Bildschirmfoto 2019 03 19 um 14 55 05

PhD at the HfG

Portrait about Pia Scharf

Film und Music: Daniel Herzog

​​​Why embark on a doctorate at an arts university?

In addition to university research on the arts, there is also a research program that develops in closer exchange with the arts. Here creative, artistic and design strategies, corresponding ideas and discoveries are not only interpreted, but within a meshwork of artistic-creative practice and scientific reflection they are themselves part of the research. Addressing both forms of knowledge has the potential to generate productive new insights.

This is why we offer HfG Offenbach graduates of art, design, media studies or related sciences the option to obtain a Doctor of Philosophy in a model that merges science with art. There are two main subject areas:

Art and Media Studies
Design Studies

HfG Offenbach

As an arts and design university of the State of Hessen, HfG Offenbach teaches some 600 students in the two departments Visual Communication (VC) and Product Design (PD). Studying at HfG Offenbach allows students to combine different artistic and creative subjects. Moreover, a comparison of art universities reveals an unusually high proportion of theoretical study.

Combination of science/theory and art/design

The close interlinking of scientific-theoretical and artistic-creative spheres at HfG Offenbach is also reflected in the doctoral degree. The research projects doctoral students tackle consist of a scientific part (two-thirds) and an artistic-creative part. These two parts are not separate, but enter into a complementary relationship with each other. Consequently, the research-based structure of the artistic-creative part and the artistic-creative inspiration of the theoretical work become evident.

In keeping with two-thirds/one-third division, doctoral students are supervised by two professors from scientific/theoretical fields of teaching and one professor from the artistic-creative fields of teaching.

Departing from the 50/50 models, HfG Offenbach acts on the premise that a focus on science and research work is indispensable and adopts a two-thirds/one-third model​. This is the only way that students have good prospects of obtaining the skills needed for fields of work at universities, art universities, or in the curatorial or journalistic fields.

Doctoral studies at HfG Offenbach

  • ​Doctoral colloquiums: on a regular basis​
  • Supervision for doctoral students: by a specially appointed mentor​
  • Studio and library study areas: at HfG Offenbach for all doctoral students

Study requirements

In order to be accepted as a doctoral student candidates must generally have completed studies and gained either a Diplom, Magister Artium, Master of Arts or first degree in a scientific or artistic-creative course of studies at a university or art university.
Selected candidates must present their doctoral project to the doctoral committee at HfG Offenbach.

Positions for doctoral students

The university has set up three (Art) and two (Design) part-time research assistant posts, each of which is to be filled for three years by doctoral students at HfG Offenbach.


Application process for doctoral studies

Application documents

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • if applicable, list of publications
  • indication of language skills
  • copies of all relevant qualifications
  • if applicable, artistic/creative portfolio

and an approx. ten-page research outline containing a

  • brief explanation why the Offenbach Ph.D. model is especially appropriate for your particular project
  • detailed project description (approx. 7 pages, common formatting)
  • study plan (approx. 0,5 page)
  • bibliography on the research topic (approx. 2 pages)


We would ask you to understand that we can only accept application documents in a digital format.

The next application deadline is November 19, 2022 and applications must be submitted online, the link will follow.

Art and Media Studies

In keeping with the four theoretical subjects of the School of Art relevant to the doctoral degree

the term »Art and Media Studies« covers various options. For example, the scientific part of the dissertation can both concentrate on the subject areas and methods of just one of the subjects listed above (see the description of these subjects) and combine these subjects; ultimately it is possible to combine them with one of the two scientific/theoretical subjects of the School of Design.

However, in keeping both with the context of an art university and with the special fusion of science/theory and artistic-creative practice in line with the Offenbach Model, the focus is decidedly on the Modern Age through to the present day, and the spectrum of subjects involved would suggest systematic and interdisciplinary issues. Moreover, as students are required to combine them with one of the artistic-creative subjects from Visual Communication, research topics also tend to reflect the types of arts and media taught in Offenbach.

»Art and Media Studies« questions the reasons and motives of the more recent development of art and media production, their typologies, ways of dealing with them, social functions, dependencies and repercussions of more recent arts and media, and manners of perception in terms of both physiology/psychology and cultural theory/philosophy. Crossovers between free artistic work and applied design can be examined.

The specific meshing of theory and design after the Offenbach Model can also include transformations from the merely analytical recording of trends to initiating and helping shape developments with a promising future – say, in the framework of creative experimentation.

Design Studies

A doctoral degree in Design Studies aims at researching and expanding design theory and history, aesthetics and theory of perception, as well as cultural and technical theories. The focus of research is on the area of product language and product semantics. In particular, it encompasses research relevant to design in the field of aesthetics and semiotics (semantics and symbolism). In addition, how users handle products is proving to be an increasingly important field of research. Meaning develops both on a purely symbolic level and in everyday use. As such, interaction between people and objects represents a further field of research that is to be emphasized at HfG Offenbach.

