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Barry Sanders
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Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies

MA in Critical Theory + Creative Research

The Master of Arts in Critical Theory and Creative Research (CT+CR), the first of its kind in the U.S., is an accelerated (45-credit), seminar-based program that prepares students for opportunities at the intersection of art, theory, and research. Students admitted to the program work toward an MA, which they complete within one calendar year. Through rigorous training in critical theory, research design and methods, cultural and institutional critique, and ethics, students develop skills and modes of thinking that cross the boundaries between the visual and verbal, linear and nonlinear, digital and analog, theory and practice.

Located in the heart of Portland, a center of creative risk-taking and social experimentation, the program combines the study of critical theory as a mode of socio-political critique and creative research as a process-driven form of inquiry, pushing both theory and research in new directions within the context of a 21st-century art school. The program is devoted to people and ideas and to a rethinking of the present and future of cultural production; of arts-based research and research-based arts; of curatorial practice, documentary, and the Archive; and of social and political reconfiguration in relation to major sites of contemporary contestation. These sites range from social media to biotechnology, surveillance to sustainability, political terror to revolutionary social and economic practices.

The foundation of the program is a complex of seminars and roundtables on interlocking themes led by PNCA faculty as well as by visiting artists, designers, critics, theorists, poets, and filmmakers. Past visitors to the school include Jacques Rancière, W.J.T. Mitchell, Art Spiegelman, James Turrell, Heike Kuehn, Ellen Dissanayake, Sue Coe, Susan Szenasy, David Shipley, Kurt Andersen, Joe Sacco, Laurie Anderson, Lewis Hyde, and Mel Chin.

New Possibilities at the Juncture of Art and Research

The program accepts applications from distinctive graduates in the arts, humanities, and sciences capable of thinking completely outside any box and interested in developing new combinations of art, theory, research, and critique.  Ideal candidates include artists and designers who want to deepen their work conceptually and theoretically; writers interested in the relation of word and image; students of philosophy, theory, and criticism; journalists, documentarians, and filmmakers; sociologists, anthropologists, and scientists whose work intersects with the arts; and all those interested in combinations of aesthetic and socio-political critique and in new possibilities at the juncture of art and research.

CT+CR prepares students for careers in academia and emerging platforms for knowledge production and dissemination; curation of many different sorts; creative direction; research in museums, foundations, think tanks, and corporations; media and communications; reconfigurations of documentary, journalism, and nonfiction narrative; archival work; art criticism, cultural critique, and social analysis; socio-political aspects of community design and urban planning; public policy and political office, and new forms of public intellectual presence and intervention. The program offers competitive postgraduate teaching assistantships and internships.

Applying to the Program

Apply to the Program. See below for more information on the required Supplemental Application procedure.

Applications for Fall admittance to this program will be reviewed beginning February 1.  Applications will continue to be accepted until the class is filled.

What We Test For

The supplemental portion of the application to the Master of Arts in Critical Theory and Creative Research at PNCA tests for creativity, critical thought, sense-based intelligence, ethical vision, and the ability to combine aesthetic and socio-political critique in innovative ways. Select two of the images below, static or moving, and submit a critique for each of them (links are provided below the image). One of the two must be written—250 words maximum—while the other can be written or take a visual form or a mixed visual-verbal form.

Oliver Brodwolf and Florian Dombois, Sonification of Tohoku Earthquake, Japan
Christian Boltanski, No Man’s Land
Guillermo Vargas Jiménez, Eres Lo Que Lees (You Are What You Read)
Agnes Denes, Wheatfield-A Confrontation
Keith Mayerson, Ode to Falling Man
Invisible Octopus
David Attenborough, Lyre Bird
Video of Bruce Nauman’s MAPPING THE STUDIO II (Fat Chance John Cage)
Xu Zhen, The Starving of Sudan
Atta Kim, ON-AIR Project 110-7/ Long Exposure Series
Patricia Piccinini, The Young Family
Jake & Dinos Chapman, Insult to Injury

Photo by Emily Hyde ‘12

The MA in Critical Theory and Creative Research is co-chaired by Anne-Marie Oliver and Barry Sanders, two distinguished scholars and theorists who bring a combined 60+ years of iconoclastic research, writing, and teaching experience to the program.

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