Does Berlin Need a New Art School?
A survey including statements and sketches from 30 contributors
Over the past two decades, Berlin’s growth into an international art metropolis has brought many people to the city. A number of these imports teach art – seemingly in all other cities but Berlin. The city’s two schools providing full-scale arts education – the Universität der Künste (UdK) and the Hochschule Berlin Weissensee – were established long before 1989.
Since 2006, if not before, discussions about the UdK’s organizational and administrative politics have flared up – generated, for one, by the stepping down of Stan Douglas and Daniel Richter as professors, a development the UdK attempted to atone for by appointing prominent professors such as Olafur Eliasson (whose assignment though ends March 2014). Weissensee has seen an outflow of professors with international profiles to teaching posts in other cities – Karin Sander has taught in Zurich since 2007, Katharina Grosse in Düsseldorf since 2010 – and the school has gone the way of appointing guest professors and lecturers.
Reputations, ratings and capacities for reform aside, the question still presents itself whether Berlin, given its manifold art scene, is in need of new models and directions for its art education. In 2006–7, the one-year temporary project unitednationsplaza underscorred the city’s desire for an informal art school mediating its larger, international art discourse.
Does the current situation suffice? If not, what form would a new institute ideally take? frieze d/e asked Monica BONVICINI, Helmut DRAXLER, Tom HOLERT and Robert KUDIELKA for extended responses to these questions. A set of additional artists and theorists also contributed shorter statements.
Finally, six artists and architects – Roger BUNDSCHUH, Eva GRUBINGER, Sabine HORNIG, Michelle HOWARD, KUEHN MALVEZZI, and Studio MIESSEN – were asked to submit concrete drafts for the design and structure of a new art academy.
Most stories of decline begin with a heroic legend. One morning in the early 1950s, the first postwar director of Berlin’s Hochschule für bildende Künste (HfbK), Karl Hofer, received a message from the city authorities that they were planning to strip the academy of its status as an institute of higher education. He took his hat and coat, had his secretary call him a taxi, stormed unannounced into the office of the bureaucrat responsible and began their meeting by hitting the man over the head with a glass ashtray. That was enough. The plans were dropped. There is no record of any disciplinary action.
Today, there are no ashtrays in offices, no secretaries to call taxis, and by 1978, when I was appointed, the HfbK had been renamed Hochschule der Künste (HdK). But over the past two decades, defending the interests of art teaching against the dictates of state bureaucracy has become more difficult. The fact that fine art at the now upgraded Universität der Künste (UdK) has declined into mediocrity is due not to the appointments made by the responsible committees, but primarily to two seemingly opposed political reforms: the institutional expansion of HdK in the 1980s – and the rigorous cutting back of its courses in the following decade. In retrospect, these two strategies can be seen to have complemented each other in a fatal way.
Admittedly, I was at first positively disposed to the concept of an academy for all the arts, supporting it in my role as faculty spokesman. Due to the political expediency of restructuring and consolidating the field, West Berlin’s art teaching establishments decided in 1975, after some hesitation, to found a joint institution under the aegis of the Academies of Fine Art and Music, thus avoiding a merger with existing universities. Karl-Horst Hödicke liked to refer to this union as a ‘social-democrat total Gesamtkunstwerk’ because it suggested a shared identity under the name ‘art’ that does not actually exist in reality. The personal, structural and financial requirements for courses in fine art and music, for example, are so far removed from one another that discussion in the joint commissions tends more towards agreeing to disagree than towards any kind of mutual comprehension. Only later, at the Akademie der Künste (a non-teaching institution of around 400 members from all fields of the arts, commissioning exhibitions, readings, and screenings), did I learn how productive exchanges across the boundaries of departments and disciplines can be. A teaching institution is simply unable to fulfil such expectations.
The critical point in the expansion came in the 1980s with the integration of the Pädagogische Hochschule (teacher training college). At the time, all of the existing faculties opposed this move – not out of disdain for art education, but because it threatened to upset the balance between creative and educational courses at the HdK. The protest was in vain. In concert with the political authorities, Berlin’s central board of higher education prevailed, applying the administrative logic that a larger institution is a more important institution. The payback for this overexpansion came with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when it suddenly became necessary to radically cut back operations after the generous state subsidies previously received by West Berlin as a besieged outpost suddenly dried up.
A last recrudescence of this growth mania was successfully prevented by the faculty of fine art in 1990 when it strictly rejected plans to ‘liquidate’ the teaching staff of East Berlin’s Kunsthochschule Weissensee: a major city like Berlin must be able to afford more than one art academy – poorer cities manage this, too. But in the stranglehold of economic thinking, which forced the fusion of all artistic and educational courses into a single ‘faculty’, we were powerless. On the occasion of the tricentenary of the Akademie der Künste in 1996, the teaching staff from the HdK faculty of fine art published a statement in the Tagesspiegel newspaper under the polemic heading ‘Stop acting so ceremonial! 300 years don’t add up to a future’. The text pointed out that the true aim of the merger, whitewashed with terms like ‘synergy’, was simply to reduce the amount of courses on offer and the number of students. The publication drew zero responses. In hindsight, a look at changes in the numbers of teachers at the academy (not including emeriti, guests and ‘theorists’) shows that the polemic was entirely justified. In the lecture schedule for the summer semester of 1978, the fine art faculty listed 25 professorships, with 14 in the faculty of art education and art history: a total of 39 teaching staff. An online search of the integrated courses in fine art and art teacher training for the winter semester of 2012/13 turns up a total of 16 staff. That means permanent professorships have been cut by almost two thirds.
More than any complaint, these figures clearly show the current suppression of art studies at the UdK by too many teaching tasks being performed too interdependently by too few staff. Since politicians are unlikely to be willing or able to remedy this state of affairs in the foreseeable future, an improvement can only come from outside. A ‘new art school’ would need to learn the following lessons from the past:
1. A small, specific organizational unit requiring a minimum of administration and fostering direct contact between teachers and students is the more effective model. Thanks to new media technologies and performative forms of presentation, contemporary art is already so diverse that it can happily do without the fiction of an institutional Gesamtkunstwerk.
