School of Comtemporary Art's

Berlin Field School 2022

Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts’ Berlin Field School offers a broad introduction to Contemporary Arts in Berlin and their critical and theoretical context. Founded in the 12th century, Berlin has been both shaped and divided by history. Today, it is once again the capital of Germany, and is recognized as a global cultural hub; a city where history is intertwined with artistic intervention and innovation, and where international visual art, theatre, music, dance, and film thrive. Over six-weeks, a comprehension of the correspondence between the arts and their social, political, and material context is enriched through simultaneous study, discussion, and experience of art and the urban fabric of this complex city.

Field School Director 2022: Professor Sabine Bitter
Students: Kaila Bhullar, Teresa Donck, Mia Hope, Rebecca Kabesh, Audrey Kerridge, Kevin Kiju Kim, Joni Low, Alexandra McDougall, Carmen Milne, Taya Van Dyke, Samantha Walters, Viviane Wu

This website documents the Berlin Field School 2022 with its focus on artistic practices, which are engaged in urban contexts and collaborations between artist, architects, and activist. Initiatives such as Floating University, Haus der Statistik and Prizessinnengarten add to Berlin’s uniqueness, and offer insights and unexpected possibilities of how to imagine, shape, and produce the contemporary city. These projects serve as examples for an artistic agency that shapes both the cultural spaces and urban fabric of Berlin.

Academic work during Berlin Field School:

Undergraduate students are required to take:
CA 308-4: Contemporary Arts Field School I (Theory/History)
CA 309-4: Contemporary Arts Field School II (Studio)
And choose one of:
CA 305-3: Explorations in Contemporary Arts I
CA 405-5: Explorations in Contemporary Arts II

Graduate students:
CA 887-5 or CA 877-5: Selected topics in Contemporary Arts
(optional) CA 889-5: Directed Studies

See course descriptions HERE

Berlin 2022:

Many thanks to by Mia Hope, who created the text on this website and participated in the BFS 2022.
Photos are taken by Sabine Bitter, if not otherwise noted.

After a couple of years being in lockdown and the uncertainty that lied with the pandemic and travel, the Berlin Field School 2022 was quite tentative in schedule and planning to begin with due to restrictions and concern of the Russian invasion on Ukraine, specifically concerning refugee housing in cities including Berlin. With this came a lot of room for flexibility, last minute shifts in schedule, and the participation in various events and outings around the city. Students traveled around the city via transit, exploring the different unique hubs and neighborhoods of Berlin. Each outing was relatively close to their accommodations and allowed time for students to visit the city of their way and after each outing. The students and Field School Director were grateful for and excited about the approval of the Field School to be hosted this year.
The Berlin Field School teamed up with longtime partners Air Berlin Alexanderplatz (ABA) who are an artist-run initiative and residency program that is interested in “artistic research” and methodologies in interdisciplinary artistic practice. Look at their program: AIR BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ.
ABA gave guidance and insight for the Berlin Field School and allowed us to use their space once a week for weekly meetings, shared meals, and individual check-ins with the Field School Director. The Berlin Field School ended their trip with a lovely group dinner where they shared their final thoughts on the overall Berlin experience and study abroad.

Over the course of six-weeks, the students participated in numerous artist talks, tours, exhibition viewings, projects, and weekly group meetings. Before, during and after each outing, the students came well prepared to discuss the topics at hand concerning that particular visit. Throughout the program, each student presented a short introduction to a particular visit and articulated the main topics, themes and inquiries that visit would be representing in their work. After each visit, the students often had a group debrief, sharing their impressions of the work(s) being presented and what specifically resonated or did not resonate with them. Students were also invited to challenge topics and ideas and give critical feedback to the Field School Director about the visit.

Each student was required to keep a research journal to document and reflect on traditions and practices in their studies in Berlin, with special attention to cultural, theoretical, historical and political contexts. Each written component in the journal showcased a descriptive analysis of the assigned readings, seminar discussions and outings and extensive individual research on particular topics and was supported by a bibliography. Visual notes of photographs, tickets and visual art were also invited into the journal for new modes of understanding and reflection on events and outings. Students found that they made larger thematic connections across various visits, creating a trace of similarities and ongoing relational topics throughout their studies. The research journal’s focus is overall on contextual discussions and site visits through which students will reflect on art historical examples, historical events, theoretical writing, and urban space to provide a background to the Contemporary Arts in Berlin.

