Atelier inklusiv

Normality is a construction. Theodor K. (1875–1941), Untitled (Boat with Duck’s Head), ca. 1940, wooden construction. Photograph: Sammlung Königsfelden Königsfelden Collection, Inv. Nr. 389, PDAG, Windisch

Students taking the BA Art Education module “Atelier inklusiv” (Inclusive Studio) spend a semester working alongside people with special needs. Lecturer Katrin Luchsinger explains how she incorporates her research on works created by mentally ill people into her teaching.


Mirjam Steiner: You have been researching works created in Swiss psychiatric institutions for over a decade. In the spring semester, you will be running a teaching project based on your research. What provided the impetus for this module, and what is its aim?
Katrin Luchsinger: “Atelier inklusiv” is about transferring research to teaching. The module is part of the exhibition “Extraordinaire! Unknown Works from Psychiatric Institutions in Switzerland around 1900,” which is showing at Kunstmuseum Thun until 19 May 2019. In class, we address the topical issue of inclusion and ask ourselves: What happens when “normality” is formed, or “modeled” as it were, in our surroundings? Moreover, what happens if, for instance, we encourage people with impairments to participate in this “modeling” ? The project arose from this context and these questions. It involves people with special needs who work in creative studios. We thought long and hard about how they could best participate in our research and exhibition. We discarded many ideas because they were based on language and concluded that it was a matter of enabling experiences, in both directions: on the one hand, faculty and students learn what a supervised studio for people with cognitive impairments who are artistically active has to offer; on the other, the studio’s clients gain insights into working at ZHdK. Hence the studio exchange, which is intended to facilitate encounters.

The project means that students leave their familiar working environment. How do they prepare for the studio exchange? How does the project unfold?
We first visit four creative studios. The visits initiate contact with artists and provide insight into local production conditions: our students learn which materials and colours are used, what spatial conditions are like and which restrictions apply. The subsequent ten-week studio exchange is about developing a mentored project. Students are free to choose their own project and should be inspired by their surroundings. Cooperation is not required, but may of course emerge from shared interests.

The cooperation project enables both sides to learn a lot from each other. What do you think students will learn from this project?
People with impairments, for example, have a lot of time or a different relationship to efficiency, output, success or self-criticism than we do. Some have a completely different imagination than we expect. Some are introverted, many very helpful, others very orderly and some communicative. We believe that this new environment is inspiring. Clients often deal with language in a completely different way than we are used to. It is important how something is said so that it is understood. This different way of dealing with language can be very fruitful for our students in their teaching. In this sense, the project is also about honing students’ teaching skills.

The project will be filmed. What will happen to the material?
BA Film students will document both the module and the reflections shared at the intermediate presentations. We will present the film on 10 May 2019 at a conference titled “Rohe Kunst? Kunst ausserhalb des Kunstbetriebs,” one of the events accompanying the exhibition at Kunstmuseum Thun. It is meant to honour the work that has been done. It also matters greatly to me that we organise the conference so that people with impairments will also feel welcome. We aim to create a programme that not only accommodates linguistic formats, but also includes contributions using other modalities in which, for example, sounds or smells are more important. We will develop these together in the teaching project. I am very interested in this and look forward to the process.

“Extraordinaire! Unknown Works from Psychiatric Institutions in Switzerland around 1900,” until 19 May 2019 Tuesday–Sunday 10am–5pm, Wednesday 10am–7pm Kunstmuseum Thun, Thunerhof, Hofstettenstrasse 14, Thun “Extraordinaire!” is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF and Pro Helvetia.
“Rohe Kunst? Kunst ausserhalb des Kunstbetriebs” (in German) Friday, 10 May 2019, 9.30am–7pm Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Ausstellungsstrasse 60, Vortragssaal, Zurich Registration:
Prof. Dr. Katrin Luchsinger ( is a lecturer in the Department of Cultural Analysis and a researcher at the Institute for Cultural Studies in the Arts. Her dissertation “Die Vergessenskurve. Werke aus psychiatrischen Kliniken in der Schweiz um 1900. Eine kulturanalytische Studie” was published in 2016. She studied art history and psychology in Zurich.
Mirjam Steiner ( is an art and literature scholar and a research associate at ZHdK.
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