2. The separation of fine art and teacher training courses is vital, for the good of both sides. Just as future art teachers are entitled to a properly structured academic course, those engaged in a guided process of artistic self-discovery must have the right to unorthodox teachers, uncertain learning processes and empty periods of frustration.
Funding for such a counter-model is far from certain. But even if this condition were met, the key question for artists would remain: what might art teaching today look like? Rather than readymade answers, ideal visions or utopian concepts, the sole focus here must be on a certain shared sense of concern over the issue. This is the only way to overcome the greatest obstacle to art teaching today – the equating of tolerance with indifference in assessing results. Otherwise, it might be better to close all art academies for a period of, say, ten years to find out if there is still any need for them at all.
Robert Kudielka is an art historian and writer. From 1978–2010, he was professor of Aesthetics and Theory of Art at the HdK/UdK Berlin. Since 1997, he has been a member of the Akademie der Künste Berlin, and was the director of its fine arts department from 2003–12.
Studio Miessen (Markus Miessen, Diogo Passarinho, Yulia Startsev, Martin Pohl) is a collaborative agency for architecture and spatial strategy based in Berlin. Recent projects include work for Hito Steyerl (2012), the Kosovo National Gallery (2013), the Estonian Pavilion, Venice (2013) and the Bergen Assembly (2013). Their largest project to date is a strategic framework and new Kunsthalle building for a former NATO nuclear-warhead bunker site in Montabaur, Germany (2012–ongoing). In 2008, Markus Miessen founded the Winter School Middle East (Dubai/Kuwait). He is currently a visiting professor for Critical Spatial Practice at the Städelschule in Frankfurt and a visiting professor at USC Los Angeles. www.studiomiessen.com
Are we talking about a tuition-free new art school? You see, every month, as I make the obligatory payment towards my student loan debt, I have a chance to think (not so happily) about art education. Do I wish that kind of moment of reflection upon others? No, I don’t. Do I think another tuition-based art school is necessary? No, I don’t. Not in Berlin, not on the moon, not anywhere.
There seems to be an artificial equivalence between spaces of experimentation and spaces for education in art. And this goes hand in hand with the assumption that artists should be primarily produced, trained and domesticated in university settings. But, do we really believe that a situation delimited by schedules and attendance, tuition fees, assignments and grades is what will host and foster ground-breaking artistic practices? How can financial strain and prescriptive environments function as the formative arena for a new generation of artists?
There is always a need for flexible and imaginative spaces of exchange, exploration, communication, learning. This is true in Berlin, and it is true everywhere. But I personally think that in order to be actually effective, these spaces need to be generated by artists themselves. The spaces I imagine shouldn’t create a financial burden for young artists and they should respond to the needs of the given moment, rather than to the Bologna Process. For a new art school maybe the best model is ‘each one teach one’.
Julieta Aranda is an artist who lives and works between Berlin and New York. Together with Anton Vidokle she is co-director of e-flux, whose projects include Time/Bank, a work exhibited at dOCUMENTA (13).
Roger BUNDSCHUH with Leon Kahane & Eric Winkler
Roger Bundschuh is an architect who lives and works in Berlin. Leon Kahane studies fine arts at UdK under Hito Steyerl. Eric Winkler is a masters student in the sculpture department at Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee.
As Permanent Secretary in a department not responsible for universities and colleges, I am neither inclined not permitted to comment on questions of the city’s higher education policy. From the viewpoint of someone concerned with cultural policy, however, I note that the two art schools, UdK and Weissensee represent a differentiated range of teaching in all disciplines of fine and applied art, and that their public programmes, studio tours, events, etc. clearly enrich the city’s art scene. With a shrewd appointments strategy, the transition to a new generation offers both art schools a great opportunity to attract prominent and suitable teaching staff. Together with high-profile activities, the resulting appeal of the city’s art schools can help to make Berlin as a city of art more attractive still. Transl. NG
André Schmitz is Berlin’s Permanent Secretary for Culture.
I understand the concern and the questions it provokes. But precisely because I have been confronted with the problem myself, I just feel a sense of tedium and not the slightest necessity to contribute to a constructive debate – which in Berlin, from experience, often ends up doing the opposite of what was intended: it ends up producing paralyzing prattle. To give consolation, may I point out that the great city of New York, which people here often like to compare to Berlin, also doesn’t have a defining academy.
Daniel Richter is an artist living in Berlin, Hamburg and Vienna. From 2004–6 he was professor of painting at UdK Berlin. Since 2006, Richter has held a professorship at Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna.
Like any major city, Berlin should definitely have several art schools. There is no need to attribute this to the history of divided Germany – Vienna, Paris, London, Stockholm, Los Angeles, New York, to name but a few, all have two, three, four or more art schools without any such justification. Different art schools can teach different things. Such a choice gives an idea of the diversity of approaches open to artists, even before they begin their studies.
As a graduate of the Hochschule der Künste (HdK), as the UdK was then called, I can confirm that back in my day (1987) such productive competition would have been most welcome. After graduating, I got a place on the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York. where I experienced a kind of teaching that didn’t exist in Berlin. A few years ago, when students at the UdK invited several artists to give advice during a dispute over existing structures, I was surprised to find how little had changed since my graduation. Although the latest appointments seem to promise change, a new school would still be very interesting – in addition to those we already have, not as a replacement – with other, different, innovative, challenging approaches to teaching.
