Umeå Academy of Fine Arts / Tools For The Future

By Christoph Draeger, Professor at Umeå Academy of Fine Arts
and main instructor at the Master's programme in Fine Arts.

"This year's exhibition by graduate students from the Master's programme at the Academy of Fine Arts at Umeå University was entitled Tools For The Future. Sadly, it had to be canceled due to the corona virus health crisis. The exhibition title refers to a critical yet constructive questioning of societal values in times of heightened insecurity and to possibilities to not only question their definition, but develop an idiosyncratic repertoire to interact with contemporary currents through artistic expression. Our societies are facing unpreceded political and cultural challenges, at present with the pandemic, and will continue to do more so in the near future coping with the consequences and fallouts of climate change.

Students who are choosing Umeå Academy of Fine Art often highlight the tightly woven net of interaction and communication within the academy, and the existence of a supportive environment that springs from this small emphatic community. In this laboratory, students are developing fine-tuned tools to get into closer contact with what is surrounding us, to be able to give an account about what we see, how we puzzle it together, what conclusions we draw. This process-based approach results in ways of heightened self-reflection, as well as a deepening reflection on our environment, micro- and macro cosmos.

The exhibition may have disappeared but the results of the artistic practice and research of 12 promising artists exist, and will be seen: Firstly, during the examinations, which will still take place 'live' in a solo-exhibition setting with the student and the professor present, and with the online participation of the whole class, the external examiner Maria Lind and guests from the faculty and students of Umeå Academy of Fine Art.  Secondly, on the Art Academy's website, where all the graduation projects will be presented and archived. Thirdly, in a printed catalogue that stubbornly and proudly keeps the title of the exhibition that never was: Tools For The Future

The online presentation and the catalogue will feature works by Mikaela Crantz, Martin Eltermann, Henrik Haukeland, Irina Laaja, Viktor Mattsson, Line Gry Neivelt, Johanna Robleto, Eleanor Shipway, Richard Guy Slatter, Mathijs Van Sark, Per Westerlund, and Josefine Östlund. Their main instructor is artist Christoph Draeger, Professor at the Umeå Academy of Fine Arts.

Tools For The Future is the culmination of five years of study in Fine Arts, whereas two years in the Master's programme, and displays a wide range of ideas, techniques and forms of expression. The Master programme at Umeå Academy of Fine Arts is an international program that prepares students for professional art practice. Challenged to devise methods of experimentation and a significant understanding of historical and contemporary context, students develop an informed artistic practice, specific to their intentions and sensibilities.

The students are working within and across the areas of various media and topics in a curriculum that is designed to promote the depth of individualistic artistic expression, as well as collaborative interdisciplinary thinking. Despite the closing of the university, the academy was able to get an exemption for graduating students, so they could continue using their studios and the school's workshops in order to finalize their projects. As our education is foremost practice-based, this proved to be an invaluable silver lining for this year's graduates.

As I write this, we are all affected by this worldwide pandemic, and many a future is in limbo. Bertold Brecht said: «In the dark times, will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing. About the dark times». Thankfully, we are not there yet, and none of the students' project are directly reflective of the current crisis as in most cases, they have been developed over the duration of two semesters. It is to hope that the tools they acquired in their Master will help them navigate a future that seems increasingly uncertain and difficult. This crisis may be a mere dress-rehearsal for things and times to come that humanity is ill-prepared for. Now and in the future, we have to insist that societies are not only protecting their economies and people's wellbeing, but also what makes us human: our culture."