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How to work

No word better sums up the complex conflict situation of the Corona pandemic and the concomitant restrictions on public and private life than the word “together”, which encapsulates both our danger and our opportunity. Only together can we fight the pandemic; at the same time, togetherness in the sense of physical proximity must be avoided at all costs. This is therefore reflected in the title of the semipublic research festival held at the end of June 2020 as a collaboration between the Experimental Design studio under Prof. Jesko Fezer with the Kunstgewerbemuseum of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin as part of the series of events entitled Design Lab. It is this “togetherness” that forces itself into the foreground: (How) do we (want to) work (together) (as (socially engaged) designers (students and neighbours)) (in neoliberal times)? Here, also, the students, guests, and interested parties were only able to come together for rounds of talks, presentations, debates, and workshops at a safe distance, enabled by digital platforms – this had all the usual advantages and disadvantages of technology, and presumably also led to the rather restricted number of participants.

The festival ran on for three weeks. It proved its worth most of all in terms of uniting theoretical discourse with concrete and even personal aspects. This manifested itself both in the content and in the fine details that appear to be part and parcel of the new normality (Lucy Kimbell, for instance, had to end her lecture promptly in order to put her child to bed at the regular time). In dialogue with Guy Julier, Professor for Design Leadership at Aalto University, the director of the Institute for Social Design of the University of Arts London had previously spoken about realities, opportunities, and possibilities of social design, taking into account the different situations for students and designers in Great Britain and Finland.

A week previously, Valentina Karga and Jesko Fezer had described the German perspective in their evening talk, entitled “Discussing Towards an Ethics of Care”. Based on a paper composed by Esteve Corbera Elizalde, Isabelle Anguelovski, Jordi Honey-Rosés, and Isabel Ruiz-Mallén, it was concerned with how, under the circumstances created by the pandemic (which – as Karga affirmed – has only made visible the fears and crises already present) one might deal with production pressures, precarious livings, and individual and structural problematic situations.

In the wider context, this and other lectures included a focus on the conditions of (invisible) care work, both private and professional. Contexts in which this appeared included the talk by Felix Vogel; here, it was supplemented by the fundamental question of how one distinguishes between productive and reproductive work and an analysis of the neoliberal mechanisms of knowledge production. In this context, social design has the opportunity to highlight abuses and, in the best instance, to contribute to change, or – and this was also frequently discussed – to do the opposite and, through intelligent solutions, to contribute to stabilising, rather than changing, inherent structures of injustice.

What social design might look like in the context of care was illuminated in, for instance, the lecture by HFBK graduate Skadi Sturm. In her video talk, she opened up the Archiv der Begegnungen (archive of encounters). This consisted of eight cases filled with artistic interpretations created in a number of workshops held at the M.1 in Hohenlockstedt under the curatorship of Sascia Bailer for people who undertake care work, either professionally or in a private capacity. These cases can now be borrowed from the community library, making them the best example of the essential elements required in order for social design to succeed: accessibility, ease of understanding, and inclusion.

Week #1: Creative Work and Exhaustion, Pelin Tan (Architektin, Kunsthistorikerin, Mardin), Silvio Lorusso (Künstler, Designer, Forscher, Rotterdam), Dr. Claudia Banz (Design Kuratorin Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin), Velvetyne Type Foundry (Grafiker*innen Paris), Airi Triisberg (Kuratorin, Autorin und Pädagogin, Tallinn), IG Bildende Kunst (Wien), Designers + Cultural Workers Union (Artiusts, Designers, London), Hans-Christian Dany (Künstler, Autor, Hamburg), Brave New Alps, Martina Dandolo, Flora Mammana (Designer*innen, Forscher*innen, Rovereto), Arts of the Working Class (Obdachlosenkunstzeitschrift Berlin), Nobody is an island (Designer*innen, Wien), Florian Schmidt (Professor für Designkonzeption und Medientheorie, Dresden), Sebastian Schmieg (Künstler, Berlin) , Angela McRobbie (Department Media, Communications and Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths University of London)

Week #2: Care Work and Precarity, Studiengruppe Informationsdesign (Burg Giebichenstein, Halle), Vivian Tauchmann (Social Designerin, Leipzig), Onomatopee (Amy Gowen & Joanette van der Veer, Kuratorinnen, Publizistinnen, Eindhoven), Prof. Valentina Karga (HFBK Hamburg), Felix Vogel (Kunsthistoriker, Basel), Manuela Zechner (feministische Kulturarbeiterin und Forscherin), Emma Dowling (Sozilogin, Ökonomin, Universität Wien) , Lisa Baumgarten (Designerin, Berlin), Poliklinik Veddel (Mediziner*innen, Sozialarbeiter*innen, Aktivist*innen, Hamburg), Silvia Federici (Philosophin, Aktivistin, New York)

Week #3: Collaborative Work and Exploitation, Silke Helfrich (Autorin, Forscherin Aktivistin, Jagsttal ), Peter Kuchinke (Glasmacher Derenburg), In the Meantime (HFBK Hamburg), Lucy Kimbell (Social Design Institute, Central Saint Martins, London) & Guy Julier (Professor of Design Leadership Aalto University, Helsinki), Experimentelle Klasse (HFBK Hamburg), Klasse Johanna Dehio (Gastprofessorin Design HFBK Hamburg), (besetzte Seifenfabrik, Thessaloniki), Madygraf (arbeiter*innengeführte Druckerei, Buenos Aires) Harald Trapp (Soziologe, Architekt, Wien), Rosario Talevi (Architektin, Parastic reading room, Berlin), Casco Art Institute & The Outsiders (Designer*innen, Künstler*innen, Utrecht, Stavros Stavrides (Nationale Technische Universität Athen)

Text: Beate Scheder

Annette Wehrmann, photography from the series Blumensprengungen, 1991-95; photo: Ort des Gegen e.V.

