"We focus on artistic and intellectual capital"

© Studio Fjeld

The Institute for Open Arts at the Mozarteum University recently moved into premises at Franz-Josef-Straße 18 that were once occupied by the Austrian National Bank. An interview with Prof. Claudia Lehmann, who has headed the institute since 2023.

Since 1 March 2023, you have been head of the Institute for Open Arts at Mozarteum University - an interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and non-disciplinary workspace that offers open structures for artistic research in theory and practice. What has happened since then?

Building something like this is a dynamic process. You plan a new building with lots of rooms. However, it only becomes a house worth living in when people move in, interact with each other and bring it to life. So far, we are in the planning phase, the shell of the building is finished. When we talk about inter-, trans-, cross- and non-disciplinary work, it is already clear that this place is primarily about engaging in an exchange. This exchange has taken place and is still taking place on many levels. There are many people from different areas of the university who are involved. In addition, since the so-called foundation, i.e. the laying of the foundation stone, many things have been linked to the institute, which in turn influences developments. The Doctorate in the Arts (PHD in the Arts) with its professorships and the first two year groups and the Data Arts Forum with the first of two professorships have already moved in with us. At the moment, our immediate "staff" is still manageable, but it will continue to grow over the coming months. We are expecting more employees as well as students. We are also planning new study programmes. 

In September, thanks to the great efforts of Rector Elisabeth Gutjahr, we were given a real location at Franz-Josef-Straße 18, which used to be a branch of the Austrian National Bank and first had to be developed for us. The premises have to be prepared for various events, from the purchase of special technology and furnishings to toilet paper. Nevertheless, we still get visits from people who want to deposit or withdraw their savings while we are hosting a workshop on composition with AI, a hearing, presentations or normal lessons. We hope that this place will soon no longer be associated with the financial institution. We focus on artistic and intellectual capital!

With over 50 applicants in 2024, the PhD in the Arts, which has been offered at Mozarteum University since the winter semester 2022/23, is very popular. Will Salzburg become a centre for artistic research? 

That would be very desirable and I hope that Salzburg will first and foremost become a centre for dealing with the major global and social challenges and how we can meet them with artistic means. This requires research! This research is not limited to the artistic doctorate. We are currently in the process of establishing an Artistic Research programme. The Master's Open Arts programme also aims to open up the arts in a new way and to pursue, research and realise innovative approaches that are necessary in the course of social change. A position on the social, technological and ecological challenges of our time is particularly important to all those involved in the development of the Institute and the Master Open Arts programme. New approaches and insights should be made possible with and through art, which are multi-layered, plural, multi-perspective and sustainable in their orientation. We want to "get out of the bubble"!

The curriculum for Open Arts is currently being developed - a Master's programme will be offered at the Mozarteum University from winter semester 2025. Can you give us some exclusive insights into how the programme will be structured and what we can expect?

Our programme is initially aimed at people who already have a degree and at best have practical and/or professional experience. As far as the curriculum is concerned, a committee made up of lecturers and students from several departments will first have to be set up. In any case, the artistic project should be at the centre of the Master's programme, around which students can choose courses that are relevant to the project as freely as possible. Students should be able to freely organise their studies across disciplines. The idea of mentoring and supervision - also of term papers - by several lecturers across disciplines, both within and outside the university is just as central as a cross-disciplinary and cross-year space dedicated to dialogue and "open" exchange, which also serves to reflect on and position the artistic work. This space should be organised and shaped by the students in a leading role. Something like a "shared kitchen in the Open Arts Haus", where discussions can go on late into the night. Art is political!

In the winter semester of 2025, the Mozarteum University's new location at Kurgarten will also open its doors and, subsequently, an X-Reality Lab that is unique in Austria. Are there already ideas for projects that will be realised there?

The X-Reality-Lab will be a unique research, teaching and experimentation laboratory in which digital spaces and digital storytelling will be explored. The infrastructure of the X-Reality Lab will play a central role in the successful realisation of this project. Of course, we are planning numerous collaborations, including with the Immersive Arts Space at ZHdK, the Ars Electronica Futurelab and many other players from the art world - both nationally and internationally. But first and foremost, we want to explore the possibilities of our social negotiation spaces with students. That's why we are currently conceptualising another overarching Master's programme. Reflecting on artistic works and the effects on us, our being and our wanting to be in the world - real and virtual - will once again be at the centre of this. We want to help shape the future!


(First published in the Uni-Nachrichten / Salzburger Nachrichten on 8 June 2024)

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