+ MFA Streams

The Transart Creative Practice MFA is available in three distinct learning streams:

Transart MFA

The Transart MFA is a two year creative practice program. During the first year students work with an advisory team exploring aspects of their practice via self-directed project proposal, monthly process blogs and advanced research skills. At year’s end each student formulates a synthesis of their year’s work leading to an MFA creative thesis project proposal to be developed and completed—with their next advisory team—during the second year.

Transart MFA—Independent Study

Outstanding students who have demonstrated strong independence in the first year of the program will be invited to undertake their second year in an enhanced independent study mode, developing their own production schedules in accordance with their advisors, continuing with their process blogs and meeting the final MFA Project deadline corresponding to the MFA program.

Transart MFA—MPhil

Particularly focused students who have achieved an MFA level creative thesis project in the first year and aim to progress to the Transart MPhil/PhD program will be invited to develop—in negotiation with an advisory team—their MPhil/PhD proposal. Successful completion of this stream will culminate in the candidate’s Research Project Approval. The student then begins their creative practice research in earnest.

+ Modules & Outcomes 2018-2019

MFA Creative Practice Module Key

Total MFA program credits for fours semesters:
240 British Credits (BCR)
120 European Credit Transfer System (ECTS)
60 US credits (CR)

+ Summary of Requirements


Module 501 “Creative Practice 1/2”
Duration: Summer residency + fall semester
Content: First half of studio project
Input: project planning, two workshops, two studio advisor meetings, 1 guidance committee meeting
Assessment: after presentation at winter residency 1
Credits: 30BCR/15ECTS/7.5CR

Module 503 “Critical Framework 1/2”
Duration: Summer residency + fall semester
Content: annotated bibliography, outline with intro paragraph
Input: seminar, research planning, one advisor meeting, guidance committee meeting,
Assessment: content is due by March 1st (spring semester), credit at completion of “Critical Framework 2/2″

Module 502 “Creative Practice 2/2”
Duration: Winter residency + spring semester
Content: Completion of studio project
Input: group critique, two studio advisor meetings
Assessment: after presentation at summer residency 2
Credits: 30BCR/15ECTS/7.5CR

Module 503 “Critical Framework 2/2”
Duration: Winter residency + spring semester
Content: draft and final paper
Input: research advisor, two reports
Assessment: end of spring semester
Credits: 30BCR/15ECTS/7.5CR

MCP 504 “Synthesis”
Duration: spring semester
Content: connecting studio and research + proposal for 2nd year (studio project + thesis or process paper)
Input: group critiques, two studio advisor meetings, project planning
Assessment: after presentation at summer residency 2
Credits: 30BCR/15ECTS/7.5CR

Total credits year one: 120BCR/60ECTS/30CR
Assessment Criteria—Year 1—Pass/Fail

  • The effective implementation of a research proposal demonstrating an understanding of how your process and practice confirm appropriately integrated critical and practical research skills.
  • Active engagement in bi-annual presentations and online crit-groups reflecting an informed critical dialogue and debate in the ongoing development of your own and your peers practice and process(es). The evaluation of students making physical (as opposed to digital) work is a twofold process: students present examples of their work annually at winter residency establishing a benchmark by which their work can be further evaluated online (by their advisors and also in peer critique groups). Residency presentations are not formally evaluated but form a part of the overall assessment and evaluation of each student's project.
  • Effective and appropriate self-evaluation of your own practice (and project) vis-à-vis your self-determined aims and objectives.
  • A research paper which frames and highlights your critical writing and thinking, and skills in contextualising your own practice within that of your community and broader histories and theories.


MCP 505 Independent MFA Project 1/2
Duration: summer residency 2 + fall semester
Content: studio project, thesis or process paper
Input: project planning, 1-2 workshops, 1-2 seminars, one research and two studio advisor meetings, one guidance committee meeting, group critique.
Assessments: after winter residency
Credits: 60BCR/30ECTS/15CR

MCP 506 Independent MFA Project 2/2
Duration: spring semester + summer residency 3
Content: Completing studio project, thesis or process paper
Input: two studio and one research advisor meeting, group critique.
Assessments: during summer residency
Credits: 60BCR/30ECTS/15CR
Total credits year two: 120BCR/60ECTS/30CR
Total program credits: 240BCR/120ECTS/60CR

MFA awarded
Assessment Criteria—Year 2—Pass/Fail

  • The demonstrated development of an insightful and integrated interdisciplinary practical and critical MFA project brought to effective and appropriate completion(s).
  • Active engagement in bi-annual presentations and online crit-groups reflecting an informed critical dialogue and debate in the ongoing development of your own and your peers practice and process(es).
  • The evaluation of students making physical (as opposed to digital) work is a twofold process: students present examples of their work annually at winter residency establishing a benchmark by which their work can be further evaluated online (by their advisors and also in peer critique groups). Residency presentations are not formally evaluated but form a part of the overall assessment and evaluation of each student's project.
  • Dissemination(s) of your project that demonstrate clear and critical individual framework(s) informed by appropriate interdisciplinary and community dialogue and debate, and that is consistent with the aims and intentions of the project.
  • Effective and appropriate self-evaluation of your own practice (and project) vis-à-vis your self-determined aims and objectives.

Module Learning Outcomes and Guides


+ Proposal

Making the plan
You are required to answer all questions outlined below and submit your plan to your Transart blog by June 15th. You will get feedback on this draft during the first two weeks of the summer residency and then will repost a second version before the end of the residency. The work you arrive at in the end must correspond with your plan. Project plans are an important part of how the program helps you develop a sustainable praxis. While work can be based on previous projects the inclusion of artistic work done prior to the program is not acceptable. Vague plans are a mistake. The project plan is your map. Make it detailed, accurate, clear and complete. If your plan was approved with changes, these changes need to make it into your revised plan as well.

Project Proposal
Length of proposal: 3 pages (approx. 900 words)

  1. Title of project
  2. Name of student and any collaborators and their roles
  3. Suggested advisors for studio and for research element (first, second, third choices, if any). Explain your choices.
  4. Description of proposed project or body of work – practical element
  5. Description of research paper outline
  6. Project results, e.g. documentation, performance, script, intervention, website, exhibition, book, journal
  7. Brief description of research method
  8. Initial bibliography for written element
  9. Research question
  10. Intended audience
  11. Short statement on your current practice
  12. Formulate entire project in 2-3 meaningful sentences.

Advisor choices
You may make suggestions in your proposal from the pool of advisors (see: “Advisors” page on the Transart website). You may also propose someone new to the institute for either studio or research but not both. Send them a link to the teaching application under “Teaching” located in the footer of the TT website. You will be invited to have a meeting at the residency with two advisors (by skype if the advisor isn’t present).

Prior to the summer residency, faculty will review proposals and based on your topics, suggestions, and faculty workload, advisors will be assigned. This is a group decision that involves the student, advisors and directors. You will have your advisor and committee meetings at the residency. You will work with your studio advisor for both semesters and your research advisor in the spring semester. Your proposal must be approved at the residency in order to receive credit.

+ Module 501 Fall “Creative Practice 1/2”

  • Propose and develop an individual and/or collaborative project focused upon selected ideas, issues or themes with negotiated aims and objectives through a study plan.
  • Undertake research utilising integrated critical and practical research skills.
  • Demonstrate the ability to explore and effectively utilise appropriate methods, approaches and processes in the realisation of ideas and intentions.
  • Articulate the objectives, themes and research strategies for the development of practice through presentations and informed critical debate.
  • Analyse, contextualise and discuss your own practice and that of others’ within a developing critical framework relating to the field of study.

Duration: Summer residency + fall semester
Content: First half of studio project
Input: project planning, two workshops, two studio advisor meetings, guidance committee meeting
Assessment: after presentation at winter residency 1
Credits: 30BCR/15ECTS/7.5CR

Studio Practice Documentation
Offsite Critique Group
Advisor Response Examples

+ Module 502 Spring “Creative Practice 2/2”

  • Propose and develop an individual or collaborative project through a study plan focused upon selected ideas, issues and directions related to practice developed in Creative Practice 1 (MCP 501).
  • Identify self-determined aims and objectives and evaluative processes.
  • Develop strategies for, and undertake independent research and analysis utilising integrated critical and practical research skills into selected ideas, issues or themes within an interdisciplinary context.
  • Demonstrate the ability to explore, apply and effectively utilise appropriate methods, approaches and processes in the realisation of ideas and intentions.
  • Articulate the objectives, themes and research strategies for the development of practice through presentations and informed critical debate.
  • Analyse, contextualise and discuss your own practice and that of others’ within a developing critical framework relating to the field of study.

Duration: Winter residency + spring semester
Content: Completion of studio project
Input: group critique, two studio advisor meetings
Assessment: after presentation at summer residency 2
Credits: 30BCR/15ECTS/7.5CR

Studio Practice Documentation
Offsite Critique Group
Advisor Response Examples

+ Module 503 Fall/Spring “Critical Framework 2/2″

  • Source and research a range of conceptual and critical frameworks within an interdisciplinary context.
  • Identify and analyse the features of these critical frameworks in relation to the field of study.
  • Independently articulate and critically discuss these frameworks in relation to selected practitioners and art practices in a draft for a piece of critical writing (draft of research paper).
  • Develop a coherent critical framework within which to produce, conceptualise and interrogate contemporary art practices—including your own—to communicate a developing critical position through a presentation.

As part of this process choose 8-10 selected practitioners (historical through contemporary) to trace how ideas, methods, presentation have developed over time, and write a half page on each artist to investigate/integrate their practice into your broader knowledge and understanding.

Duration: Winter residency + spring semester
Content: draft and final paper
Input: research advisor, two reports
Assessment: end of spring semester
Credits: 30BCR/15ECTS/7.5CR

Length of Papers: In total up to 10 pages (approx. 2,000 – 3,000 words not including bibliography, footnotes, illustrations). To submit more or less you must have permission from your faculty in advance.

Useful Guides – 503
Research Support

MFA: Final Paper – M503
Form: MFA: Final Paper - M503

+ Module 504 “Synthesis” spring

  • Produce, through a synthesis of critical theory, practice and writing a proposal for the thesis.
  • Critically analyse, contextualise and reflect on your individual and/or collaborative work.
  • Employ a range of research methods and integrated critical and practical research skills.
  • Engage critically with research and development strategies from disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Present a coherent strategy for the further development of individual and/or collaborative practice in a written MFA Project Proposal.

Duration: spring semester
Content: connecting studio and research (synthesis paper) + proposal for 2nd year (studio project + thesis or process paper).
Input: group critiques, two studio advisor meetings, project planning Assessment: after presentation at summer residency 2
Credits: 30BCR/15ECTS/7.5CR

Length of Papers: In total approx. 900 words for Part A and 900 words for Part B not including bibliography, footnotes, illustrations. To submit more or less you must have permission from your faculty in advance.

Useful Guides – 504
Report vs. Thesis
Synthesis & Proposal Guide

Synthesis Submission
Form: Synthesis

Year 2

+ Module 505 Fall - Independent MFA Project 1/2

  • Utilise a range of research methods and integrated practical and/or critical research skills to independently develop an MFA Project within an interdisciplinary context.
  • Begin to realise intentions individually and/or collaboratively in preparation for a coherently conceived project to be disseminated in MCP 506.
  • Present provisional outcomes through critically considered and speculative strategies.
  • Test clear conceptual, contextual and critical frameworks for the MFA Project informed by interdisciplinary perspectives and critically engaged practices.
  • Critically reflect upon and evaluate practice against negotiated aims and objectives at this formative stage of the MFA Project.