As a lecturer in several Scandinavian countries, and now as a professor in Sweden, I have seen typically German discussions like quotas become non-issues when everything is divided up 50/50 anyway, and learned that the ‘master class’ is not the only model for intensive art teaching. And I have seen students participating in decision making processes, always in conflict with existing structures, but also as part of them. Lest we forget: the most effective changes in Berlin resulted from student initiatives: the strike of 1989 brought the first female professor to the HdK (Rebecca Horn), the first video and photo labs for fine art students and an efficient, student-run system for facilitating production. But of course, we should not leave everything up to the students …
Florian Zeyfang is an artist and video maker living in Berlin. Since 2006, he has been professor for Time-Based Media at Umeå Academy of Fine Arts, Sweden. Recent exhibitions and film festivals include The Artists Space, New York; Künstlerhaus Stuttgart; 11th Havana Biennale (all 2012) and the Berlin International Film Festival 2013.
What does Berlin ‘need’? Well, a few years ago, Berlin needed a Kunsthalle. Back then, people were thinking: wouldn’t it make more sense to support existing institutions by increasing their budgets, allowing them to improve their structures and exhibition facilities? Berlin’s art institutions are all poor, that’s well known, and not always sexy. Turning something unsexy into something sexy takes a lot of work, and it never really succeeds. So sometimes it’s better to get something new. Still: no new Kunsthalle.
The question of whether Berlin needs a new art school is slightly redundant. It leaves me cold and, to be quite honest, my spontaneous answer is the same as on the issue of the Kunsthalle: why not just make Berlin’s existing art schools better able to compete internationally? However, my second answer would be: why not?
The city already has two art schools that have produced many good artists, like Maria Eichhorn, Bettina Allamoda, Manfred Pernice, Natascha Sadr Haghighian (and myself), to name but a few. Currently Weissensee also has good students. But perhaps the two institutions are not so successfully structured.
Is there really any need for a third, fourth or fifth art school? As I’ve written before, in 2006:
‘Finally, I call for academies to build new premises every ten years. Moves and uncertain circumstances are part of any good training. Away with the old dust. I am not at all of the opinion that universities/academies should be quiet and peaceful places of concentration. On the contrary, as Foucault said, universities and academies should not be holding pens for young people. Many of my fellow artists – and by no means the worst of them – have never been to art school. I still get a shiver down my spine when I recall a philosophy lesson at CalArts that began with the words: Money back guarantee. That’s the point: a guarantee. That is something no art school/academy can offer. Thank goodness.’
There is no shortage of space in Berlin. A new art school might best be spread over the many empty spaces to be found in the city. The Gemäldegalerie wouldn’t be a bad location: the galleries there are always empty, group tickets are cheaper than paying rent, and students could work in the presence of the Old Masters themselves. A visit to the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) next door would be compulsory, of course.
The Amtsgericht local court building in Wedding is so big that I always ask myself: where are all the officials that would be needed to fill such a neo-Gothic edifice? It would be the perfect place for class meetings. If things move fast, there’s also plenty of space until at least 2016 at the new headquarters of the German secret service on Chausseestrasse. Right across the road there is a large empty lot – the perfect place to reinstall the Temporäre Kunsthalle.
The new art school might be in the city centre, but for a change it could follow the model of a modern academy on the edge of town. An ideal location would be the beautiful, modern, empty halls of the new Berlin Brandenburg airport.
Degree shows could – with a bit of effort – be integrated into the programme of the Berlin Gallery Weekend. And for the school’s open day, art berlin contemporary (abc) would be perfect. There is no shortage of artists, curators or critics in Berlin. It would surely be no problem to find individuals with sufficient teaching experience among them. The former Berlin Biennale curators could do workshops for a semester. And all the other curators in town could be recruited for lectures and studio visits. The huge number of artists – known and unknown – who live and work in Berlin should be invited for guest professorships. A few journalists could be invited, too, and surely some lawyers and accountants would be very interested in a professorship. Collectors could curate shows in their homes or depots, as well as buy work at low prices. All Berliners who commute by plane or train every week in order to teach elsewhere could at last get a teaching job here. This would be a blow to the railways and airlines, but good for the environment.
I would suggest Kasper König as director – he has experience in dealing with chaos and with teaching art, and maybe he would also manage to establish a new Kunsthalle.
In terms of people and spaces, then, Berlin would be fantastic. But do students want a degree at the end of their course? Or even a PhD? Nah, they can forget it. People who want to remain independent – Berlin kind of people – don’t give a damn about titles.
Some kind of prize should be launched via Facebook or Twitter: the ‘Social Media Art Grant’. Something like ‘Germany’s Next Top Artist’ (the television format is still being worked on by worthy Berlin art experts). With the right amount of ‘likes’ and tweets, advertisers would sponsor a grant for the most successful student of the Berlin art school. First prize: a week in Brooklyn, second prize: three weeks in Warsaw, and third prize: two weeks (at least!) in Graz.
How about that?
Monica Bonvicini lives and works in Berlin. She studied at the HdK in Berlin (now UdK) from 1986–93. From 1998–2000 she was a visiting teacher at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California and at CalArts. Since 2003 she has been professor of performing arts and sculpture at Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. Her solo show at Galerie Johann König, Berlin, opens on 26 April, followed later in the year by a show at Galleria Massimo Minini, Brescia.
The art school that Berlin lacks should have neither a fixed location nor a permanent staff. No administrative offices. No senate meetings. No politics. No departments. No admission deadlines, with applications accepted at any time. No one should stay longer than three years, neither students nor teachers. It is mainly for artists with prior experience at other art schools. Perhaps there wouldn’t even be degrees. There should be no president, at most a secretary general to continually reinvent the institution with a handful of organizers. Folding chairs only! Course leaders supervise their group and focus around an idea, a day is agreed when the students should be together, courses are limited to 25 people and meet in the participants’ studios or some other space considered suitable by the group. This core group would then be joined by satellite staff who would come on the agreed days and be paid on the basis of their actual attendance. They are free to visit these gatherings as often as they wish, and if regular participation can no longer be organized the invitation simply runs out, no big deal, no one takes offence. One of the few rules should be: don’t waste anyone’s time. And one other: no fibbing.
