May 19, 2021

Transmission / Must Remain Open At All Times

Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm

Nada Ali, Still frame from filmed performance, 2021. © the artist and the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm.

Transmission MFA graduation show: May 21–June 12
Must Remain Open At All Times BFA graduation show: May 21–June 6

What we have lost has a tendency to haunt our thoughts and demand our attention. If there is one thing we carry with us from the time of the pandemic it is the experience of loss. The loss of shared space to create and talk about art. The loss of shared space in which to exhibit and physically encounter art. The loss of conversations that take place in person rather than through a screen.

Exhibitions create opportunity for attention and sharing, but also imply vulnerability and loss of control. The exhibition has a strong and central position in the Royal Institute’s teaching. Various forms of exhibiting are used as pedagogical tools throughout the program, organically intertwined with teaching at the art school and a part of a reflective-critical process. Yet it is also an experimental knowledge process in itself, in which different formats of exhibiting can be tried on. Such open and public space is heterogenous and populated by various bodies, gazes and ideas that interface with the work. In such a space, a work of art takes on new meanings and belongings and is no longer determined only by its creator.

The experience that stems from what happens in open exhibition spaces is a crucial part of the education we offer. They constitute a conversation that does not just provide impressions and thoughts from the outside, but in which the institute becomes part of formulating the field of art. An art academy needs closed rooms where one can turn inward in learning in a smaller context. But it is even more crucial to an education to open the doors to the surrounding world, as this has the ability to transmit the multi-sensory experiences of art.

For a year, many have been dependent on screen-bound conversations and digital spaces in which works are filtered through template technology that determines and dictates our experience of the works. Yet in this year’s graduation shows there is a persistence of materiality that cannot be translated digitally, alongside a strong interest in working with digital techniques and digital spaces. That ease of movement between the physical and the immaterial is a pervasive trait both in the art of the future and in future art schools.

The road out of the art school is not what it used to be either. At the Royal Institute of Art, artistic research has created a new artistic realm in which possible future work for an artist can take place within the framework of the art school. Our continuing education programs together with the research create an artistic force field to return to during different parts of an artistic life. It makes the school a place that harbors the idea of an artistic practice as a perpetual learning process. It is a school that is open to artists during an entire artistic lifespan and which offers a context in which artistic experimentation, innovation, and learning are central.

This is an art school that says thank you and good luck to its graduation students, but which also wishes to welcome them back!

Sara Arrhenius is Vice-Chancellor at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm.

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