Duration: summer residency 2 + fall semester
Content: studio project, thesis or process paper
Input: project planning, 1-2 workshops, 1-2 seminars, one research and two studio advisor meetings, one guidance committee meeting, group critique.
Assessments: after winter residency
Credits: 60BCR/30ECTS/15CR

Useful Guides – 505
Studio Practice Documentation
Report vs. Thesis
Research Support
Advisor Response Examples
Project Report Examples

+ Module 506 Spring - Independent MFA Project 2/2

  • Utilise a range of research methods and integrated practical and/or critical research skills to independently develop an MFA Project within an interdisciplinary context.
  • Realise intentions individually and/or collaboratively through a coherently conceived project.
  • Present outcomes through critically considered and developed strategies for dissemination.
  • Articulate a clear conceptual, contextual and critical framework for the MFA project informed by interdisciplinary perspectives and critically engaged practices.
  • Critically reflect upon and evaluate practice against self-determined aims and objectives.

Duration: spring semester + summer residency 3
Content: Completing studio project, thesis or process paper
Input: two studio and one research advisor meeting, group critique
Assessments: during summer residency
Credits: 60BCR/30ECTS/15CR

Useful Guides – 506
Project Report Examples
Biographies + Artist Statements
Exhibition Proposal Example

MFA Final Paper
Form: MFA: Final Paper Form M506



Upon successful completion of all modules and the third Summer Residency your passing grade will be confirmed with Academic Partnerships at Plymouth University at an Assessment Panel Meeting in late August. Following this confirmation process your transcripts are sent to your postal address.

If you do not attend the formal graduation ceremony at Plymouth University in late September in the year of completion your diploma will be mailed shortly after this ceremony.

USeful GUides

+ Guidance Committee Process

Student’s guidance committee consists of two advisors, one studio and one research. Students make a meeting time with their advisors for a three-way meeting at the beginning of the academic year to discuss their project proposals.

Anyone in the group may suggest changes to the proposal. Students can make changes to their proposals up to the end of the first semester with the approval of their guidance committee. Each advisor will complete an approval form according to the calendar. Approved changes to the proposal must appear in the student’s blog.

First Year Students
This meeting is an opportunity to introduce your advisors to each other so that both are familiar with both aspects of the project and thus ensure that the research is relevant and informative to the studio project. The meetings can simply be a chance to touch base. This way if any issues come up along the way you are already acquainted as a group. Anyone has the option to call a meeting as the semester progresses. At the beginning of the spring semester the meeting process is repeated. The purpose of this meeting is to confirm that the studio project is on track and to begin a discussion of the thesis proposal which will contain both a practical and written element. The research advisor will guide the student through the proposal with input from the studio advisor. Please note: Students work with research advisors only in the second semester.

A closing meeting at the end of the second semester will be organized by the student once advisors have had an opportunity to review the students’ synthesis or process paper and second year plans.

Second Year Students
This meeting is an opportunity to introduce your advisors to each other so that both are familiar with both aspects of the project and thus ensure that the written and practical elements of the project are cohesive. The meetings can simply be a chance to touch base. This way if any issues come up along the way you are already acquainted as a group. Anyone has the option to call a meeting as the semester progresses. At the beginning of the spring semester the meeting process is repeated. Please note: Students work with research advisors only in the second semester.

Please send a brief email to the student. Copy both members of your guidance committee approving the project with or without changes or explaining why you cannot approve the proposal, summarizing the main points and adding references as needed.

+ Transart Blog

Please make sure that you always adhere to the following guidelines when posting:

  • label your process updates clearly with the month and year of posting
  • remember that it benefits you to provide as clear a picture as possible of your activities that month. This doesn’t have to be finished work: it can be documentation of work in progress, notes, sketches, whatever you feel most appropriately articulates your research
  • remember that evidence of process is due on the 1st of each month during both Fall and Spring semesters. Failure to post triggers the request for an extension
  • don’t delete or remove assignments or blog posts: the blog is an archive of your process through the program and will also serve you well in the event of failed experiments and differences of opinions, interpretations and outcomes
  • only use the password: “ti + last two digits of applicable year” (e.g. ti19 etc.) if you want to password protect your blog otherwise faculty and students will be unable to access

Semester descriptions
Along with your monthly uploads of studio documentation, please provide a 300-600 word description of your studio work each semester; in the simplest terms describe what you have been doing. Be sure to include:

  • a clear physical description of the work done including size, quantity, duration etc.
  • physical context is helpful: if it’s site specific, why not show us the site? if it’s paintings in your studio an image of your studio will give us a sense of scale and how you work
  • describe your process of working on this project
  • what artists, writers, theorists informed, resonated with, influenced the work and how?
  • will your plans for this project change or have they already changed as an outcome of what you did this semester. If so, how?
  • how did your meetings with your advisor/s go, what dates did you meet, what was covered?

MFA (alumna current project blog):
PhD (Faculty):

+ Studio Practice Documentation

Documentation and Evidence
Documenting your studio practice effectively allows you to tell us the story of your work and its process clearly and succinctly. Using images and words together is probably the most effective way of doing this. In the following section we have put together some resources to help you with this.

While many of these resources focus on producing documentation of completed artworks, it’s also important to document your process wherever possible. This can take the form of keeping a studio diary or notebook (which can be transcribed onto your blog) or taking regular snapshots of work in progress, or even recording your thoughts about what you’ve been doing on a phone or another device. All of these things will allow you (and others) to gain a better understanding of what you are doing.

It is expected you will update your Ti wordpress blog with this material on a monthly basis to show us what you have been doing and/or talk about the challenges you’ve been dealing with. Providing this kind of evidence of your process allows faculty and your fellow students to gain a much deeper understanding of your practice and your methods, which will result in a richer learning experience for you.

Writing About Your Work
Working through the exercises below can help you to produce clear, written descriptions of your work. There are also some useful examples of other artist’s projects:


Images of Your Work
Producing Photographic Documentation and Preparing Images for the Web If you are documenting physical objects (such as sculpture or painting) you will find the following links useful. When documenting a three-dimensional object or installation, please remember to include several images from different viewpoints if at all possible, as this will give your audience a deeper understanding of the work.

There’s some good advice on how to resize your original images for your blog here:

In all cases bear in mind that you’ll need to strike a balance between image size in pixels (i.e. the width and height of the image in pixels) and the size of the file (how big it is kilobytes or megabytes). Images that you intend us to view as full screen shouldn’t be smaller than 1024 x 768, and ideally should be bigger than that.

Websaving them in Photoshop is another way of keeping the size down, and there’s a short video tutorial on how to do that here:

Video, Audio and Performance
If you’re looking to showcase either sound or video then we recommend that you use for video hosting and for audio work. In both cases please always try to upload at the maximum resolution or rate allowed, as this will allow us to get the best possible sense of what you are trying to do.

Documenting live performance is a complex process because of the often transitory nature of the artwork and the necessarily problematic relationship which exists between the artwork and its documentation. These issues are discussed at some length on the following link:

Live documentation can take the form of still images, film, video or audio footage, scores, traces, objects, remnants, or written descriptions, or any combination of the above. In relation to the documentation of live work, please remember that it should be of sufficient quality and quantity for faculty and examiners to be able to gain a clear sense of the piece. If providing this seems problematic for either practical or theoretical reasons then please discuss the relationship between the original work and its documentation with your advisor before proceeding.

+ Offsite Critique Groups

  • Offsite critiques take place during fall and spring semesters (see calendar)
  • Groups are formed according to time zones by administration.
  • Order of presenters to be determined by group members. The next in line should be prepared to go if need be.

Offsite Critique Groups will meet at residencies to establish how they want to work together over the coming semester. Offsite Critiques can operate via email or Skype, or a combination of the two. See below for descriptions of how the two styles of off-site critiques work.

Written Critiques

  • 1 student presents each Friday per the schedule established at the residency.
  • Groups can set up a critique group forum for discussion or do it by email.
  • Postings must be made in your blog. Links from there are fine.
  • Post specific questions that you might want to ask your group to respond to in your forum.
  • Student receiving the critique posts on Friday.
  • Group’s written critiques are posted in the Transart critique group forum (or in blogs if your group is not using a forum) by Wednesday.
  • Student whose work was critiqued posts a response to the crit in their Transart blog by the following Friday (600 words).

Skype Critiques

  • Facilitators will initiate skype calls and guide 30 minute critiques for two students per session.
  • Presentations take place by Skype probably best with audio only but it’s good to say hello with video first, bandwidth permitting.
  • Use headphones and mute microphone in Skype when not speaking.
  • Skype ID’s are in the student directory.
  • Be online with Skype open 15 minutes before the session begins.
  • Presenting student online 30 minutes before the session for tech check.
  • References should be sent through the chat window in Skype.
  • Students in same city are encouraged to meet in person rather than Skype.
  • Groups can be broken in two at the discretion of the facilitator depending on group size and bandwidth of participants.
  • The person(s) being critiqued each week is expected to post a blog response (600 words) to the Skype critique one week after the critique group meeting. – Record with the group’s permission and take notes.

+ Application for Ethical Approval of Research

Form: Ethical Approval of Research

+ Advisor Response Examples

Example 1:
Report of the meeting with studio advisor:
At my last meeting with my studio advisor we had maybe less things to say but more important. I consider this simple fact as a sign of the good work accomplished together. We discussed two new works/experiences held in my studio and I showed him the edited version of two works I did at the beginning of the semester. The most important consideration by my advisor was in relation to my art practice that emphasizes the preparation, the exercise and the aftermath as a possible narration, avoiding any metaphysical cult of the work of art or worst its subjugation to a horizontal immediate communication.

The second part of our meeting was spent on visualizing the connection between my studio practice in relation to my research thesis, then on the possible scenarios implied in my project for the Berlin summer residency in which I will present my work through a dialog with the Heishaus building.

Example 2:
Some sentences that really helped me see my practice for what it is- as opposed to what id like it to be.
Here are some:

  1. linear sequence
  2. you deal with the relationship between the symbolic and the real
  3. you deal with the abstraction to the experiential
  4. transcendence of cultures
  5. currently you are creating abstract symbols that represent the messy stuff of culture.
  6. feminist theory: philosophical focus…entering into male dominating space. How does language operate, & what about its power?
  7. you deal with symbolic interpretation of language.
  8. think about reinvention- reinventing what language does & what it means. ((((in what ways are we reinventing singing as well as scoring))))
  9. my “score” symbols are mostly located/found in theoretical math
  10. stacks of spiritual totems
  11. so think of harmonic rationality in stacks! - since harmony is a vertical tower of notes// but can also be just a visual harmony (ps eastern horizontal flow is opposite to the vertical stacks of western notation)
  12. notion of capturing, extracting sound that is elusive or uncontainable *not something that can be materialized..
  13. layers imply that you want ppl to go through them & experience them all.
  14. psycho emotional cultural stuff (ideas of shelter): womb, love
  15. lists- for more material explorations of nausea & anxiety
  16. physics of sound explored in materials
  17. reverb for me, mimics nostalgia & lost-ness (VUG Revisitation) so is there an imagined found-ness ? (defined as something that is evidently felt yet several times removed)
  18. are you performing this found-ness in the womb space? by creating your sonic envelope & writing a rubric for the movement.

+ Annotated Bibliographies

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

More information on bibliographies can be found here:

+ Citation Formats

As an international intercultural program Transart is open to a variety of systems for citation/referencing. Students need to agree upon a coherent system with their individual advisor.

