Written by Lexie Davis
I started the Research MA program Critical Studies in Art & Culture in September after three years of working at educational institutions and museums in France and Los Angeles. I had always planned to eventually do an MA and when I received a Fulbright scholarship to sponsor my studies in Amsterdam, I couldn’t wait to start. I moved to Amsterdam in September and have really enjoyed the diverse opportunities the program and the VU offers. In October, I went on an excursion organized by the VU’s Environmental Humanities Center to a nuclear waste research laboratory in Belgium, where we learned about deep geological waste disposal. I was enrolled in a class on nuclear aesthetics and contemporary art, and appreciated the chance to learn more about the subject through practical engagement. The course enabled me to go on studio visits and attend artist talks with Gert Jan Koken, Hans van Houwelingen, and Bik van der Pol, which brought the theme to life in a stimulating way.
Through the Dutch national research school for art history, I also had the chance to take a course abroad. In November, I travelled to Rome to participate in a class on Arte Povera, an avant-garde Italian art movement that emerged in the late 1960s. For twelve days, I attended lectures, visited museums, consulted libraries, and conducted independent research, alongside Dutch and international Research MA students from universities across the Netherlands. At the end of the week, I presented my own research on the artist Marisa Merz at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna.
Back in Amsterdam, I have just begun a semester-long internship in the time-based media curatorial department at the Stedelijk Museum. Assisting the curators with research and writing projects has thus far been an incredibly exciting experience, and I love learning more about the museum’s collection and upcoming exhibitions. This semester is proving very busy, as in addition to my internship I’m enrolled in three courses, take Dutch lessons in the evenings, and serve on the editorial board of the VU’s arts and culture journal Tijdschrift Kunstlicht. However, I’m constantly able to find connections between all the different activities I’m involved with, and seeing the ways that one informs the other has been very rewarding.
While a big change from my life in the US, studying in Amsterdam has proved to be the perfect base, due to the countless world-class museums and institutions in the city or a short train ride away. Interesting events, lectures, and conferences are organized by museums and universities almost every weekend — sometimes it’s difficult to choose what to attend! The approachable size of the city has made it easy to become familiar with the local arts scene and meet people with shared interests. Overall, the Critical Studies in Art & Culture Research MA has exceeded my
expectations and I look forward to another year and a half in the program!