Students worked under the guidance of the Field School Director to develop a research-based project, focused on a particular artistic discipline, history, or thematic interest related to Contemporary Arts in Berlin. These projects were open to interpretation, discovery and artistic mode of expression that reflected the range and sources of their research. The directed study invited theoretical, historical, performative, and overall explorative projects including: experimental video, performance, archival practice, fibre-art, documentary, photography and research essay. Each project was accompanied with a written artist statement. Students were also encouraged to expand their creative works with a form of aesthetic research from various sources. Before beginning their projects, students had to prepare a proposal discussed in class and on an individual basis with the Field School Director. This allowed for revision, drafts, and feedback throughout the directed study process.

See some work of students during Berlin Field School 2022:

Mia Hope: Retracing Feminist Threads: An Exploration of Female Weaver’s at the Bauhaus Through and Beyond Textile

Artist Statement: With an emphasis on male dominance at the early Bauhaus institute, there is a correlative lack of significance concerning the female experience, specifically those segregated and limited to the weaving department. With this prejudice against women of only being suited to a presumed "domestic status" in the arts at the German institute, these women actively broke the limitations of their medium and those placed on them as women– they rewrote the female narrative through division, limitation and repression. My topic under directed study and practice-based research explores the biographical histories of three significant Bauhaus weavers, including Anni Albers, Gertrud Arndt and Michiko Yamawaki and their underrepresented significance as artists and women at the Bauhaus. My project presents an art series of three unique embroidered pieces where I take archival images of each woman at work and actively manipulate them through embroidery; each image is mechanically and digitally reproduced onto linen fabric. Alongside each piece, I provide a biographical overview of the lives of each female artist and their historical innovations and significance as artists in the 20th century. Through my writing, material treatment, and fiber artistry, I further revitalize what exists between the margins of the archival images rather than solely focusing on what lies at the center of the picture. I attempt to redefine and stimulate different ways of approaching artistic mediums and rethinking archival material in new forms; this further breaks down the image and rebuilds it for broader perspectives. I attempt to unravel the multidimensional quality in raw images and find tactical interactions and interventions between threads and photographs. As a Canadian woman of Japanese descent, I also strive to involve a cross-cultural approach and connection in my directed study in Berlin, specifically in studying female Japanese artist Michiko Yamawaki. In recent years, many contemporary artists have revisited women's efforts at the Bauhaus, emphasizing their craftist approaches to their work and the quiet activism illustrated through textured materials and design. Through my artistic project, I strive to remove and recontextualize the idea of weaving as only a “feminine” pursuit of women's efforts and ultimately illustrate how forms of textiles can be both ubiquitous and art from a 21st-century perspective. I interweave my own contemporary narrative and adaptation into the pre-existent image and biographical study; the image and the female experience continue to be interconnected and influx in the contemporary world. My project ultimately centralizes the complexities and activism of these women while also emphasizing the reality of female absence and often invisibility at the Bauhaus compared to their male colleagues. It becomes a reclamation of female dignity through the multifaceted examination of biographical study, inquiry and mixed media textile series. I expand the female experience through my own haptic, experimental artistry and laborious efforts as a contemporary female artist.

Taya Van Dyke: Harry Freedom

Artist Statement: Through both the film, “Harry Freedom”, and workshop that it documents, I seek to explore and participate in the process of creating an archive of queer art and experiences. This project began as an exploration of the Queer Archive, or more specifically how queer knowledge and history is recorded and passed down and how this archive exists outside the framework of the traditional, formal, or institutional archive. In my exploration of what a queer archive looks like and how it can be defined, I had two approaches. The first was to attempt to research various archives and collections of queer work and art and how queer experiences has been gathered, documented, and shared. I attended a seminar which had a huge impact on the direction of where my research and my project ended up going titled “Transitioning: Art, Politics, & Technologies of Gender Change”. The seminar balanced many different goals, topics, and themes, providing a fascinating example of an archive of queer experience and learning. It was conceived as a tribute to the work of Diane Torr, a Drag King who did a great amount of work in dance, performance, and film that explored alternative expressions of gender and gender identity. The audience was invited to explore her work through the memories of those closest to her, her own recorded words, and her wealth of film work. This collection of Diane Torr’s work was already an archive in its own right; a collection of curated documentation all surrounding her expression of her own individual queerness while using the experience to create connections with a larger discourse of gender and queerness. However, the seminar itself uses this archive as more of a jumping off point to create a dialogue in the current day on more contemporary questions of gender and queerness. I was enthralled by the variety of topics and talks that were held discussing the general topic of gender change through such things as the sharing of experiences and the struggles of trans women in the Ukraine, to how the scientific and medical community interact in harmful and helpful ways with the trans and gender non-conforming community, and using poetry to express an individua relationship with transness, the military, and intersections between race and gender. The seminar basically took the form of an open conversation and a series of questions open to both the speakers and the audience. Ideas were expressed through film, music, dance, poetry, and conversation. There was no evident hierarchy of knowledge, no authoritative source of information, or even a set way of communicating ideas or information. A poetry reading was equally capable of contributing to the archive as an academic study. This example of decentralized collection and formatting of knowledge became the driving force for how I wanted to create my own queer archive. The main point had to be that the work created through our art and our conversations had to come through collectively. While I provided the parameters, the space, and the tools for the workshop, the goal was to create a collective experience and express it collectively.