Overview of systems:
MLA^: + cheat sheet
Chicago Manual of Style:
CMS Online Guide:
Harvard Style:
Cite them Right Online:

^Required format for first year students from “Praxis Enrichment”

+ Outline Guidelines

Outline Example
More information on Outline guidelines can be found here:

+ Research Support

1. Quick Guide
For those new to academic writing or even if it’s just been a while, here is a simple formula for focusing your research interests and formulating your research question or thesis topic:

Formula 1: A/B/C and their use of material / concept / history / religion / rhetoric in A/B/C (Artist or film or project etc.)

Formula 2: The concept of A/B/C in the work of A/B/C. Research question sample: How is A/B/C using material / concept / history / religion / rhetoric to reach a specific audience/express a specific concern / agenda etc.?

Research in arts can be:

  • supportive of practice: For instance when clarifying a preliminary question, e.g. exploring the history of a specific insane asylum for a piece on hysteria
  • contextualizing the practice: An exploration of similar, related, or opposing practices, e.g. researching how current photographic projects are treating issues of land use in relation to your own photo project on suburbia in Berlin.
  • practice based: When the artistic practice is identical with the research, e.g. developing a healing dance ritual in a context of performance working with trauma and body memory. Methods can be:
  • experiential, e.g in phenomenology
  • experimental, e.g in physics
  • opinion based, e.g. interview, questionnaire
  • hermeneutical, e.g. text analysis, quantitative/qualitative content analysis
  • observational: e.g. case study, participant observation in Anthropology
  • practice based: the (artistic) practice is the research

Methodology is your set of methods, your paradigms, the rationale for the methods you employ, in the case of a systematic investigation: the system. It seems best to explain early on in the introduction where you are coming from with your methodology and your framework of beliefs to give the reader a context for your methodology.

2. MFA Supporting Guide to Writing your Research Paper
by Klaus Knoll

First and foremost: This is here for you, not the other way around. The process of storing, repeating and revising ideas, commonly known as writing, is not just the product of thought but very much part of the process of thinking itself. Writing will always help structuring the inner voice. Once you learn to do it from that perspective you might find that this intense and interwoven process is relevant to your art work, your life in general.

Plan Your Paper
You already have a plan from your application. It will experience many alterations, shifts, expansions, contractions, variations. Your paper may in the end look nothing like the plan you handed in half a year ago. This is alright. You and your faculty will document this process along the way. The main point of your research paper at Transart Institute is to inform your art work, to put it in a wider context than your world and that of your colleagues, and to help you to become more articulate about it, fostering dialogue and the exchange of ideas and to make you more versed in arguing your points whatever they are. More than anything, make sure that they are Your Points.

Create an Argument
Always explain where you are coming from, ideologically, epistemologically and personally. Give your frame/s of reference. A traditional “good research paper” will contain an introduction, a body and a conclusion. But in reality, all research is an argument that somebody brings forward. Be clear about what that argument is and what your supporting facts, ideas, arguments, assumptions etc. are. Once a month or so, write a thesis statement to make sure you can still explain in a sentence or two what it all is about.

Tame the Sources
Before you head off into the joys of the library, develop a system for taking notes and for tracking both kinds of quotes: the word-by-word quote and the paraphrased idea, when you present, summarize, praise, oppose, classify in your own words what someone else wrote. A particularly straightforward and low-tech approach is a notebook with divided pages where both kinds of quotes and all source information (the bibliographical stuff) go on the left, your ideas, expansions, impressions, screams, sighs, the supporting and opposing ideas that come to your mind go on the right. This can be just as easily done in most word editing programs. It’s hard to conceive a simpler and/or more effective system to keep track of what is yours and what’s someone else’s. It will also very quickly help you clarify your thinking. Together with your faculty, choose and strictly follow a citation system. Transart Institute recommends either Harvard or the Chicago Style Manual. If you have questions about how to quote sources, ask your faculty and ask them early on.

Draft and Revise Your Paper
Start with an outline. Otherwise a lot of excess baggage goes into your paper and will then need to be edited out again. Also, superfluous points muddy your paper and your thinking. Your outline is your map, without it you may get lost and you don’t have very much time to get there. Check your latest thesis statement against your research plan. Are you still researching what you planned? Make an outline with every draft. Follow it strictly. Revise it for the next draft. Much of the drafting and revising is done in the virtual classroom and enjoys the input of your faculty. There is nothing wrong with getting input from your peers either. Allow plenty of time. Writing under pressure is not everybody’s delight.

Review and Finish Your Paper
Use a spell checker but be aware of its limitations. E.g. the spell checker can’t tell you whether it’s “it’s” or “its”. A style guide can. Also, have someone else proof read your paper. Check thesis statement and conclusion for coherency. Imagine explaining your paper to someone at a party in 30 seconds. If you can’t do it there’s a good chance your argument needs further clarification. Do clarify it and an interesting and enriching exchange of ideas will surely follow.

3. MFA Written Element Guidelines Outlined
by Geoff Cox, Wolfgang Suetzl, and Thomas Zummer

  1. Preface Motivation:
    At the beginning of your paper, demonstrate the motivation for your interest in your particular research topic in a concise manner. What is it that aroused your interest? Is it a particular problem, or work, book, or experience? This helps to engage your readers, let them to get to know you, and also contextualizes your work.
  2. Introduction:

    • Hypothesis: The hypothesis concerns the initial premise of your research. What will you address? What do you assume as given or as possible? What follows from your premise? What do you want to prove?
    • Research Question: The research question is the question you want to respond to, as it is what organises your research. It is of key significance because it orients your work in a particular direction, builds up a momentum, and prevents you from getting lost among general statements. You return to the research question at the end of your paper.
    • Methodology: How will you conduct your research, address your topic, and provide access to relevant materials and references for your reader. It is here that considerations of form and style become important, as you inform your reader about your hypothesis, the method you will use to proceed, and lead them further into your topic.
  3. Argument:

    • Framing your research question. Development of your argument.
    • Examination of topic (s), and evidence.
    • Sources and Resources: Your readers should be able to access the sources that you have used to frame your argument and ground the validity of your claims. This ensures that your work is transparent, i.e. that it is open for others to engage in and to examine. Your sources – books, articles, interviews, online sources, works – should be listed in an appendix. If you use primary sources such as interviews, an (edited) transcript can be included in the appendix. You can also make such sources available for scrutiny by uploading them on the internet as digital files, and providing a link.
    • Readability: Terms that are important in your text should be consistent and have the same meaning throughout, and should therefore be appropriately defined (in the proper place, i.e., footnotes or a glossary). Please be concise and clear, keep in mind the public that you are writing for.
  4. Text:
    The main body of the paper should provide an introduction to the subject matter you want to deal with, and prepare your main argument. It is important to be clear and concise, and to avoid fillers and repetitions. In the main part of the paper, it is a good idea to provide points of orientation – particularly at the end/beginning of chapters or sections. Let the reader know at which point in the overall narrative you stand, what comes next, etc. At the end of longer or complex arguments, and before taking the next step, a brief summary will be helpful to your readers. With regard to the form of footnotes, bibliographies, glossaries, etc., please refer to the Chicago Manual of Style.

  5. Conclusion:
    • Summary of your research.
    • Conclusion to your initial research questions.
    • Other questions or speculations that have emerged. At the end of the text, you should revisit your original question and determine if you have been able to answer it. If that is not the case, let your readers know why. Is there a different question or set of questions that could be asked? What new questions or conclusions emerge from your research?
  6. Apparatus:
    Footnotes, Citations, Quotes, Extracts, Epigraphs, Index, Glossary. Note: Although the research project should serve your art project work (and vice versa), it should be remembered that it is in itself a creative task. Good luck, work well, and we will look forward to your papers.

4. For Further Help

+ Report vs. Thesis

Length of Papers
Unless otherwise negotiated with your advisor, your submission should be approximately 20-40 pages or 6,000 words (not including bibliography, footnotes, illustrations, etc.) in order to cover your topic in sufficient depth. To submit more or less you must have permission from faculty in advance.

For students with English as a second language, please note faculty has the option to require that you engage a professional proofreader or tutor if they deem it necessary.

Format for Option 1 and Option 2
You are required to upload all appropriate written elements (thesis or project report) and full documentation of the practical element(s) of your MFA thesis project to your Transart Process blog (with relevant menu link/s) prior to your final summer residency.

Option 1: Project + Report
If you choose this option your studio project is the research: you are expected to produce an exhibition of artefacts, or performance, or other appropriate form of presentation as your research submission. This should include, or be accompanied by, evidence of the methods and processes you used in the development of the work (e.g.: visual or other research, drawings, sketches, maquettes, drafts, scripts, storyboards, photographic documentation, video, sound recordings, notebooks, sketchbooks, contextual references and any other related items).

This submission is supported by a Project Report of 5,000 – 7,000 words. The project report needs to be carefully planned from the start. What follows are some notes to guide you in its construction.

The purposes of this report are as follows:

  • To review and evaluate the aims and objectives set out in your MFA Proposal. The aims of your project are best thought of as the broad goals that you wanted to achieve, while the objectives should be seen as the specific steps and targets you need to reach in order to achieve your aims.
  • To provide a credible account of the development of your work (please include your thinking processes as well as material processes) in relation to the identified aims and objectives. The ‘evidence of process’, which you have uploaded over the duration of the course, should be of some assistance in relation to the development of this narrative. Wherever possible focus on specific instances of what you have done and don’t be afraid to be quite detailed if you feel that doing so will allow you to clarify a particular point. Try to avoid making generalisations about your practice, and write with the work (or its documentation) at hand. This will assist you to write about the work, rather than around it.
  • To place the work in relation to appropriate contextual fields (e.g.: relevant theories, ideas, historical and/or contemporary art and design practices). By doing so you will help to clarify your own position in your field.
  • To provide a critical evaluation of the project against previously established and clearly formulated criteria. These should be established by you in conjunction with your advisory team.

The project report should run alongside your studio project itself. It should provide a clarification of the practical work that you have undertaken. The report can consist of several different modes of discourse, each of which will have different, yet overlapping, functions. These might include:

  • A descriptive account, consisting of developing ideas, processes and products;
  • A more poetic discourse that that may be analogous to, or have structural affinities with your practical work, thus allowing the project report and the project to be read as a coherent compositional whole.
  • A reasoned critique of the work and its development;
  • A narrative that locates your work in relation to relevant aesthetic, technical, theoretical, philosophical, or other disciplines or fields of knowledge;
  • A narrative that traces a web of relationships and situates your practice in relation to a broader arena of endeavour, either artistically or otherwise;
  • A sequence of charts, diagrams, tables or visualizations which detail the development of your ideas;
  • A range of interpretations of the importance of the work. This could come about as a result of incorporating feedback from your audience, or reviews of your work.

Relevant threads should be woven into a coherent piece of writing that shows the evolution of the project, and improves both your understanding, and the reader’s understanding, of what has been achieved. Your project should act as a guide to your project, but should not seek to gloss over anything or explain anything away, or, as Wittgenstein suggests: ‘Don’t apologise for anything, don’t obscure anything, look and tell how it really is’. This can also be thought of as a hermeneutical activity along the lines of Umberto Eco’s idea of the ‘open work’ or Barthes’ notion of the ‘writerly text’. You should be aiming to produce a satisfying composition, in both senses of the word.

The project report is also an opportunity to demonstrate your research skills and show how your work fulfills the assessment criteria.

