The co-research process is determined by the achievement of expertise on issues around inequality in art schools. Such a qualification allowed us to lay the foundations for participatory research in the field. For this purpose, in total seven groups of co-researchers have been engaged with teachers and students individually affilitated to each of the participating art schools. Along to regular gatherings, the co-researchers developed an own research-design relevant to their field and closely related to the main inquiry of Art.School.Differences. These gatherings, held at each of the participating art schools, were structured in five colloquia with talks by experts, which, while primarily targeting co-researchers, were open to the public. The formative moments of the colloquia were further enriched by a set of texts provided to the co-researchers by the research team in form of five thematic readers. On the basis of the dicussions led at the colloquia, these materials have been further developed and elaborated to a five-volume reader available in hard copy, digital, and open access.

For the description of the co-research projects see below

For more information on the five colloquia, please refer to the following reports:
Bericht zum ersten Kolloquium 4.10.2014 (only available in German)
rapport sur le deuxième colloque 28./29.11.2014 (available in German and French)
Report on third colloquium 27.2.2015
Report on fourth colloquium 4.4.2015
Report on fifth colloquium 3.7.2015

Also refer to PARCOURS for the workshops offered by the co-researchers during the final symposium

HEAD – Genève Projects

How to survive in the Swiss art school jungle
The following project by Daniel Zea, Hyunji Lee, and Andrea Nucamendi is concerned with inequalities faced by non-European students at Swiss art schools. Defining themselves as a collective, this research group identifies several administrative and everyday challenges structuring the marginalization of non-European students at HEAD – Genève that may include: money, student visas and permits, language, artistic and conceptual references, and the lack of courses that transmit basic technical skills. While focusing on the students’ lived experiences, their survival strategies, and their everyday and artistic responses to discrimination, the collective also asks: How could a more just treatment of non-European students contribute to a more successful internationalisation of the art school? These questions are addressed through the creation of a web-series in which non-European students and teachers speak about their experiences and (strategic) responses to discrimination. This video documentation seeks to (1) raise consciousness about and make visible the mechanisms of exclusion, (2) to equip non-European students with tools to perceive and cope with discrimination, and (3) to think about the ways in which art schools could enhance their process of internationalisation, notably by reflecting on integral and structural inequalities within the curriculum.
Please refer to vimeo to view the web-series.

Alterity put into center
Martine Anderfuhren, Patricio André, Claire Bonnet, Fabio Fernandes Da Cruz, and Ivan Gulizia are from HEAD – Genève’s department of Visual Communication and seek to initiate a series of events that stress the ways in which students differ from the institutional assumed norm. In their preliminary inquiry, the research team identified strategies used over the course of the study that students deploy to tame or curtail their alterity. After developing a definition of alterity, they located five dynamics – assimilation, concealment, confrontation, resistance, and autonomy – which were measured with the help of a self-administrated questionnaire. The team’s initial plan to develop an adequate method to be used by faculty and students in response to perceived alterity within the art school increasingly gave way to the question of how an informal networking and mentoring system could be developed, whereby students may mentor each other. Also aiming to engage the student and faculty body as a whole, the first event planned will be announced with a fire alarm to signal the urgent need to question the institutional norms and processes that suppress difference. Afterwards, further unannounced events will follow to spark exchange and conversations on the existing diversity within the student and teaching body. The aim is to make alterity a functioning principle that is conscious and present throughout institutional processes. In this way, the organizers aim to implement and then grow the new consciousness of alterity to spread to other departments of the school and be taken up by further student cohorts.

HEM Genève – Neuchâtel Projects

coll12 copie

The socio-cultural & socio-economic backgrounds of non-European students
Patrik Dasen and Soojin Lee conduct an ethnographic study that investigates the sociocultural and socioeconomic backgrounds of non-European students at the HEM –Genève. They are particularly interested in their musical trajectories and their lived experiences in Geneva. The study is based on semi-structured narrative interviews that focus on a broad range of issues such as the students’ families, backgrounds, their current financial situation in Geneva, and their relationship to administration both institutional and federal (regarding visa issues etc.). A preliminary analysis of these in-depth conversations complicated generalized assumptions of the comfortable, upper-class, and privileged position of international music students. While evaluating the students’ everyday needs and intense institutional struggles in Switzerland, the researchers also aim to (1) valorise the sociocultural potential that non-European students represent for the school, as well as (2) examine student-teacher interactions via interviews with the teaching staff. The data generated will aid in the sensitisation and the opening of critical debates among and between students, teachers, and administrative staff concerning processes of discrimination at the heart of the institution.

