Prof. Ulrich Klieber: Art and design – Here and today

Art and design are economic factors, or, to be precise, art and design are also economic factors. The concept of “creative industries” has continued to haunt the media for quite some time. Regardless of whether one appreci­­­ates these concepts or not, there is no doubt that art and design are of enormous significance in modern society. Questions of meaning are asked and, perhaps, we answer some of them. Meaningfully. Perhaps we are more im­­portant in times of financial crisis and recession. But we are always challenged. The usual schemata no longer apply. One-way streets sometimes lead to dead-ends. Traditional rules and paths prove to be the wrong way. What is wanted is the ability to think outside the box, to think a few steps further, to develop vi­­si­­ons. We must invent scenarios and ask uncomfortable questions. We are looking for unusual an­­s­­wers. Research is part of our teaching activities – in design as in art. Each complements the other, for­­ming cre­­ative tension.


Design has long ceased to be pure product design. What’s required now is contextual thinking … mobility, urban renewal, renewable energy, re­­sources and environmental compatibility. These are some of the issues we have to deal with. In the University of Applied Sciences in 2008 we won two prizes: for the best design and for eco­­logy and sustainability. In this internationally praised competition we de­­veloped an experimental light vehicle. One of the themes in the competition was to drive as far as possible using the least amount of energy possible. We developed this vehicle together with the Merseburg Institute of Tech­­nology. Our task is to develop networks in the region and further afield. We are intensifying our work in this direction in the field of culture, with the commercial community and research centres. Last year we concluded a cooperation agreement with the Fraunhofer In­­sti­tute for Mech­­anics of Materials in Halle.

We make creative contributions to the Georg-Friedrich Händel Festival each year and we take part in many types of combined activities with the Franckesche Stiftungen (Franck Foundations). For ex­­ample, our media departments make an annual trailer for the theme year of the Franck Foundations.


What becomes of our graduates? Where do they go? What sort of tools do we give them? It is important to support business start-ups. We have just created the Halle Design House as a “platform”, a “nesting box” and a “competence centre”.
Our main task is to keep business start-ups here in the region.
At the same time we must look beyond the ends of our noses, which we do in the form of inter­­na­tional exchanges. We have cooperative agreements with other art colleges all over the world – with colleges in Tokyo, Japan, in Tian­­jin, China, with St. Peters­­burg, Russia, Ohio, USA and­ Havana, Cuba. And we maintain lively links with most Euro­­pean art colleges. Recently we took part in a joint interior architecture project with the Gerrit Rietveld Acade­­mie Amster­­­­dam with the theme “The colours are a-changin!” The theme was “Some kind of task force university of design and engi­­neering could bring groups of in­­ter­­national students to where concep­­tional and design ideas transfer is des­­perately needed and thus become an experimental and interdisciplinary initiative on the spot.”


It is necessary to strengthen the re­­gion and its economy. In the ego.-Exis­­tenz­­grün­­der­­­­­­­­wett­­­bewerb (business Start-­­up competition) among the universities of the state, organized by Saxony-An­­halt’s state Ministry of Com­­merce we have regularly won prizes over the last few years – as the smallest art college in the state! In 2006 and 2007 we won first prize and in 2008 we won third prize.
The Halle Design Prize is being offered for the second time. The prize is spon­­­sored and supported by a wide range of partners from the region. We provide ideas, are co-founders and actively help at the same time. The city of Halle and the University of Art and Design have always been design locations, which we want to emphasize and publicize.
The first Design Prize (2007), opened internationally to young up-and-coming designers, encouraged us. A whole 19,000 visitors saw the results of the competition in the substation in Halle. At the moment we are in the middle of preparing the 2010 Design Prize.
Parallel to this, we created an art prize for the best degree grades in the Art category, together with the local savings b­­­­ank. Art needs encouragement and patience. Prizes mean fame and recognition, and a high-powered jury will add to the prize’s reputation. This year the competition was held for the second time.
In 2008 we also took part in an art trade fair in Berlin together with young female art graduates. Making contacts, getting known, taking part in public debates and talking to people – all this is of elementary importance for young artists.
The University of Art and Design also takes part in many exhibitions and trade fairs national and international every year. We won an award at the Co­­logne Furniture Trade Fair and we decorate the Leipzig and Frank­­furt Book Fairs each year, as we do the Milan Furniture Fair, the Grassi open and the Hanover Trade Fair, often ac­­companied by our design-shop on tour.


Artistic variety and a solid, broad training – these are the important pre­­requisites for being able to participate in the job market, and we try to give our graduates both. Young artists and designers as motors, movers and sources of inspiration and incentive. The journey is the destination; the direction is the right one.


Klieber-Porträt-2008The author was born in Göppin­­gen in 1953, studied at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart and at the Royal College of Art in London. Ulrich Klieber joined the Burg Giebichenstein Uni­­ver­­sity of Art and Design Halle in 1995; in 1996 he was appointed professor of Basic Sculptural Work and since Octo­­ber 2003, he has been the rector.