Birgit Jürgenssen

Deutsch
Birgit Jürgenssen

Birgit Jürgenssen

The Junior Faculty

In: Carl Pruscha (eds.), Akademie der Bildenden Künste (Vienna: Akademie der Bildenden Künste, 1989), pp. 127-129.

The German term "Mittelbau" sounds like the subterranean den of a fox. What the term means is that which lies between the upper and the lower, i.e. the middle, and in this case acting as a valuable connecting link. At the Academy the term refers to the Junior Faculty.
The Junior Faculty includes all teaching staff who are not full profes­sors. This means assis­tant profes­sors, Academy assis­tants, L1 profes­sors, assis­tant lectu­rers (with many or few classes which in turn means a greater or lesser sphere of influence), contract assis­tants, guest lectu­rers, hono­rary profes­sors and the lectu­rers. In all, about 120 persons.
The Junior Faculty reached these dimensions within the last 20 years as the curriculum has gradually become more varied. The Academy must endeavour to provide instruction in both primary and secondary disciplines as well as related disciplines in order for its curriculum to keep pace with today`s requirements. The Junior Faculty complements the Master School Classes. They are the Master School Classes.
In other words, the staff in the so-called Junior Faculty in fact under­take a signifi­cant part of the teaching and research. On the other hand, they are, in many classes, the representatives of the Masters. On the other hand, they are autonomous artists and scientists who impart their knowledge and their expe­ri­ence. They play an active role in arranging for collabo­ration between  the individual Master Schools and Insti­tutes and in encouraging further exchange between these bodies. The Junior Faculty is also in charge of and responsible for the organization and running of day-to-day Academy matters and, last but not least, serves a link between the profes­sors and the students.
Since October 1st, 1988, the Junior Faculty has joined - together with student representation - the full profes­sors on the Academy`s gover­ning board. The new Academy Organization Law allows the Junior Faculty to cont­ribute publicly - and not, as hitherto, from the "underground" - its own proposals for changes in Academy guidelines and thus it bears joint responsibility for Academy policies.
The task of the Joint Faculty of the Academy of Fine Arts is a difficult one. Not so much due to the numbers (50 persons) as due to the fact that in this house joint decision-making appar­ently has yet to be learnt.
For almost 300 years profes­sors were the sole decision-makers as to the course of events at the Schil­lerplatz. Since October 1st., 1988 both students and representatives of the Junior Faculty have a say and thus also bear responsibility for the decisions made.
Some see co-determi­nation as an irri­tating duty, as additional red tape that hinders "Art", as an unnecessary detour that holds up the quick and direct reali­sation of individual ideas and points of view.
Others see it as a chance to take joint decisions, thus protecting the interests of all in-house groups, including one`s own.
Yet others see co-determi­nation as the challenge to finally bring about a visible new direction within the Academy, a legitimate desire if one cons­iders that teaching and demons­tration at a college are not means for individual showmanship, but for the use and help of those who study here.
The Academy`s structure is extremely complex. The legislator has tried to bring order to this structure - a democratic order - as has long been the case elsewhere. Admittedly, this is difficult here; with time one will have to find a modus vivendi that does not betray the aims of co-determi­nation, but that at the same time allows for a more flexible, more efficient approach. For this, each individual group must re-define its iden­tity and it must be recog­nised that there can only be shared objectives. Such an objective would be to estab­lish a framework within which all those who teach and study here can freely follow and develop their talents and incli­nations; an open range of studies and the space to pursue them in, reli­nquishing the emphasis on field-of-study demarcation and to finally give up the senseless concern with who is treading on who`s turf.
It will have to be realised that co-determi­nation neither encourages not hinders "Art". It simply makes possible its accessibility to more people. One will have to learn to share newly acquired responsibility in that one co-thinks and co-plans.
Lastly, it should be the task of the Faculty to bring about a rappro­chement between the differing view­points with discussions carried out by factual argu­ments clearly formu­lated. Only then can this Board make decisions that are free from personal power interests, and whose consequences and responsibilities are shared.
Such a task is worth a real effort.
The abilities that young people bring with them today should be at their own disposal and for their own use. It is not the task of the teacher to insist on their view­point being adopted, but to provide enough information to aid the students in taking up a cultural atti­tude.
Vienna has to free itself from the identification with its past and its history. We have to develop forwards and confront today. And this we can do by encouraging and supporting young people`s and student`s way of thinking.
It is also our task to see that the students are not isolated in and by their point of view but rather to see to it that their point of view is broa­dened. This means to be concerned not only with art, but also with the every day world and to learn to regard both critically.
The point is not to produce one work of art after another. It is much more a question of reflecting how a young artist can find a visual language using the tech­niques they have learnt and thus to present their intel­lectual atti­tude to the public. Every tech­nique communicates a certain message. And not only painting is important, but also the confron­tation with other media. Thereby comes the possibility to learn a differentiated way of looking from a different point of view.
In Arnulf Rainer`s Master Classes experimental practice and atti­tudes are an ideal form to discover one`s own special manner of artistic expression.