Art has always seized on the latest technologies

New degree program rises to global challenges

Gerald Bast and Eva Maria Stadler / photo: Christian Wind

A new degree program at the University of Applied Arts Vienna trains tomorrow’s experts in interdisciplinary thinking. University rector Gerald Bast and professor Eva Maria Stadler spoke to VIENNA ART WEEK magazine about why art is especially well-suited to addressing current and future global problems, and about the role new technologies play.

Society faces complex challenges in a world that is increasingly networked and fast-moving. This autumn, the University of Applied Arts Vienna has started its “Cross-Disciplinary Strategies –Applied Studies in Art, Science, Philosophy and Global Challenges” course of study to equip future generations with necessary problem-solving skills such as interdisciplinary thinking and dealing with the latest technologies. The four-year bachelor’s program combines knowledge from the fields of art, philosophy, new technologies, economics, politics and global challenges.

What made you introduce a new degree program?
Gerald Bast: Where the current, specialization-focused education system falls short is the link between various bodies of knowledge. This shortcoming is becoming more and more drastically evident. We see the networking going on, and the growing complexity of problems in our world. Dealing with this is a huge problem in today’s society, as both politics and the labor market attest. People cannot live with uncertainty and follow Pied Pipers who promise safety.
Eva Maria Stadler: Which is why the solutions should have a strong networking component as well. So we combine artistic methodological competence with knowledge of the latest technologies and natural science subjects to better deal with global challenges.

With human rights expert Manfred Nowak, molecular biologist Renée Schroeder and artificial intelligence expert Robert Trappl, it seems you had no problem finding high-caliber lecturers …
Gerald Bast: It is interesting that people of that caliber immediately jumped on the idea. Major scientists and scholars share a growing awareness that this will be the future of academic education – in tandem with specialization, of course.

How does the artistic approach help solve global problems?
Eva Maria Stadler: The task of art is to look at things from a different perspective. It shows how to deal with knowledge that you do not understand straightaway. You learn to ask questions and endure failure. Art and its institutions have always played a vital role in times of social upheaval.
Gerald Bast: New areas of work are emerging and with them the need for new skills such as dealing with risk, ambiguity and uncertainty. All of these are skills used in artistic production. This is the essential point, why we incorporate art into this study and why we criticize the fact that it plays too little a role in schools – we will pay dearly for that.

The use of new technologies is becoming increasingly important as well. What role does art play in that case?
Eva Maria Stadler: Art has always seized on the latest technologies and expanded their role in society.
Gerald Bast: Without artists, nothing would have come of the purely technical invention of television or the Internet. Art goes to the limits of the technically feasible and beyond. I think we’ll be seeing another interesting time soon, as art starts to experiment with synthetic biology or the combination of artificial and natural intelligence.

For more information about the “Cross-Disciplinary Strategies – Applied Studies in Art, Science, Philosophy and Global Challenges” degree program, visit

Text by Salomea Krobath:

Salomea Krobath studierte Sozialwissenschaften und Chinesisch in den Niederlanden, in China und Großbritannien. Seit 2014 ist sie als freie Journalistin unter anderem für das Nachrichtenmagazin »profil« tätig.

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