Core aspects of artistic practice
During the first four trimesters of your studies at Piet Zwart
institute's Fine Art course, you will engage in three main course
elements: Practice & Research, Analysis of Practice and Issues
in Art & Theory. Each element focuses on a core aspect of
artistic practice. These three aspects of artistic practice come
together in the last two trimesters in your Final Project.
1. Practice & Research
Involving independent work
Your independent work is your main focus and point of reference
throughout the course. Practice & Research evolves around the
enhancement of your own work. Participants develop a body of work
focused upon questions, ideas, or themes they select and using
media and working methods they find most appropriate to their
practice. Research and work are self-directed and undertaken
independently, and will take forms and directions that are specific
to each participant. It may involve experimentation, technical
training, looking at art works by others, reading literature, field
research, the production of work and the realisation of public
presentations, or any other kind of activity relevant to your
practice and your study needs.
Work will often be undertaken individually, but may also involve
collaboration with others. It may take place in your studio at PZI
or the technical workshops of the academy, but also at any other
site or platform appropriate to your work.
The emphasis is on experimentation and exploration of processes,
materials and ideas. Work in progress is discussed in individual
tutorials, both to provide feedback and to clarify aims and
intentions, formulate questions and define areas for further
research, analyse processes and outcomes, and develop a critical
framework and vocabulary in relation to your own practice.
Practice & Research involves ca 70% of your time during your
studies (including the Final Project).
Direct feedback on your work and research is given in individual
tutorials, which are tailored to focus on your specific interests
and needs. Participants sign up for tutorials themselves, and can
thus steer the planning and frequency of their tutorials. On
average, participants have five one-hour tutorials per month.
However, in practice you may decide to solicit a lot of feedback
during one month, and to focus on quiet research and production
during another. It is expected that participants meet with a number
of tutors every term and have met with each core tutor at least
once per year.
A team of eight artists and theorists are core tutors; they will
conduct studio visits throughout the year, allowing for a
continuing dialogue. In addition to the regular team, both students
and staff can make proposals for guest tutors.
Technical training is provided via the technical workshops of
the Willem de Kooning Academy. Since PZI participants have
different previous training and needs and employ different media,
technical training is mainly conducted through individual
instruction and advice, focused on the concrete work you are
developing. You are therefore expected to be able to self-organise
and to take the initiative to get the support and training you need
for your work via the academy workshops and technical
Special instruction classes in Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, AVID,
html and other relevant programmes are also organised for small
groups of students.
In some cases you may need technical support or a type of working
space that is not available via the Academy; in such a case we can
help you look for possibilities offered by other professional
studios in Rotterdam.
2. Analysis of Practice
Involving group critiques
An ongoing series of group critiques provide a forum for
participants to reflect together on each others' work and analyze
The presenting participant sets the agenda for his or her group
critique. S/he prepares a presentation of work (in progress), and a
written statement, evaluating the artistic decisions that informed
their work, and identifying questions, issues or concerns in
relation to their work for joint discussion.
By preparing for your group critique, you will develop appropriate
ways of presenting and framing work and ideas in progress to peers.
You will learn to identify artistic questions, ideas and themes
relevant to your work, and to articulate them in writing. Listening
to your peers discussing your work, in relation to your stated
artistic questions and intentions, will provide an opportunity to
test and reflect on the readings your work generates.
By engaging in discussions of the work of others, you will also
develop a critical vocabulary and tools to analyse and interrogate
work. Discussing the work of peers against their stated intentions
and questions is an exercise in reading art works, thinking out
loud, and speculating on different perspectives, approaches and
Group critiques take place every three to four weeks. Each
participant presents his or her work for a group discussion twice
per year. The discussions are supported and moderated by a tutor
and a fellow-participant.
Since the group critiques are the main forum for participants to
test and discuss their work with each other, they are continued
throughout the two years of study. This also allows first and
second year students to have group critiques together. The
critiques will take up ca 7% of your time throughout your
3. Issues in Art & Theory
Conducted through an annually changing programme of thematic projects, seminars and lectures
A series of thematic projects allows participants to engage
critically with issues in contemporary art and theory. Issues in
contemporary art and theory are never clear-cut and simple, nor are
they stable. Terms and approaches have a different meaning and
relevance in different contexts, and are continuously developed and
utilised, negotiated and debated, reconsidered and reinvested.
