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Theory and History

Theory and History

The department »Theory and History« combines issues concerned with artistic and cultural sciences and the history and theory of design, as well as philosophy, semiotics, media theory and other increasingly relevant sciences. For students taking an artistic subject as their main subject, »Theory and History« will provide the necessary orientation and in-depth knowledge. Students taking only classes from the »Theory and History« department will receive an autonomous scientific education in the fields and topics named. Over the course of four years students will acquire – according to the composition of their theory and history studies:

  • detailed knowledge of historical and contemporary artistic practices and theoretical discourses in the named disciplines;

  • the ability to relate different theoretical concepts to one another, to apply them productively across the range of disciplines and to thereby pose individual, possibly unique new questions;

  • the ability to combine theoretical and artistic aspects of a creative method with one another and to develop new ways of making statements through experimentation;

  • the ability to enter into the public sphere through one’s own adaptations, publications and projects and to thereby develop a professional perspective involving the theory of art and culture.

The department »Theory and History« has a modular structure. This means that the courses on offer are both heterogenous and interrelated, and can be combined in a number of different ways. The significance is that this allows students to develop their own interests. It means that while working on these interests they can take any individual course on offer within this subject. They can therefore make the best use of the range of courses on offer, depending on their own interests. Extensively available student advisory services and mentoring will ensure that these individually chosen artistic interests have an appropriate theoretical content, are consistent, are on an appropriately high level and can be completed successfully.

The aim of this programme of study is to offer a qualification for students of theory with or without a main artistic subject which enables them to make productive use of their abilities in a variety of professional contexts. These may include career areas relating to exhibition, to cultural institutions, to publishing, to the media and many others. In line with this, during the course of students’ studies especial attention will be given to the conception, presentation and publication of work concerned with theory which locates itself within these professional contexts. The necessary experience will be gained through seminars, interdisciplinary projects, publication and in association with institutions other than the HFBK.

Theory and History in the Master study programme

The department of »Theory and History« includes aesthetics, design theory and history, art science, art theory and art history, cultural sciences and gender theory, media theory and philosophy. It offers an interdisciplinary approach to questions on the periphery of art and science, and is studied in combination with an artistic subject. »Theory and History« is a Master study programme.

The Master study programme Theory and History will give students an opportunity to develop a theoretical and/or historical research project and to extend it according to their chosen theory. They will be able to gain experience by discussing this project in an artistic and cultural context and by presenting it in an appropriate way. Students can choose a theoretical project supported by their artistic work. In this case, a central thematic challenge will be to bring together the theoretical and practical elements of the project.

Students of this department must attend a class appropriate to their project for each semester. They will also receive support and advice from professors in colloquiums and individual supervisory meetings. It is also possible to choose a research project that can later be expanded and converted into a doctorate.

Art defies Corona: Graduate Show 2020

With a two-month delay, the Graduate Show took place this year on the 19 and 20 September. More than 140 students showed their artistic graduation projects, from painting to sound installation.

Teaching Art Online at the HFBK

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

New articles at is the social network of the HFBK. It opens a digital forum for exchange and discussion in which students, teachers, guest authors, art critics and the interested public provide a wide range of content and perspectives.

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.

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?

Annual Exhibition 2020 at the HFBK

The HFBK’s traditional annual exhibition („Jahresausstellung“) opens in February every year. For three days the students – from first-years to post-graduates – present a broad spectrum of their current work and projects from all the different departments. All classrooms, studios and halls in the building are used. Interested visitors are cordially invited to gain an impression of the art currently being created at the HFBK.