Thomas Demand is an artist who lives and works in Los Angeles and Berlin. He is professor of Sculpture at Hochschule für bildende Künste, Hamburg. He currently has solo shows at the Graham Foundation, Chicago until 1 June and at the DHC Art Center, Montreal until 12 May.
Education for all! So, yes, we do need a new art school, definitely, because there certainly isn’t space at the UdK and Weissensee for everyone and more. To be honest, I am surprised about the relationship between photography and art in Berlin. My solution would be to open my own private school in Berlin. Not ‘private’ in the elitist sense of private health insurance. My aim would be the exact opposite. It’s an obsession I have though one I’ve yet to think through properly, an idea I flirt with. In Berlin, photography has already defined itself separately in various schools. I would take a slightly different view and I wouldn’t want to think about gaining state recognition. Unfortunately, I’ve not heard of any such plans among my colleagues in painting and sculpture. And they’re such nice neighbours.
Heidi Specker is an artist living in Berlin. She is professor of photography and media at the Academy of Visual Arts, Leipzig.
Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) Berlin, 18 April 2019.
For years a contentious and highly contested pipe dream, the European Academy of Arts Berlin (EAAB) has at last become a reality. Officially opened yesterday evening in the presence of Berlin’s mayor Udo Kittelmann and Germany’s Federal President Katharina Sieverding, the EAAB is a European pilot project in association with nine European art schools, academies and universities, including among others: the University of Art and Design, Linz; the Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam; the École supérieure d’Art, Grenoble; the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen and the Glasgow School of Art. Realizing the importance of networking and collaboration, these institutions hope that by adding Berlin to their respective locations, they are now able to compete with a number of other art institutions internationally who already offer their brightest students placement within Europe’s most important art metropolis.
With this move, they join a number of elite US universities (NYU, Columbia, Bard, Stanford, Northeastern) that for years have been enabling their students to spend time in Berlin and profit from the city’s lively art scene. Unlike the Americans, the EAAB can rely on its own artist-professors who have been living in Berlin for years and who constitute its core team. For the students, claim the EAAB, besides a broad spectrum of highly qualified teaching, the ties between staff and city open up contacts to international artists, exhibition venues and other art world players.
EAAB professors Thomas Locher and Eva Grubinger commented that they were particularly happy about the school’s location at Hanseatenweg 10 in Berlin’s Tiergarten district. During the Cold War, this complex designed by Werner Düttmann was completed for the then newly-founded West Berlin Academy of Arts in 1960 and now – 30 years after the fall of the Wall – is a historically protected building.
Eva Grubinger is an artist living in Berlin and Linz. She studied at HdK Berlin (1989–95) and is currently professor of Sculpture – Transmedia Space at Linz University of Art and Design. Recent works include the site-specific installation Untitled (Little Boy) (2012) at Museum Upper Belvedere, Vienna. Her solo show at Galerie Tobias Naehring, Leipzig, opens 3 May.
A new art school. The failure of the Berlin Kunsthalle project shows that it is wrong for the discussion to focus on architectural fantasies:
No fantasy images. With his Potteries Thinkbelt concept of 1965, Cedric Price created a model for learning. Interlinking space and content, it’s an infrastructural school of thought and production that nestles within existing landscapes: Teaching concept = Spatial concept.
University = City: various sites in Berlin connect to form a collaborative learning network: studios, project spaces, libraries, theatres, editorial offices, art societies, bookshops, museums, architecture firms, galleries, publishers. The two art schools provide formal administration, issuing degrees if desired. Temporary artist juries are formed to select projects.
Project leader = Teacher. Anyone may propose projects. Completed projects are publicly exhibited and discussed. Learning is exhibiting: What consequences does a project have? Projects last no less than three months and no more than a year. Teaching appointments are temporary and project-specific. No professional professors. Everything is already there. Ready to launch now.
Kuehn Malvezzi is an architecture firm whose projects include: the exhibition architecture for Documenta 11, 2002; the Rieckhallen extension of Hamburger Bahnhof Museum for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2003; the Julia Stoschek Collection in Düsseldorf and the rebuilding and extension of the Lower Belvedere, Vienna (both 2007). They are currently working on the extension of Museum Berggruen in Berlin. From 2006–12 Wilfried Kuehn was a professor for Exhibition Design and Curatorial Practice at HfG Karlsruhe, and is currently a visiting professor for Architecture at the Technical University, Vienna.
Does Berlin need a new art school? I think it does, yes. It’s been a long time since the UdK gave off any good vibes. With a few exceptions, the best people leave after a short stay because they can’t stand it there (for example Stan Douglas, Daniel Richter, Tony Cragg or Gregor Schneider). The machinery is too big, the bureaucracy too powerful, crude and inflexible. The fact that good students keep turning up at the UdK has more to do with the city of Berlin than with the institution. The UdK building is actually very beautiful. If only some fresh air could be let in. If half the professors and three-quarters of the administration were dismissed, there’s a good chance things would improve.
Weissensee is under the radar. One never hears anything about it: no good news, no bad news. When Katharina Grosse was appointed there, I had my hopes. Then, sadly, she left again. Now Gunter Reski is there as a visiting professor of painting. Maybe he could explain what the problem is. On the whole, three permanent professorships are probably not enough to develop enough dynamism. For a good academy, you need a new space and the best possible artists who enjoy teaching. And an administration that sets some store by art.
Christian Jankowski is an artist living in Berlin. He is professor of sculpture (installation, performance, video) at the State Academy of Art and Design, Stuttgart.
I imagine that a new academy in Berlin would be a great opportunity for the next generation of artists. I started my studies at Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem and finished my degree at the Universität der Kunste Berlin (UdK) in 2008 and the approach of each school was very different. At the UdK, there is a great sense of freedom that leaves the responsibility and work ethic to the students themselves. On the other hand I find it problematic that they have what is called a ‘master class’: that the student engages with the same class, professor and specific medium for several years.
