length (either February – May or July – October), and the contact time for each course is one afternoon per week during term time.

Honours students are required to complete four coursework units and write a research essay of 10,000 words. Masters by Coursework students are required to complete three coursework units and write a research report of 20,000 words. With a wide range of options to choose from, including courses in other divisions in the Wits School of Arts, the coursework programme offers a unique opportunity to tailor a postgraduate degree around a set of interests or specialisations.

Existing and prospective students may register for a single coursework unit as an occasional student. While no prior degree is necessary, students are required to complete an entrance test before being accepted. Our flexibly-scheduled postgraduate courses provide an opportunity for working professionals to work on individual projects and expand their knowledge base, research and seminar skills, and fieldwork experiences. Successful completion of a course can count towards a postgraduate degree or diploma.

Not all of the following courses are available in any given year. Please consult the department for a list of courses available in your proposed year of study.

Writing art historiesexhibition historiesWriting Art’s Histories

This unit is the core course for all postgraduate degrees in History of Art. It provides an essential rooting within the discipline, established by examining objects, collections, displays, exhibitions, and institutions, as well as the ways in which consideration of these informs the writing of art’s histories. Since 2013, we have been working with the writing of “Object Biographies”, which encourages students to move beyond the current location of objects in a collection or institution, to trace how they are created and how they circulate in the world, appearing at different times in different living contexts. Each student completes a close study of a specific objects from Wits Art Museum‘s collections and becomes its biographer. Different object biographies take students across different disciplinary boundaries including art/ anthropology, art/history, and art/archaeology, as well as through various methodological terrains such as artist biography, iconographic analysis, scientific dating/scanning techniques, exhibition histories, and a variety of theoretical positions in the process of mapping and investigating artworks and objects through history.

Exhibition Histories

This course offers a critical engagement with theories and histories of exhibitions. It investigates how historical exhibitions can be viewed as tools to interrogate and examine important historical moments in art history and how these moments signal major shifts within art practices, particularly with respect to how art genres and movements come to be identified. It thus engages with the direct relationship between theory and practice. Looking at a wide range of examples both international and national, the course interrogates how exhibitions produce moments of change. By engaging the ways in which knowledge is produced through art practices and curatorial and exhibition practices, the course reflects on how various cultural, economic and political changes are also implied in these forms of artistic practices.  The course also engages with the institutional histories of museums and galleries, independent art spaces, and important historical art initiatives.

African artart and scienceAfrican Art History

In this course, the study of art history is placed within the context of the vast African continent and its diaspora. The course engages discursive constructions of Africa, as well as issues of power and knowledge inherent within these constructions. It seeks to address the diversity and complexity of continental and diasporic artistic production by encouraging students to work on materials from different historical eras and different parts of the continent. The course critically engages questions of collection, authenticity, heritage, ethnography, nationalism, identity, repatriation, primitivism, modernism, popular culture, publics, postcolonialism, and Afrofuturism. It aims to trace how the circulation, journeys, and routes of art objects, and the framing of these objects in different contexts, contribute to discursive formations of knowledge about African identities, histories, and futures.

Art and Science

Departing from the idea that art and science have a common origin and that both scientists and artists pursue and forge understandings of the world around them, this course investigates the overlapping and interrelated aspects of these distinct disciplinary practices.

African Art History

In this course, the study of art history is placed within the context of the vast African continent and its diaspora. The course engages discursive constructions of Africa, as well as issues of power and knowledge inherent within these constructions. It seeks to address the diversity and complexity of continental and diasporic artistic production by encouraging students to work on materials from different historical eras and different parts of the continent. The course critically engages questions of collection, authenticity, heritage, ethnography, nationalism, identity, repatriation, primitivism, modernism, popular culture, publics, postcolonialism, and Afrofuturism. It aims to trace how the circulation, journeys, and routes of art objects, and the framing of these objects in different contexts, contribute to discursive formations of knowledge about African identities, histories, and futures.

Wooden mirror

Art and Technology

This course is an introduction to the interdisciplinary meeting of creative practice and technology. Students will consider a range of new modes of practice enabled by computing and media technologies as well as their critical histories. These may include interactive, electronic, virtual, digital, and telematic art. In addition students will explore a range of theoretical frameworks that inform these practices, particularly including those that interrogate the divergence from the aesthetic principles of more “traditional” artistic practices. Set within an increasingly network reliant society, the course content will also diverge with theories of modernity, globalisation, and media. Students in the course will particularly explore the effect of computing and media technologies on the creative arts of Africa.

 

Collections managementCollections Management

This unit examines literature related to art collections management and the different models of public and private collections. It investigates concepts and theories pertaining to accessioning, conservation, documentation, archiving, and research on art collections. It also looks at how exhibitions derived from collections explore inventive ways of gaining cultural value through representation and writing.In addition, it examines the role of cultural institutions when managing such collections relating to issues of value creations and knowledge production. The course also examines the roles of cultural institutions in managing art collections through its policies, infrastructure, and funding.

 

Curating Exhibitions

This course examines the practices, roles, and effects of contemporary curating. Through seminars, site visits, and guest lectures, the course explores the evolving roles of curators, the constitution of exhibition audiences and publics, the roles of different forms of display in making objects ‘speak’, and practices outside the white cube. Students are expected to come up with a curatorial project at the beginning of the course in order to work through the project’s concept, development, and realisation through their engagement in the seminars and one-on-one tutorials. Students are also expected to participate in various practical projects that are set up with partnering institutions, structured to give them the opportunity to engage with different forms of writing and producing exhibitions. Through the internship programme, students are exposed to working in groups to realise an exhibition that prepares them for their individual exam exhibition. For the exam, students are expected to realise their individual exhibitions and write a catalogue essay. By the end of the course, students should be able to draw on their experiences of both curating exhibitions and writing about them to reflect critically on their own work as curators. They will have gained a critical understanding of curating practices, relations of power, and the politics of display.

Museum education

Curating exhibitions

Museum Education

This course introduces students to the current and prospective roles of the museum in education. Grounded in a history of the role of museums in learning, and in theories of learning in arts education more broadly, the course explores the potential of the museum as a critical site of new learning in the South African context. Discussions, readings, seminars, case studies, site visits, and practice in materials development, all contribute towards a complex understanding of how interpretative strategies, curriculum enrichment, narrative storytelling, and community engagement underpins the enrichment of the museum experience. Students will learn how to design, implement, and critique educational programmes for different museum audiences (including children, teens, adults, families, school groups, and tourists). The course is examined through a group project that requires students to produce an education programme (including pre- and post-visit materials) at one of Johannesburg’s public museums.

Representing Slavery

The course will critically explore the visual culture of remembering slavery using various disciplinary forms. Students will be asked to consider what is at stake when representing slavery and will examine the work of modern and contemporary artists, filmmakers, illustrators and others.

Postcolonial Art History

This unit introduces students to a theoretical framing of the historical relationships between power and domination, which have existed through practices of imperialism and colonisation. Our reading of postcolonial theory and interdisciplinary artistic practice focuses on colonial and postcolonial constructs and investigates how these ideas have informed broader questions of representation of decolonisation, nationalisms, diasporic experiences, creolization, and cosmopolitanism. Our consideration of these relationships will involve an analysis of the temporal location of art criticism in these changing historical, socio-political, and geographic contexts.

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