The structure of CT+CR is synergistic, lending it a rare coherence and unity of purpose and creating the conditions for fostering critical thinkers and practitioners who are able to address crucial questions in substantially new ways and who feel at home in diverse domains. Particular attention is paid to critical investigations of the role played by experiential knowledge, thus the program’s situation within an art school, where sense-based critique has long comprised a respected tradition and exacting practice. CT+CR seeks to forge a discipline that does for the new relations obtaining between words, images, and objects what rhetoric accomplished for language; to unify the major strands of critical theory, revivifying it as a powerful tool of criticism and critique; and to create new ways of understanding, situating, and configuring knowledge and research in the new century.

All classes take place in CT+CR Headquarters, located in Room 413 of the historic 511 Building. The space riffs on a number of aesthetics, from the look and feel of the program’s art-school context to Japanese modular bookshelf house, from PDX Pearl District warehouse to sixteenth-century wunderkammer, the latter boldly announced by the program’s symbol, a papier-mâché brain that served as an 18th-century pedagogical tool.  The CT+CR Library contains approximately 3,000 books on art, philosophy, and theory, including first editions of Hannah Arendt’s On Revolution, William Gass’ On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry, Marshall McLuhan and Harley Parker’s Through the Vanishing Point:  Space in Poetry and Painting, Theodor Reik’s Myth and Guilt: The Crime and Punishment of Mankind, and Gaston Bachelard’s L’Intuition de l’Instant, among others, as well as little-known manuscripts by Vilém Flusser and Jacques Derrida.

CTCR Headquarters

Photo of CT+CR Headquarters

In the Critical Theory Seminar, students analyze notion of critique in the work and life of major thinkers, paying particular attention to their understanding of theory and practice, thought and action, form and feeling, medium and message, matter and memory, time and experience, intelligence and the senses, aesthetics and representation in relation to technological procedures, sociological categorization, political phenomena, and the capture and creation of lived realities. We begin by expanding the meaning of contemporaneity and go on to examine how meaning, individual and collective, is made or, conversely, unmade under various conditions. Students can expect to read Agamben, Arendt, Bachelard, Baudrillard, Benjamin, Bergson, Flusser, Foucault, Levinas, McLuhan, Merleau-Ponty, Ranciere, and Simmel.

In Research Design and Methods, approaches, practices, and protocols inherent to various forms of research, qualitative and quantitative, are examined in terms of their ideological and epistemological assumptions, attitudes, and contexts as well as their political and ethical trajectories. Students assess the research of others as well as design their own research, drawing upon a range of methods from statistics, field research, surveys, and interviews to observation, experience, and so-called intuition with the ultimate aim of creating new paradigms for carrying out humanly meaningful research in the age of the search engine and rethinking critical questions pertaining to capture, documentation, aggregation, scalability, iterability, applicability, knowability, relevance, prediction, consequence, ownership, falsifiability, truth, belief, and judgement, among others.

In the Graduate Writing and Critique Seminar, the fundamentals of the art-school critique are revisited and translated into sustained written discourse. Starting with words, their etymologies, histories, and associations, students progress to the fundamentals of the sentence, and from there through the various stages of writing a thesis, from brainstorming techniques to formulating questions, abstracts to tables of contents, outlining to generating a research bibliography, mechanics to poetics. Through the analysis of different approaches to research and writing, students focus their ideas and refine their prose in a workshop setting, emerging each term with polished chapters of their thesis work.

Students design and develop their own independent and collaborative research projects in Special Topics Research, extending and amplifying the principles and precepts of Research Design and Methods and the Critical Theory Seminar. 

The CT+CR Colloquium and Graduate Speaker Series offer students and associates the opportunity to work directly with major contemporary thinkers and makers on a shared challenge or question in a sustained and concentrated manner.  The colloquium is held at the Caldera Arts Center in the high desert of Oregon in the fall and at various locations in the spring.  The exploration of themes and ideas continues throughout the year in a series of transdisciplinary roundtables, panels, and workshops and across innovative platforms.

Students complete work on their theses during the MA Thesis Summer Intensive, which meets daily for eight weeks during the summer months and is devoted solely to this purpose.


Blue Lake

Image courtesy of Caldera Center for the Arts

Fall Colloquium and Artist Residency
Each year, the CT+CR class heads to the Caldera Arts Center for its Fall Colloquium and Artist Residency Program.  Caldera is located 3,500 feet above sea level on the shores of a collapsed volcanic cone, or caldera, which has filled with spring water to form Blue Lake, the second-deepest lake in Oregon after Crater Lake.  The center sits on 120 acres that is part of the Cascade Mountain Range, and is surrounded by the Deschutes National Forest.  The Arts Center consists of a 23,000 square-foot Hearth Building with an intimate library, state-of-the-art professional kitchen, studios, and outside fireplace, designed by Allied Works, as well as renovated dormitory facilities and A-frame cottages.  In 2012, our guests included Sina Najafi, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Cabinet magazine, and Nina Katchadourian, former Viewing Program Curator at the Drawing Center and professor at NYU.

See images from the 2012 Fall Colloquium on Untitled.

Image courtesy of the Westwind Stewardship Group

Spring Colloquium and Artist Residency

The 2012 CT+CR Spring Colloquium and Artist Residency was held at the 529-acre Westwind Stewardship site at Cascade Head, one of the last largely undeveloped tracts on the Oregon coast.  In the early 1960s, volunteers organized an effort to protect Cascade Headland from development; six years later, they had raised sufficient funds to purchase the property, after which they turned it over to the Nature Conservancy.  The lands were designated a National Scenic-Research Area as well as a United Nations Biosphere Reserve in 1974.  Our 2012 guest was sculptor Geoff Mann, a professor at the University of Edinburgh, whose work, blurring the lines between art and research, thinking and making, theory and practice, has been exhibited at MoMA, the Bornholm Art Museum and Grønbechs Gård, Saatchi Gallery, MAD, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.