I wish Berlin would make more of its advantage of being home to so many artists and intellectuals. I would recommend an academy that hosts a large number of artists and theorists from different fields, thus allowing the student the freedom to engage with and be exposed to different artistic and academic approaches: an academy that emphasizes the process as opposed to the final ‘product’. I say academy and not school as I feel that the theoretical studies and writing skills of the students are important too. There should be no separation in terms of departments. I imagine an academy that is socially engaged within the city and its population, employing artists that actually live and work there. I would be happy to teach at such an academy!
Ariel Reichman is an artist and professor at Talpiot Academy and guest lecturer at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem. In 2008, he studied at UdK Berlin under Hito Steyerl. He has forthcoming solo shows at PSM, Berlin and Petach Tikva Museum of Art, Israel.
A new academy? Yes. Not just for the sake of the institution, however. But for art. Not another arena for power struggles, which rehearses the very things that spoil one’s appetite for art, both in the local scene and in the international art world. Please, not that! Better that an academy be an institution that knows how to institute itself. Meaning a place where ongoing exchanges between students and teaching staff determine the form and content of courses. This is possible. But it depends on all those involved taking the risk of departing from entrenched patterns: student-imitates-master and Oedipus-seeks-superstardom. This is a risk because then, instead of just dealing with power, it means really engaging with art and with one another. That takes courage. Has (anyone in) Berlin got the courage for such a venture?
Jan Verwoert is contributing editor of frieze and lives in Berlin. He teaches at the Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam, de Appel Curatorial Programme, Amsterdam, and H’Midrasha School of Art, Tel Aviv.
My sense that Berlin’s UdK and Kunthochschule Weissensee lack impact and visibility, both locally and internationally, may of course be due purely to personal ignorance. But a visit to their websites only confirms this impression. On the Weissensee homepage, we are greeted by brightly coloured boxes suggesting a non-hierarchic muddle of content, from a lecture on ‘the event as loss’ to a youth camp on ‘water in our lives’. All very interesting, but without pointing to any clear programme or relevance. The unwieldy page offering details of ‘courses in fine art’ at the UdK features a rather unhelpful list and, to the right, a graphic of a familiar yellow tube with black letters spelling UDK instead of UHU. The art university as glue? As a place for tacky, embarrassing jokiness?
One might object that university websites in general, and art school websites in particular, are often disappointing and that any engagement with such institutions should not stop at their PR and information facade. But in the case of Berlin’s two art schools, the online image corresponds all too closely to the way these institutions seem to have come unstuck from the rest of society in the city. Perhaps it is too much to ask for art schools to have an influence that extends beyond their walls, to offer something more than the seminars and lectures organized for their own students. But the lack of relations, the low public profile and the absence from discourse displayed by UdK and Weissensee involuntarily feeds speculation about additional, new, different institutions.
For one thing, there is Berlin’s rapidly internationalizing art scene that is only addressed to a limited extent by the content and programmes of the existing schools, with the exception of classes like those of Josephine Pryde, Hito Steyerl or Olafur Eliasson at the UdK and perhaps the newly founded graduate school there. The scale of demand for ways of presenting and discussing artistic practice that are more open, conducted in English (or multiple languages) and decidedly international, was made clear in 2006–7 by the astonishing success of unitednationsplaza, the ‘exhibition as school’ initiated by e-flux founder Anton Vidokle. For over a year it offered an open programme, with no tuition fees, no curriculum or exams. It was housed in the office rooms above a supermarket at a far from ideal location and attracted those who are largely ignored by the city’s existing institutions, among them many expats, who came in search of Berlin’s connection with international art discourse and often found what they were looking for.
The unitednationsplaza experiment was limited to one year on conceptual grounds, but also, more importantly, for financial reasons. Nonetheless, it made its mark as a potential model for a place where processes are shaped and essentially self-organized by a community of interested individuals under the coordinated supervision of a team of theorists, artists and curators.
More desirable still, of course, would be an institution equipped with the financial means to offer a long-term, sustainable source of income, in a wide range of roles, to many of the cultural and knowledge workers living in Berlin who currently have to commute to other cities in order to be able to afford their lives here. In such a school, everyone would be on a fellowship or scholarship. Meaning that the necessary budget would have to guarantee that all those involved are adequately remunerated for their respective contributions. The agents of research and teaching would not be hierarchical, tied to titles or personalities, but subject to redefinition depending on the situation and the occasion. Rather than generating ‘degrees’ recognized by the authorities of evaluation and accreditation, it would be about creating new forms of cooperation and (counter-)publics as a precondition for new forms of cultural praxis. Instead of indulging in the pseudo-radical rejection of existing institutions such an institution, which could only be called a ‘school’ in the broadest possible sense, would enter into a relation‑ ship of critical reciprocity to universities, academies, museums, independent networks, etc. Such an institution would be free and privileged to frame themes, to develop methods, to form alliances, to interact socially with the city, offering both shelter from the storm and a platform for new departures.
Tom Holert is an art historian, critic and artist living in Berlin. From 2006–11, he was a professor at Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna.
Travel Without Using Artificial Fuel
Number of students admitted: 150
Duration: 2-year Masters programme
A new art education must seek to alter the use of time. It should set up new standards for perception and develop and nourish a chosen trajectory based upon the properties of a projectile or a satellite: north, south, east or west of Berlin. It should let the students choose their means of transportation – walk, bike, ride, sail, fly, levitate – that adheres to the motto: ‘travel without using artificial fuel’.
The school will prepare artists to slow down and find new ways to explain the world. The school’s platform in Berlin should engage a group of artists residing in the city for a two-year period. The task is to formulate and re-define the original motto, and to engage an ambulant student group who respond with projects that challenge and yet follow the raison d’être.
The school should be based within the limits of Brandenburg in a 30 km radius of Berlin Mitte. The art works and their materialization or conceptualization will be as diversified as the group. The final show will take place every two years and will seek to find and explore new and old means of presenting art to an audience.