Focusing on these research areas not only promises new insights into the constituent field of design studies, but also has repercussions on design education. This effectively links onto insights and previous research achieved at the university: In the 1980s an Offenbach approach to product language was developed, which has since attained great international renown and receives significant attention from the design research community.

While internationally the area of design research​ has already been institutionalized for some 20 years (university institutes, specialist congresses, expert associations), the process of establishing design research in Germany has only just begun. There is a growing need for a more scientific approach to design given that it has become ever more important in the context of more recent cultural, economic, social and technical developments. And this fact is being increasingly emphasized both by politicians and the business world, as well as by those training to become designers at universities and art academies.

Dissertations Themes

Fazil Akin

Products as a medium in a networked world

(School of Design)

The material world is an important area of research for product design. The way products influence our everyday lives or what forces are united in material entities are subjects that can open up new approaches for design practice. Objects can play an important role for us. They can influence how we act in certain situations. Dutch philosopher Peter Paul Verbeek (2005) cites the speed bump as an example: If a town would like cars to drive more slowly on a certain road the authorities could put up a sign, but a ‘physical’ object on the road is more effective. According to Verbeek this bump has a ‘material functionality’. In his actor-network theory Bruno Latour cites the Berlin key (1993) as another example of how objects influence our behaviour. Thanks to the design of this key it is impossible not to lock the door because the key remains in the lock if the door is not locked. The saying by Mark Twain that ‘if your only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail,’ explains our relationship to objects (Haarmann, 2016).

With this view of objects, it is possible to see them as a ‘medium’. They can lead an existence between people and the world. Don Ihde’s (1990) theories about the connection between people and technologies also provide important information about what role products play in our everyday lives. If you consider products that are developed today you can see that technologies are increasingly combining to form new technologies. Luciano Floridi (2015) describes this phenomenon as ‘third-order technologies’. A world in which technologies communicate with one another is different from the earlier one in which people perceive the world through technologies.

In an environment in which products are networked with other objects and technologies, different criteria are needed as is a different attitude towards the design of such products. This project focuses above all on examining this network structure between products. It will also question the ‘in betweenness’ objects. Have objects always built up a network in which they merged with other objects or is this phenomenon a product of the digital age?

Floridi, L. (2015). Die 4. Revolution : Wie die Infosphäre unser Leben verändert. (Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag).
Haarmann, A. (2016).
Zu einer kritischen Theorie des Social Design. In Julia-Constance Dissel (ed.), Design & Philosophie. (Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag).
Ihde, D. (1990). Technology and The Lifeworld: From Garden to Earth. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press).
Latour, B. (1991).
The Berlin Key or How to Do things with Words. In Paul Graves-Brown (ed.) Matter, Materiality and Modern Culture. (London: Routledge).
Verbeek, P. P. (2005). What things do: Philosophical Reflections on Technology, Agency, and Design. (Pennsylvania: Penn State University Press). 


Prof. Dr. Martin Gessmann

Prof. Peter Eckart



Helge Aszmoneit

Design awards

A historical, critical study in a political, economic, societal and cultural context
(School of Design)

Today, bestowing awards on products and services for their good design is a standard instrument in the marketing mix. Design prizes, not to mention the form they take and the way they are organised, kindle strong emotions and are repeatedly the subject of controversy amongst the actors involved at their various levels. The emergence of design prizes coincided with the critical appraisal of them and you have to wonder what the criticism is based on: the awareness of corresponding historical models or romanticised expectations? This brings us to the fundamental question of this research project: What historical, cultural, economic and social conditions have influenced, shaped and altered the motivation, production, levels of meaning, evaluation criteria and functions of design prizes?

To date, nobody has conducted a thorough analysis that places design awards in this context. The only exception to this is the special show and prize “Die gute Form” (Good Design) from Switzerland (1949-1968), which has been the subject of intensive analysis.[1] In the case of other awards or design prizes efforts focus only on providing excerpts of their history. Arguably the best-known design awards (and some of them exist to this day) hark back to the 1950s. But the aim is also to examine the nature of product awards that date back further still and ultimately begin with industrialization, which is where the academic study of design history tends to start: How are we to evaluate the prizes awarded at the world exhibitions and the triennials in Milan? How did sample shows at trade fairs, museum sample exhibitions, public sample shows, product knowledge and sample books contribute to informing and providing guidance for trade, the consumer and industry prior to 1950?

Following an in-depth analysis of the artistic assessment of products light will be shed on the linkages, development and significance of selected design prizes. Jurors rely on certain evaluation criteria as a basis on which to select products for a prize. Having such criteria in place suggests the design achievement is subject to an objective appraisal. But how is such an evaluation process conducted, what are the underlying conditions? Which criteria were applied when and in what competition? And why are design prizes with their respective evaluation criteria always also a reflection of how design is conceived in a specific time?

