Critical Cultures is a fully credited, parallel course of study which is taken by all NCAD undergraduate students throughout their time at the College. Delivered by a team from the School of Visual Culture – some of Ireland’s leading art and design critics and historians – the Critical Cultures programme has been designed to develop key skills and understanding needed by undergraduate students at the College to become successful practitioners in their chosen fields. The ability to critically analyse an image or to express an idea with clarity are needed more today than ever.
Classes offered as part of the Critical Cultures curriculum bring together students from different areas of the college. Lectures and seminars are key moments in the week when student designers, artists and craftspeople from different programmes exchange opinions and ideas.
The First Year Critical Cultures course is a combination of weekly lectures and seminars designed to introduce students to major theories and concepts. We explore questions like What is originality? What makes an image or a thing real? Why do we still value handmade objects? What is the future of the image? What can art do? Students develop image and textual analysis skills, and improve their abilities as writers and speakers.
Students shape their own second year Critical Cultures course by selecting from a dozen or more specialist seminar classes on current themes and issues in art, design and technology. The range of themes is extensive, spanning from information theory to the history of cross-dressing; and from documentary film to sound art.
In the final year of the Critical Cultures course, individual students identify a major research project which they plan, research and write. Research might involve interviews with artists and designers; visits to archives (like the National Irish Visual Arts Library at NCAD); or a deep immersion in theory. Students have one-to-one support from the Visual Culture team. Studio-based students often use this long-form essay to develop a deep understanding of themes and concepts addressed in their practice as artists or designers. Every NCAD undergraduate student follows the Critical Cultures curriculum. Those who have a strong interest in critical thinking and wish to develop their writing practice further can elect to undertake additional classes in their second and final years, and then to graduate with additional credits in Critical Cultures. Students who take this option will graduate with a degree in either Fine Art or Design as a major and Critical Cultures as a minor.