Jacqueline Baum – Art mediation in an integral authorship

In which context are you working as an art educator?

I run the courses Art Education in Art and Design (BA) and Art Education (MA) together with my colleague Maren Polte at the Bern University of the Arts, where I also teach art and art education. Besides, I’m an artist. I see myself only indirectly as an art educator, because I train students who will later teach art education at a highschool or who are going to work as art educators at an art museum or in the extracurricular field. The aim of the Master of Art Education at the BUA is “to develop a personality with a high level of creative and artistic expression and judgement, great technological competence, scientific reflectiveness and professional mediation and communication skills”. The goal is summarized in the concept of integral authorship in the field of art education and aesthetic formation. By this I understand the combination of an artistic, art educational and theory-related attitude as art educator.

With whom do you cooperate?

I almost always work in teams. Models such as co-directing and co-teaching are valuable and also challenging in a positive sense, because the counterpart gives impulses to rethink one’s own position and attitude and to expand one’s own methods. Collective forms of work have enormous potential if the individual participants are able to contribute as individuals.

The cooperation and the exchange with actors from very different disciplines are central for me, whether in teaching or in art. As an artist I have been working with Ursula Jakob in the Duo Baum/Jakob since 2011.

What is your understanding of art education?

Dialogical forms of mediation are fundamental for my working methods, as they offer the possibility of generating knowledge together. I also focus on art education out of art (Kunstvermittlung von Kunst aus) and have constantly developed and expanded the approaches by Eva Sturm in my own practice. In my understanding, these are attempts to reach into the open. They also require that unforeseen or sometimes unimportant things happen. Instability and the possibilities of failure can be perceived as moments of inspiration in the artistic and educational process.

What is the relationship (for you) between education and art?

As an artist and lecturer in differently accentuated courses, I am interested in the comparability of artistic and educational processes. I assume that when an artistic process is experienced “at first hand”, with all its difficulties, disruptions and changes of direction, it can form a basis for art education. This assumed that artistic processes are also reflected upon and that a vocabulary of one’s own is found for the knowledge gained in this way.

Why mediate (contemporary) art? / Why educate people about (contemporary) art?

Personally, I am concerned about how contemporary art can be dealt with when it is no longer understood. I would like to discuss how educational processes can be initiated from contemporary works. Moments of irritation can give new impulses to the mediation, not only to receive, but to put even statements into space. It should be disclosed that art education is a possible approach to art, but not the only one.

In what kind of relationship do you see the practice of curating and educating?

It depends on the understanding of the curating process. There are more and more institutions where an exchange between the two fields of practice takes place at eye level and partners of both fields are aware of the similarities and differences. At best, this collaboration creates new approaches for encounters and interaction with art.

Why is art education important for a museum or an institution?

Art education is important if it is given sufficient autonomy to not only serve established formats (e.g. guided tours, painting with children…). I think that art education can create unusual situations for dialogue and can also include everyday questions and local issues.

Where do we find the (institutional) spaces, in which we can have a discussion about our experiences of art?

Among colleagues, with students, wherever the need for exchange arises… At the university, it is important to create spaces where students can set up their own formats to talk about art experiences in an informal setting. Recently I have observed that needs and interests are shifting and that the institutional framework does not always fit.

To what extent can art education and art mediation open up a new sphere of action?

As already mentioned before, when the mediation of art is allowed to be critical and enables thinking, reflecting and acting together with the audience or the project participants.

When do you think art education is successful? When do you think art education is complicated?

I consider art education projects to be successful if they enable an independent encounter with art. However, I do not think it is advisable to establish criteria for successful and difficult projects. Situations or settings must always be reconsidered and negotiated. In the context of the university, it is a matter of concern to me that students are aware of the difficulty of judging. It is important that they find arguments for why something is successful or difficult.

Is there a specific method or strategy you currently work with?

I like the image of the art educator as a film director and the method of film montage, which assigns image and sound in a certain way and thus creates a reality. In teaching I try to make things meet again and again, so that the students are challenged to question the material and to find their own approach to it based on their experiences. In my lessons I also use artistic research strategies such as field research (interviews, participating observation…) as methods to research topics such as the project “The Border (Die Grenze)” in the immediate neighborhood of the Berne BUA in Bern Bümpliz Nord, which was developed in a collaborative process and generated jointly knowledge.

