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Art and Politics - On Friendship and the Political Imaginary

Master’s level
15 credits (ECTS)


A distance course taught online, introducing key themes and questions in respect of politics, affiliation and the ontology of friendship with particular reference to contemporary art practices, theories and institutions. This international distance course, delivered in English, is free to EU nationals.


This course is based on three core activities: reading group, shared intensive with the SVA New York, and a project development process where participants are invited to develop project ideas connected to the course themes and relevant to the participants’ own practice (e.g., theory, criticism, art making, curatorial work, cultural studies, philosophy or other research across the creative arts and the humanities).

It is delivered in partnership the School of Visual Arts in New York City and will be primarily based upon the two week joint intensive (28 June - 16 July) – with Prof. Steven Madoff and invited guests.

See the full schedule and more information here: 

More about joint intensive with SVA

In the era of the pandemic, which has foregrounded isolation and technologies of remote nearness, as well as the ongoing crisis of racial injustice, it is all the more important to consider what affiliation and friendship mean. For two weeks this summer, the School of Visual Arts in New York City and the HDK-Valand Academy of Art and Design at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden will collaborate for a rigorous inquiry into politics, affiliation and the philosophy of friendship.

Considerations regarding what friendship is and means across individual, collective and societal registers, in respect of both cooperative and antagonistic entanglements, have complex and multiple histories. Some would argue that these must be understood in order to realize an engaged ethical life that takes account of principles of affiliation in their diverse expressions as: love, familial affection, extra-familial affection, fidelity, loyalty, consensus, goodwill, recognition, sameness and difference, oppression and freedom, and the intimate opacities of relationality. Here we will consider the politics and ontology of friendship, the metaphysics of togetherness and agency, and survey the apparatus of support structures within the spectrum of filial relations as they are entwined with gender, race and governmentality.

The intensive will engage the question of the friend across discourses, as it is activated across different constituencies. Points of reference include Hegel’s formulation of self-overcoming, mutuality in otherness and relational freedom; Carl Schmitt’s friend/enemy dichotomy; Virginia Woolf’s challenge to patriarchal representations of friendship; and Sibyl Schwarzenbach’s formal political discourse on friendship as a feminist political strategy, among other key terms and texts.

Participants are invited from across disparate yet intersecting fields of practice, including art, philosophy, design, activism and curatorial practice. Through lectures, seminars, guest speakers and collaborative projects, participants will develop a contemporary framework for thinking through friendship in this unprecedented era.

The seminar will be led jointly by Steven Henry Madoff, founding chair, MA Curatorial Practice Department, School of Visual Arts, and Mick Wilson, professor of art and director of studies for Research Education, HDK-Valand Academy of Art and Design, University of Gothenburg.

Note: This intensive is fully online and offered through a combination of synchronous as well as asynchronous lectures, discussions and activities.

Apply for the course

1. Apply for the course on

Application period: February 19 - March 15 2021

2. Submit your work sample through SlideRoom:
Period to submit portfolio: February 19 - March 22

Prerequisites and selection


Special instructions for application

  • Admission is based on letter of intention (preferably in English) stating why you wish to attend the course, 200 to 350 words in length. 
  • There is no need to submit a portfolio.  

Submit your letter of intention through SlideRoom.  

In evaluating your application, we consider: (i) clarity of purpose in attending course, as evidenced in letter of application; and (ii) capacity to actively contribute to the group dialogue online, as evidenced in letter of application. 

Your application must be anonymous. Do not include name or contact details anywhere in this material.