To the fine art bachelor graduates
It took a virus and just a couple of weeks to turn your studies upside down. Let me recap.
When you came to us to study fine art you gave us permission to challenge you. I hope you now–at the end of your three years–will agree that we have.
Our approach is to inspect your process, disrupt it if needed. We limit your possibilities and have you negotiate with your fellow students for a few square meters of gallery space. We add a temporal component to your work process in the form of courses, exhibitions and deadlines, implying that there is a beginning and an end to a work process (there isn’t).
On top of that we urge you to play and make mistakes, fail and try again. Rinse and repeat.
All this and more makes fine art studies hard and difficult, but that’s the point. It’s at the core of our pedagogical method, for all kinds of reasons. It’s all part of a bigger plan.
But we didn’t plan for this. The obstructions that followed from the pandemic are too many and too extensive to be part of a constructive, challenging pedagogy. They are debilitating and destructive. Your independent life as students with a social and physical framework that is built around YOU and what YOU DO together with your peers has changed.
Many of you moved back home to live with your family, in your old room, and your old roles. Some of you can’t afford a decent computer or don’t have access to high-speed Internet. Many of you are stuck in a student apartment that was built to rest, ingest and recuperate, not to live. Some of you got sick.
In your March 25th letter you wrote that a digital exhibition was an “easy way out”, and that your education hasn’t prepared you for making art in the digital domain. You are not wrong.
That you nevertheless mustered the energy and desire to show your work here is simply remarkable, and let me say from all teachers in the collegiate here at fine art: we applaud you.
If the virus permits we will meet at your physical graduation show some time in the future. In the meantime, and for a long time to come, make sure your recent experiences are not forgotten. Society needs alternative models of life from artists that listen, observe, learn, debate and express–now more than ever.
Arne Kjell Vikhagen, Programme Manager, Fine Art, HDK-Valand
Read more about the Bachelor of Fine Art Program: hdk-valand.gu.se/english/education/bachelor-s-programmes/fine-art-bfa
The MFA Fine Art Programme at HDK-Valand was re-structured in 2018. It now emphasises questions of publicness and of the role of the artist. Students are taught to develop investigative methods to – and through – production informed by critical approaches to how their praxis construct publics.
When the programme was re-written a key decision made was to part with the conventions of ‘the degree show’. Despite over 30 years of scholarship on exhibition making and curating, a research area at HDK-Valand, literature on student exhibitions, including the degree show, is only now appearing. As a critically under-theorised genre of exhibition the degree show is often conditioned as a ‘public showcase’ through which a year-group of artists ‘emerge’. The exhibition, thus, becomes designated as a sifting framework through which institutional passaging is ritualised.
This programme is concerned to support artists to challenge such conventional systems within art but is of course, nevertheless, embroiled in them. The exhibition At this Point to be held this Spring at Göteborgs Konsthall was set to be foundational for how the programme would advance its concerns about exhibition production and its possibilities in the hands of artists. Imagined and described below by the students themselves, let’s consider what, in a shortened version, they intended:
‘…The works presented here after two years of research become starting points for dialogue and speculation – not stagnating in their displays, instead ready to be activated. …Transformation is what is happening around us after all, be it climate change, democratic unrest, city redevelopment or simply a re-evaluation of what we once thought was true. What we are calling for here is a mobilisation, an active awareness of the potential in coming together to rethink our futures.’
At this point – a deeply complicated time that amplifies many of the pre-existing conditions of our time and produces new biases and exclusions – the call for such mobilisation has to persevere and be purposed. The most appropriate platforms to achieve this are still to be produced. In the making of them the artist needs to continue as thoughtfully, as critically, as cooperatively, and as generously as these students have taught themselves to be.
Jason E. Bowman, MFA Fine Art Programme Manager, on behalf of the MFA Fine Art Programme and its community.
Read more about the Master of Fine Arts programme in Fine Arts: hdk-valand.gu.se/english/education/master/fine-art-mfa