Ann-Sofi Sidén is an artist who lives in Stockholm and teaches at the Royal Institute of Art. She is currently working on an opera, due for completion in 2015, with composer Jonas Bohlin for the Royal Opera in Stockholm.
The art academy seems to be the last unexplored zone within the field of art. Everything else has been observed and analyzed. With the notion of ‘artistic research’ the spotlight is now on the real nitty-gritty of artistic production – intentionality, procedures of transformation, the curiosity cabinets of artistic decision-making. It is only logical then, that attention should turn to the places where young artists receive their training.
Certain sections of the art world articulate a fetishist and nostalgic longing for purity, freshness and originality, as if academies offer the explicit opportunity to watch the development and emergence of artist subjects (and their works). This is an illusion, as art academies are the first step into the system itself, forming the basis for subsequent networks. Also, the same questions, themes and conflicts are discussed at academies as in the real world ‘outside’ using the same concepts and methods. Granted, certainly not at all academies to the same degree. In my view, such ‘projective’ interest in art academies is also a symptom of a fatigue with particular positions and discourses, with the perceived loss of ‘grand narratives’ and their emancipatory energies. Whoever calls for different forms of art academies and their teaching must also explain what exactly should be new and special about them. Which other concepts should be dealt with? What new visions of the artist subject and of the subject in general, are there? What different concepts should be taught? By all means, let’s discuss these questions. But such a discussion doesn’t call for any new academies.
Thomas Locher is an artist who lives and works in Berlin. He teaches at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen.
When I left the HdK with a masters degree in 1992, one thing was very clear to me: this school cannot be reformed, it can only be closed down and a new school opened. When I came back as a visiting professor for the winter semester of 2008/9, I was surprised how much fun I had. The stuffiness was still there, now paired with fawning art market ambition. But working with the students proved stimulating, so I would like to offer a few thoughts on a new art school in Berlin.
1. The good thing about the old HdK / UdK is the green courtyard. The studios and workshops are excellent, but everything is atomized by its labyrinthine scale and endless corridors – not unlike Kafka’s castle. A new building would be best set in the middle of a green field or disused site – the empty strip left by the Wall, for example, or the airfield in Tegel or Tempelhof. It doesn’t have to be in the centre: the city centre is an old-fashioned concept and has nothing to do with Berlin. Being undisturbed, removed from urban life, is part of working as an artist.
2. The architecture must be straightforward. Take a simple form resembling Bruce Nauman’s Room With My Soul Left Out, Room That Does Not Care (1984), duplicate and interlock: the result would be a two- or three-storey, star-shaped structure with arms radiating out in all directions, creating a large octagonal multifunctional space at the centre. The radiating lines are extended beyond the building itself by scattered studio cubes, designed to fulfil various criteria such as northern light, skylight, interior/exterior; several cubes may also be pushed together as modules. Between the studios and the main building are the workshops and the library, acting as a membrane between studio and teaching/exhibition.
3. ‘We are not painters or sculptors, but artists’ (Marcel Duchamp). There is only one course: art. The studios and functional facilities are open to all, the students use them according to their respective needs.
4. Teaching is not tied to spaces. Students must apply for the studio cubes – they are normally reassigned every term. Students do not belong to any single class, instead organizing their own tutorial meetings. The teaching staff (artists and theorists) propose seminars for which students sign up and where attendance is obligatory.
5. International networking – Topicality. Students and teaching staff organize events on topical issues in art and politics that have a think-tank function extending beyond the school itself. Attendance is not required, out of respect for those students who wish to focus mainly on issues that are highly specialized and only possess direct topicality for them personally.
6. The art school is small. The school has around 250 students and staff. Exchanges with guest students from other countries is an important element. No more BAs and MAs. Students graduate with a show or piece of work. The school has a small staff of administrative employees who perform all necessary tasks independently in consultation with the rector’s office (apart from meetings with the rector, teaching staff have no administrative duties). The post of rector is occupied by one to three artists elected from among the teaching staff.
Sabine Hornig is an artist living in Berlin. Since 1995 she has held several international teaching posts, including visiting professor of sculpture at UdK, Berlin (2008/9). She recently had a solo exhibition at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, and her show at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, opens in October 2013.
Many students from Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Art would like to spend time in Berlin on an exchange. Mostly, this is because of the city, not the school. Even when we recommend specific professors, most of our students end up choosing other, less attractive cities with what they see as more attractive schools. From my outside position, I can only speculate as to the reasons. The schools do not reflect the specific character of Berlin’s art scene: things like internationality, a broad field of discourse and experimental approaches to teaching that are still possible even in the straightjacket applied by the Bologna process. Many influential, potential faculty members for a new art school can be found in Berlin – they are all commuting to other cities to teach.
Nina Möntmann is a curator and professor of Art Theory and the History of Ideas at the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm. She lives in Hamburg and Stockholm.
‘Need’ is perhaps inaccurate, since the city already has two art schools. However, I do believe that Berlin could accommodate a ‘different’ art school – one defined by its explicitness with the local context and its understanding of the many artistic generations, identities, ideologies, histories that make up Berlin. A school able to be free, though rigorous with the task of absorbing what is happening and delivering a critical understanding of the situation. By allowing art to be at the centre of the redefinition of notions crucial for an understanding of experience, time, matter and the social, a school should develop an ability to think through different disciplines and methods that will allow for the emergence of new propositions in culture. A school should be eloquent and speak with a sense of care and risk. One should move away from the stubborn institutional education we so often experience.
Chus Martínez is the chief curator of El Museo del Barrio in New York and professor at the Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz – Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst, Basel. She was head of department and a member of the Core Agent Group of dOCUMENTA (13), chief curator at MACBA, Barcelona (2008–10) and director of the Frankfurter Kunstverein (2005–8).
Close the UdK!