[1] Erni, Peter: Die gute Form. Eine Aktion des Schweizerischen Werkbundes. Dokumentation und Interpretation. (Baden, 1983)


Prof. Dr. Klaus Klemp

Prof. Peter Eckart

Judith Block

Animojis as digital masks. Media-theory analysis of the phenomenon of a new emotional form of communication

(School of Design)

Animojis are digital animal faces that allow the user to animate them through their own facial expressions, in order to send video messages in an emoji aesthetic. Both in an aesthetic and a functional sense the fun application exclusively available to iPhone X users appears so banal that it is difficult to imagine we are facing a new communication phenomenon of any importance here. Yet they do indeed form the paradigm of a new form of communication that in this work is termed a “digital mask.”

The term “digital mask” encompasses all those forms of digital communication that transmit the facial expressions of the speaking person together with a voicemail. However, the expressions are not transmitted via a video track, but are transposed in real time to a virtually composed face, which in turn presents the voice message as an animation. The visual appearance of the speaking person thus remains hidden behind the digital mask. Yet the emotional expression on the other hand is conveyed, in contrast to ordinary masks. Such digital masks consequently open up a new communication space for interpersonal emotional exchange.

The analysis of digital masks approaches the phenomenon from several perspectives. The separation of visual appearance and expressions already implies addressing current and previous research endeavors as regards the reception of physiognomy and expressions separately. In particular, the physiognomy of digital masks constitutes a controversial design topic for design as a subject, as a further basis of stereotypical beliefs has already been created through pseudo-scientific theories of physiognomy that have been widely culturally assimilated. Furthermore, some theories of physiognomy were historically abused in order to rob humans of their rights and freedom based on their appearance.

With digital masks working with physiognomic appearance, design faces the challenge of appropriately countering these stereotypical notions.

In order to address the design side to transmitting facial expressions, it is necessary to examine historical research into emotional expression. This is because the latter has a decisive influence on the way in which expression transmission is currently ensured in technological terms. At present almost all technological forms of transmitting expressions are based on the same scientific model. The scholarly tenet that theories stand alongside counter-theories and can be augmented, refuted or expanded by them is thus confronted by a technological fait accompli.

For design, the question also arises as to how we are to handle the fact that it will henceforth be possible to decode and interpret expressions using technology. Thanks to this development it is now possible to create machines that are able not only to identify humans as individuals, but also to read their facial expressions and interpret these more accurately than most humans are able to.

A design-based examination of digital masks thus has an influence on whether these technologies will be used within a society in ways that are by tendency more illuminative or concealing. Depending on interpretation, the consequences can be of great importance for a society.

​Prof. Martin Gessmann (Theory)
Prof. Alexander Oppermann (Practice)

Felix Bröcker

The imaginary restaurant

Visual presentation strategies in art and cuisine
(School of Art)

Food is becoming increasingly important in our everyday lives. Political discussions are conducted on health, sustainability, consumer protection and styles of nutrition; simultaneously, food defines enjoyment-oriented leisure activities as evidenced by the variety of offering on the topic such as food weeks, food festivals, culinary fairs and new or revived market halls and farmers markets. In addition, magazines, TV shows and online media testify to the great interest in food and cooking.

This social relevance is also reflected in the scientific and artistic focus on the topic. Artists and exhibitions comment on the trend and are themselves part of the phenomenon: In 2015, Art Basel engaged Rirkrit Tiravanija to serve Thai curry to visitors. For the Expo in Milan that same year, which went by the title Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, Germano Celant curated the exhibition Arts + Foods: It addressed connections between cuisine, art and design.

While the use of food has established itself as part of artistic practice in Eat Art or in performative eating situations, an academic examination has not yet been conducted of the food served by cooks and artists or the complex significance of something located between art and everyday life. The focus of this doctoral project is to close this gap and grasp food as a creative medium with a logic of its own and situated between the twin poles of art and the everyday, cuisine and design. By judging food not just in terms of a purely culinary appraisal it becomes possible to discuss it on a creative and stylistic level. The visual dimension of food can then be comprehended as a medium of expression that can be analysed and placed within a historical context.

In addition, the overall conditions for how food is presented are analysed. This is complemented by gastronomic and art historical knowledge so as to understand special aspects of the serving situation. This applies in particular to the importance of the room and the eating situation, which through the interaction of the players involved resembles a performance.


Prof. Dr. Christian Janecke

Prof. Heiner Blum

Noma veg

Lartcul7 1


Dsc 1471

Ruth Coman

Improvisation, Urban Design and Migration 

(School of Design) 

Transnational labor migration has a complex impact on urban areas, both in arrival and departure cities. The most obvious and visible traces are, on the one hand, banks, money exchange facilities, recruitment agencies, or the migrant houses. On the other hand, there are the Turkish bakeries, Romanian restaurants or African grocery stores. 

