School of English and Drama

MA Live Art

MA Live Art - Finn Love in LADA Study Room credit Billy Sassi

Finn Love in LADA Study Room, credit Billy Sassi

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What is MA Live Art?

MA Live Art is a specialised programme of taught postgraduate study led by research leaders, industry professionals, and high-profile artists. Graduates will gain theoretical and practical grounding in histories and practices of Live Art, while developing professional capacities and networks. The programme is convened by the Drama Department at QMUL in collaboration with Live Art Development Agency (LADA), a centre for Live Art advocacy, preservation and programming.

MA Live Art is the first programme of its kind, and will support research and practice in performance art, time-based art, site-specific performance, relational and intimate performance, durational performance, and other experimental practices. Students will engage with and make performance in dialogue with genealogies of visual art and/or experimental theatre in the twentieth century. They will be enabled to understand, challenge and make Live Art as a technology for intervening in the most pressing issues of our time: of gender, sexual, racial or class identity; of the potential for protest, direct action, and environmental and social justice; and of theoretical investigations concerning the body, time, space, subjectivity, documentation and communication.

Students will learn through studio-based and discussion-led methods, through workshops, lectures, master classes, seminars, fieldwork and professional placements. The programme of study can be taken either full time (1 year) or part time (2 years). Students on the programme will have access to QMUL’s full research and support services, as well as to LADA’s Study Room, which includes an archive of 7,000+ items.


Programme of Study

Full-time students take the following modules:

Semester 1

  • Live Art Histories (seminar): 'Live Art Histories' explores histories, social contexts, and genealogies of live art in the UK and internationally after 1960, in its emergence from visual art, as well as from intersections with other histories including those of theatre, dance, video, installation and activism. Key histories and case studies may include solo and autobiographical, endurance and durational, intimate and one-to-one, interventionist and collaborative performances, among other forms of live art practice. The module reflects upon the aesthetic, methodological, historiographical and other implications of encountering live art in its live manifestations and through documentation (such as scores, photographs, videos or oral accounts). In addition, the module will provide you with the core research training you will need on the rest of the programme. Teaching will include archival research at a venue such as the Live Art Development Agency, Tate Archives or Whitechapel Gallery Archive.
  • Performance Lab (practice): This module is a studio-based research laboratory that focuses on and experiments with performance process. In tandem with these practical activities students formulate creative strategies for documenting and disseminating process. Through weekly workshops the group will be introduced to a range of performance-making approaches, tools and techniques, and will be encouraged to devise their own methodologies for creating performance languages. Each student raises a series of research thematics that are explored through practical group experiments, individual development of performative prototypes, critical analysis, evaluative writing and collaborative dialogue and feedback sessions. The module leads towards a Performance Lab Research Event where students present the practical and process-based outcomes of their research investigations.

Semester 2

  • Disciplines of Live Art (seminar): ‘Disciplines of Live Art’ explores the material conditions and social infrastructures for live art as a practice and an object of study. You will consider the institutional pressures and considerations that shape performance, while giving special attention to the cultural politics of live art specifically. In addition, you will study how the practice of live art relates to other disciplines of art making– such as visual art, theatre, music, and more – and how research into live art requires engagement with multiple academic disciplines – such as Art History, Performance Studies, Musicology and more. The module examines how artists, curators and researchers negotiate funding structures, engage with cultural policy, and seek to intervene into a range of political and cultural issues. 
  • Research Design (non-assessed): This module is a compulsory, non-assessed and non-credit bearing module for students pursuing a Master of Arts in Theatre and Performance and students pursuing a Master of Arts in Live Art. This module helps students to build skills and methods in research design. Moreover, it helps to prepare students for their MA dissertations by providing guidance and skills in designing and completing research projects. The module meets every second week, and seminar meetings will include discussions of assigned readings and research workshops. By the end of the semester, each student pursuing the degree full time will have prepared and submitted a final draft of their dissertation proposal. Part-time students will have the option of submitting a final draft of their dissertation proposal or preparing a field statement.


  • Independent Practice Project (practice): This module requires students to devise an individual project that focuses on a chosen area of performance practice. The aim of the module is for each student to raise a series of research questions that are addressed as a result of and through their practical work. This could encompass playwriting, applied drama, directing, dramaturgy, acting, new technologies, site-specific performance and live art. Working under the supervision of the module convenor and a mentor, each student will craft a professional project that also provides an opportunity for critical reflection on the processes of performance practice. Whilst the work developed on the module will be undertaken within the confines of academia, and subsequently critically rigorous, the importance of the public economy in which performance takes place will not be overlooked. In order to give focus to both creative and theoretical investigation, the module will produce a series of in-progress presentations that will be open to the public, who will be invited to follow the development of the work as it progresses. This is intended not only to invite critical commentary from the public as well as the module tutors, but also to anchor the importance of public presentation as part of artistic creation. The final assessed presentation will be produced in the context of a public festival of new work during the exam term and each student will design and create a portfolio of documentation to accompany the presentation. Both assessments (presentation and portfolio) are designed to provide public platforms for the dissemination of rigorous practice-based research while maintaining an emphasis on high standards of professional performance making.


  • Cultural Industries (practice): This module explores cultural industries - both their practices, and the issues (ethical, practical, political, economic, etc.) they raise. It examines the political and economic contexts and practices that give rise to and affect them. It evaluates their aims as well as the practices they do and might employ to achieve those aims. Module convenor(s) facilitate students' placements with an appropriate industry partner and students develop industry-based projects to complete within the context of the industry partner's work. Students' work on this module will be partly seminar-based, and partly based on work with the industry partner. Students on MA Live Art undertake a placement at Live Art Development Agency.

Semester 3

  • Dissertation OR 
  • Practice-Based Dissertation


Part Time students take Live Art Histories in Year 1 Semester 1; and Disciplines of Live Art in Year 1 Semester; Performance Lab in Year 2 Semester 1; and either Independent Practice Project or Cultural Industries in Year 2 Semester 2. Either Dissertation option is undertaken across the 2 years, and submitted at the end of the second year.

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