Aims & Objectives
Your aims and objectives will have been established at the proposal stage (see advice above). You may need to indicate how these have been modified as the project evolved, and the reasons for these modifications. It is expected that your project will change and evolve, but it is also expected that you will be able to articulate how and why those changes took place.

Provide a clear Account of the Development of the Project
Your report must include a description of the development of your project – how you set out to realise your aims and objectives, the methods you have employed and your reasons for tackling the project in this way. You need to give the reader a clear sense of the evolution of ideas from initial stages through to the final products/outcomes, moving beyond a simple “The Making Of…”

Make sure you describe not just the way in which technical problems were solved, i.e. which media were used and the processes that involved, but also include the thinking that went on. This thinking is complex and dynamic (and can be usefully understood within Donald Schön’s three categories: knowing in action, reflection in action, and reflection on action. Your thinking is grounded in your interests, beliefs and in your previous experiences with materials, processes and ideas. Try to provide an accurate account of these cognitive and material processes. For instance, describe: the decisions you made and why; the things you learnt as the project progressed; the ideas you had but didn’t pursue, and why you didn’t pursue them; the ideas you did try but which didn’t lead anywhere; the ways in which images and forms changed and developed over time; the research you undertook – what you looked at, read and investigated – and what questions you were asking and why. Doing so can often lead to some surprising connections, which in turn can lead to a much deeper understanding of your practice.

Make sure this element of your report is as precise and as honest as possible. This means you may need to describe phases when your thinking was confused and uncertain, when you weren’t sure what to do or what direction to take. And how you moved on from this into a clearer or more certain phase. Be as clear and concise as you can, but don’t try to overly tidy up the messiness of your processes Try to give the reader an insight into the intuitive aspects of your working and thinking. And if chance, spontaneity and play are important, describe these factors and the roles they have in the project.

Remember that all of this needs planning from the outset. How are you going to document and examine your practice? Evidence of process is important here: Keeping a diary; taking notes as you go along; retaining your drawings, diagrams and plans; photographing different stages of the work; shooting video documentation; keeping copies of computer images and texts as they evolve and developed; tracing the development of your research by keeping references, quotes, illustrations and bibliographies and earlier versions of your report – these will all be useful as the report develops.

The key factor in this strand of your report is to be both descriptive and analytical. Telling the reader not just what you did, but why and how you did it.

Your ideas and your practice are related to other ideas and practices. All of this emerges from a complex web of influences, experiences, contacts and references. It is important to examine these connections in order to locate your work within a relevant context, and to demonstrate that you have knowledge of the field you work in. How you do this, and what kind of context you establish, depends on the specific nature of your project and your practice. You will probably need to supply a historical context for your work – you should identify relevant precedents and influences – and also be prepared to position your practice in relation to relevant aspects of contemporary and/or historical culture. Demonstrate that you are knowledgeable about the particular fields of art which you work in, and identify and discuss relevant theories, debates and issues. You should also show your awareness and evaluation of related ideas, practices and practitioners.

This may mean making wide-ranging connections and references, which draw upon many disciplines and bodies of knowledge. For instance, a filmmaker might refer to cultural theory, anthropology, film and media theory, history of film and art, psychology and sociology, in order to describe the nexus of connections, ideas and influences, which inform the making of a particular film. In other cases a more compact context may be more appropriate. For instance, a painter exploring a particular kind of minimalist abstraction may only need to make references within the field of art history and aesthetic theory, with reference to contemporary painting practice and historic practitioners. In each case what is important is that issues and ideas are analysed and explored in as much depth as possible, and that your knowledge is convincingly demonstrated.

Your report should include a rigorous and honest evaluation of the project and the body of work you have produced. You need to indicate both strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, and the criteria you are using for making judgements. Criteria will vary from project to project. Communication with an audience, solving particular technical problems, constructing an artefact for a particular site, expressing a particular mood or emotion, constructing a narrative, making something that is aesthetically stimulating or ‘beautiful’ – these may or may not be important factors in your evaluation. You must decide and explain why you have selected these criteria rather than others. You will also need to refer to your aims and objectives. To what extent have these been achieved? Have you achieved something other than what you expected to?

Make some reference to other work in the field, either contemporary or historical as appropriate. How have other artists tackled similar or related projects? What comparisons can you make? What is distinctive about the work you have produced or the approach you have taken, as compared with what others have done? What are the differences and similarities between your work and theirs? Are your motives for working this way the same as theirs? Be as comprehensive as you can in your evaluation. Include all those factors that come into play, rationally and intuitively, in how you decide what has ‘worked’ and what hasn’t.

Your project report should be presented in a form that clearly demonstrates the qualities and information we have indicated above. It should be no less than 5,000 words in length, and no more than 7,000. It should be carefully organised, effectively constructed and appropriate to the nature of your practice and research.

While a ‘book’ format may be perfectly suitable, other possibilities should be considered. For example: a book with a supplementary portfolio of visual documentation; a book with video; a large format book or portfolio with diagrams, drawings and other visual material; a boxed collection of printed texts, documentation and samples of materials; an artist’s bookwork taking a more unusual form. This is only an indicative list, the only stipulation here is that the format in which you submit in is, in your judgment (and that of your advisors) suitable for your chosen subject.

On the other hand, don’t produce a complicated or unorthodox report just for its own sake! It needs to be relevant and appropriate to your project. It must also be well made and durable – it will need to be handled by a number of people involved in the assessment process, and it should be available for teaching and archive purposes later. For referencing and bibliographical information format please consult with your advisor.

Option 2: Project + Thesis
The Project Thesis is normally equivalent to not fewer than 6,000 words and not more than 12,000 words supported by visual material. To undertake a thesis you will need to focus on a topic that you find interesting and worthy of in depth research and investigation. It may be of relevance to your practice, or be used as a means of discovering more about a field which relates to your practice. You must identify explicit aims and objectives, establish clear parameters for your study and make sure that you demonstrate your research and your ability to be critical, and to analyse, conceptualise and contextualize your subject. The dissertation should also contain a review of the knowledge that already exists on a particular subject.

Remember there are different approaches you can take to making an argument and to your dissertation. The most obvious approach is to set out to convince someone else of the value, importance or validity of an idea, view or position. This may be in positive form where you are establishing the merits of a point of view, arguing for it, or it may take a critical form in which you are opposing or arguing against a particular idea or position. These are often employed together to make a case.

Another approach may be to explore an issue or idea or topic. This is argument as discussion. A way of clarifying what you think about something based upon careful research and sensitive enquiry. It will probably involve sifting through evidence (critical writings in books, journals and exhibition catalogues, statements by artists/designers, images and artefacts encountered in exhibitions or in the commercial world), making sense of this material, and structuring your discussion as a coherent whole.

Whichever approach you take you will need to establish at an early stage what knowledge already exists around your chosen topic. This will enable you to gain a picture of the ideas, arguments and issues that are already in the public domain. This will allow you to avoid simply re-inventing the wheel, and instead make a genuine contribution to our knowledge of the subject by opening up new lines of enquiry, approaching the subject from a slightly different perspective, or making new connections or drawing new comparisons.

It is important to keep in mind that the thesis provides an opportunity to explore and examine a topic in much greater depth than is possible in earlier modules. Your text must amount to more than a descriptive account of existing ideas or a survey of events. You must demonstrate your ability to define clear aims and objectives, to undertake effective research, to think in a critical and analytical manner, to provide evidence to substantiate your argument, to evaluate what you do, and to present all of these in a lucid and coherent text, with relevant supporting imagery or other supplementary material.

All argument involves formulating or reformulating ideas, interpretation, analysis and critical thinking. Keep asking questions of the material you are gathering. Don’t accept at face value statements made by other writers, critics and practitioners. Ask why they are saying what they are saying? Do their statements make sense?

Compare and contrast statements made by different authors. Examine what a practitioner does as well as what they say. Analyse artefacts and related processes with the same depth and rigour as you examine ideas or texts. This will all help you to understand the debates and differences of opinion surrounding a subject, and demonstrate to your readers and examiners your knowledge and ability to think analytically and critically.

Connecting Art and Research Projects
You must include a chapter of roughly 600 words connecting the art and research projects. This should be placed wherever you feel is most appropriate within the larger body of the text. Please consult your advisor if you have any questions about this.

+ Project Report Examples

Here you can find some examples of Project Reports at different stages.

Please keep in mind that these are only examples and that each student should establish their own means to express their project according to their individual research and practice. There is no single ‘correct’ way.

Outline, Intro & Biblio
Final Paper

+ Biographies + Artist Statements

An artist biography is essentially a very brief summary of how you got to where you are in life. It generally consists of one to two paragraphs and is usually around one half of a page. A biography consists of information such as where you went to school, what degrees you have, when you earned them, if you’ve led any workshops or participated in any workshops, major exhibitions where your artwork has been exhibited and any major collections that your work is a part of. A biography is a quick summary of your resume.

  1. Go through your resume and highlight your most important accomplishments such as getting your art degree, where you got it from and when. Highlight any major awards and any major collections your work is a part of. Highlight significant workshops you have participated in and any major shows, especially recent solo exhibitions.
  2. List the information that you want to include in your biography. Then start writing out sentences briefly describing each point. Usually you start with where you went to school and when and what type of degree you earned. Then you write about the exhibitions, workshops and collections. Finally you end with where you currently are….are you taking additional art classes? Are you working on a grant? Are you working on a major commission?
    Excerpt from:

Artist Statements
Suggested outline for one page statement

Paragraph 1: Introduction and summary (possible format)
Answer the following questions in 3-5 sentences:

  • What content/phenomenon/principle/politics drives your work?
  • What field(s) and/or discipline(s) do you see your practice aligned with?
  • What medium or mediums are employed in your practice?
  • What message, if any, would you like your work to communicate to the viewer? (This message could be political, cultural, personal, etc.)

Paragraph 2: Specific details of particular works that expand and build on what you describe in Paragraph 1

  • Describe 2-4 of your recent works (1-2 sentences per work) in the context of how this work fits into your general area/discipline of interest.
  • Describe the context (gallery, film festival, furniture show, public park, bar?) that best fits your work, particularly if you work in a non-gallery context.
  • If you have been drawn to your medium for any political/personal/cultural reasons, define those. For example, if your work is primarily shown online try to describe why you are drawn to the Internet as exhibition space. Paragraph 3: Current projects in progress and future work
  • Describe your current work in progress and how it expands the previous body of work. Try to describe this work in 2-3 sentences.
  • If you see your work developing in a different or more focused direction in the future describe in detail that transformation or change.

