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Academy of Fine Arts Vienna passes development plan

»Artists are Researchers«
March 2005

On9 March, the University Council of the Academy of Fine Arts Viennapassed a development plan submitted by the Rector's office. Thus aprogram takes effect that provides entirely new accents for the futureof the 300-year-old institution.

"Artists are researchers, and researchers are artists," says Rector Dr.Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen. "With our development plan, we provideconditions so that more artists will be able to work at the interfaceof art and science." The Academy has been a university since 1998. Butit is only now that the basis is provided for artistic research andartistic-scientific theory.

This is reflected in a new third stage in the course of studies inwhich students can obtain a doctoral degree. For this purpose,interdisciplinary colloquia will be established that address centralissues of contemporary culture. They will consider changed notions ofart and science practice, as well as a new understanding ofconstructing space. A third focus will be new segments of the public inthe postindustrial knowledge society. Rector Stephan Schmidt-Wulffensees a close interrelation between these subjects and finds a newsocial position of visual art defined in this three-section approach.

With this ambitious new program, academic education, particularly inthe first semesters, gains great importance. Students will have to beprepared more intensively for the intellectual challenges they willhave to meet in the course of their studies. According to RectorSchmidt-Wulffen, this implies a shift from individualistic tocumulative knowledge. Hence the Academy, as one of the firstGerman-speaking art schools, will introduce a bachelor curriculum forartists. As from 2006, students will be taught practical andtheoretical basics in an interdisciplinary manner within the firstthree years of study: planning provides for a common introductory yearfor artists, stage designers, architects, and teachers. Specializationwill begin with the master programs, of which six are in planning,aside from architecture and stage design also communication/arteducation, media studies, and cultural studies. Schmidt-Wulffenemphasizes that the issue is not "a small-time copy of universitycourses." The Academy thus defines fields of artistic specializationprompted by developments in art over the past decades: concept art,documentary tendencies in art photography, or interventionistpractices. Programs will be open between bachelor and master courses,permitting students to change from art to stage design or fromarchitecture to critical studies. The Rectorate thus responds to thefact that only few graduates have become protagonists of the art scenewhereas a majority was successful in other creative professions.

"The image of the artist has changed a lot meanwhile, and we must no beguided by the traditional art system in our planning," saysSchmidt-Wulffen.

The new program also requires sacrifices: Thus the Rectorate hasdecided to reduce art education programs and to close down thedepartment of textile design - a course of study that is offered by theUniversity of Applied Arts anyway. Synergies with other Austrian artschools have hitherto not been fully used, Rector Schmidt-Wulffenobserves. Talks with prospective, also international partners have onlyjust begun. Although this seminal development plan articulates decisivemilestones of future development, it is not the final word and maystill be revised and elaborated prior to financing negotiations withthe Ministry of Education next year. For it is at the negotiation tablewith the Minister that the decision will be made in how far she willsupport the ambitious program proposed by the Academy.