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40 Years of Art in Context

Press release


40 Years of Art in Context. Positions, Intersections, Commentaries

Christoph Balzar, Frederik Becker, Vivian Chan, An-Chi Cheng, Wen Ling Chung, Valeria Fahrenkrog, Katja Felle, Josephine Freiberg, Nika Grigorian, Katharina von Hagenow, Christiane Hamacher, Christina Harles, Hengame Hosseini, Claudia Hummel, Jane Hwang, Ismail Karayakupoglu, Nicole Florence Marc, Dafne Narvaez Berlfein, Kerstin Podbiel, Mio Okido, Natalia Rodzra, Costanza Rossi, Misa Saito, Pablo Santacana Lopéz, Grischa Stanjek, Sebastian Steinböck, Pegah Tanha, Anastasia Usatova

The Institute for Art in Context at the Berlin University of the Arts was a brainchild of 1970s West Berlin. Starting with the Artists Congress held in 1971, the exhibition traces the genesis of what was initially described as a ›Test Model for Artists’ Further Education‹. It was April 1978 when the first intake of students arrived to take the degree course, which was taught then on Köthener Straße, near Potsdamer Platz, the latter a wasteland at the time, bordered by the Berlin Wall. The declared aim of the test model was to make the arts more democratic, i.e. to make institutions of art and culture accessible to all; to encourage artistic expression and practice also among ›non-artists‹; and so to use the power of art to bring the concerns and struggles of marginalised and disprivileged sections of society to public attention. Equally, it aimed to redefine and broaden the scope of cultural work, so as to assure artists new openings and opportunities to intervene in public life, as well as a living wage.  

The exhibition presents the major milestones in these forty years of educational progress, the origins of which owe much to the left-wing views and social criticism of a small band of committed teaching staff. Among them was Katja Jedermann, who significantly shaped the degree course from 1980 to 2012 and was also an early member of the nGbK. Her engagement facilitatedmany intersections between the Institute for Art in Context and the nGbK. In turning the spotlight on the two institutions’ long-standing cooperation, the exhibition offers an enlightening retrospective on the relevance, then as now, of the issues, discourse and artistic ventures advanced and thrashed out between 1978 and 2018.     

Audio-visual finds from the archive of the Institute for Art in Context complement the projects and publications on display. Art pieces and interventions by past and present students at the Institute afford additional commentary on, and activities around, the documentary show. And a film workshop integrated in the exhibition perpetuates the work of the archive.