Interview with Neil Mulholland
專訪尼爾·穆赫蘭道教授


ART.ZIP: It is a common truth that learning theory and critical study are a very important part of studying photography? If so, what percentage of the MA/MFA photography programme at ECA is made up of theoretical study?

NM: We have two related courses that run each semester. One of them forms 40 credits, which is effectively the largest component. It focuses on practice and research that links to their artistic practice. It is difficult to say exactly how much is theoretical study and how much is practice; but it is really the development of how those two come together. Students are examined based on the research that they do, how they communicate, how they have developed a discourse, and what they have worked on with their peer group. So we assess how they communicate, how they respond to other’s work; we also assess the studentship and how they exhibit and distribute their work. Some cases are maybe the exception – a lot of students are not that straight forward, it may be more projects based or they may have published their work. It depends on what their practice is but these are the main things that we look at.

The smaller course is worth 20 credits. It is usually more theoretical, which means it’s based on seminars that students have to attend and they have to prepare the content for it. We ask them to read, reflect, visit or examine something and they have to come and present on that. That forms an educational experience itself and they will usually write a paper relating to that. These are more conventionally theoretical approaches but the nature of these courses change quickly. They become more blurred in the second semester when students hold an exhibition at Talbot Rice Gallery. They need to work collaboratively and they need to produce a publication that comes with the exhibition.

We also have a two year MFA course. At that level students have the choice to focus on what they expect of the programme and chose the most suitable programme for them. So either they do a degree show, or they read a body of art reading or they do something in-between. They can do a project and an accompanying report – something that is between a thesis and a degree show. Their choice, in a sense, is based on what they have tested out before they get to that point. Our degree shows are not conventional in that they include other possibilities that our students may have pursued.

The MA show which happens during the Edinburgh Festival is also connected with a bigger programme that the art college runs. So our students are part of a broad spectrum of events at the festival.

The nature of the kind of theory we pursue here is one of being experimental, philosophical and so on. We are really interested in visual culture, material culture and we are looking at the new aspects of theory that artists are drawn to at the moment. Then we move on to things are maybe more practical in orientation, like curatorial studies and curatorial practices. We also think about the engagement with organisational practice, which should become part of their work rather than something which is done to them. Our students will not wait for somebody to spot them or tell them how to sell. They need to learn how to do that by themselves; again you don’t have any other choices in Scotland. If you don’t do that, you don’t have a career, you don’t have anywhere to exhibit. You need to make opportunities. It is not commercial; it is different sort of climate here.

Rather than imagine that one day you will make work which earns you a big enough grant upon which to survive or that someone will pay a lot of money for your works, the importance is that you learn how to make good work with what you have. You need to become savvy about using all possible resources that you can gather. The best resource you have is your peers because they are the people who have time and energy.

ART.ZIP: 眾所周知,攝影理論和批評是攝影教育中非常重要的一部分,所以關於理論和批評在愛丁堡藝術學院碩士/純藝碩士攝影課程中大概占多大的比重?

NM: 我們每學期都會開設兩個相關的課程,其中一個占有四十個學分,屬於是課程設置中最大的組成部分。它側重於考察一個藝術項目的實踐和研究,然而我們很難說這其中究竟有多少是理論學習,又有多少是實踐部分,但是卻幫助學生將兩者合二為一。我們對學生的考察基於他們所做的研究,考察他們如何進行溝通,以及他們在與其他同學合作時所開發的話語權;我們同時考察學生如何回應其他人的作品,以及他們如何展示並宣傳自己的作品。但在一定的情況下也有特例,可能很多學生更偏向於攝影實踐或在雜誌上出版作品,雖然這一切都取決於每個學生各自的實踐,但上述的這些要點都是我們主要考察的內容。

而另一門占有二十學分的課程則會涉及到更多的理論學習,這門基於研討會形式的課程要求學生必須參加並提前做好準備。我們要求學生去閱讀,反思或審視一些課題,並將這些研究成果做成報告,並完成一份與之相關的論文。雖然上面提到的兩個課程都采用了比較傳統的理論教學方式,但課程的性質是不斷發生變化的,到了第二學期之後兩者間的界限就變得模糊起來。這學期學生會在塔爾伯特·萊斯畫廊為觀眾舉辦一場展覽,他們需要共同協力地去合作完成,並為展覽制作一本出版物。

另外,我們學院還有一個為期兩年的純藝碩士課程。因此,學生可以在這一階段選擇去全身心投入他們所期盼且更適合他們的實踐項目,他們既可以選擇做展覽,還可以撰寫論文,或是將兩者結合起來。學生還可以選擇做一個介於論文和畢業展之間的攝影項目,即附帶有紀錄項目進程報告的作品集。我們的畢業展相當開放,因此學生可以在此嘗試各種不同的可能。攝影碩士學生的畢業作品會在每年愛丁堡藝術節期間展覽,同時展覽也是藝術學院所組織大型活動的一部分,所以我們的學生亦成為藝術節上眾多活動的參與者之一。

我們一直對視覺文化及物質文化都抱有興趣,我們同時將目光轉向當下藝術家們所關注攝影理論的新方向。而且我們則更看重具有實踐性的方向,例如策展學習和策展實踐。我們也會去鼓勵學生參與到組織的實踐中,這其實是學生學習中的一部分,而不是別人應該為他們做的。我們的學生不會去一直等某個人去發現他/她,或告訴他/她如何去賣作品,他們要學會自己去承擔這些責任,因為身在蘇格蘭他們沒有更多的選擇。如果學生不這麽去做,他們便沒有工作,也找不到地方去展覽,他們必須自己去制造機會。在蘇格蘭的藝術生態並不是商業的,這裡是另一種氛圍。

我們的學生應該學會在現有的條件下去創作,而不是幻想有一天等你拿到一筆獎金或有人贊助時才去做作品。他們必須學會如何聚集手上的資源,而最好的資源便是那些擁有時間和能量的同學們。


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