HDK-Valand offers one of the Nordic region’s largest selections of freestanding courses in art and design at advanced level. These courses are intended for people in artistic professions – as well as people who work in entirely different fields – who want to develop themselves, hone their skills, and create new professional opportunities.
The courses explore a wide variety of different areas of tension, such as Between Design and Architecture, Commissioning and Curating Contemporary Public Art, or Design and the Posthumanist Perspective.
Tyrone Martinsson is a professor of photography and leads a course called Environmental Visual Practice – Extended Ways of Telling.
“I hope that my course will give students tools they can later apply in their work and inspiration to work with people from diverse disciplines,” he says. “These days the entire research world is working more interdisciplinarily, and you need to have more breadth in order to take on today’s most challenging questions.”
Martinsson’s course is rooted in his own research on visual methods of communicating the effects of climate change. It all started with Andrée’s polar expedition to Svalbard, and more specifically one of the members of his expedition, the photographer Nils Strindberg.
“There is a lot of interest in the second, eventful year of the expedition,” says Martinson, “but I think the first year is the most interesting.” That’s when they got stuck waiting for the wind. While they waited, the promising young researcher and photographer Nils Strindberg documented their experience with his camera. These pictures are unique documents that offer insight into how Svalbard has changed over the years.
Strindberg’s methods and pictures provided a starting point for Professor Martinsson’s research. With Svalbard the point of departure, through field studies of archives and libraries on the hunt for old pictures, and with the help of digital tools, he and his research team work to tell a visual narrative about the changing climate. It is a historically true story about our relationship to nature, told with the help of aesthetics and natural science.
More concretely, he uses the method of rephotographing – that is, he starts with a historical picture taken of a specific place and then takes a new picture in the exact same location. It becomes a study of a landscape in transformation and a way to supplement natural science’s ability to communicate about climate change.
“At the moment I’m working with the impact of climate change on glaciers,” says Martinsson. “I can explain it with lots of different kinds of scientific data, but the language of science is not always meant for the general public. With the help of visual data, I can build photographic time series that make it easier to understand what has been happening over time. I can bring the Arctic home – create an understanding and make the processes accessible to more people.”
Tyrone Martinsson’s course is aimed at people who are interested in how we can communicate about research and convey knowledge about environmental issues. One of the requirements for admission to the course is that you must be able to bring to it your own perspective and a research question based on your own work.
“The course is like a big table where we lay out what we want to examine,” he says. “Everyone comes to it from different places – whether from the museum world or from one of the disciplines in the natural sciences – and we sit down together and think about how we can give voice to the material.”
Like Tyrone Martinsson’s own research, the course builds on field studies. The students are expected to independently plan, execute and document a smaller field study and show their work through an artistic presentation. The spirit of Nils Strindberg seems to hover over this effort.
“Our point of departure is going to be scientific field studies of history that have a clear relationship between art and science,” Martinsson says.
Another of HDK-Valand’s freestanding courses at advanced level that appeals to students from a variety of different fields is Artistic Methods in Organisational Contexts. The course explores how artistic methods can be used to foster change and development within various organisations in both the public and private sectors.
Samantha Hookway is a designer and adjunct faculty member at HDK-Valand and leader of the course.
“You need to have ambition to develop professionally,” she says. “It may be someone who works in an organisation and has devoted some time to art, for example. Maybe they’re tired of their job and want to introduce a creative perspective, or maybe they’ve taken an art class and want to apply it to their current job.”
Hookway says the course is given remotely, and mostly in the late afternoon so that students can combine it with their regular jobs. The idea is that prospective course participants should base their coursework on a problem or a need for development in the organisation they are currently working for or in one they hope to work for in the future.
The course is divided into two separate case studies. In the first, students will get a chance to explore artistic methods through practical exercises. To help them, they rely on theories about strategic design, social innovation and organisational change.
“By basing their work on the theories,” says Hookway, “they can create a lens or a framework through which to view and analyse their project. The assignment is to create an analytical method, and the example in the case study brings the theory to life.”
In the second part of the course, students are expected to develop a concrete proposal for a project that uses artistic methods in an organisation.
Like Tyrone Martinsson, Samantha Hookway’s intention is for the course to give the students tools they can use in their professional careers.
“My dream scenario is for their proposals to be practically implementable in their organisations after the conclusion of the course,” she says. “If that is not possible, they can at least take from the course a vocabulary, arguments and methods that give them the opportunity and power to talk about and introduce artistic methods into organisational contexts.”
By Åsa Rehnström