Transnational migration creates connections between different places and leads to a mutual dependency, not only in people’s lives but also in urban landscapes. These connections are visible in the improvised urban activities, which are increasingly playing a role in urban design. The improvisation of space as understood by architecture and design theorist Christopher Dell refers to a context-related model of action in deciphering contingent urban situations. It implies a socio-material urban resource, however, it does not refer to the aspect of informality. Improvisation is about how the spatial behavior of migrants works as a decisive process in the design of urban spaces. Yet, there is a gap in critical research concerning improvisation of space in several connected places. 

This leads to the main questions of this research: how does improvisation happen in several places at the same time and how can the socio-material resources of migratory activities be made available for urban design? Furthermore, the research takes into account the question about the enabler and inhibitors of improvisation. 

By exploring the connection between improvisation, urban design and migration, the main aim is to give a voice to the simultaneity of everyday practices in several places. For this, the city Offenbach am Main serves as a starting point for investigating places of migration in Romania. 

Offenbach am Main is the first municipality in Germany where Germans of origin form the minority, a parade example of an “arrival city”1. After Turkey and Greece, Romanian migrants rank third place with 9.7%2 among the non-German population in Offenback am Main. Therefore, the epistemological interest lies in the exploration of spatial settings and constellations that become visible in these different places. This points to the central goal of design, namely to enable the disassembly and reassembly of urban situations3. ​

The expanded theoretical involvement together with the found patterns and orders translated into visual representations and diagrams stand in a complementary relationship and offer a different way of thinking about design. Consequently, this work contributes to the theoretical expansion of design theory and advances research about urban development and migration. 

1 Vöckler, K. (2017). Offenbach ist anders. Über die kleine globale Stadt, das Fremdsein und die Kunst. Berlin: Vice Versa Verlag. 

2 Statistisches Jahrbuch 2016/2017, Offenbach am Main. Arbeitsförderung, Statistik und Integration. 

3 Dell, C. (2019). The Improvisation of Space. Berlin: Jovis Verlag GmbH. 


Prof. Dr. Kai Vöckler 

Prof. Heiner Blum 

Natascha Dell

Typeface in the teaching and work of the Folkwangschule für Gestaltung

The development of typeface design in the teaching and works of the type designers at the Folkwangschule für Gestaltung in the years from 1929 to the present day, influenced by technical innovations.

(School of Design)

The Folkwangschule für Gestaltung was founded at the instigation of Dr. Hermann Muthesius (1861–1927) in 1911 as a central training college for arts and crafts in the Ruhr region, which during the 1910s was dominated by the mining industry. It was initially given the name Essener Handwerker- und Kunstgewerbeschule. The interdisciplinary orientation of the art academy, which is still practiced today, stems from the artistic-didactic concept of Karl-Ernst Osthaus (1874–1921), who gave the school its name and was a patron of the arts in the town of Hagen in the Ruhr region. The central objective here was unity of the arts and their entrenchment at the heart of society.

Architect Alfred Fischer (1881–1950), who left Düsseldorfer Kunstgewerbeschule in 1911 to join the college in Essen in the dual function of director and lecturer, reformed the teaching operations with his rejection of an academy system, which he replaced with specialist departments and workshop classes. In addition, he also set up a foundation course based on the model of the Bauhaus and bolstered the teaching staff in 1926-7 to include persons associated with the Bauhaus[1].

With the establishment of Folkwangschule für Gestaltung in 1928, the Department of Type and Posters was set up under the leadership of Wilhelm Poetter (1885–1945), who had been teaching at the predecessor school since 1908. Poetter attributed a pioneering role to the field of type: “Type is everywhere! Writing is the expression of our time! The chance to pave the way here is the overriding and most noble objective of the Department for Type and Posters.”[2] That same year, his works were exhibited alongside those of Max Burchartz, Jan Tschichold, and others in the New Typography exhibition at the Museum Folkwang in Essen. This focus, initiated nominally in the year 1929, set the tone for content, in a wide variety of forms, contexts, objectives, and didactic methods, all the way through to the end of the 20th century.

Through the department’s curricula and the teaching and works by the lecturers who created typefaces and their students, it is possible to trace the development of this specialist field at the Folkwangschule. Hermann Schardt (1912–1984), who was director of the Folkwangschule from 1948 to 1972, designed the Folkwang-Antiqua typeface, which was implemented and expanded between 1949 and 1955 in collaboration with the type foundry Gebr. Klingspor (based in Offenbach/Main). Following the reopening of the Folkwang-Werkschulen für angewandte Kunst, the “Technical Colleges for Applied Art”, in 1948, typeface classes were taught as part of the evening courses, the foundation courses (two semesters), and in various work groups – particularly within the work group for graphics under the leadership of Professor Hans Nienheysen (1917–1996). A specialist class in type had existed under his direction since 1954.[3] In 1958, typeface classes were also taught in the evening courses, in the two preliminary semesters, and “[…] in all work groups […]”[4] as part of the creative design teaching. [5] The specialist typeface class continued to run until the early 1970s. [6] Wilhelm Buck (1912–1981), who led the Graphics group from 1948 on behalf of Director Schardt, taught the blackletter typefaces. A proven typeface designer (Today Sans, 1988), Professor Volker Küster (born 1941) was appointed in 1989 and continued the tradition of typeface design at the University of Duisburg-Essen as part of the communication design course, with the Fundamentals of Type module in the foundation course and the Font Design module in the main study course for those majoring in graphic design. After he retired, his former student Karsten Lücke took over the typeface teaching prescribed in the curriculum as a guest lecturer (2006-7).

