Berlin - Art and the City: Field Course in Contemporary Art and Cultural Theory

VISA 470 | 3 credits

About the program

This course is led by Althea Thauberger, The Department of Art History, Visual Art & Theory. 

Dates: Overall dates: May 24-June 28, 2022 | Vancouver seminar: May 24-27 | Online sessions: May 30 + June 6 | Berlin seminar: June 9-28

Topic: Studio seminar on historical and contemporary relationships between politics, activism and art production in the city of Berlin

Locations visited: Berlin, Germany

Funding: This is an Arts Research Abroad (ARA) funded program. The ARA program aims to ensure that upper-level international research courses are accessible to academically qualified students, and that scholarly preparation and aspiration rather than financial means are the deciding factors for student participation. Funded by a generous gift from donors, the Faculty of Arts, and Go Global, the ARA program sponsors advanced research-intensive courses involving international travel.  70% of the program cost will be offset for academically qualified students; and up to 100% of the cost may be offset for academically qualified students who demonstrate financial need (as determined by Enrolment Services). 

Students can only be considered for one major International Learning Award throughout their degree e.g. ARA (Arts Research Abroad) funded Global Seminars, Undergraduate Research Conference. 

About the course  

Art and the City: Field course in contemporary art and theory is a studio seminar on historical and contemporary relationships between politics, activism and art production in the city of Berlin. The course will provide you with knowledge of historical cultural movements that have grown out of political resistance and solidarities as a basis for imagining and building parallel practices in varying present contexts. The course will be taught in tandem with Dr. Ayasha Guerin and her students in ENGL 377 Audre Lorde Archive: Black Literary Arts and Activism in Berlin, collaborating on aspects of a shared seminar, an immersive field program in Berlin, and an exhibition/symposium. 

This course will include preparatory readings and seminars in Vancouver providing an overview of late 19th and 20th Century cultural and political history. You will then spend 19 days in Berlin, during which time the focus will be post-reunification art, theory, and activist practices as they are intertwined with current contemporary art in the city. The activities in Berlin will include seminars led by the instructor; workshops led by local artists and theorists; historical/architectural walking tours; visits to art exhibitions, performances and screenings in galleries, museums, artist studios and alternative spaces, a sustained engagement with the 12th Berlin Biennial exhibition and related discourses in decolonial learning and repair. The course will culminate in a one-day art exhibition and seminar with students from ENGL 377, and Dr. Ayasha Guerin. After the seminars and exhibition, you will be required to submit a written reflection on your activities and research. 

Being present in the city of Berlin, and meeting with local practitioners will be a formative experience. History is present and legible through the city's urban fabric, and absorbing the relationship this has with current art and activist production will enable you to take lessons back to Vancouver, and other cities. The course will also involve visits to archives that might be relevant to your artistic and theoretical research like the Brecht and Walter Benjamin Archives, located at the Akademie der Künste. It will also give you the opportunity to extend the horizons of your practices as you prepare to leave the academy, or go to graduate school, and/or continue you research/creation practices in other professional contexts. 

This course is structured to create opportunities for research on several registers, with the intention that it will serve as the beginning of longer-term pursuits for many participants. The forms of research that contemporary artists engage in are varied, and often rooted in particular social and political experiences. In this course, firstly, a scholarly seminar-oriented research will provide the groundwork for the trip. While in Berlin, you will be engaged in intense embodied and institutional and urban research alongside peers from the English department at UBC, and potential mentors, both as a large group and within smaller clusters. As part of this course, you will participate in an exhibition/symposium at the Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, to which members of the public and Berlin art community will be invited. It is likely that the peer relationships, mentor opportunities, and institutional connections afforded by this course will create future opportunities for sharing your research at conferences and exhibitions.  

15 spots in the course will be reserved for VISA students, with an additional 5 spots open to students from other departments, including a provision for contributing a text or curatorial oversight to the exhibition rather than an original artwork. 

Experience in the Field

A typical day may include

A morning seminar/group discussion followed by an engaged museum visit facilitated by a local artist/practitioner in the afternoon. Informal discussion, peer to peer sharing of ideas, and research/creation will take place both during scheduled times, and in evening and other non scheduled moments. 

Notable environmental conditions

Participating in this course will be an intensive, enriching, and demanding experience. A spirit of collaboration and peer support will be important for all potential students. 


Students will be accommodated in a well equipped centrally located hostel, in 2 and 4 person rooms.

Eligibility requirements

  • Be enrolled in UBC Vancouver’s Faculty of Arts.
  • Be in your third, fourth, or final year of study.
  • Be enrolled in at least 24 credits in the Winter Session before the program and be registered in 24 credits in the current Winter Session, or sufficient to graduate.  Please note that students with exceptional circumstances regarding credit loads can identify themselves to Go Global to request an exemption from this requirement.
  • Have a minimum average of 70% with no failed or incomplete courses.
  • Further eligibility requirements particular to each program will be noted below.

Program Specific Requirements

6 credits of 300 level VISA or permission from the instructor.

How to apply

Application deadline

January 27, 2022

  1. Log in to the Gateway online application program 
  2. Select “Search Experiences” and type "GSP" to explore Global Seminars programs 
  3. Upload the application form for your selected Global Seminar – see Application documents below 

*Please note that you can apply for up to a maximum of 2 Global Seminars*

Program fees and costs

ARA funding will offset 70%-100% of the CAD $2,900-$3,300 in program fees and flight costs. 

Students are responsible for covering the cost of 3 credits of UBC tuition.

The final fee depends on the number of students in the program. Students do not pay the Go Global fee when applying to a Global Seminar. The Go Global fee ($415) is built into the Program Fee and is payable upon acceptance to the program. 

Global seminars refund policy

To withdraw from your program, you must contact Go Global by email to request a withdrawal.  You will not be charged until you officially accept your spot in the program.  Refunds cannot be issued after the program fee is charged to your SSC account. 

In the case of withdrawal, Go Global Award funding must be returned in full.

If you have questions, please connect with your Go Global advisor or email Go Global at

Pre-departure policy

Safety abroad

UBC is committed to preparing students for safe and successful international experiences. In order to achieve this, any student participating in a Go Global Program must complete the following:

Failure to successfully complete these and any other requirements may result in withdrawal from the Go Global Program.


If you are considering applying for a Go Global program and identify with having a disability or pre-existing health condition (mental or physical) which could impact your participation, or if you require academic accommodations, you can contact the following offices and meet with an Accessibility Advisor before the start of the program:

Contact Go Global

You can contact Go Global by email, phone, in-person or virtually through Zoom.

Booking a virtual advising appointment

If you need to book an advising appointment, please email and provide an overview of the questions you have. Appointments will be held through Zoom or by phone.

Virtual drop-in advising is available on Tues, Dec 21 and Wed, Dec 22 from 1 to 3 pm PST through Zoom.

In-person drop-in advising hours

Go Global offers in-person drop-in advising at the UBC Life Building during the times below:

  • Tuesday: 1:00 - 3:00 pm
  • Wednesday: 1:00 - 3:00 pm

January Hours

Go Global will hold virtual reception hours on Tues, Jan 4 from 9:30 am to 11:30 am PST and 1 pm to 3:30 pm PST through Zoom.