In-person registration is going on now.

Interested students should contact Karen Fiss ( right away to start the approval process for registration.

Having reclaimed its status as Germany’s capital after reunification, Berlin has become one of the most innovative and cutting-edge centers for contemporary art, design, and exhibition practice.

International artists continue to be drawn to the city’s relatively low cost of living and high concentration of galleries and alternative spaces.

Berlin: Past/Present (+ Biennale)

Instructor: Karen Fiss
June 16 - July 4, 2014


The program coincides with the Berlin Biennale, one of the most important international exhibitions of contemporary art. This year’s curatorial team promises a particularly compelling program with Director Juan Gaitán (based in Mexico City and Berlin) inviting Tarek Atoui, Natasha Ginwala, Mariana Munguía, Olaf Nicolai, and Danh Vo as core advisors for his artistic team.

The idea driving the course is to explore the complex layers of Berlin’s history and current art scene through personal narratives and connections, sharing unique itineraries and encounters with international artists, photographers, curators, and collectives based in the city.

For example, students get to know particular neighborhoods in former East Berlin through artists who grew up there before the Wall fell and then stayed to witness the drastic remaking of the former DDR district in the image of the West.

The reinvention of Berlin as an international hub for contemporary art cannot be understood without serious consideration of the city’s tumultuous and often catastrophic past. The art scene relies on and draws energy from the city’s many ghosts.

At the same time, the arts in Berlin are deeply involved in some of the most controversial issues facing the country, including ethnic diversity and immigration, the impact of neoliberalism and globalization, and environmentalism.

The class meets with artists, journalists, curators, and activists engaged in these critical issues in order to understand them from multiple perspectives.

In addition to the Berlin Biennale, participants visit notable collections, and historical sites including the Boros collection, the Deutsche Kinemathek, Topography of Terror, Museum für Fotografie, the Reichstag, and the Olympic Stadium.

The class meets with directors and artists associated with artist residency programs such as the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, and in emerging gallery districts and alternative project spaces in Wedding, Neukölln, and Kreuzberg.

Activities also include attending performance events and special film screenings, hunting through flea markets, and taking a one-day field trip to Potsdam.


Discussions were very insightful and diverse. Going to all the different museums and sights with the group and individually gave us a lot to talk about -- from culture to current events.

Karen’s strengths are her personal experience, her extensive knowledge on seemingly endless subjects, her approachability, and her serious yet fun personality. I’m so grateful to have been able to tour Berlin with her at the helm.

About the Instructor

Karen Fiss is a professor, writer and curator, whose scholarship encompasses a range of interdisciplinary fields engaging art, design, architecture and film. She writes on German national identity, the Third Reich, and the legacy of fascism, as well as on contemporary culture and globalization.

She is currently at work on a book about the practice of “nation branding” and its impact on the social, artistic, and built environment of postcolonial emerging economies.

Learn more about Karen Fiss »


Undergraduates: Completion of sophomore level by summer 2014 and instructor approval.
Graduates: Instructor approval

In addition all students must be in good academic, conduct, and financial standing for the 2013–14 academic year.

Course Satisfies

For undergraduates this course satisfies a 200- or 300-level Visual Studies Elective, a Cultural History requirement, or a Diversity Studies Studio.

For graduates this course satisfies a gradwide elective.

Program Fee

$4,700 + $50 registration fee

Included in program fee:
3 units, housing, guest artists, field trips, entrance fees, and travel/health insurance

Not included in program fee:
Airfare to and from Germany, meals

Please make sure you read the related links in full:

In-person registration is going on now. Students may still register for summer study abroad as long as spaces are still available and accommodations have not yet been finalized.

All CCA summer study-abroad courses (including the New York Studio and Marfa Fieldwork Project) are coordinated by the Office of Special Programs.


Office of Special Programs
Oakland campus, Ralls 201

Nina Sadek
Dean of Special Programs

Carol Pitts
Operations Manager, Special Programs