Whatever Berlin might need – be it one, two or many new art schools – the key question will always be: who needs Berlin? After all, Berlin itself doesn’t ‘need’ anything, but I myself may need Berlin, at least as the imaginary horizon of a living environment that gives me what I need: a sense of recognition, fashionable feel-good factors, an urban atmosphere, stress – not too much of any of this, but not too little either. Such individual needs are hard to collectivize, however, since my need for a new art school – because it might offer the opportunity of a new job – may well collide with your need, because this opportunity makes us rivals, attracting further competitors and ultimately altering the living environment, for example by causing further rent hikes. In this way, saying what Berlin needs can easily turn out to be at odds with what I need from the city. The likeably infuriating quality of Berlin is its status as a decentralized centre whose mythical cohesion derives precisely from the fact that its parts hardly communicate with or even know about each other. Initially, then, any further art school would merely perpetuate the existing culture of scattered institutions cultivating their own little gardens.
Imagining what Berlin might need thus implies imagining Berlin as a different kind of city, perhaps as a proper metropolis rather than just a big city; as a hegemonic capital. But who wants that? (And not just for historical reasons.) Hence the appeal of thinking that Berlin needs less of everything: fewer reconstructed Imperial Palaces, fewer Berlin Brandenburg International Airports, fewer tourists, fewer art fairs and maybe also fewer art schools. Close the UdK! Long live Weissensee. But this poverty myth should be mistrusted not only because it is fundamentally untrue but also because it is precisely what keeps more people coming here.
I would not want to abandon the idea of the institution, but I would pursue it as a concept that neither helps to intensify the current decentralized situation nor imagines a new central power with a bright future. Instead, beyond the arena of local politics, it can only be a matter of marking out a horizon of possibility in terms of both structure and content against which the institution thinks about itself – its specific conditions and contexts, and its modus operandi. The idea of the institution always already includes the notion of something shared and of something representing this shared something. What is represented can be understood not only as an interface between the individual and the social, but also as something that itself defines and shapes this dichotomy itself. As a consequence, institutions can always only be experienced both inside and outside of our own consciousness; they condition our wanting and needing, but at the same time they depend on being constantly redesigned and hence fictionalized. For an institution, then, taking itself as a subject for discussion can only mean creating a reflexive fiction in which its contradictory and dubious qualities remain visible. Within such a fiction, rather than constituting an obstacle, the dynamics between individual wants and social wishes, between imagined needing and privileged having, become a precondition for imagining institutions differently: less in the sense of fundamentally flexible institutions for ‘fluid’ democracies with a project-based blending of theory, politics and art; and more in the sense of a form of elitist research into equality. This kind of research would take social, cultural and political differences as its point of departure, consider the connections between them, and adopt a position within these constellations.
Helmut Draxler is an art historian living in Berlin. From 1992–95, he was Director of Kunstverein Munich, and from 1999–2012 he was professor of Aesthetic Theory at Merz Akademie Stuttgart. Since 2012, he has been professor of Art Theory at Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Nuremberg. Draxler has published extensively on contemporary art and cultural theory.
Till Wittwer & Stefan Träger
Imagine the idea of the ‘artist-as-entrepreneur’ but with a different spin: young artists leave art schools with an expanded set of tools and strategies to become plungers on the stock market, investors in venture capital and active players in the world’s economic and financial arenas. This is a draft for a Business School of Art.
Let’s start out by examining the study objectives of the two Berlin art schools. Universität der Künste Berlin (UdK) states: ‘the aim of the formation of fine arts is to prepare talented young people […] to be independent and self-sufficient artists’. Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee (KHB) lists its core aims as: ‘The development of artistic capacity, […] the promotion of artistic individuality’, and promises that ‘in the course of the formation the student shall develop the ability […] to work subject-specific and artistically independent.’
While these statements mention independent artistic work and ‘artistic individuality’ as goals, they do not list as an aim the strategic development of a suitable working, production and distribution environment. It is implied that such an (economic) environment is already provided for (and hence the artist should care solely for the contents of their work). Of course, this hints at the traditional gallery system.
It seems shortsighted to contain the artistic formation exclusively within the realms of a traditional art market. While such an environment may provide relatively stable prefabricated structures for some artists, it also defines artistic practice in constricted terms and confines the artist to a rather passive role within this fabric. The seemingly open structure of artistic formation reveals itself to be surprisingly narrow. The idea of the artist that we learn to be is overtly passive. It carries traces of a narrative describing them as having to be a ‘protected’ maverick in order to be able to fully access their inner forces.
If culture nowadays is considered to be a resource; if artistic production is considered to be the production of social capital and if, therefore, politicians exploit art and culture, it must become an integral part of one’s artistic formation to figure out how to develop strategies for actively positioning oneself as a player within these new constellations of a newly found interest in art and its de-marginalization.
So let’s phrase an objective for a Business School of Art: ‘the artistic formation shall prepare the student to become a creator not only of art but also of its environment. The student shall develop an awareness of the necessity of active participation in both form and content regarding art as well as the art world. The formation will include the acquisition of strategies to make oneself heard and influential on these premises.’
Artists-as-entrepreneurs 2.0 feel limited by the tale of the artist being absorbed in the prefabricated environment of galleries, biennials and the secondary market. They want, rather, to have active momentum, use the current condition – culture as a resource – for weaving their own narrative and utilize this as a vantage point instead of being taken advantage of. The Business School of Art will foster and support this self-conception.
Till Wittwer and Stefan Träger initiated the lecture series Money on Monday at UdK, Berlin. They recently co-founded the initiative shortingart.com – presented during a lecture at Former West, HKW, Berlin – in which they attempt to develop applicable models and strategies for the artist-as-entrepreneur 2.0.
Rather than solving problems, founding a new art school would magnify them. Having two art schools in a city is a valuable enrichment, as they have different curricula and can choose teachers and students from a large pool of applicants. What isn’t working at the moment is getting people to stay. In my view, the appointments procedures are a central problem. If these institutions are to renew themselves and not be obliged to constantly feed off themselves, at least half of the hired board members should be external experts, half of them women – and not only in Berlin. With this approach, the existing art schools could begin to seriously improve their standing.