Solfège – a universal language?
Victor Cordero, Bernardo Di Marco, and Micha Seidenberg suggest that solfège, or ear training, as it is currently understood and taught at Swiss music academies needs to be profoundly reconsidered. Contrary to popular notions about the universality of music theory, the theoretical premises of solfège are far from universal. Rather, there is a variety of underestimated non-Western pedagogic traditions that theorize musical processes in ways that have not made it into Western institutions of higher education. Based on qualitative interviews with students, professors, and executives, as well as the statistical analysis of data by HEM – Genève, the group explores the structural exclusions of mostly non-European music students who were not socialized into the inherently Euro-American solfège tradition of reading or writing a score after hearing music. This is problematic as solfège plays a decisive role in the admission process at Swiss music academies and its testing demands competences acquired prior to entering higher education. By assessing students based on these supposed universal cognitive competences, music academies are prone to overlook much artistic potential. It is thus the object of this study to examine emergent conflicts from HEM – Genève’s goal to attract and integrate these international students.

ZHdK Projects

"good designers"

The notion of good design in higher design education
Sarah Owens, Tingshan Cavelti, and Allaina Venema work to interrogate the figure of the good designer and the seemingly universal nature of good design with its implicit claim to moral integrity. Starting from the BA course in Visual Communication at ZHdK, they ask how the good designer is constructed within professional discourses and the logic of tertiary education. A preliminary analysis of design journals and conversations with students showed that the most celebrated designers tend to be able-bodied, white men who are represented as design mavericks or design service providers. Inasmuch as these figures function as role models at German Swiss design schools, it needs to be asked, how do these ideals shape and homogenize student professional identities? And to what extent does their construction perpetuate the internationally recognized Swiss style?
The project thus aims at questioning and interrupting this seemingly natural, re-productive cycle by examining curricula, teaching materials, and by instigating critical conversations among students and teachers over unspoken understandings of good design and related key terms such as good taste, talent, or creativity. Finally, the norms constructed within admission procedures, the presentation of final works, employment strategies, or the criteria for course self-evaluation shall be discussed and, while always considering the school’s institutional framework, possibly modified.

Notions of one’s own expression in grammar school art education
Julia Kuster, Laura Ferrara, Lorenz Bachofner, and Nora Schiedt interrogate how grammar school art educators understand the phrase own expression, or eigener Ausdruck, in art education as well as related key terms like individuality, autonomy, or authenticity. They are concerned with the inclusions and exclusions produced by these understandings. Based on their own experiences as former grammar pupils, MA students of Art Education at ZHdK, and as future grammar school art educators, the group sees itself positioned at a crossroads to change how aesthetic tastes, norms and values have been reproduced.
Their preliminary analysis shows that finding one’s own expression amounts to more than a learning target. Inscribed in grammar school curricula, this phrase reflects ideas about artist originality that hail from the project of Enlightenment. In practice, expression is equated with originality and contrasted with imitation: e.g. teachers mention a pupil’s manga-style drawings as an example for lacking own expression. The group has been collecting, visualizing, and mapping thoughts, questions, pictures, and teaching materials to serve as a guide for further interviews (at Kantonsschule Küsnacht) and is continually extended by examples that art educators contribute from their own teaching practice. Based on this mapping, the group envision the production and dissemination of digital and analogue leaflets aimed at sensitising art instructors at other institutions.

Inclusion and Exclusion through mentoring in artist education
Romy Rüegger and Yvonne Wilhelm are examining the mentoring format in the BA program, Art and Media, and the MA in Fine Arts at ZHdK. Mentoring consists of a series of one-on-one conversations between mentor and student or, possibly, artist group. The mentor, an experienced artist, accompanies a prospective artist (or group) in developing their practice and recommends references, work methods, decision-making tools, etc. Inevitably, these conversations are shaped by differences in artistic socialization and professionalization that foster mutual preferences, discriminations, inclusions, and exclusions. Given that mentoring has been a tool to sustain cultural differences, to perpetuate the existing canon, and reproduce exclusive relationships within the field of art, the project addresses the potential bonds and power relations at the heart of this intimate form of pedagogy.
Due to different personal and institutional positions, Romy Rüegger (as an assistant and BA tutor) and Yvonne Wilhelm (as a lecturer in the MA program) follow slightly different approaches. From the outset, they documented their mentoring experiences and research strategies on a semi-public blog. Their sporadic exchange with mentored, co-researching students will continue and the results, of both mentors and students, will be shared on a second semi-public blog. Furthermore, in the spring of 2016 a workshop on the mentoring format will be developed and offered as artistic outcome and performative presentations on artistic research are being contemplated.