In addition to the lecturers who, for their part, had previously studied at the Folkwang colleges in their various iterations, in Helmut Salden (1910–1996) and Georg Salden (born 1930), there are two former students who distinguished themselves particularly through their achievements in the field of font design: Helmut Salden’s relevance in the Netherlands and his influence on Dutch font design is undisputed. Georg Salden’s success as a typeface designer, meanwhile, is closely associated with the development of photosetting. This gave rise to a new kind of business model, the GST-Kreis, for which Georg Salden designed and implemented hundreds of fonts over the years. The best known of these remains the GST Polo (1971).

The research question considers the relationship between two historical representations: the general technical implementation of type production or type application, and typeface in the teaching and works of the Folkwangschule für Gestaltung. The research will investigate how these positions developed under the influence of the technical innovations and further socio-cultural and artistic factors, whereby typeface will be dealt with explicitly distinct from typographic application.


Prof. Dr. Klaus Klemp

Prof. Dr. Petra Eisele

[1] Grete Willers (Embroidery and Weaving Department), Max Burchartz (Advertising Art and Photography class), and Max Peiffer Watenphul (Foundation Course).
[2] W. Poetter: Essener Allgemeine Zeitung, special edition 1929
[3] U. Franke (1954). “Meister und Schüler. Ein Gang durch westdeutsche Werkkunstschulen, in: Schrift + Handwerk. Fachzeitschrift für Aussenwerbung, no. 10/11, p. 452.
[4] H. Schardt (ed.) (1958). Schrift 7. Folkwangschule für Gestaltung. Werkkunstschule der Stadt Essen, p. 38.
[5] S. Bartelsheim, G. Breuer & Ch.Oestereich (eds.) (2012). Lehre und Lehrer an der Folkwangschule für Gestaltung in Essen: von den Anfängen bis 1972, (Tübingen & Berlin: Wasmuth), p. 425 et seqq.
​[6] H. Nienheysen & H. Schardt (eds.) (1968). Folkwang Information 3: Workshop Report '68. Specialist typeface design class. Essen.

Jonas Deuter

Karl Gerstner / Rigorously clearer

System and program as design principle

(School of Design)

The oeuvre of graphic designer and artist Karl Gerstner (1930–2017) is characterized by a rigorous, functional and systematic mode of working. His works are based throughout on systematic organizing principles and a detailed analysis of the initial problem in question. With his publication “Programme entwerfen,” in 1963 Gerstner provided an overview of interdisciplinary solutions generated with the aid of programmatic processes. Alongside his own design and art works, he also showcases programmatic methods from the realms of photography, architecture, music and literature.

In developing his design programs, Gerstner translates the parameters of the initial problem into a systematic order. The order of the system allows for possible solutions to be generated programmatically, meaning according to predefined rules. Gerstner intended to expand creative potential through the application of programming: ideally, this would lead to creative potential being uncovered, as programmatically generated solutions may lie outside of habitual thought patterns. In the design process, Gerstner assigns the designer the role of analyst and curator, while the program itself becomes the creator of formal design solutions.

This shift in the role of who is creator deconstructs the artist and designer’s role as creative genius and questions customary theories on creative processes. While Poincaré divides creative thinking into the four phases of preparation, search for solutions, a flash of inspiration, and implementation, in Gerstner’s programmatic approach it is in particular the moment of the flash of inspiration that is eliminated. Gerstner’s systematic and programmatic mode of designing is thus a counter-project to intuitive design processes. As the systematization of the initial problem constitutes a prerequisite for Gerstner’s programmatic process, the content is inferior to the form and the programming must face the accusation of being an end in itself. The programmatic solutions operate within a self-defined set of rules and they are always coherent. In looking at Karl Gerstner’s lifework, the aim is to shed light on the question as to whether and to what extent programs are able to serve as an autonomous design tool and whether it is possible to make the design process entirely pragmatic.

Prof. Klaus Klemp
​Prof. Sascha Lobe

Deuter gerstnerprogramme 1000px

Helene Deutsch

On humour in contemporary art

(School of Art)

On repeated occasions, artistic works make us smile, laugh or grin. And though it may seem paradoxical at first sight it is often precisely those works that have a bitterly serious context. This mingling of elements of the serious and nonserious produces a specific mixture of emotions that can be described by the term humour.

