Activities > Publications > MaHKUzine #5

MaHKUzine #5, Summer 2008

Too many conferences currently being organized by art academies draw attention to the recent development of PhD’s in art trajectories. Yet an even more important issue today pertains to the specificity of MA Fine Art programs of art academies. After all, it is the master’s program, focused on research, that prepares artists for a possible PhD trajectory; it is the master’s program that offers artists various perspectives on their professional careers; and it is the master’s program and its strong emphasis on the specificities of its curriculum that force the bachelor’s program to reflect on the particular structure of its own curriculum.

Moreover, in spite of the obligation to implement the Bologna rules by 2010, many European countries interpret the concrete establishment of the master’s program in various ways. In some countries, a one-year program is offered, while other countries concentrate on a two-year program. Some countries have had master’s programs in Fine Art for many years, whereas others hardly adhere to the deadline for the implementation of a master’s program.

These clear-cut urgencies indicate a definite need for an international symposium addressing the issue of the specificity of the MA Fine Art programs. In order to explore these questions further the Utrecht Graduate School of Visual Art and Design (MaHKU) started a long- term collaboration project with the Brussels Sint Lukas Academie, an academy which, similar to MaHKU, offers a one-year MA program in Fine Art. A series of meetings last year between lecturers from the Sint Lukas Academy and the MaHKU generated a number of additional questions. It turned out that a variety of issues could be categorized in three sub-categories: the student perspective or the question of competencies; the lecturer’s perspective or the question of specific didactic strategies; and last but not least, the perspective of the institutional environment where the interaction between lecturer and student takes place. Precisely these three perspectives – addressing the same issue from different points of view – are departure points for the symposium

A Certain Ma-ness (Amsterdam, Spring 2008) organized by both academies in collaboration with VCH De Brakke Grond, Amsterdam.   
During the first two presentations (Jan Verwoert, Clementine Deliss) the perspective of MA-competencies is the starting point. The issue pertains to whether it is possible to map the various skills required for the MA-program particularly with regard to a reflective and critical attitude, and a conception of both knowledge production and research. How can we assess these competencies? Could it be that specific, rhetorical qualities are decisive? What will happen to traditional skills such as mastery of technique? Is the artist unskilled despite having followed the graduate program or are traditional skills reformulated during the course of the program and its critical studies? What do critical and contextualizing skills mean for the situation of the academy as such? Is the graduate art academy eventually nothing more than a bastion of the neo-liberal art system as is often the case with prominent American MFA program’s, or is the academy still clearly defined as an outpost for a culture-critical awareness?

During the next two presentations (Simon Sheikh, Mick Wilson) the perspective shifts to didactic strategies. Can one determine how a MA curriculum is characterized? What are adequate didactic strategies and educational models, and how do they differ from a BA program? What are the differences and similarities between the various European MA Fine Art programs? How does the Bologna-ruled, curriculum-based program and its seminars, lectures, and various methods and bodies of knowledge relate to the still dominant studio-based paradigm with its rituals of tutorials and studio visits? How do we prevent a more topical discourse based on critical studies and artistic research becoming canonized into a novel form of academia? Finally, how do the current educational strategies and models relate to the research practice of lecturers? In other words, how could the lecturer’s own artistic research be strategically deployed in the curriculum?

The question of the position of one’s own artistic research leads us also to the theme of the research environment. Is it the task of the academy to develop a specific artistic research environment? How should such an experimental research environment be facilitated? How does such a research environment relate to the artistic field mostly determined by the free market system? Is it the potential of the experimental environment as one of the last asylums for deviant forms of knowledge production (or thinking) that made a great number of curators decide in recent years to proclaim the academy as the starting point for their exhibition projects? Investigating the issue of the academy as field of possibilities from the perspective of the Graduate School appears urgent. In other words, in what way – political, facilitative, infrastructural – could the Graduate School contribute to the development of a research climate in art education? These questions are approached during A Certain Ma-Ness in two ways. First, artists Tiong Ang and Aglaia Konrad developed a presentation in the exhibition space of VCH De Brakke Grond parallelto the themes of the symposium. The exhibition shows the interaction between the research of the lecturer (Tiong Ang, MaHKU and Aglaia Konrad, Sint Lukas) and of the student (Filip Gilissen, Sint Lukas, Joris Lindhout, MaHKU) as a didactic tool for creating a dynamic research environment within the current educational system (The visual material printed in MaHKUzine 5 is a series of impressions of this parallel exhibition). Secondly, Bart Verschaffel’s talk, Willem de Greef’s introduction, and the presentation of the Utrecht Consortium (see Research Reports) all elaborate further on the conditions and possibilities of an artistic research environment. It was Ute Meta Bauer at the Vienna School of Art who was one of the first people in the art academy field to address these questions and issues in the context of institutional preconditions. Therefore, she opens the symposium A Certain Ma-ness with a keynote statement. 
Read or download MaHKUzine #5 at ISSUU  

MaHKUzine, Journal of Artistic Research

Editorial Board

Henk Slager (General editor)
Annette W. Balkema
Arjen Mulder
Bibi Straatman

Final editing Annette W. Balkema
Language editing Jennifer Nolan
Translations Global Vernunft
Design Christiaan van Doccum, MaHKU/MA Editorial Design


MaHKU is part of the European Artistic Research Network, together with the Helsinki School of Art, Malmo School of Art, Gradcam (Dublin), Slade School of Art, London and Vienna School of Art. 


  • Ute Meta Bauer, director Visual Arts program, MIT, Cambridge MA
  • Willem de Greef, director Sint-Lukas Academy, Brussels
  • Clementine Deliss, director Future Academy, Edinburgh
  • Simon Sheikh, lecturer Critical Studies, Malmo School of Art
  • Bart Verschaffel, professor of Philosophy, Ghent University
  • Jan Verwoert, professor Piet Zwart Institute Rotterdam
  • Mick Wilson, Dean Gradcam, Dublin