25 06 07

Crosskick – Critiques Croisées

Julia Hahn/Benjamin Seibel

In the context of the exhibition and lecture series "Crosskick", initiated by the Working Group of German Arts Societies (ADKV), students from the postgraduate study program "Critical Curatorial Cybermedia" of the Geneva University of Art and Design were invited by the Halle für Kunst in Lüneburg to work together with local students of Applied Cultural Sciences. Given both universities’ institution-critical teaching tradition it seemed appropriate to put the concept of institutional criticism on the agenda once more, thus allowing it to be reappraised by the next generation. Reflecting on their own conditions of production, the students decided to investigate the ongoing reforms of the educational system and the Bologna process, which led to questions of the economisation of universities and how the access to knowledge has and will change.

After a first informal meeting of all participants, it quickly became clear that a mere critique of current events would not be enough. Instead of complaining about what is going wrong, the students decided that they had to think about better alternatives and that Crosskick gave them the opportunity to temporarily realize such an alternative. The idea was not to document on political issues in an artistic way, but to use resources from the art field to experiment with new ways of knowledge production and dissemination. Therefore students decided to turn the planned exhibition in a one week workshop and seminar programme which would happen at the Halle für Kunst in Lüneburg, thus escaping the institutional framework of the university.

Various topics ranging from the working conditions of the so-called creative class to the question of which forms of resistance can be efficient nowadays made up the discussions to which the public was invited. Regarding these topics various guests from different backgrounds were asked to give talks and the students took turns in moderating discussions and workshops. Theorists, artists and political activists were invited, but also proponents of the criticized educational system, such as representatives of the administration of the University of Lüneburg. Speeches and discussions were taped on video and one wall of the Halle für Kunst was transformed into a  blackboard where participants could comment on the ongoing topics. The so called “teach-in” sessions during the afternoon were followed by “be-in” sessions at night, allowing the students to reflect upon the events of the day in a different atmosphere and to further discuss the progress of the project.

How can a project like Crosskick be situated in  the tradition of institutional critique? First it is important to stress that Crosskick was, from the beginning a trans-disciplinary approach. With artists, cultural workers and theorists from different fields, problems were defined and addressed more independently of specific disciplines. While resources and space were provided by art institutions, the traditional mode of artistic production was replaced by an experimental process that examined socio-political events. No “artworks” were produced by the group, instead the art field was used as a refuge to temporarily realize a counter-model of collective knowledge production that refused to follow the economic imperative of the Bologna-Process. In Crosskick there was no obligation to work efficiently, there were no goals, no grades, no competition amongst students, no intellectual property.

In his 2001 speech “The University Without Conditions”, Jacques Derrida imagined the ideal university of the 21st century as a place where one is allowed to question everything without having to explain or justify it. The current shift at European universities towards shorter study times, less possibilities of individual choices and a more business-orientated agenda is the result of a concept of education which is directly opposed to Derrida’s idea. While it seems important to point out that the art field is also not free from restrictions (we learned this from the first wave of institutional critique already),  it can still provide a certain form of freedom that can be used to make progress in areas that are not part of the art field as such. This is also the reason why the arts currently appear to function as a shelter for progressive contemporary critique, which was not always the case. The freedom not to subordinate to a certain purpose has been a central element of modern artistic production.

Crosskick was an attempt to expand this privilege to the production of theory by turning it into an artistic practice. When the distinction between theory and practice is abandoned a mostly theoretical program like Crosskick could be understood as a micro-political form of practice, which has influence on artistic as well as non-artistic discourses. Depending on the topics, discussions were attended by people who were not related to the art field in any way. From this point of view one of the main concerns of the “second wave” of institutional critique, namely that it is trapped in it’s own field, is no longer relevant. When the art field is only used temporarily as a space for different kinds of investigations and experiments, the participants can hardly be “trapped in their own field” because the art field is not actually their field. Still, it’s a field that provides a freedom for experiments that can hardly be found anywhere else. Crosskick was such an experiment. A temporary, dynamic network, where the production of ideas and critique was central yet without the pressures of efficiency. At the same time the self-organized, collective approach on education tried to offer an alternative to the current developments in European universities. Immaterial work may have become the hegemonic form of capitalist production, but the creation of knowledge, social relations and surpluses does not necessarily has to subordinate under economic principles. A new generation of artistic institutional critique should not restrict itself to the art field but engage in a broader social critique by temporarily creating spaces where different forms of social production can be examined.

A Wiki-Manifesto, which resulted from Crosskick, is still open to contributions and can be found at

Benjamin Seibel


Julia Hahn