Essentially, a humorous encounter can only develop from circumstances that trigger sensations such as embarrassment, hurt or sadness. Only humour is capable of defying the unfortunate situation, adding a portion of fun to the negative feelings and removing some of the heaviness from the suffering sustained. It is this protective element that distinguishes the phenomenon of humour from its associated manifestations of the funny such as the joke, wit, comedy, the various forms of irony, parody, cynicism or satire, which can also serve as an expression of aggression. Yet humour is intricately bound up with the various forms of the comic – on the one hand, it is only through harmless manifestation of the comic and wit that humour is able to express itself, on the other it is impressively capable of preparing the ground for the development of widely varying phenomena of the funny. So in order to grasp the specific humourist achievement in its method and impact it always needs to be considered embedded in the complex of the comic.

Since it requires a humourist achievement, in other words a preceding discomfort, the artistic positions to be examined as part of this project are those that respond to problematic situations triggering negative emotions. In the process those artistic products appear interesting that are not limited to the context of private concern, but rather reach out to the socio-political trends of their time and consequently are capable of claiming they are critical of the age. As such, though seldom recognisable at first sight the choice of positions to be examined will always focus on art that we would describe as operating within the field of social criticism. The fact that the selection is made up of contemporary art is due to the fact that what is considered funny always depends on its contemporaneity, in other words temporal proximity ensures it is easier to observe and appreciate.

On the one hand the intention will be, taking the example of the artistic works, to elaborate on the use of humour as an aesthetic strategy, on the other the focus will be on examining the humour-related form of attention generated by employing this strategic method. The aim is based on the resulting findings to develop a theory of humour in the domain of the aesthetic, while the focus lies on the question of a possible subversive potential of humour with regard to societal processes.

​Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisc
​Prof. Susanne Winterling

Thomas Dierkes

Rationalität und Vernichtung

Zur Ästhetik des Reichssicherheitshauptamts 1939–1945

(Fachbereich Kunst)

Junge Männer, oft mit akademischer Ausbildung, gelangten im Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA), einer modernen Superbehörde aus Geheimer Staatspolizei, Kriminalpolizei und dem Sicherheitsdienst der SS, schnell in Positionen mit enormer Machtfülle. Sie waren diejenigen, die den Holocaust ins Werk setzten, die »Vordenker der Vernichtung« (Aly & Heim, 2013). Sie arbeiteten in Teams, formulierten entlang der Kriegsentwicklung dynamisch ihren Aufgabenbereich aus und exekutierten ihre Befehle mitunter auch selbst innerhalb ihrer Einsatzgruppen im In- und Ausland.

Anhand von Walter Benjamins Gedanken einer »Ästhetisierung der Politik« möchte ich das Narrativ des RSHA nachvollziehen. Nach Benjamin wird »faschistische Kunst […] nicht nur für Massen, sondern auch von Massen exekutiert. […] Diesem kunstpolitischen Interesse dient die ›monumentale Gestaltung‹. […] Das Material, aus dem der Faschismus seine Monumente, die er für ehern hält, aufführt, ist vor allem das sogenannte Menschenmaterial.« (Benjamin, 1977)

Laut Klaus Theweleit hatten die Nationalsozialisten ein ambivalentes Verhältnis zum Massenbegriff. Aus faschistischer Sicht positiv besetzt ist die, in Blöcken formierte, militärische Masse, aus der gleichsam phallisch – »[d]ie Fahne hoch« – ein Führer herausrage. Demgegenüber gibt es die Masse, die die Nazis mal fürchten, mal verachten, von der sie sich abgesondert und ihr überlegen fühlen. Theweleit verknüpft die Masse in ihrer unförmigen Erscheinung des »Flüssigen, Schleimigen, Wimmelnden« (natürlich weiblich konnotiert) mit korrumpierter Masse, Strudel, schließlich einer roter Flut (sic!).

Als Gegenpol zu dieser verachteten Masse setzten die Nationalsozialisten den Sammelbegriff der Kultur, in der sich auch direkt die nationale Vernichtungsmission des Deutschen gegenüber dem Rest der Welt konstituiert: »Massenmord und soldatisch-männlicher Kulturbegriff (nicht erst der faschistische) stehen in keinerlei Gegensatz zueinander, im Gegenteil: um die Welt zur Kulturlandschaft zu machen, muß das, was keine Kultur hat, von der Erde verschwinden, so oder so.« (Theweleit, 1980)
Die Ästhetisierung von Menschen und Menschenmassen im Nationalsozialismus erschöpft sich nicht in militärischen Formationen. Die Bevölkerungspolitik der Nazis im In- und Ausland, die ›Auslese des Arischen‹ und ›Ausmerze des Volksfremden‹ lassen sich ebenso als perverses ästhetisches Projekt begreifen.

Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch
Prof. Heiner Blum

G. Aly & S. Heim: Vordenker der Vernichtung. Auschwitz und die deutschen Pläne für eine neue europäische Ordnung. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 2013.
Walter Benjamin: Pariser Brief (I). André Gide und sein neuer Gegner, in: Ders.: Aufsätze. Essays. Vorträge. Gesammelte Schriften. Band II-1, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main, 1977.
​Klaus Theweleit: Männerphantasien 2. Männerkörper – zur Psychoanalyse des weißen Terrors, Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg, 1980.

Lina Djouiai

Designing Growth, Growing Design

Interdependencies of Drafts and Technical Innovations in the Light of Contemporary Evolution Theories

(School of Design)

Technical development and adaptation processes are undergoing a radical change of nature. The composition and prerequisites of technical innovations, such as digitization and artificial intelligence, evolve exponentially and at the same time are able to increasingly permeate all areas of human life. The processes' dynamics can lead to unforeseeable breaks in previous lines of development and thus cause unpredictable disruptions. The research project Designing Growth, Growing Design deals with the parallels between these technical development processes and the tasks of designing such innovative developments. The general goal is to show the connections and dependencies between design and growth, between draft and technical innovation. In particular, the aim is to find and make credible a superordinate concept for such cross-connections between technology and design. With the help of such a concept, design science could be extended by a theory and methodology of growth aspects. The theory of evolution in its appropriate variants will be central to such considerations. The starting point will be reflections on our current innovation processes, initially from the technical side. In What technology wants, Kevin Kelly proposes the thesis that machines and their technology undergo an evolutionary development, similar in structure to the evolution of natural species and genera. Subsequently, the question arises from the design side, how such an evolution in technology affects the design of the associated products. Does the development of forms and functions, approaches and appearances depend on the hardware of technological achievements far more than one would expect from external aspects? Or, conversely, are aesthetic aspects also decisive for the further development of technology? On closer inspection, it soon becomes clear that a question posed in this way still falls short in essential respects. Simply because in advanced cultures, it is no longer just a question of the mere ›survival‹ of products, in other words how they succeed in the market. In the 1970s, it was believed that design could be understood as an aid to survival in the sense of beautification, technology as performance that could make an impression. Today, the focus is more on how products appear embedded in life contexts and fundamentally shape our everyday lives. In the last respect, it is then a question of whether products are capable of actually making our lives better, in a comprehensive and sophisticated sense. Accordingly, the focus of estimation is on the practical use and its successful and practice-extending impact. As a result of such a framework, it is reasonable to assume that design and technology are much more closely connected than previously thought. Both developments not only seem to run parallel to each other, but, in the words of Niklas Luhmann, they seem to be structurally interconnected. The question then arises whether such a close connection between the different lines of evolution might not lead to more, such as interactions in the respective methodology – this alone is not a minor aspect, since in some surroundings the belief that design is essentially untechnical and that technology in itself is neutral to questions of design has so far persisted. Last but not least, it is also worth asking whether an increase in understanding of the concept of evolution itself is in prospect: when it becomes clear how, in the advanced 21st century, the process of change and adaptation must be thought about in a completely new intensity and on a broader scope in terms of civilization. A moment that goes the whole hog? In other words: Evolution reloaded in design.


Prof. Dr. Martin Gessmann

Prof. Frank Georg Zebner

Jonas Englert

Ereignis und Erscheinen

(School of Art)

This doctoral project seeks to offer an aesthetic and phenomenological analysis of the appearing of the seemingly historic as an event. Contrary to a teleological universality adhering to traditional models of history, beyond a supposed origin causality and overall processuality, an examination of the temporality of the fragmented and nevertheless – or precisely for that reason –specific is required. This involves establishing from the interplay of three or more parties if and to what degree the appearing of the seemingly historic is different. Whether and to what extent, first, the empowered, second, those who historicize and, last but not least, the affected, reliant on their respective efforts, condition the appearing of the seemingly historic in different ways. Evidence of this happening points to something that may offer a distinction between oppressive and emancipatory history. Withdrawing the appearing of the historic from the control of the empowered may not only engender a self-dynamic structure but also tear down the established horizon of the possible. It remains to be proven if such an appearing implies a kind of appearing which then would be one of political participation. It seems that, the moment the historic is not determined in the back room by the empowered as a new norm imposed on the affected, and these occupy themselves the back room, the affected become themselves the empowered and the former back room becomes the space of appearance, which then includes the once excluded.

Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch
​Prof. Heiner Blum


Deborah Enzmann

Colon, hyphen, bracket

A semiotic and cultural theory analysis
(School of Art)

They sob, laugh, wink, stick out their tongues or roll their eyes. Emojis, the colourful ideograms and smileys were created in the 1990s in Japan and are omnipresent. Meanwhile, they have become part of everyday communication and essential to millions of people who use symbols when communicating. 