Artist Statement Tips
From How to Write An Artist’s Statement That Doesn’t Suck by Hannah Piper Burns. Online at:
(…) Here are five tips for improving any artist statement:

  1. Start Off With a Bang
    Almost every artist statement I have ever read starts out with the words “My work is”, “My painting/drawing/sculpture/video/performance is inspired by”, or “In my work”. I hereby call an official moratorium on all of these openers! In a competitive field like this one, you need to stand out from the pack. When a dealer or curator or jury or grant committee flips through page after page of statements, you want yours to be a breath of fresh air.
  2. Less is More
    Seriously! My own artist statement is six healthy sentences long. I find that many artists hide behind verbosity, as if the more they write, the closer they can get to the truth. But if people need to read paragraph after paragraph, they might think your work can’t hold up on its own, and that is a big-time kiss of death. A big part of what I do with other people’s artist statements is trim sentences and words like so much fat off of a steak. Nobody, from dealers to curators to your audience to your own mother, wants to read a novel to get a gist of the work. So keep it short and sweet!
  3. Learn to Love Language
    Short doesn’t have to mean content-less: Maximize your impact with unique, fascinating verbiage. You’re an artist, after all! Make sure you have both long and short sentences, which create a syncopated rhythm that is enjoyable to read. Please, whenever possible, use active rather than passive tense, and find verbs and adjectives that really strike to the heart of what it is you do.,, and Etymonline are your friends. Personally, I always love statements that utilize onomatopoeia, like “ooze”, “slither”, “flush”, et cetera. Which brings me to my next point:
  4. The Words Should Match the Work
    Is your work whimsical? Or is it violent? What is the scale? Make sure your prose reflects the qualities of what it describes. Using verbs and adjectives that really match the qualities of your creative output will create a statement that both excites and informs. Have you found a great quote from an artist, writer, philosopher, or theologian that you feel speaks to your process, form, or content? Consider using it as an introduction to your statement, or even as the statement itself! I recommend looking for inspiration online or in the art theory books gathering dust on your shelves.
  5. Get a Second Opinion
    Just like when we make artwork, sometimes we are so involved in the process of writing a statement that it can be hard to be objective. Make sure you get a fresh pair of eyes to look over your statement before you publish it or send it out. Try reading it aloud while showing some images or clips. That why, you can get a better sense of the rhythm and flow of the prose while your critic can see how well the words actually match the work.

+ Exhibition Proposal Example

The following is an example of a good project proposal. Some of the strengths include: well-organized paragraphs, conceptually creative and supported choices, logistical foresight, clarity in communicating project purpose, awareness of its situation in contemporary performance, and ambition.

Performance art is often created according to a human scale since it is based upon the body/bodies of the performer. The performer moves his body around a space; she engages with the audience’s bodies; the performance is documented by another person using a manageable hand-held camera; etc. I am interested in exploring avenues of performance art that are habitually passed over because of issues of scale. I propose to create two performances: one that explores performance on a small scale and another that creates a mega-scale performance.

I will reserve a classroom in Columbine specifically for my performance. The room will be darkened for visitors as they enter. Inside the room I will have constructed a small box that will house me and an opaque projector. There will be a small hole through which the opaque projector will throw its image and a few small slots for ventilation. Since opaque projectors enlarge whatever is in their viewfinder, whatever I perform within the viewfinder will be enlarged for the audience. I will use a small needle to implant corn silk into a strip of apricot fruit leather. When enlarged, this will appear similar to the act of adding hair to a hide, but just different enough to make the viewer question what is actually being performed. The use of unusual materials and their shift in scale will create an unsettling image for the audience.

I have chosen not to use video for this project because of the complications it can create. If video is used, the audience may wonder if the image is simply a recording or if it has been altered with special effects. Using the opaque projector will allow the audience to understand that it is a live performance being carried out in the box.

My choice of materials and their apparent similarity to skin and hair will hint at the body – a constant in traditional performance art – without using the actual image of a body, thereby playing with the history of performance and reexamining its uses.

My macro-performance will consist of one iceberg in the Antarctic located at latitude: 72.087432 and longitude: 94.394531. For the next two weeks, I will drive everywhere I go, even from class to class. I will leave my car running as much as possible. The bumper of my car will bear a sticker reading, “Al Gore Loves Global Warming. It Makes Him Rich. I Work for Al Gore.” If I have to walk anywhere, I will dispense an aerosol can full of CFCs into the air during the duration of my walk. My actions should melt and move the iceberg an infinitesimally small amount. The performance is not my driving or walking, but the reaction of the iceberg.

This performance requires no formal audience and my only documentation will be scientific data accumulated by scientists in the region that I will never see, my gas receipts, and the empty aerosol cans. My performance is large in scale because of the amount of people involved – the scientists, those holding me up in traffic, the landscape architects who require me to walk around a corner rather than through it, the manufacturers of the aerosol, and the Subaru corporation – as well as the scope of the geography and land involved.

This project examines the effects of an individual and where an artwork begins and ends. My actions will be felt far into the future as well as here in the present and they involve many more people than those within my immediate “audience.”

— Maria Samuleson

+ Synthesis & Proposal Guide - M504

Part A – MFA synthesis (reflection) paper (approx. 900 words)
Part A is a short reflection on your first-year project and a chance to synthesize your studio and research findings ahead of the formulation of a second-year thesis proposal.

01- Write a concise description of your studio project
02- How did the research impact upon your project and your working practice?
03- What directions does your project suggest for further research?

Part B – Second Year MFA Proposal Outline (approx. 900 words)
01- Title of project
02- Name of student and any collaborators and their roles
03- Suggested advisors for studio and for research element (first, second, third choices, if any). Explain your choices.
04- Description of proposed project or body of work – practical element
05- Description of project report or thesis – written element
06- Project results, e.g. documentation, performance, script, intervention, website, exhibition, book, journal
07- Brief description of research method
08- Initial bibliography for written element
09- Research question or hypothesis for thesis. For project report only if applicable.
10- Intended audience
11- Short statement on your current practice
12- Formulate entire project in 2-3 meaningful sentences.
13- Technical description and production process including medium, quantity, size or duration
14- Connect past and future project
15- Connect studio and research project (if separate), explain how they inform each other.
16- Brief description of conceptual motivation
17- Short description and abstract (50-100 word) of written element
18- Proportion of written/practical element
19- Possible location for the project
20- Timeline for realisation of project
21- Budget
22- Additional supporting information

Synthesis & Proposal Example - M504

Part A: Pre-proposal MFA process (reflection) paper (approx. 1500 words)

1) Write a concise description of your studio project.
I did not begin the first semester with a clear direction of where my studio work would take me, but instead, tried to allow myself to follow it, like a path with no ultimate destination in mind. My studio project began as an exploration of materials with the intention to challenge drawing to come off of the two-dimensional picture plane and/or to engage with diverse materials. I attempted to limit any mental censorship of the pieces, and hoped that through this structured play that something would begin to emerge either in the collective or in the individual pieces and their interaction.

Through my research, I began to envision my creative process as a wandering: where I could work through obstacles, contemplate, encounter the unknown, make discoveries, and engage with my surroundings. The wandering itself became the purpose and the destination and the purpose. My meanderings from one piece to the next effectively drew a line demarcating my creative process.

The physical work from the first semester is mainly non-representational and made from a variety of materials and processes. In order to structure my experimentation, I often set instructions on how to create the pieces. The work was process-driven and reflected a more internal way of working. I began to pursue how two-dimensional and three-dimensional pieces communicated between themselves. Allowing the work to guide me through a cyclical process of making and observing felt at times to be directionless as I strived for a concrete path.

There is an evident shift in the work from the first to the second semester. Upon conferring with my studio advisor, I decided to set the work in various contexts to see how a narrative could be constructed. Work was placed, buried or positioned outdoors and then documented. It was here that I allowed myself to use my traditional drawing background for documentation, lured by the nostalgic quality of the images and feeling a great sense of purpose in its use as a medium. The drawn documentation of these sites raised multiple themes, namely: time, memory, loss, decay, the land(scape). I experimented with smaller projects initially and looked into how text coupled with the drawings could generate a narrative while leaving the pieces open to allow the viewer to draw their own conclusions. In the four locations where I buried carved plaster slabs, life in the ground continued as though the intervention had not occurred. With the slabs still underground, I documented the four sites again a few months later, wanting to draw attention to these seemingly banal locations in the garden by enlarging and fragmenting them in their documentation. By drawing attention to them on a larger scale, is the viewer encouraged to wonder if there isn’t more to the image than what meets the eye, creating their own narrative? How do technical elements of fragmenting, enlarging, and adding text, sculpture and video to the drawings alter their readings? The final stages of the project were in contextualizing the collection of work, my role changing from that of the artist to that of the curator.

2) How did the research impact upon your project and your working practice?
The research was a vital companion to the studio work, as was the studio work to the research. At the outset, it was unclear how the two would link together since my studio work was exploration-based and I had no set idea of where it would lead me. The research began immediately and a question needed to be formed before the work started, which for practice-based research was challenging given my openness to the work’s direction. My advisors were essential at this early stage to suggest points of departure. As I researched Eva Hesse and her organic working process, I also read a great deal about walking, mapping, what it is to be lost, as well as walking artists, Richard Hamilton and Hamish Fulton. The research was centered around the Process Artists of the 1960s, their relationship to process and materials, and the role of drawing in the process art movement. The metaphor of walking became central to understanding my own studio process as well as that of Hesse, but the relationship between my practice and research was very abstract.

A greater understanding of practice-based research came once the written work from the first semester was complete and my work began to take a more concrete direction. As my work evolved during the second semester, the studio began to dictate the direction of the research, which then fed back into the practice. The role, context and iconography of the landscape came to inform the work that I was making. The landscape exists not as untouched raw wilderness, but as a cultural construction set in a specific historical context. How landscapes are read and observed reflect upon the culture of the time. Time, itself, became an important component. I considered how the passage of time is demonstrated, and how passing time across the earth and within our minds can be related to the fragmentation and deconstruction of memory and landscape. Research that has informed my work this semester: Freud’s essay on the “Mystic Writing Pad”, Simon Schama’s “Landscape and Memory”, Rebecca Solnit’s “As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender and Art”, Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels edited book of essays “The iconography of landscape”, and Poussin’s painting “Et in Arcadia ego”.

3) What directions does your project suggest for further research?
From a technical perspective, the collection suggests how individual pieces of varying media respond and react to one another in a specific orientation, setting, and context, and how a desired reading and narrative can be achieved through the careful organization of a collection.

The artwork, through its layered documentation, introduces the idea of art about art itself. The element of time is central in the work, explored vis-à-vis the delicate and time-consuming rendering in the drawings themselves–an analogue method–and in the content that is addressed. The work questions the persistence of artwork over time; in these drawings, the artwork in the images is either buried and therefore unseen or ephemeral in nature, as the chalkboards. If artwork is intended to be the ever-lasting memento of what man leaves behind, then the artwork buried within the drawings suggests the opposite. The fragmentation and ultimate decomposition of the artwork in the images ritualizes and reflects mortality and our bodies return to the earth.

There is a layer of constructed narrative or fiction in this process, where the documentation begins to take on its own mystery. This fictitious and narrative element that runs through the documentation can be further explored.

Part B: Proposal outline (approx. 1500 words, include numbers and questions in your proposal)

01 – Title of project
Working title: Art in the Landscape; the Landscape as Art

02 – Name of student and any collaborators and their roles

03 – Advisors for studio and for research element (first, second, third choices). Explain your choices.

Studio advisors:

Stewart Parker: Stewart was my first year studio advisor. We have a solid rapport that I have found invaluable. His knowledge of my first year work, his own engagement with drawing as well as other traditional and non-traditional media, and his knowledge of art history, make him an ideal choice for my studio advisor.

Andrew Cooks: Andrew was my research advisor for the first year. He provided excellent support and knowledge not only for the research side of the project but also the studio side.

Elly Clarke: I had the opportunity to meet Elly Clarke briefly at the pecha-kucha last summer. Her knowledge of curatorial studies would provide me with a wealth of information as to how to generate a specific reading of a multi-media collection.

Research advisors:

Andrew Cooks: See above.

Elly Clarke: As stated above, I believe that she could introduce a solid curatorial perspective to the way that I view, develop and discuss my work.

Stewart Parker: See above.

04 – Description of proposed project or body of work – practical element
My intention for the practical element is a continuation of ideas established during my first-year project. I will explore the theme of art about art set within the context of the landscape and the landscape itself as a cultural creation.

