Frau* auf der Akademie (Woman* at the Academy) / Part I: Mission Statements

2018 / Video / HD / 22:00 min. / color / sound / Czech & German/ (English subtitles)

„There is not the slightest reason, morally or factually, to prevent women from being admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts." (1)

„The inevitable consequence of admitting girls would be the prevalence of dilettantism and the repression of the male element.” (2)

Shortly before the end of my contract, I encountered a nameless plaster bust (circa 1900) in the basement of the academy. I had worked two floors above her for many years as a university assistant.

My film traces the violence of inclusions / exclusions of historical emancipatory processes in the context of art education and women's movements, and relates them to the contemporary feminist representation strategies of the Academy.

"[...]  then one must choose from the best applicants, whether man or women, but one should reject the foreigners in favour of German women.” (3)

 „It would be good for the union, once we have a married woman at its top. It would undoubtedly be a tactical advantage at the moment if she was not a Jew.“ (4)

Through the detail shots, the dusty bust becomes a projection screen; it is the addressee, speaker and representative at the same time. Her images are interrupted by recordings in the plaster workshop of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Tools in Close-up contrast the images of the bust, working processes are filmed, hands in rubber gloves stir and knead the liquid, mushy plaster.

The images are weaved together with a text collage of historical petitions, lectures and statements in the context of the admission of women to the academies around 1900. These meet mission statements, women's advocacy plans and statistics of applicants surveys 100 years later. Who was given a "place in the sun" back then,  - and who makes it up the stairs and through the heavy, huge doors of the academy today?

„Today, the strength of the Academy lies in its successful, internationally renowned teachers, as well as in its students who come from over 50 countries to Vienna. Vienna is considered to play a central role as a mediator between East and West.” (5) 

„Out of a total of 49 applicants from “Eastern European countries”, the number admitted is below average, actually just 5 people. However, applicants from Germany are admitted to study with above-average frequency.“ (6)

The discrepancy between the substantive pretenses of an educational institution that today positions itself as feminist and its realities is staged with several voices and finds its absurd and violent expression through the pointed imagery of implements, rubber gloves, gypsum blobs.

“The proportion of women in almost all organisational units is more than 50 % if not even more than 60 %.” (7)

“7 people refused an answer in relation to Gender. Only 1 person described their gender with a question mark, and another person described it as trans. This means that only male and female applicants have sufficiently high case numbers, and so a separate evaluation of other gender identities is not possible.” (8)

„In order to focus these activities, the Academy has developed an internationalisation strategy.” (9) 

„The tuition fee amounts to 363.36 € per semester for students from Austria and other EU countries and the European Economic Area – or 727.72 € per semester for third country nationals.” (10)

„Quality standards and quality assurance. We insist on the highest level of teaching and research, and at the same time encourage experimentation. To maintain these standards, students are selected in a multi-part selection process.” (11) 

„Applicants whose mother has a low level of formal education are three and a half times less likely to be admitted, compared to if the mother is an academic.” (12)

„Only 8 out of 237 Austrian respondents,
(3 %), stated that their mother is working-class.” 
(13)

„The teaching and research at our university is based on a differentiated concept of art. 'Transcultural aesthetics with a post-colonial, queer-feminist, and critique of capitalism focus'.” (14)


* AoFAV = Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
(1) 1911, petition by 30 women associations in former Bohemia, Moravia and Galicia to the Imperial and Royal Ministry of Culture and Education
(2) 1904, resolution against the admission of women by the professors of the AoFAV to the ministry
(3) 1913, ‘The women’s art study’. A speech by Henni Lehmann
(4) 1914, Letter by Gertrud Bäumer, Union of German Women associations
(5) 2016, Mission Statement, website, AoFAV
(6) 2010, Applicants survey report at the Institute for Fine Arts 2009, Barbara Rothmüller, AoFAV(7)(12)(13) 2017, Women report 2015, Denise Beer, AoFAV
(8) 2010, Applicants survey report at the Institute for Fine Arts 2009, Barbara Rothmüller, AoFAV
(9) 2014, Strategy for Internationalisation, website, AoFAV
(10) 2017, Study information, website, AoFAV
(11)(14) 2016, Mission Statement, website, AoFAV

Film credits / photography, sound, editing, directing: Marion Porten / voice over: Jeannine Baillieu, Claudia Czesch, Marion Porten, Barbara Rothmüller, Alena Tichá / plastering hands: Tatjana Danneberg

Videostills / Frau* auf der Akademie