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April 8, 2022

Office Hours: Charlotte Laubard: Geneva University of Art and Design (HEAD)

Art & Education

Alternate Take 1, group exhibition, LiveInYourHead, HEAD-Genève, 2021. Photo: HEAD – Genève/Michel Giesbrecht.

Diploma installation by Work.master graduate Diane Rivoire, HEAD – Genève, 2020. Photo: HEAD – Genève/Michel Giesbrecht.

“Simulated atmospheres” bachelor workshop led by artist Justine Emard and programmer Damien Baïs, 2022. Photo: Justine Emard.

Labzone TVC15, 2019. A project by Olga Rozenblum and Vaginal Davis with Neige Sanchez, Delphine Mouly, Luigi/Louise Bonpaix, Oélia Gouret, Nelson Schaub, Mina Squalli-Houssaïni, Constance Brosse and Jimmy Nuttal. Still courtesy the artists and HEAD – Genève.

Office Hours: Charlotte Laubard: Geneva University of Art and Design (HEAD)


1. Why did you decide to go into teaching?
After seven years as director of CAPC, the museum of contemporary art in Bordeaux, I felt the need to take a step back. Caught up in the cumbersome management of a museum with a large staff and a chronically insufficient budget, I felt a kind of progressive intellectual dryness. The invitation to come and teach at HEAD – Genève in 2013 allowed me to plunge back into questioning art and its modalities of existence.

2. What drew you to your school and what is your teaching philosophy?
There is a great degree of academic freedom in HEAD’s visual arts department, which I have run as dean since 2017. The curriculum, which includes courses diverse in format, scope, and experience, is designed so that students can chart their own path according to their interests. This is reflected in the diversity of their practices and positions after graduating. In my teaching, I try to show that art history is a sort of fictional construction driven by different intentions and interpretations that change over time and within contexts. Everything can be transformed.

3. What theory and art history do you consider most essential for your students? What artist or artwork do you refer to most often?
Today, greater inclusivity in the art world and in society at large is necessary. For me, it is important to consider the history behind the exclusion of non-Western people from art circles, which is not only social but also linked to prevailing aesthetic precepts and criteria of judgment. Can we continue to pretend that art is a universal language that requires for its existence an ideal public belonging to the same cultural background? To really open the art world to cultural difference, we must contribute to building a new epistemology of art. The most convincing contributions today come from the anthropology of art, visual studies, and socially engaged art practices. We really need to leave behind the beaux-arts tradition of exceptional individuals and accept the collective dimension of creation.

In my teaching and research, I assume that a work of art is nothing without its receivers, interpreters, and users. Basing our judgment of a work of art on its intrinsic qualities and the intentions of its author is not enough. It’s interesting to investigate further the different experiences and relations that an artwork conjures. Investigating the notion of art’s agency has allowed me to break out of artistic hierarchies. In my seminar, we might navigate through a video by Harald Thys & Jos De Gruyter, a BBC documentary on objectophilia, or the contemporary Ghanaian tradition of figurative coffins.

Read more of Charlotte Laubard's Office Hours on School Watch.

Office Hours is a questionnaire series that gathers insights on teaching from artists. In response to ten prompts, educators reflect on the discourses and approaches that animate their teaching, share their visions for the future of art education, and offer advice for students navigating the field of contemporary art.

School Watch presents critical perspectives on art and academia. Featured profiles, surveys, and dialogues consider education in fine art, curating, and critical theory, as well as the ideas and conditions that influence practice.

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