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Department of Fine Arts, Zurich University of the Arts

Apply now: Pre/Doc-Program Transforming Environments (Fine Arts)

The Department of Fine Arts (DFA) is starting a new one-year program that enables emerging artists, curators, artistic researchers to conceive and engage in a practice-based PhD project. The aim of the program is for participants to gain a deeper understanding of the requirements in the academic field, to conceptualize their own approach to artistic research and to elaborate a solid research plan. Within the framework of monthly group meetings, the members will actively participate in a culture of peer-exchange. They will have access to the University’s infrastructure and research environment, as well as to financial support for project-related travel and production. With the support of individual mentoring, the participants are expected to develop their projects and to hand in a full PhD proposal (exposé) by the end of the program. Participants who successfully complete this program will qualify to pursue their PhD at the DFA.

Transforming Environments situates artistic research in the context of urgent matters and open questions that emerge from current living conditions. We invite the participants to focus on social, political, or cultural situations which call for rethinking and action. How can such situations be made tangible? How can art negotiate transformation? Which approaches seem suitable to address urgencies, to intervene and have an effect?

We welcome applications from artists, curators, artistic researchers (MFA degree) with consistent practice and a convincing interest to work on/towards processes of social, political, or cultural transformation. Please note that admission to the program does not imply stipends nor paid positions.

Program modules:

  • Kick-off: The program starts with an intensive workshop Transforming Environments (exclusively for the group’s members) at the Istituto Svizzero in Rome, September 15-18, 2021 (all travel expenses are covered through the program, except those from overseas)
  • Group meetings: From October 2021 to June 2022, the group will meet monthly at ZHdK to discuss specific issues and participate in peer-exchange
  • Transdisciplinary exchange: The participants will have access to different workshops held within the framework of the Transdisciplinary Artistic PhD program which involves students from all five departments of ZHdK
  • Individual mentoring: All participants will develop their PhD proposal individually, supported by regular mentoring from the director of the program and other members of the DFA supervisors pool

To apply, please submit:

  • Cover letter, including your research interest and motivation for doing an artistic PhD (max. 1.5 A4 pages)
  • Portfolio, including a CV and documentation of your most important work/projects from the last 5 years (max. 12 A4 pages)
  • Video-statement about a specific social, political, cultural challenge or transforming environment that you are interested in, and about the possibilities you see for you as an artist/curator/researcher to involve yourself. The statement (max. 5 min) can consist of a simple recording of you talking to the camera, or it can include footage that helps you communicate your position. Please upload your statement to vimeo and include the link in your cover letter.

Applications can be submitted in English or German. Please submit your cover letter (including the link to your video statement) and portfolio as a single PDF file to

Application deadline: May 9, 2021. Zoom-interviews with the shortlisted applicants will take place in the last week of May 2021.

Zoom Q&A: On April 8, 2021 at 6 p.m., you can join an information event about the program on Zoom. For the link to the event, please contact:

Head of the Program: Dr. Marcel Bleuler

Head of the Department of Fine Arts: Prof. Swetlana Heger-Davis




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