I will use the traditional medium of drawing in conjunction with other media such as text and textual documentation, photography, video, and sculpture. I will focus on the role of drawing as documentation and how narrative can be formed through multiple elements of imagery, text, communication between individual pieces and their placement to create desired and specific readings of the work. I will explore the documentation of constructed or fictional scenarios, playing upon the malleability of drawing and the veracity of documentation. In the initial stages of the project a narrative will be constructed and individual pieces will document varying elements of the story.

05 – Description of proposed project – written element
The written element will take the form of a project report. I will begin by looking at art historical references central to the landscape and man’s relationship to the landscape. The landscape is presented as a text to be read or a layer of symbols to be decoded. Erwin Panofsky distinguishes between iconography-the identification of conventional symbols-and iconology-the identification of symbolic values, which are layered in cultural mythology, memory, and philosophical, religious and historical context. Buried in this relationship between man and landscape is a sense of nostalgia or a longing for a lost and idyllic past such as Arcadia, which drove men to seek out ways to alter, and often destroy the existing land in order to recreate these artificial landscapes for their own pleasure. How is this relationship demonstrated throughout art history and how do contemporary artists address it?

As landscape is often viewed as a backdrop for human interactions and events, how is the scene of the landscape used by artists to generate desired narratives and commentaries? I will investigate works as varied as Nicholas Poussin’s seventeenth century painting Et in Arcadia ego, where Arcadia is the backdrop for a deep contemplation of mortality, to Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Little Sparta project, a transformation of four and half acres of farmland into a garden established around the ideas of poetry, and social and political commentary.

06 – Project results, e.g. documentation, performance, script, intervention, website, exhibition, book, journal
The format of the project will be an archive of drawings and other forms of documentation that follow a constructed narrative. Since the individual works within the collection will vary in media and size, and the positioning of the works is central to any reading of it, I intend to exhibit the resultant collection.

07 – Brief description of research method
As I have chosen to complete a project report, the research will be dictated by the studio practice. The research that is conducted will be recorded and how it in turn feeds back into the practical element will be documented. I will begin by investigating the texts included in the bibliography and the types of narratives and commentaries that exist within the framework of the landscape. After identifying my own narrative early in the first semester I will then be able to make decisions about approaching the appropriate documentation and the story that surrounds it. As the chosen backdrop for the narrative is the landscape, my research will focus on the varying iconologies that exist relating to the landscape, and how they might feed into the narrative.

08 – Initial bibliography for written element
Cosgrove, D. and Daniels, S. editors. (1988) The iconography of landscape. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Freud, S. (1925) ‘A note upon the “Mystic Writing Pad”’, from Freud, S in General Psychological Theory, Chapter XIII.

Kastner, J. editor. (2012) Nature: Documents of Contemporary Art. London: Whitechapel Gallery.

Merewether, C. editor. (2006) The Archive: Documents of Contemporary Art. London: Whitechapel Gallery.

Panofsky, E. (1955) Meaning in the Visual Arts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Roland, L. C., (July 2, 2012) ‘When you can’t see the city for the trees: A joint analysis of the Sonian Forest and urban reality’, Brussels Studies, Number 60.

Schama, S. (1995) Landscape and Memory. New York: Vintage Books.

Shepard, P. (1998) Coming Home to the Pleistocene. Washington, D.C.: Island Press

Solnit, R. (2001) As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

Sonian Forest website:

Wadsworth Atheneum exhibition catalogue pdf (1991) Ian Hamilton Finlay/MATRIX 116. Hartford, Connecticut: Wadsworth Atheneum.

09 – Research question you pose?
How is the scene of the landscape, as a cultural construct, used to generate the artist’s desired narrative, and how is meaning constructed through the narrative?

10 – Intended audience

11 – Short statement on your current practice
Currently I use drawing, my primary medium, as a form of appropriation and documentation. I am interested in seeing how traditional drawing can be challenged through its association with alternative media such as textual documentation, texts, video, photography and sculpture. The organization and positioning of the works in a specific space-the curating of a body of work-has increasingly become a focal point of my interest and how my work might evolve.

12 – Formulate entire project in 2-3 meaningful sentences.
The landscape is a reflection of the cultural, historical, mythological, philosophical and religious values in which it is framed. I will explore how artists have used this cultural construction as a backdrop for narrative and commentary, and how the layers of meaning in the landscape feed into the narrative.

13 – Technical description and production process including medium, quantity, size or duration
Once the narrative is constructed the work will take on a variety of formats in order to create a multi-media archive. The pieces will consist mainly of drawings (such as graphite on paper or other surfaces), written texts (either taken from another source or self or collectively produced), and found and created three-dimensional pieces. I will explore the use of photography and video if they seem appropriate for the narrative.

14 – Connect past and future project
My first-year project began with a complete exploration of materials and processes mainly based around drawing. As the year progressed, I began to investigate drawing as a mode of recording and documenting work that was set in the landscape. With this the themes of man’s relationship to landscape, art about art, the creation of a narrative through documentation, and others such as time, nostalgia, memory, and loss, arose. One semester is not enough to address any of these individual themes sufficiently let alone see how they can be interwoven through a body of work. This future project is a direct continuation of the previous one with a clearer and more purposeful direction at the outset.

15 – Connect studio and research project (if separate), explain how they inform each other.
The studio and research projects, while having separate final formats, will be deeply interwoven. As I have chosen to create a project report, the two elements feed into one another and inform the successive steps to be undertaken. The project report will record the development in both thought and practice, including more than solely written documentation of the steps taken. The blog process updates will be a vital part of demonstrating the process in all areas of the thesis and will help to support the creation of the project report.

16 – Brief description of conceptual motivation
There seems to be, in the minds of people, a great division between human beings and the environment. This disconnect between the realms of culture and nature is a falsehood, yet one that pervades a common mentality. From the way that the landscape itself has been altered by our existence to the way that people view and understand a landscape through specific cultural values, people and the land are profoundly interconnected. The term landscape itself connotes a backdrop for human existence, but not one that is necessarily included in the drama. The landscape is not merely a silent witness to human activities but a participant. The landscape, as a reflection of a society’s cultural values, is in a sense a form of art replete with its own iconology, to be read and contemplated. How then have artists resolved this understanding of the landscape in their work and how has it informed their narrative?

17 – Short description and abstract (50-100 word) of written element
As a project report the content of the written element will consider the development of the concepts, processes, materials, decision-making, and research investigations revolving around my studio practice. The research investigations will begin with a focus on landscape art, the landscape as art, and the role of the landscape in art history as a setting for narratives and commentaries.

18 – Proportion of written/practical element
The practical element will guide the project, and the written element will be fundamental to the development and process of the studio practice; however, given the importance of a process-based study, I intend for the project report to be equal in proportion to the practical element.

19 – Possible location for the project
I will focus on the Sonian Forest, my own surrounding landscape, as a point of departure for the documentation. The process and work will be undertaken both out of doors and in my studio. The final exhibition location is yet to be determined since it will be dependent upon the types of work and the various relationships created.

The complicated interconnectedness between man and nature is demonstrated in the history of the Sonian Forest. Today the forest consists of 70% beech trees which, due to their lack of diversity, makes the forest vulnerable to destruction. The government has taken great care to protect the forest and its existing wildlife, even generating animal crossings over and under large roadways that divide the forest. They have systematically divided the forest into zones where older trees are cleared to make room for new growth, and zones where nature is left to do all the work. The enchanting beech trees themselves were the result of an eighteenth century reforestation project by Austrian landscape architect, Joachim Zinner.

20 – Timeline for realization of project
August-September: Research possible narratives. Decide on one constructed narrative. The process and research will be documented for the written element throughout the entire project. Consider ways to approach the project report, for example in terms of modes of discourse and formats.

October-November: Research the most effective ways to structure the narrative in the landscape and begin initial drawings and documentation. Explore varying media to supplement the drawings. Make decisions on the structure of the project report. Research locations for the final exhibition.

December-January: Continue work on documentation drawings, text and other, while simultaneously building the project report. Decide upon a space for a final exhibition of the work.

February-April: Continue work on documentation drawings, text and other, as well as the project report. Map out how the pieces will be displayed in the final exhibition and explore how and why certain installations offer better readings of the work.

May: Finishing touches.

21 – Budget
Estimated cost of materials and framing: €1000

+ Proposal Example

PROPOSAL DRAFT 1 (From your application.)

For the first year of the MFA program I would like to conduct a comparative study of Victorian era embroidery samplers and their contemporary counterpart, women’s magazines. Taking as a starting point the striking similarity in tone, function and aesthetic construction, I will explore the use of these two forms as tools for the indoctrination of femininity. I will create a series of “samplers” based on the titles of articles taken from women’s magazines. The samplers will then form the basis of a group of installations; drawing on and deconstructing the two forms shared structure, which consists of short, directive texts surrounding a central image of an ideal of femininity. Through the work I hope to explore the way meaning emerges from repetitive action (embroidery) and how that meaning evolves or changes in the moment of arrangement (installation). The “samplers” exist as individual objects which, when arranged on a wall, implicate each other in a larger narrative, which is laden with the complex history of embroidery as agent of both control and expression. I plan to inform my art practice through research which draws on the historical evolution of embroidery as a female voice, specifically from Victorian times to the present. I will explore the ways in which embroidery has been re-imagined from samplers through to the use of the medium in the Dada and Russian Constructivism movements and into contemporary art practice. Research into the history of embroidery as a tool for feminine discourse through works such as The Subversive Stitch (Rozsika Parker) and theoretical interpretations of the art/craft divide will form part of the project. The work of Louise Bourgeois, Tracey Emin and Ghada Amer are the primary references for the project within contemporary art practice as well as the exploration of repetitive action in performance art and dance.

This proposal is presented at the start of the residency for input and refinement.

Dispositional Hypnoid States

Practical element:
Exploration of scrambling of myths and memory with relation to forms which function as teachers and tools of indoctrination of femininity.

Take embroidery samplers and unpick them, photograph them and then feed the image into a computer program which creates embroidery patterns, then embroider these images (most likely in cross stitch). Many of these embroidery pattern generator programs use codes to denote stitch style and color, so I will also create some pencil drawings based on the coded patterns. These drawings will be based on magazine articles which work under the same premise as the embroidery samplers in relation to feminine myths. These will accompany the embroidery pieces.

  1. The unpicking/destruction of a sampler – relates to the deconstruction of feminine myths. Explorations of erasure and forgetting.
  2. Photographing the result and feeding it into a pattern generating computer program examines the change in traditions of passing down technical knowledge of stitches etc. through the exchange between mother/daughter/sister/friend by replacing this sense of a community of women with modern technology
  3. Reproducing the result in embroidery speaks about the scrambling of myths and memory and erasure through layering and explores less representational, more abstract embroidery forms
  4. Reproducing the result in pencil drawings of the codes used in these programs to denote stitch and color, speaks to the codification of feminine practices and mythologies

I would destroy the samplers in various ways as according to different ideas of erasure and memory loss. Some violent, some delicate. I will document the choices I make in the ʻdestructionʼ of each piece in order to evaluate the way we use selection to shape memory and story in relation to our own history and that of the collective past.

Written Element:
Freud claimed that embroidery caused ʻdispositional hypnoid statesʼ, which were often a pre-cursor to hysterical attacks. I would like to explore how this is related to the function of embroidery as a teacher and indoctrinating force into femininity, specifically through the production of embroidery samplers in the 19th century. I will also explore how contemporary womenʼs magazines function on many of the same principles as embroidery samplers, using short, directive texts surrounding a central image of an ideal of femininity and how the consumption of these magazines produces equivalent dispositional hypnoid states. How has this notion of embroidery as a hypnotic act been overturned in contemporary art practice in order to explore violence (personal, emotional political), through the work of artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Tracey Emin, Ghada Amer, Ana de la Cueva etc.

