Switzerland & Southcaucasus

Author: susann

Susann is a curator and author. She regularly publishes contemporary films and videos from Western Asia on www.treibsand.ch. She also teaches art theory and contemporary art at ZHdK, Dept. Cultural Analysis.


  Painting Department, Art College, Sukhum/i

In the course of the discussions, it seemed to me that our discussion had assumed that there is a fundamental difference, when, in fact, there is a more gradual one: Also in education in Switzerland, at least as far as art education is concerned, it is necessary to know the techniques of screen printing, painting, and ceramics etc.  In my view the difference in Swiss education lies in the practice, that the techniques follow a content much earlier in the institution’s curriculum. Both processes – learning a technique that can transmit a content, as well as reflecting about a content which a technique can realise – are conducted in parallel at the ZHdK. In this way, it seems to us, it is more likely to be able to rid oneself of technique in favor of a content in order to create a new content – a not insignificant circumstance when it comes to the horizon of creativity and ingenuity, which we consider an important medium of social action to be expanded.


      Sculpture Departement,  Art College, Sukhum/i

One question that often cropped up in conversations with the students and teachers from Sukhum/i was that of technique. In general, at least I understand, Sukhum/i’s academia assumes that first a basic technique has to be learned (building a figure, perspective, techniques of painting, sculpture, graphics …), before an individual can develop its personal talent. That means, ability is absolutely necessary to go beyond, whereas in Europe the opposite attitude has existed for some time.


Art Academy Suchum/i

Due to this very comprehensible process, it seems urgent to invite the cooperation partner to be equally involved in the leadership of the Bülach part of the exchange. How / by what means this can be prepared, remains to be worked out. One possibility is to agree on a content and to work on each content with the resources available and the personal interests of each student. In this way, Sukhum/i and Zurich student’s familiar (academic) structures will begin to mix.

Looking for new things

  View form Sukhum/i’s Art College

In the course of the process I try to describe, it became apparent that planning our collaboration in such a way that it left the initial starting point or subject open, resulted in exactly those hierarchical problems that one theoretically, in the honest conviction, sought to avoid: that there is always somebody who will take the lead. In most constellations, it was the students from Zurich who quickly drove the open process in a certain direction to get out of perplexity.

There were also structural reasons for this:  The team from Zurich had already met several times, before the cooperation partners came along.  And these came from different institutions. Equally strong was the fact that our cooperation partner lives in an isolated territory and was therefore open-minded, even wished for, something new – but actually we did as well!

First morning in Sukhum/i


Most participants, including myself, appear one hour early for breakfast. – There was some annoyance in the air since yesterday – some students disagreed with the plan that we, the lecturers, tried to propose to them during our train journey from Tbilisi yesterday. To them, it seemed too strict,  too abrupt, we were told. It was also criticized that a plan, as soon as it had arrived in our heads, would be hard to drop. In addition, and most importantly, the students thought, that an initial idea would leave the partners no space for their own proposals. They would be overrun, and that would be exactly the “colonial attitude” we normally would criticise. Some students expressed themselves less explicitly. Apparently we had been unable to convincingly communicate our concern.

In retrospect, however, it is clear to me that both sides were right, given their own horizon of experience. We lecturers had already collaborated with unknown partners many times, and always had found it beneficial to have an idea that could develop in the encounter. The students, on the other hand, were careful, and this was reasonable and cautious.

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