What are you currently working on?

Ursula Jakob and I have investigated artistic and art educational processes within the research project “Art mediation in transformation, Art as Education, Education as Art” and have set up a course for the Master Art Education. The mutual learning of different approaches should serve to soften traditional practices and to break new ground. The inclusion of students of music mediation at BUA also opens up the possibility of thinking interdisciplinary and expanding the transfer idea within the research project. On the occasion of the 20-year anniversary of the Migros Museum, a cooperation for the implementation of artistic art education projects was established.

In the Bachelor’s programme, together with Ruth Kunz, I developed a course in which students become familiar with discovering learning and the methods of project teaching. They develop an awareness of what children have with them – such as their questions, their imagination and their obstinacy. By becoming aware of the opportunities and limitations of open forms of learning and by looking at interaction processes in the context of origin and the world in which they live, they learn to counter the heterogeneous stage of development and the different interests and inclinations of children with a cooperative attitude. The module is intended to support the joint learning of students and children.

In the artistic work with Ursula Jakob, for example, a polyphonic view often arises through montage and it is important to us that the viewers can open up these different realities or attitudes independently. We hope that such different levels of meaning can be experienced. In the last project (from which the book “Blumenlese” emerged) we dealt with what happens in art and science when objects are removed from their original context.

Which books and projects are important for your work and why?

People or projects dealing with the topics mentioned above: Tania Bruguera “Behavior Art School“, Eduard Glissant “Poetics of Relation”, Eva Sturm “Von Kunst aus. Kunstvermittlung mit Gilles Deleuze“, Claire Bishop “Participation“, Nina Möntmann “New Communities” in: Art, Informal Space and Social Consequence: A Curatorial Handbook in Collaborative Practice, Gary Snyder “The practice of the Wild“, Hannah Arendt “The human condition“, Hito Steyerl “Color of Truth. Documentarisms in the art field“, Jacques Rancière “The ignorant schoolmaster. Five lessons on intellectual emancipation“, Paulo Freire “Pedagogy of the Oppressed“, Jean-Luc Godard “Histoire(s) du Cinéma”, Catherine Russell “Experimental Ethnography. The Work of Film in the Age of Video“, Gesa Ziemer “Complicity. New perspectives on collectivity“, Irit Rogoff, Carmen Mörsch’s “Time for Cultural Mediation“, “CUP New York“, Sharon Lockhart “Pine Flat“, Suzanne Lacy “Mapping the Terrain. New Genre Public Art“, Shelley Hirsch and many others…..

Which questions would you like to ask an art educator?

What does the training of future art educators look like?

How do you imagine the future of art education?

Good question. I think that the possibilities of encouraging dialogues based on art can be further expanded. I observe the students’ interest in conditions and questions concerning cultural institutions. Based on a commissioned work, gender-neutral WC signs were designed. The initiators have considered how they would like to act as independent artists/art mediators in order to stimulate discourses on the topic of inclusion/exclusion. In my view, projects and ideas that continue to have an effect in society are forward-looking.


Jacqueline Baum, *1966, graduated from the state teacher training college in Brig and the drawing teacher diploma in Lucerne. 1996 – 2004 she lived in New York, where she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts at the Pratt Institute and received the AIM Award at the Bronx Museum of the Arts in 1999. This was followed by activities at various institutions, including lecturer at the Museum for Modern Art in New York, director of participatory art projects at schools in Harlem and professor for new media at the Pratt Institute. In 2011 she received the SAM Art Award in Switzerland. From 2003-2009 Jacqueline Baum directed the propaedeutics course at the Bern University of the Arts. In 2005 she was responsible for the artistic direction of the Bern Biennale. Since 2009 she has been a lecturer in the field of art and art education at the Bachelor in Art and Design Education and Master of Art Education courses, which she has been co-leading with Maren Polte since 2015. She conducts research in the fields of art mediation, aesthetic education and art and has published and exhibited in this context.
Web: baumjakob.ch, arteducation.ch

Published: 1.05.2018
Interview: Gila Kolb
Photos: Jaqueline Baum, 2018