Project results:
The project will result in a series of installations of the embroidery and drawing works, which will be accompanied by a journal of the process including written and photographic elements which depict the process of destruction/scrambling.

Research method:
Explore the physical action of embroidery and how it relates to the state of mind of the maker. How do the physical restrictions imposed on the embroiderer impact on the meaning of the final piece and the teaching intended by the action and the result? Interview embroiderers and embroidery teachers about methods and practices, especially in terms of teaching.

Examine the ways in which women consume magazines, in what environments, times of day, poses etc. and how these affect the emotional response to the content. Readings related to craft theory, the history of embroidery, memory and the examination of contemporary art works which employ embroidery.

Initial bibliography:
Parker, Rozsika. The Subversive Stitch; Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine London: Womenʼs Press, 1984
Adamson, Glenn. Thinking Through Craft. Oxford and New York: Berg, 2007
Gibbons, Joan. Contemporary Art and Memory; Images of recollection and rembrance New York, IB Taurus, 2007
Museum of Art and Design. Pricked: Extreme Embroidery; process + materials 2 (Catalogue) 2007
Frédérique Joseph-Lowery. Through the eye of a needle Artnet magazine, 2010
Natalya Lusty. Surrealism, Feminism, Psychoanalysis England, Ashgate Publishing, 2007

Research question:
How has the consumption of womenʼs magazines replaced the production of embroidery samplers as instigator of Freudʼs ʻdispositional hypnoid statesʼ and teacher and indoctrinator of feminine codes? How is the teaching of femininity tied to passive/hypnoid states? What is the function of repetition and arrangement in both cases and what effect do they have on the production/erasure of memory? What is the relationship of embroidery to violence in contemporary art practice and how has it subverted the traditional role of embroidery as teacher and keeper of memory?

Intended Audience:
Everyone. Particularly those working with traditional ʻcraftʼ forms.

Short Statement of your current practice:
I explore the relationship between textiles and story, memory, experience and identity. I am currently most interested in the ways embroidery can be re-imagined, abstracted and deconstructed.

Formulate entire project in 2-3 meaningful sentences:
Dispositional Hypnoid States will be a comparative study of Victorian era embroidery samplers and their contemporary counterpart; womenʼs magazines. Taking as a starting point the striking similarity in tone, function and aesthetic construction, will explore these two forms as tools for the indoctrination of femininity and examine the ways they can be subverted/scrambled and how this affects the production/erasure of memory.


This proposal is submitted and approved at the end of the summer residency. If further changes are desired they can be made and re-submitted up until the end of the fall semester.

NOTE: Any changes made after the summer proposal must be approved by your advisors.

The Cut

Practical element:
Over the course of the year I plan to explore different methods of cutting, using various instruments such as the scalpel (surgical), scissors (dress making), butcherʼs knife (culinary) and possibly the computer (editing). Through the exploration of these different cutting techniques I hope to reflect on the cut as both physical reality and as a representation of rupture (physical, psychological, social, historical).

The study of cutting and the attendant works will form the basis of a body of work, most likely in the medium of textile work and photography.

Written element:
The written element will take as starting point a selection of artists who use the cut in their work as a means to explore various themes associated with rupture from psychological, emotional, historical, social and architectural points of view. Through the selection of works in a range of different media, I hope to explore the huge potentialities of the cut as artistic metaphor.

Possible artists:
Gordon Matta-Clark – architectural/social rupture,
Louis Bourgeois – emotional rupture
Doris Salcedo – historical/memory rupture
Martin Arnold – psychological rupture and repetition
My research of cutting techniques will also form part of the written element of the project.

Project Results:
The project will result in photographic and written documentation of the research component. At this point I am unsure how the exploration of cutting will manifest itself but I plan to produce a body of work which will potentially form the basis of an installation or exhibition.

Research method:
I plan to learn the basics of cutting from a variety of sources: a surgeon, a tailor, a cook and possibly an editor. Ideally, I will engage with each technique separately in order to fully immerse myself in the method. I plan to journal about the developments and document the process in photographs.

Readings on the selected artists and their works related to the cut as well as a wide range of readings on themes related to repetition, rupture and violence will also inform the work.

Initial Bibliography:
NOTE: Beginning academic year 2012-13, a full, annotated bibliography is required.

Elisabeth Sussman, Gordon Matta Clark: You are the measure, (New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 2007)
Pamela M. Lee, Object to be Destroyed: the work of Gordon Matta Clark, (Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT press, 2001)
Ann Coxon, Louise Bourgeois, (London, Tate Publishing, 2010)
Joan Gibbons, Contemporary Art and Memory: Images of Recollection and Remembrance, (New York, I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd, 2007)
Carlos Basualdo, Nancy Princenthal, Doris Salcedo & Andreas Huyssen, Doris Salcedo, (Phaidon, 2000)
Pilar Parcerisas, Viennese Actionism: Gunther Brus, Otto Muehl, Hermann Nitsch, Rudolf Schwarzkogler, (New York, Actar, 2008)
Paul Virillio, Art and Fear, (London, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006)
Kate Armstrong, Crisis and Repetition: Essays on Art and Culture, (Michigan State University Press, 2002)
Ad Reinhardt, Art as Art: The Selected Writings of Ad Reinhardt (Documents of Twentieth Century Art), (University of California Press, 1991)
Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition (London, Continuim International Publishing Group, 2004)
Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, (The International psycho-analytical press, 1922)
John Cage, Silence, (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1961)
Paul Virilio, Sylvére Lotringer, The Accident of Art, ( Semiotext(e); Cambridge, Mass: Distributed by the MIT Press, 2005)
Soren Kierkegaard, An Essay in Experimental Psychology (Harper & Row, 1964)
Martin, Heidegger, Being and Time (Wiley-Blackwell, 1962)

Research Question:
How is the cut used as a way to explore ideas of rupture in the work of the selected artists? What themes are addressed through the use of the cut in contemporary art? What is the relationship of the cut to the body in the works of the selected artists?

Intended Audience:
The cook, the thief, his wife and her lover.

Short Statement of your current practice:
I explore the relationship between textiles and story, memory, experience and identity.

Formulate entire project in 2-3 meaningful sentences: My work up until now has revolved around the stitching together of things: stories, fabric, threads and memories. This project will explore the other side of stitching, the rupture that precedes the stitch, the possibilities inherent in ʻthe cutʼ as artistic tool and metaphor.

+ Peer Guides

Current students have offered to be guides to new students as they enter the program.

Your peer guide is someone you can reach out to with general questions about the program, residency or advice based on their personal experience.

Please do not contact peer guides with financial questions. All tuition/financial questions should be directed to our accounting department at

+ Partnership Agreement

+ Reading Diary

There are recommended and required readings with a 200 page maximum for seminars and 100 for workshops for the required readings. A substantial part of these readings will be online, often as pdf documents. You will find these readings in the course syllabi. We advise you to commence this journey as early as possible (once you’ve signed up for your courses).

Briefly explain your understanding of the text(s), what problems they address, which questions they answer (and how) and which ones are left open. As time is very condensed in the residency this process will help you clarify your ideas and understanding of the material and gives your teachers an advance sense of what their group will be like. Your questions will alert them to areas of concern and special interest.

New students, please keep in mind that although you are not officially a student in the program until the residency we give you readings and assignments in advance so that you will get the most out of the residency. You don’t need to paraphrase what you read just confirm your understanding and what questions you have towards the material, this should be possible in 500 to 1500 cumulative words unless specified otherwise by your faculty.

Upload your diary to your Transart blog by July 15 so that your summer course instructors have time to review and to get a sense of your interests and any areas of confusion. Faculty will respond to your diaries in different ways. Some prefer to respond to students individually, others will respond to the group either in the course forum or seminar.

When posting in your blog please use the following title formula: READING DIARY: Name of Workshop (Teacher Last Name)

NOTE: Reading Diaries must be complete and uploaded by the due date or you will be de-registered from the respective workshop/s or seminar/s.

Residency Guide

+ Summer Presentations & Critiques

Technical Information

If you will be using sound in a presentation, please could you check in advance with a pair of headphones, that the sound is working on your laptop.

Projector If you would like to present anything using the projector from your laptop then you will need to know that we are using HDMI cables, to connect your laptop to the projector. So you have to either have an HDMI output directly on your laptop, or you need to bring an HDMI adapter with you. This particularly applies to people with new MacBooks.

The HDMI output looks like:


Note that the adaptor varies according to your computer so please check to see which adapter you actually need -!&f=adapter-hdmi&fh=4595%2B45b0%2B3058.

The HDMI adapter for MacBooks looks similar to:


+ Presentations & Critiques


Generally presentation is divided between showing previous work (for context) and presenting the project plan for the year ahead. You should interpret this in a way that will best showcase your research and in a form that best describes what you do. Some simple questions to consider: what is the ‘story’ you want to tell? who is your audience? how will you effectively tell your story to this audience to include them and to highlight your question/s and your passion?

It is important that you review your fellow students’ blogs (linked in the student directory) to familiarise yourself with everyone’s work. This is especially helpful for time-based work where there will be limited time to view only a few minutes of work during presentations. It’s also a good idea to add a link to the work you want previewed at the top of your blog.

Note: everyone is expected to attend all presentations—these are our best way of knowing, understanding and actively participating in each other’s practices.

60-120 second Praxis Presentation (Summer Residency)
Very brief intro to you and your work that takes place on the first day of the summer residency.

30 minute Presentation (Summer residency)
Everyone will have a 30 minute slot to present and receive feedback on their work during the summer residency. Presentations usually run in the afternoons after workshops. Everyone is expected to attend all presentations.

The structure follows the form: 15 minutes presentation followed by 15 minute feedback.

Generally, the 15 minutes presentation is divided between showing previous work and presenting the project plan for the year ahead. During feedback the group will offer critique, ideas and advice for your project, as well as suggestions for texts, films and other resources. You can choose to close your presentation by asking specific questions of the group to focus their feedback and reference suggestions, or by simply opening the floor.

See advice for critiques here: Critique Support

Please have a look at your fellow students’ blogs in the student directory if you are not familiar with everyone’s work. This is especially helpful for time-based work where there will only be time to view two or three minutes of work during presentations. It’s also a good idea to put a link at the top of your blog with the work you want previewed.

45 min Presentation (Winter Residency)
Everyone will have a 45 minute slot to present and receive feedback on their work-in-progress during the winter residency. Everyone is expected to attend all presentations.

The structure follows the form: 20 minutes presentation followed by 25 minute feedback.

It’s up to you how you wish to use your presentation time. You can show physical work (highly encouraged), documentation of your process, perform in-process work etc. The purpose of this presentation is to identify the parts of your process that need attention to propel you into the following semester and assist you in resolving questions, concerns and issues in the work. Feel free to experiment with presentation form, to be raw and/or formulate a specific question that you are posing at this point in your research and practice.

During feedback the group will offer critique, ideas and advice for your project, as well as suggestions for texts, films and other resources. You can choose to close your presentation by asking specific questions of the group to focus their feedback and reference suggestions, or by simply opening the floor.

Offsite Critique Group Meeting
Towards the end of the summer residency you will meet with your offsite critique group. This is the group that you will do written critiques and Skype critiques with throughout the year. You will be assigned a group by administration. Your pre-offsite crit group meetings are free form. Let your crit leaders know how you would like to do yours. If there are particular questions or issues you want addressed in your work, be sure to let your group know.

