Interview with Neil Mulholland

ART.ZIP: What is the competitive edge of MA/MFA course at ECA? And what makes you most proud of it?

NM: To some extend, I think all Masters Photography courses in Europe are same, in a lot ways. They sort of need to be part of a European critical framework or something like that. There is international debate and discourse surrounding contemporary art and photography that they need to conform to. We don’t necessarily focus on differences but on what makes us alike.

We are in the art school, which was until recently an independent art school and therefore it has that tradition which is connected to a workshop model. So the way our students are taught is coming from that kind of educational inheritance.

Having joined the University of Edinburgh, we found ourselves part of a gigantic College of Humanities and Social Sciences, which has incredible range of expertise. The photography students here can draw on the other fine art or design areas (glass, sculpture, film and TV, textiles), or whatever they think may be useful in their work. They are also able to access all of the workshops that take place in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, so there are actually thousands of lectures taking place every week.

Students also can identify various support mechanisms for something that they may be interested in, theoretically speaking; and they can work directly with experts as well. Also, there is a lot of room for cross-over into sciences and medicines department. For example, our MFA students did an exhibition at the end of 2012 with the Roslin Institute. The work was produced in collaboration with scientists who worked in the institution and then exhibited there. They brought some of the work permanently as part of the new Roslin Institute just outside Edinburgh. So, there is this kind of possibility to work with the huge University of Edinburgh on of all sorts of projects.

The last aspect is that Photography exists as a Fine Art programme and that programme includes theory and curating. Students who specialise in these areas also inhabit the same studio. You may see some institutions where humanity and theoretical areas are quite often separated academically. But students here at ECA share the same spaces, the same courses and often, the same assignments. For example, our first year students have a large exhibition at the Talbot Rice Gallery, which was both a curatorial project and exhibition opportunity for them. They do a lot of collaboration with the curating students and all of them were involved. And they also work with other Master students from other MFA programmes in Europe. So this year, they are going to work with some students in Leeds and others from Ghent.

There is a sort of emphasis on collaboration between students to produce projects and exhibitions, and that is something they need to learn. If they don’t learn to work independently and socially, I would say, in Scotland there are no other options, where we don’t have primary art market. In Scotland, art students have to learn how to represent themselves and be self-organised. So developing connections with self-organised projects and spaces in Edinburgh is particularly important. MC Gallery for example, delivers all the professional practice components of the programme for the students that exhibit work there. The work on the project for MC takes place usually in late May every year. A strong sense of what we are trying to do is to involve our students from the beginning with the independent art scene in Scotland. So when they graduate from art school they have already become part of the art scene. Most of the people involved with those organisations did the MFA as well, so it gives a sense of moving from one platform to the next. We can see that is a certain kind of economy that exists in Scotland which is specific to a small country and that may be differently from Frankfurt or London.

ART.ZIP: 愛丁堡藝術學院當代藝術攝影的碩士(MA)和純藝(MFA)課程的獨特之處在哪?最令您驕傲的地方又在何處?

NM: 從一定程度上來說,我相信歐洲所有攝影碩士課程都有著極其相似的地方,其課程都是在歐洲學分框架之下所設置的,這便意味著這些課程必須符合國際上有關當代藝術和攝影話語的討論。因而我們更看重的是課程同該標準的相似度,而不是其獨特之處,所以我們並不強調它同其他院校攝影課程的區別。這裡一直以來都是一個單獨的藝術學院,直到最近才並入愛丁堡大學,所以我們依舊遵循的是傳統藝術院校工作坊的教學方式,而我們教授給學生也是延續了藝術院校的那一套。


除了上面提到的以外,攝影系學生還可以在他們感興趣的領域裡得不同程度的幫助,理論上說,他們甚至可以直接和相關專家們一起合作。比如說在2012年年底,我們攝影純藝專業的學生同愛丁堡醫學院(羅斯林學院Roslin Institute)的科研工作者們共同完成了一場展覽,醫學院還購買了部分學生的參展作品並收藏在遷址愛丁堡城外的新校區內。所以說,學院在並入愛丁堡大學之後也意味著我們學生能獲得更多元的機會。

最後,作為純藝專業的攝影課程設置中包括了藝術理論和策展部分的學習,因而無論偏向理論還是攝影實踐的學生都共享同一個工作空間。你或許會發現很多學院都在學術上都把人文和理論領域分的很開,然而愛丁堡藝術學院的學生則共享同一個空間,學習相同的課程,甚至完成同樣的作業。比方說我們一年級的學生每年都會在愛丁堡大學塔爾伯特·萊斯畫廊(Talbot Rice Gallery)舉行一次大規模的展覽,因而這次展覽對學生來說即是一個展覽,亦是一次策展項目,均由攝影實踐方向和策展方向的學生們共同合作完成。我們的學生還常常同歐洲其他專業的純藝學生進行一些合作項目,比如今年將於來自英格蘭利茲以及比利時根特藝術院校的學生展開合作交流。

我們的專業十分強調學生們在實踐和展覽中的合作,這些工作並不是一個人就能完成的,因而合作成為他們所必須要掌握的領域。我想說的是,在攝影藝術還沒有形成初級市場的蘇格蘭,學生們並沒有其他的選擇。在這裡,藝術專業學生必須學習如何表達自己,並學會自我組織。因此,在愛丁堡,學生學會自我發起藝術項目並同畫廊互動尤為重要,比如在每年五月下旬在MC畫廊(MC Gallery)的展覽便是學生展示專業水平的絕佳例子。另外我們希望在一開始就能帶領學生走進蘇格蘭獨立的藝術界,我們希望他們從學院畢業時就已經成為圈子裡的一部分,這也為那些繼續攻讀純藝碩士學位的學生搭建了進入另一個階段的臺階。我們必須看到的是,蘇格蘭的特殊經濟環境導致愛丁堡藝術市場同其他城市不同,例如法蘭克福或倫敦。

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