The academy today
Around 2500 years ago in Athens the Greek philosopher Plato created the original model of the ‘academy’ with his school of philosophy: a sheltered secluded environment close to the name-giving Akademeia grove dedicated to free thinking, unfettered by any dogmas. This description applies to Nuremberg not only in respect of the unique academy grounds, but also and more importantly, to a key aspect of our fundamental self-conception: as an academy, and especially as the first art academy to be founded in the German-speaking world in 1662, we are committed to this original historical concept of the ‘academy’ institution. We regard our academy as a ‘safe zone’ of the (im)possible, a place of free creative experimentation, in which students can develop their own personal artistic leanings during the study process.
The academy as ‘enabler’
The art academy in Nuremberg provides a creative hands-on space in which apparent self-evidences can be sounded out and uncertainties turned into creative products. Within our liberal range of studies, we seek to enable a wide spectrum of forms and manifestations of contemporary artistic practice, while positioning them in the relevant social and historical-critical context. For our understanding of the academy also includes an engagement with ‘the’ history and theory of art, true to the spirit of a famous maxim, once coined by an artist of a vehemently non-academic character, around 150 years ago: “To know in order to do” (Gustave Courbet). The individual classes in particular, provide those productive frameworks within which core study missions can be realised: to inquire and challenge, explore and – especially in view of the many studios and opportunities to exhibit – to experiment, debate openly and respectfully disagree, and of (self) empowerment and (self) enabling. Thus, regardless of whether students study fine or applied art or art education (ultimately our courses share more common than divisive aspects), the academy lets them develop a personal artistic stance, while also crystallising their individual character. This process entails constant questioning of their position in relation to the present, and an appreciation of their role as part of a fundamentally internationalised field of work, the diversity of which unlocks wider horizons of creative activity for their own art practice.
By nature, the academy provides creative space which must be accessible, nurtured and shaped, yet also critically examined. However, it cannot be ignored that as a result of ‘democratising the values of creativity and freedom’, artists have long ago ceased to be exceptional in character through self-realisation and an independent existence (Luc Boltanski/Ève Chiapello). ‘Creativity’ is no longer deemed a ‘unique characteristic’ of artists, the ‘creativity imperative (Andreas Reckwitz) is meanwhile also directed at neoliberal workforce mobilisation and absorption. Consequently, the academy is also a place of creative-practical debate and theoretical reflection. They not only address the once grand ‘art’ emancipation project dominated by the driving forces of the Modern artists, but also and further, the influences between this artistic potential and its social reality.
If we still regard art as a fundamental social force, then we must keep on resounding, reappraising and unlocking its potentials – in critical reflection and creative practice. The question of art’s position in contemporary society is undoubtedly also an aspect; and in this light an art academy must constantly review its social situatedness and remit in practical terms, according to the present circumstances. Permanent re-vision thus also always poses the question of how the ‘academy’ today or ‘today’s academy’ conceives itself and how we together aim to shape study and academy life. Posing such questions in a wide variety of media, discussing them and achieving a clearer focus is our core remit at the Academy of Fine Arts Nuremberg as safe zone of the (im)possible.