Teresa: Bricks and Sand

How is a place created by the architecture, history, past residents, and ecological community? Can I say I lived somewhere when my door unlocked with a piece of re-programmable plastic? How does learning the history of a place leave a mark on you? These are some of the questions I pondered while in residence in Wedding/Gesundbrunnen, Berlin-Mitte. Here you will find stories and a mind map from my field research while living on Osloer Straße in Berlin, Germany. While I have done my best to corroberate information and check facts, please note that these are works of creative writing based on informal sources. Completed as part of a Directed Study while attending SFU Contemporary Art Field School Berlin, 2022.

Audrey Kerridge: Guten Morgen

Artist Statement: The work I have created is a short documentary film inspired by the vibrant nightlife of Berlin; currently titled “Freedom (if you can get in)”. Coming from Vancouver, a city that goes to sleep very early, I was extremely interested in the differences between Berlin’s club culture versus everywhere else in the world, especially Vancouver. I kept thinking about how club culture is ingrained into Berlin’s culture, which is something very unique. I began my research by going to different clubs every weekend for 6 weeks in order to see the diversity of Berlin clubs. I took music samples from every club I went to, as well as conducted informal interviews with various clubgoers. I spoke to many people from all around the globe, some of whom lived in Berlin and some visitors just like myself. In these interviews, I would ask a series of questions relating to their personal experiences clubbing in Berlin in 2022. This was followed by more research on techno’s Detroit origins and of course, the impact of the fall of the wall, which led to the rise of Berlin’s iconic club scene.
The majority of this film is essentially a podcast. In Berlin, it is customary for many, if not all clubs to cover your phone cameras while you’re in the venue. I believe this is one of the many factors that allow the Berlin nightclubs to remain so free and exciting for people as it allows you to live only in the moment. I wanted to recreate this effect with my film by removing visuals to accompany the audio during the interviews ‘within the club’ to immerse the audience into this mysterious, abstract experience recreated by the voices occupying the spaces. The only time there are visuals is before and after the club, much like the real clubbing experience, there is no visual documentation of it. However, the clips I do use are all shot during sunrise after leaving the club. This is where clubgoers who’ve been up all night and the general working public just beginning their day share the early morning hours in a moment of connection between two very diverse cultures that normally would never cross paths. In Berlin, this nocturnal club life is just a regular part of their weekly culture.

Kaila Bhullar: Video

Artist Statement: Kaila Bhullar is an interdisciplinary artist who specializes in editing, photography, mixed media, and audiovisual works. With a particular interest in abstraction and digitally-based art forms, Bhullar uses art-making as an introspective tool that explores various dualities and psychological dispositions. Their work, a_stream_ofconsciousness.mp4, 2022, is a 00:06:48 long audiovisual piece that evokes an inner thought stream. Reflecting contemplations stemming from research concerning the influence of modern technological meditations on the self, existential paradoxes (i.e. the similarity-uniqueness paradox), as well as an analysis of various biases in human thinking patterns; the work aims at outlining how within the abstraction of both concepts and forms exists meaning. The work overall can be understood as a video and sound collage, which uses disjointed visuals to create a physical manifestation of the artist’s feelings.

Vivianne Wu: Untitled

Artist Statement: Viviane Wu spent six weeks in Berlin, Germany researching the history and evolution of drag in Berlin’s queer community. Her Untitled project addresses the origins of drag in the 1920s and the framework it has set for drag artists today, along with questioning the meaning of drag itself. Using canvas, clay, paint, and other materials, Untitled shows three gender-neutral faces with vibrant colours to show three different eras of drag: its history, trends, and its meaning.