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MA Contemporary Arts Practice

Course Description

The Master of Arts in Contemporary Arts Practice is a multidisciplinary degree course for artists from the visual arts, the Performance arts, music and literature. Its starting point is the student’s individual approach and choice of emphases; together with interdisciplinary projects it enables multidisciplinary exchanges with students and teaching staff from other disciplines.

The course aims to foster an independent artistic outlook within a framework of collective and interdisciplinary working interrelationships. The course of study sharpens students’ individual artistic practices through direct engagement with other artistic strategies. A knowledge of current discourse in other art forms causes their view of their own work to change.

Degree Structure

The Master’s degree comprises 120 ECTS credit points and is usually completed in four semesters. The degree is structured into three degree modules.

The degree places independent study and teaching, disciplinary foundations and transdisciplinary expansion in a balanced relationship. At the heart of the Master’s degree is artistic production, which includes an MA project in one of the specialisations. The didactic combination of one-to-one lessons with a high proportion of independent study, the targeted consolidation of technical and theoretical knowledge of the subject and context in elective courses, and the exchange between peers and professionals in various networks and in the joint Master’s fora support artistic production. Since in today’s artworld there is almost no generally binding canon of knowledge and skills, perfecting one’s art rests on individual decisions based on a wide-ranging knowledge of the dynamic state of the art.

Module Groups

Artistic Production/Master's Thesis (70 ECTS)
At the core of the programme, is the students' independent work on their own projects. This individual work is supervised by a personal mentor in one-to-one tuition. Students develop a deep understanding of their own authorship. They learn to present their work and to confront their own creativity with the strategies and approaches of other artists. In this endeavour, they are supported by numerous artistic personalities from the different departments of the BUA, as well as from the Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz in Basel and from further partner institutions in an international network.

Transdisciplinarity: Individuality in Context (30 ECTS)
The transdisciplinary aspect of the studies is largely based on the study of other genres' strategies of artistic authorship and by the search for common parameters for content and structure.
In lectures and seminars on contemporary art theory and media studies, common terminology is developed to facilitate communication about artistic strategies and production procedures beyond the limits of each discipline's specific vocabulary. The exchange among the different specialisations of the CAP occurs within the framework of tuition as well as in the interdisciplinary projects, but primarily in the common theory blocks, in the encounters with mentors from other disciplines and in the thematic project weeks that take place once per semester. Here, there are talks and practical workshops, transdisciplinary meetings, discussions, project and work presentations as well as courses on research strategies and scientific work. These block events not only heighten the understanding of one's own and unfamiliar working processes, they also prepare students for their professional future, when large projects will be realised in specialised artistic collectives and networks, which must be able to communicate across their fields' boundaries.

There is also tuition beyond the subject's artistic boundaries - on professional skills in economic terms. Students gain a basic understanding of how to set up a company and how to conduct self-promotion. This includes tuition about management, administration, law and copyright, marketing, project management etc.

Subject-related Theory and Practice (20 ECTS)
The third module group addresses the theory and practice of the respective specialisations. This includes courses on technical specialisation and perfection (for instance: composition, musical strategies, specific software knowledge, lighting, curating, exhibiting) and on the subject-related theory (for instance: lectures and guest seminars on contemporary art/music; graduate societies) as well as excursions and encounters with artists, institutions, clients, teachers etc. The various courses are open to all students of the MA CAP and the partner institutions, if they meet the individual course's requirements.

The degree programme culminates in the Master thesis. This consists of the public presentation of an independent artistic creation and the written reflection on the student's own practice. The written part can be conducted as a research project. Content and form of the artistic presentation, reflectiveness and relevance are evaluated by external experts.


Fine Arts
In the Fine Arts specialisation current developments in art and the historical foundations of art are the reference for students’ work. Static and moving pictures in analogue or digital form, sculpture and installation techniques are options as much as conceptual and performative approaches or the treatment of social processes and documentary strategies. The course is notable for its strong engagement with the professional demands of sound, words and performative production. The Fine Arts specialisation collaborates closely with the Master of Fine Arts at the Academy of Art and Design Basel (HGK Basel). Students have a broad range of options from which to assemble the content of their studies according to their own needs. These are extended by the BUA’s membership in the Swiss Master of Fine Arts Network. The discipline-related foundations for the Fine Arts specialisation are generally laid by a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts.

Music and Media Art
In this programme the main focus is on sound art, experimental and electronic music. Students develop compositions, sound installations or other sound-based art forms. In seminars and lectures exemplary works of sound art from the past and present are discussed and analyzed. We teach compositional strategies and approach the subject matter from a contemporary and historical-theoretical point of view. Reference to one's own work is a key focus. The aim is not to solely work on the development of one's own artistic practices, but also to acquire a comprehensive knowledge of contemporary compositions and art forms. In addition to the MA CAP program students can attend other courses, which teach practical skills in programming with Max MSP,hardware hacking, audio technology or interface handling. The integration of sound and musical aspects into areas like performance art, literature and fine arts has increasingly gained importance over the last decades. Hence, this study program intensively deals with the musical-sound aspects of different art forms. In the MA CAP the interaction between the visual, performative, literary and sound aspects, brings students from different artistic areas together, encourages exchange and enables collaborative working.

Literary Writing/Translation
Literature reacts to other arts, just as much as it influences them. Students hoping to practice their literary art in the field of tension of contemporary art production and its advanced reflection, find in the CAP a wide range of teachers and students with diverse backgrounds. Alongside this vibrant exchange and proximity, they work on their own texts of all genres, under the supervision of mentors. This constitutes the core of the students` individual study profiles. Something unique about the CAP is, that the work of the literary translators (with the source languages German, French, Spanish, Italian, English and Russian and the target languages German or French) is regarded as artistic production. The offers for translators are expanded thanks to a cooperation with the "Centre de la Traduction Littéraire" at the University of Lausanne.

In the sense of physical presence, real or conceptual action, performance occurs in various artistic fields. It addresses certain issues relating to body, space and time. Considering the transdisciplinary history of performance, we understand it as a varied and open field of general performativity.
Performance is regarded as part of all the different artistic disciplines united under the umbrella of the CAP.
As an active form and physical action, it resides within music, fine arts and also literary writing and occurs in close connection with these separate forms. In addition, the focus on performativity opens up new forms of representation, viewing and listening, participating, which the studies are supposed to explore in the practical work as well as in the theoretical reflection.

Visit the MA Contemporary Arts Practice page on the Bern University of the Arts HKB website for more details!

Entry Requirements

To participate in the admissions procedure, prospective students need a Bachelor`s degree in Music, Fine Arts, Literary Writing or an equivalent diploma. In case of extraordinary artistic talent, people from other educational or professional backgrounds will also be accepted. If specific competencies are lacking, due to a change of subject, the Head of Studies can demand the acquiry of these competencies before or during the studies.

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