Conference: Counter-Monuments and Para-Monuments.

The international conference at HFBK Hamburg on December 2-4, 2021 – jointly conceived by Nora Sternfeld and Michaela Melián –, is dedicated to the history of artistic counter-monuments and forms of protest, discusses aesthetics of memory and historical manifestations in public space, and asks about para-monuments for the present.

23 Fragen des Institutional Questionaire, grafisch umgesetzt von Ran Altamirano auf den Türgläsern der HFBK Hamburg zur Jahresausstellung 2021; photo: Charlotte Spiegelfeld


Who speaks? Who paints which motif? Who is shown, who is not? Questions of identity politics play an important role in art and thus also at the HFBK Hamburg. In the current issue, the university's own Lerchenfeld magazine highlights university structures as well as student initiatives that deal with diversity and identity.

Grafik: Tim Ballaschke

Start of semester

After three semesters of hybrid teaching under pandemic conditions, we are finally about to start another semester of presence. We welcome all new students and teachers at the HFBK Hamburg and cordially invite you to the opening of the academic year 2020/21, which this year will be accompanied by a guest lecture by ruangrupa.

Graphic design: Sam Kim, picture in the background: Sofia Mascate, photo: Marie-Theres Böhmker

Graduate Show 2021: All Good Things Come to an End

From September 24 to 26, the more than 150 Bachelor's and Master's graduates of the class of 2020/21 will present their final projects as part of the Graduate Show at the HFBK Hamburg. We would like to thank all visitors and participants.

photo: Klaus Frahm

Summer Break

The HFBK Hamburg is in the lecture-free period, many students and teachers are on summer vacation, art institutions have summer break. This is a good opportunity to read and see a variety of things:

ASA Open Studio 2019, Karolinenstraße 2a, Haus 5; photo: Matthew Muir

Live und in Farbe: die ASA Open Studios im Juni 2021

Since 2010, the HFBK has organised the international exchange programme Art School Alliance. It enables HFBK students to spend a semester abroad at renowned partner universities and, vice versa, invites international art students to the HFBK. At the end of their stay in Hamburg, the students exhibit their work in the Open Studios in Karolinenstraße, which are now open again to the art-interested public.

Studiengruppe Prof. Dr. Anja Steidinger, Was animiert uns?, 2021, Mediathek der HFBK Hamburg, Filmstill

Unlearning: Wartenau Assemblies

The art education professors Nora Sternfeld and Anja Steidinger initiated the format "Wartenau Assemblies". It oscillates between art, education, research and activism. Complementing this open space for action, there is now a dedicated website that accompanies the discourses, conversations and events.

Ausstellungsansicht "Schule der Folgenlosigkeit. Übungen für ein anderes Leben" im Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg; photo: Maximilian Schwarzmann

School of No Consequences

Everyone is talking about consequences: The consequences of climate change, the Corona pandemic or digitalization. Friedrich von Borries (professor of design theory), on the other hand, is dedicated to consequence-free design. In “School of No Consequences. Exercises for a New Life” at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, he links collection objects with a "self-learning room" set up especially for the exhibition in such a way that a new perspective on "sustainability" emerges and supposedly universally valid ideas of a "proper life" are questioned.

Annual Exhibition 2021 at the HFBK

Annual exhibition a bit different: From February 12- 14, 2021 students at the Hamburg University of Fine Arts, together with their professors, had developed a variety of presentations on different communication channels. The formats ranged from streamed live performances to video programs, radio broadcasts, a telephone hotline, online conferences, and a web store for editions. In addition, isolated interventions could be discovered in the outdoor space of the HFBK and in the city.

Public Information Day 2021

How do I become an art student? How does the application process work? Can I also study to become a teacher at the HFBK? These and other questions about studying art were answered by professors, students and staff at the HFBK during the Public Information Day on February 13, 2021. In addition, there will be an appointment specifically for English-speaking prospective students on February 23 at 2 pm.

Katja Pilipenko

Semestereröffnung und Hiscox-Preisverleihung 2020

On the evening of November 4, the HFBK celebrated the opening of the academic year 2020/21 as well as the awarding of the Hiscox Art Prize in a livestream - offline with enough distance and yet together online.

Exhibition Transparencies with works by Elena Crijnen, Annika Faescke, Svenja Frank, Francis Kussatz, Anne Meerpohl, Elisa Nessler, Julia Nordholz, Florentine Pahl, Cristina Rüesch, Janka Schubert, Wiebke Schwarzhans, Rosa Thiemer, Lea van Hall. Organized by Prof. Verena Issel and Fabian Hesse; photo: Screenshot

Teaching Art Online at the HFBK

How the university brings together its artistic interdisciplinary study structure with digital formats and their possibilities.

Alltagsrealität oder Klischee?; photo: Tim Albrecht

HFBK Graduate Survey

Studying art - and what comes next? The clichéd images stand their ground: Those who have studied art either become taxi drivers, work in a bar or marry rich. But only very few people could really live from art – especially in times of global crises. The HFBK Hamburg wanted to know more about this and commissioned the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences at the University of Hamburg to conduct a broad-based survey of its graduates from the last 15 years.

Ausstellung Social Design, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Teilansicht; photo: MKG Hamburg

How political is Social Design?

Social Design, as its own claim is often formulated, wants to address social grievances and ideally change them. Therefore, it sees itself as critical of society – and at the same time optimizes the existing. So what is the political dimension of Social Design – is it a motor for change or does it contribute to stabilizing and normalizing existing injustices?