During feedback the group will offer critique, ideas and advice for your project, as well as suggestions for texts, films and other resources. You can choose to close your presentation by asking specific questions of the group to focus their feedback and reference suggestions, or by simply opening the floor. Time will be divided equally among participants.

Please refrain from offering simple complimentary comments such as “I like what you are doing”. While it is comforting to hear these they do not provide critical ideas or help challenge and clarify your work and ideas. You can always pass on any compliments after presentation.

See advice here: Critique Vademecum

More information can be found here: Offsite Critique Group

Dissemination and Dialogues
MFA students in their third and final summer will present their MFA Project called “dissemination”. Appropriately devised by each student, it should be a considered, thoughtful and articulate presentation of their project. The form this takes is up to each student and should be understood as what is most appropriate to their ideas, intentions and media.

The MFA Dialogue format is a wonderful opportunity for each student group to interpret their own and their peers’ work and projects, and subsequently form small groups centered on common themes, media, actions that each of the small groups coalesce around.

If you believe the dissemination of your project is best suited to other venues or formats you should discuss these ideas with your advisory teams and articulate the context on your Process Blog. Consider where and how to best achieve your goals and then present these either before or during the summer residency and present a part of your project in dialogue at residency as well.

We encourage you to embrace and think of this as an exciting and challenging occasion: to work in the gap between artist and curator; to contextualize your work within that of your community and peers and to generate dialogue: around ideas, terrain, experience, sharing and exploration; a celebration of ideas, people, media and sustainable diversity.

Transart will support these dialogues with space and time at residency, residency venue(s), tech and logistical support, announcements and social media and photographic documentation of events. If you want documentation of your own project you should organize this individually or in your group.

Summer Curator Critiques
The curator is the moderator of the critique. Students are expected to fully engage and give feedback to each others work during the session.

Each student each receives 30 minutes for his/her critique. S/he should come fully prepared to show his/her work to the group with whatever equipment or written text required to understand the work. Students should take turns being the timekeeper and being the note taker, so that whoever is being critiqued can fully concentrate on listening and responding.

Each student should choose what type of critique they would like: cold read or accompanied introduction of the work.

Cold Read: A full cold read, meaning for this to work effectively, the work should be polished and completely finished and the student who is showing his/her work cannot respond until the very end, getting a lot of critical and helpful feedback from the curator and the other students. But they should be aware of this – and prepare accordingly. For example, if there is a title or text that goes with the piece, s/he should prepare it be seen together with the piece. It would be as though it is in a space or gallery and s/he is not available to explain it or his/her intentions.

Accompanied Introduction: This one is more common. The student introduces the complete or in progress work in the beginning and gives sufficient background info before anyone else talks. The student should have 1-2 specific important questions in mind that s/he is considering, which is helpful to stimulate discussion and understand intention, and increase productive critical feedback.

Critique Vademecum
Collected here are various artists’ views on critiques:

Critiques in general

  • Give a condensed version of your artist statement.
  • Show a concise, relevant edit from your practice which you want discussed.
  • State your questions or describe what kind of input you are looking for.

Plan your presentation, do not ad lib. Formulate your questions in advance and in writing. Test your questions beforehand with friends and peers. State what kind of feedback you would like, which work and what your issues, concerns or questions are. There isn’t time to talk about every work from every perspective. Don’t leave us guessing which work or where the heart of the matter is. Don’t show everything you ever did. Present a cohesive body of work and edit it to what is important to represent the project and your questions.

Critiques: The time is yours, you decide how you want to use it. You may use different strategies depending on what you want to know. For example: if you have something specific you want to communicate and you aren’t sure it is coming across then don’t want to state what it is right away. Let it be known this is a concern you want addressed. Another strategy is to show work and state specific questions, then show one part or piece which is a good example for each question. It’s important to direct the discussion towards your issues, so that the time isn’t spent unfocussed or on issues you aren’t concerned with. The clearer you are with yourself and others about what you hope to have happen in your discussion the more satisfying it will be. Keep in mind, the more questions you want answered, the less in depth they will be. You may want to ask different questions in different critiques.

Taking notes or ask someone to record your session. Don’t spend the time defending the work. Most questions are intended for you to consider, answer them later. Make a time to have a coffee with a fellow student, perhaps your note taker afterwards to discuss your presentation and the feedback you received while it’s fresh.

Principles for Dialogue

  1. The goal of dialogue is to help the artist move forward.
    We focus on what the piece needs to continue on its journey. We announce that we are forming a Temporary Community of Inquiry around this artist’s work. We use what we know, but we do not impose our artistic concerns or strategies onto the artist’s work.
    Too often, artistic dialogue falls into a good/bad paradigm, and discussions either attack the work or form a bland support group around it. We are helping the artist to uncover and refine her research, some of which may be unknown to her. We are there to point out the blind spots and the secret strengths, and to ask the difficult questions that artists need to be asked.
  2. Let go of wanting to be congratulated. Dialogue about the work can be inhibited or distorted by the desire for approval. Sometimes it is helpful to name the forces that inhibit helpful dialogue: the desire of the artist to be congratulated, the desire of the viewers to sound intelligent or insightful, and the desire of the viewers to “fix” the work or make it more to their taste.
    It’s not a focus group, it’s a brainstorming session. Artists should not try to average out or combine all of the feedback, which will, by its nature, be contradictory and diverse. All that matters is: what’s the one thing that is dislodged or provoked in you that allows you to get back to work? Let go of everything else.
  3. You can’t fix the bicycle while the bicycle is being built. There are three distinct phases in an artistic process, each demanding a specific kind of dialogue: Emergence, Development, Completion. Calibrate the discussion to the stage of the piece.

    Emergence Feedback
    In this initial phase, we emphasize finding the heat of the piece, not fixing or optimizing it. Our conversations focus on noticing what is distinctive and compelling. We try to enter the work on its own terms, pushing the artist further along in her work, not trying to make her work look like ours.

    Questions we ask:

    • What in the piece taught me or showed me something new?
    • Where is the heat in this piece?
    • What is distinctive about the way things are put near each other (the structure)?
    • What do I see as the compelling questions, collisions, and investigations?
    • How can I help push this research further?

      Development Feedback
      In the development phase, we are remaining alert to when the world of the piece emerges. Outside eyes can be useful for discerning the world of the piece, for naming things that are so close to us that we don’t see them plainly.

      • Where is the heat in this piece?
      • What is a possible World Of This Piece?
      • What are possible structures for the piece that embody the content?
      • How can I help push this research further?

      Completion Feedback
      The world has emerged. The artist now focuses on the complex process of structuring and polishing the many elements. While there is still room for reinvention and radical shifts, dialogue can focus (at last) on making the piece strong and clear on its own terms.

      • What is the World of The Piece?
      • What is congruent/incongruent with the world?
      • What is the balance of clarity and complexity in the piece? Do we get ahead of the piece (not enough complexity)? Or do we get lost (not enough clarity)?
      • How is the “song” of the piece? Does the piece break rhythm?
  4. Let the artist specify the discussion she needs, either in tone or with specific questions.
    Because an artist can’t always anticipate the discussion that will propel her forward, you can allow conversation to (inevitably) overspill the banks of the artist’s specific questions. Sometimes what we need to hear is not where we think it is.

  5. There are five steps or levels in discussing work, and strong dialogue depends on understanding the distinctions.

    • Description: the elements that make up the piece. “I saw…” or “I noticed…”
    • Analysis: the way the elements combine over time
    • Interpretation: what the combination of elements embodies: meanings, narratives, contrasts, ideas, images
    • Evaluation: how well and at what moments the piece embodies its heat
    • Suggestion: concrete ideas to refine the piece

    People tend to move quickly toward Interpretation-Evaluation-Suggestion, skipping Description and Analysis.

    Avoid conflating the levels, sliding sneakily from Description to Suggestion in the same sentence: “I noticed that slow fall at the end (description) as if you were dying (interpretation) and it was so cool (evaluation) and I think that could just go on twice as long (suggestion).”

    One way to frame this: After seeing the piece, do a round of Description; everyone says a sentence beginning with “I saw…” or “I noticed…” and naming something concrete. This ground the discussion in the reality of the piece, and helps build trust between viewer and artist.

    Preface evaluations with “I have an opinion.” Preface suggestions with “I have a suggestion.” We allow for opinion and suggestion at every stage of feedback. Prefacing it helps the speaker and the listener to put the opinion/suggestion in its proper context.

  6. It’s the people. Good dialogue comes from good dialoguers. Gather the people you really want to hear from, whether or not they are in your discipline (or in the arts). And do it more than once. Groups learn from being in conversation and from witnessing the power of complex dialogue. Artwork feedback system devised by Headlong Dance

Ten Guidelines for Constructive Feedback

  1. Avoid any excessively complimentary or excessively harsh language. The creative process is on-going and such comments, even positive ones, can inhibit the artist when he/she returns to the work they have presented or begins to create a new work.
  2. Use “open” questions that will enable a discussion of an aspect of the piece you have found problematic, challenging, or intriguing. Instead of asking, “Why did you use red lighting?” ask “What were some of the ideas informing your use of lighting?” or “What ideas led to this lighting decision?” Each aspect of the piece is a creative choice and should be treated as such.
  3. The artist reserves the right to engage a question, simply answer it, or remain silent during points of critical feedback. The audience should respect these choices, especially if the work presented is a work-in-progress.
  4. Be mindful of the consequences and implications of comparing the artist’s work to that of another artist. Focus instead on comparison of themes and tones between works. Saying something such as, “Your work is just so Matthew Barney” or “You are the next…”, even if meant to be flattering, can be harmful to the artist. Indeed, the purpose of constructive feedback is to provide an honest, engaging response to a work while inviting the artist to articulate, more clearly and precisely, his/her creative vision. Such comments do not aid in this process.
  5. The artist has the right to ask questions of the audience and, especially during the aftermath of a work-in-progress, and should expect the audience to respond in a critical and engaged manner.
  6. Technical issues may be addressed if they have a strong bearing on the overall aesthetic, vision, or reception of the work. However, small technical details, which do not have direct bearing or are not immediately correlated to the entire work, can distract from and, ultimately, belittle the artist’s effort.
  7. When addressing problematic points in the piece, provide specific explanation as to why they did not work. For example, “The staging didn’t work for me because it seemed excessively ornate and provided too stark a contrast to the minimalist, gestural dialogue between John and Peter.” Avoid simply dismissing aspects of the piece because you disliked them.
  8. Similarly, when addressing positive aspects of the piece, provide specific explanations as to why they worked. As much as possible, be generous with all comments, questions, and statements. That is to say, remarks should engage with the artist’s intention, vision, and objectives for the work. Statements such as, “I wouldn’t have used a landscape in Mexico, I would have referred to Spain and I would have used x, y, z as props” do not push the artist’s vision forward.
  9. If comments or questions are explicitly related to a specific aspect of a discipline (performance, installation, collaborations) open your question or comment to both the artist and technicians involved. This can open up a rich dialogue and inform the artist of possibilities that he/she may not have imagined for the work.
  10. Don’t defend or explain. Always use titles (working titles are absolutely fine — or — ‘untitled’ if that adds context) to get your point across. Let your audience (the group) view the work (carefully and thoughtfully) and respond to what they’re receiving from it. Give us the facts in how it might be realized. If you’re not sure, ask for suggestions.

~ Ten guidelines from Jean Marie Casbarian