Karin Sander has been a professor of architecture and art at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich since 2007. She lives and works in Berlin and Zurich. Between 1999–2007, she taught at Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee. Her exhibition at the LehmbruckMuseum in Duisburg opened on 21 March.
Unlike Paris, London, Rome – in fact, unlike most other European cities – Berlin has no one centre. It’s a city of many centres and this for me is the single most important attribute which sets it apart and renders it such a wonderful place to live.
On Friday evenings in Berlin there are exhibition openings all over town, many at opposite ends of the city. This doesn’t deter many: it’s flat, with great public transport, so crossing large distances is easy, especially by bicycle on warm summer nights. Most openings start at 7pm, but they go on past 1am so intrepid exhibition opening goers can take in a good cross-section of art in the city in one Friday night run.
Art in Berlin is just as decentralized as the city. Neither artists, their studios, nor galleries gather in ghettoes and this remains the case even under a marked effort by the political establishment to bring all of Berlin’s most important museums within walking distance of Museum island. A new art school should reflect and reinforce this precious decentrality which has made Berlin such a fertile place for artists.
Even the old European recipe of the Beaux-Arts Art School housed in one central, richly decorated garrison eventually becomes decentralized because it accumulates dependencies through expansion and the inclusion of new disciplines. Why not accept this from the outset and integrate this de-centrality into the very mode de vie of the school?
Our project proposes to distribute the new art school along the route of the Berliner Ringbahn and to connect the school directly via escalators to the platforms of each activated station. The project would begin with four pavilions at each of the Ring’s four main hubs: Ostkreuz, Südkreuz, Westkreuz, and Gesundbrunnen, and would use the trains themselves as mobile connecting corridors. Each of the four main hubs are separated by 15 minutes’ travelling time, just enough time for students to prepare for the next lecture, for tweeting and updating blogs, for class discussions on burning topics, for important updates with a professor, for absorbing Berlin. Classes and discussions could even be timed according to the distance between pavilions!
The essential interior spaces of the new art school are those within the trains themselves and between the trains and the escalators to the pavilions. These are not corridors but connecting spaces which link the students to the school and the school to every corner of the city. Each time the school expands, it connects another pavilion to another station along the Ringbahn, perhaps choosing the next location according to specialization, professor or property prices. As it expands it weaves itself into the city’s very fabric. Never the garrison, never the colossus but the Ring Art School. All aboard!
Michelle Howard is an Irish architect and principal of constructconcept, a Berlin based firm whose work ranges from participative building to consultation on large public projects with a focus on art and architecture. She holds a professorship at the Institute for Art and Architecture in the Academy of Fine arts, Vienna.
In recent years, an important part of Berlin’s attractiveness for young artists has been that you don’t come here to study. You study somewhere else, and then dream of going to Berlin once you’ve finished. In Berlin, you think, you can become the artist you’re meant to be. You’ll find a space, create a network, make something of yourself and have fun at the same time. No art school can take responsibility for this process. What it can do is open windows to the possibilities of the world and provide students with models to then embrace, reject or ignore. Which thus prepares individuals for what they will have to do by themselves. Students in art schools should continue to dream of going somewhere else, someplace really happening. They shouldn’t look for all-in-one packages. For Berlin’s sake, let’s hope artists continue coming here, once they’ve finished their educations in whatever backwater or capital it might be. And let’s hope Berlin will continue to keep its side of the bargain: cheap rents, open structures, cool clubs and serendipity.
Jan Svenungsson is a Swedish artist who lives and works in Berlin and Vienna. He came to Berlin on a grant, stayed, and has since taught in Sweden, Norway, Finland and the UK. He is currently a professor at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. He has never taught in Germany.
Some thoughts – about new academies in Berlin and everywhere …
1. Yes – the world needs … and so does Berlin 1. Teaching teaching as teaching can teach … 2. Outside and inside the box, at the same time 4. Occupy space and mind – close encounters of ALL kinds 7. Critique of the critical critique 6. Experimentation and new technologies, and social media – beyond trans, inter, intra, supra and jargon 8. Free education, free as air and water 8. Free education. Free as air, and water and free Internet 7. ‘Omnibus intellect’ for all
Pash Buzari is a New York-based artist. Recent exhibitions include the Guggenheim Museum Lab New York 2011, and the Museum for Modern Art, Warsaw 2012. He has taught at various institutes, most recently the Cooper Union School of Art, New York. He is currently planning, in collaboration with others, to establish the New York Free University (www.nyfu.org).
There’s a story, or rather a moment, in the history of Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design in London called ‘The Locked Room’ that has come back to haunt me. Taking place between 1969–73 in a white room, the experiment started with 12 undergraduate students on the Sculpture course who were given identical materials and instructed that there would be no talking and no feedback or direction from the tutors. Later projects involved controlled periods of inactivity, broken up by discussions of the students’ work and short periods of collaboration. Despite the obvious problematics of this brief psychodrama, there is something in this experiment that draws me in – perhaps a sense of the commitment to a process, one that undoubtedly contains a sense of the unknown and the importance of not shying away from unknowns. As Peter Kardia, one of the founders and teachers of the course put it: ‘I wanted to put them in an experiential situation where they couldn’t grasp what they were doing.’
I am not interested in a reenactment of this experiment, nor a nostalgic return to it, but there is something in this thinking, in this fascination with some process of setting up a scenario and seeing it unfold that intrigues me and that I would like to see again. I don’t necessarily think this is something that would make sense within the standard BFA/MFA format. Rather, in a school in an expanded sense where something of this sentiment, curiosity and uncontrollability is explored. Now that is something I would like to see in Berlin – and I would gladly be a part of it.
Annika Eriksson is an artist who lives in Berlin. She is a professor at the Art Academy of Bergen, Norway. Since 1995 she has been combining her artistic practice with teaching, primarily in Scandinavia.
First published in Issue 9