Rather than covering a fixed set of themes and references, we
therefore address the Issues in Art & Theory module through an
annually changing programme of thematic projects. This allows us to
engage flexibly and (self-)critically with a range of relevant
issues, and to work with challenging artists, curators, critics and
The thematic projects offer a forum for the exploration of
artistic approaches and theoretical concepts, referring back to the
critical frameworks from which they have emerged, but also looking
at their potential, relevancy and implications in the present. The
projects deliberately connect theory and practice, and focus on
themes and topics that cut into and across different practices and
discourses (visual art practice, related artistic practices, social
practices, exhibition making, art criticism, cultural theory,
philosophy, politics, etcetera).
Descriptions of current and past thematic projects, seminars and
lectures can be found in the 'current programme' and the 'programme
archive' sections of this site. Recurring fields of interest have
been amongst others the relation between public and private space;
the urban environment and social commentary; and strategies of
presentation and dissemination.
Through your own engagement with particular thematic projects you
will develop a critical framework and vocabulary to reflect on
issues in art and theories, as well as on specific artworks and
artistic approaches, and to consider your own work and working
methods within this expanded context.
Thematic projects may take the form of a seminar, a lecture
series, or a workshop involving a combination of seminars, lectures
and self-directed research. Project work will often include reading
and discussing texts, analysis of art works and artistic
approaches, joint exhibition visits and excursions, work on
location, and (public) presentations.
Making a choice of projects
You are expected to participate in four thematic projects,
selected from the annual programme, in the course of your studies.
You are free to do more, and receive extra credits for extra
projects. Before you embark on your graduation project, you should
have completed three of the thematic projects.
Normally a thematic project lasts one trimester. Joint project
activities may be organised in weekly meetings or in intensive
workshops, depending on the project. Each thematic project may
account for one or two days of work per week, including group
meetings in seminars, lectures and joint exhibition visits, reading
texts, undertaking self-directed research and preparing
presentations. Lecture programmes are less intense than projects in
The thematic projects will take ca. 30% of your time during your
4. Final project
A critical framework
The last two trimesters of the course are reserved for an
independent Final Project. The Final Project enables you to realise
a coherent and imaginative body of work and a public presentation,
as well as to explore ideas, methods, artistic approaches and
theoretical references. The project may involve subjects, methods,
references, media and forms of presentation and dissemination
relevant to your practice.
You prepare for your Final Project by writing a Final Project
Proposal in the fourth trimester of your studies. In the process of
writing a research proposal, you will analyse the questions and
methods running through the work you have realised so far,
formulate an artistic question and approach for further research.
On top of this, you will establish a critical framework relevant to
The Final Project involves self-directed work and study,
critically supported by individual tutorials as well as joint
seminars and group critiques. A writing tutor will give specific
individual support to help you develop your skills and voice in
Students also receive financial support for the production of work
and the realisation of a public presentation. Participants are
encouraged to search for a form of presentation that is specific to
their work. Over the past years, many final projects have resulted
in group exhibitions in TENT., centre for visual art in Rotterdam,
but participants have also shown their work in other cultural
settings, such as the theatre, the cinema or public space, or
distributed work in printed or online forms.
Related to the curriculum
Our faculty and guests are practitioners in contemporary art and
culture with a very active professional practice. In addition to
our curriculum, taught by our core faculty and invited project
leaders, we organise an ongoing public event series based on issues
related to the curriculum, but reaching beyond the framework of the
seminars. The public events are an important resource for students,
tutors and guests, serving as bridge to the city and building a
community around areas of interests.
The Piet Zwart Institutes includes the two research
- Communication in a Digital Age - investigates the future shape
of communication design and artistic professions in a time of
massive social, economic and technological changes of media,
communication culture and the production and distribution of
so-called creative work.
- Cultural Diversity - reflects changes of contemporary art and
design through migration, post-colonial relations and transnational
visual cultures, with a focus on the city of Rotterdam and its
population of currently 48% immigrants.
As a master student at the Piet Zwart Institute, you can attend
all conferences, lectures and workshops organised by the two
research programmes, have guest lecturers as personal tutors and
contribute your own projects to its published research.