Interview with Neil Mulholland

ART.ZIP: It is a common truth that learning theory and critical study are a very important part of studying photography? If so, what percentage of the MA/MFA photography programme at ECA is made up of theoretical study?

NM: We have two related courses that run each semester. One of them forms 40 credits, which is effectively the largest component. It focuses on practice and research that links to their artistic practice. It is difficult to say exactly how much is theoretical study and how much is practice; but it is really the development of how those two come together. Students are examined based on the research that they do, how they communicate, how they have developed a discourse, and what they have worked on with their peer group. So we assess how they communicate, how they respond to other’s work; we also assess the studentship and how they exhibit and distribute their work. Some cases are maybe the exception – a lot of students are not that straight forward, it may be more projects based or they may have published their work. It depends on what their practice is but these are the main things that we look at.

The smaller course is worth 20 credits. It is usually more theoretical, which means it’s based on seminars that students have to attend and they have to prepare the content for it. We ask them to read, reflect, visit or examine something and they have to come and present on that. That forms an educational experience itself and they will usually write a paper relating to that. These are more conventionally theoretical approaches but the nature of these courses change quickly. They become more blurred in the second semester when students hold an exhibition at Talbot Rice Gallery. They need to work collaboratively and they need to produce a publication that comes with the exhibition.

We also have a two year MFA course. At that level students have the choice to focus on what they expect of the programme and chose the most suitable programme for them. So either they do a degree show, or they read a body of art reading or they do something in-between. They can do a project and an accompanying report – something that is between a thesis and a degree show. Their choice, in a sense, is based on what they have tested out before they get to that point. Our degree shows are not conventional in that they include other possibilities that our students may have pursued.

The MA show which happens during the Edinburgh Festival is also connected with a bigger programme that the art college runs. So our students are part of a broad spectrum of events at the festival.

The nature of the kind of theory we pursue here is one of being experimental, philosophical and so on. We are really interested in visual culture, material culture and we are looking at the new aspects of theory that artists are drawn to at the moment. Then we move on to things are maybe more practical in orientation, like curatorial studies and curatorial practices. We also think about the engagement with organisational practice, which should become part of their work rather than something which is done to them. Our students will not wait for somebody to spot them or tell them how to sell. They need to learn how to do that by themselves; again you don’t have any other choices in Scotland. If you don’t do that, you don’t have a career, you don’t have anywhere to exhibit. You need to make opportunities. It is not commercial; it is different sort of climate here.

Rather than imagine that one day you will make work which earns you a big enough grant upon which to survive or that someone will pay a lot of money for your works, the importance is that you learn how to make good work with what you have. You need to become savvy about using all possible resources that you can gather. The best resource you have is your peers because they are the people who have time and energy.

ART.ZIP: 眾所周知,攝影理論和批評是攝影教育中非常重要的一部分,所以關於理論和批評在愛丁堡藝術學院碩士/純藝碩士攝影課程中大概占多大的比重?

NM: 我們每學期都會開設兩個相關的課程,其中一個占有四十個學分,屬於是課程設置中最大的組成部分。它側重於考察一個藝術項目的實踐和研究,然而我們很難說這其中究竟有多少是理論學習,又有多少是實踐部分,但是卻幫助學生將兩者合二為一。我們對學生的考察基於他們所做的研究,考察他們如何進行溝通,以及他們在與其他同學合作時所開發的話語權;我們同時考察學生如何回應其他人的作品,以及他們如何展示並宣傳自己的作品。但在一定的情況下也有特例,可能很多學生更偏向於攝影實踐或在雜誌上出版作品,雖然這一切都取決於每個學生各自的實踐,但上述的這些要點都是我們主要考察的內容。





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