The symbols from computer mediated communication (CMC) became socially acceptable with the emergence and spreading of “chats”. The desire for grapholistic instruments that would complement the standard system of characters and compensate for the lack of paralinguistic and non-verbal means of expression in the written language did not, however, coincide with the emergence of the CMC. Attempts to compensate for such shortcomings range from symbols for irony, indignation or to label a rhetorical question through to systems that enable authors to express emotions. 

Similarly, iconically motivated constellations of characters formed from punctuation marks were developed long before CMC. It was the emergence of digital communication systems and the use of ASCII symbols that helped emoticons achieve their breakthrough. A facial expression rotated by 90° that was intended to avoid misunderstandings soon produced a colourful, varied world of characters that is now much more than a substitute for the lack of paralinguistic and non-verbal means of expression in writing.

The project will juxtapose the functions of CMC characters and their use with the formal development of the symbols and analyse their historical development. What is planned is a multidimensional analysis of the development of CMC characters from a semiotic, graphic, historical and cultural perspective.


Prof. Dr. Marc Ries

Prof. Klaus Hesse

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On Guard / The Alchemist / Behind the Lens

Ornella Fieres
3-channel video installation, 2018

Photo: Marcus Schneider

Ornella Fieres

The occult digital

Phenomena of the occult in digital culture and contemporary art
School of Art

The digital progress is a transformation process which can hardly be stopped. It affects almost all aspects of life and work in today's society and forms humanly controlled, but also autonomously evolving power constructs in increasing speed and intensity: Algorithms independently optimize their work processes, make decisions, eliminate imperfections and errors; continuous data streams are distributed over the increasingly growing global network; and the performance of microprocessors doubles like a self-fulfilling prophecy, synchronous to Moore's Law, every one to two years.

In contrast to the evident effects of this process, the digital technology acts invisibly in the background. Its structure usually consists of binary codes which encode and compress values. Hidden in the circuits of ever smaller microchips, these computing processes control operating instructions and, since the development of Deep Learning, do not always make traceable decisions. The digital is an invisible, concealed technology that is literally becoming more and more ungraspable to a large part of humanity, while at the same time gaining influence over both social and state matters. These occult, in the sense of mysterious, unfathomable or concealed attributes favour the fact that the digital is perceived as something inhuman, unnatural and powerful and serves as a projection surface for diverging visions of the future: Whether as a saviour or a harbinger of doom - the hopes and fears regarding the digital progress and its growing influence, for example in the form of algorithms, are reflected in various social phenomena and artistic forms of expression.

In many respects, this development can be compared with aspects of the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries: The exponentially progressing change via machine innovations had such a strong impact on social and economic processes that the new technologies were regarded as something omnipotent and threatening the status quo, lastingly impairing the understanding of the world of work and life, but also of art and culture. This was apparent, for example, in the appropriation of then unknown technologies, especially photography, by avant-garde artists and the development of mediumist, spiritualist and occult art practices.

The dissertation examines the relationship between occult phenomena and digital technology. Through the analysis of uncanny, invisible and powerful attributes of the digital and their interconnection with historical developments, social phenomena and artistic works, hidden social fears and hopes are illuminated.


Prof. Dr. Marc Ries

Prof. Martin Liebscher

Michaela Filla-Raquin

Markus Frenzl

Of White Cities and Grey Cubes

On the design history, the history of the origin and reception of the renunciation of colour and a modernity perceived as chromophobic

(School of Design)

For decades, 20th century modernism in architecture and design was regarded by the public, but often even among experts, as hostile to colour, emotionless, sober and cold. In the 1960s or 1970s, for example, colourfulness was often understood as a conscious counter-position to a colourless functionalism. Even in specialist literature and university teaching, the image of a "chromophobic"[1] modernity had been cultivated for decades. Since the 1990s, this narrative has been replaced by a new one: now black-and-white photography, for example at the Bauhaus or the Ulm School of Design, is being blamed for the fact that the wrong image of an anti-colour modernism was created, which in reality was astonishingly colourful.

But is the presumed "chromophobia" of modernism in architecture and design really just a phenomenon of reception? What was the change in the meaning of colour in the early 20th century? How was colour renunciation actually justified? What role do material colours play, e. g. of the new industrial materials? What changes in the use of colours in architecture and design by the protagonists of modernism can be observed? What reactions did for example Bruno Taut provoke with his "Call for Colourful Building"[2]? What functions are assigned to colour in the colour systems and theories of the early 20th century? Where was the renunciation of colour used to emphasize the ideas of a new society and the "New Man"? And where did the chromophobia of modernism possibly become the conscious defamation strategy of the critics of functionalism?

The research project examines the perception phenomena, simplifications, semiotic aspects and dominant narratives that have led to the impression of a white modernism that continues to this day. It is thus also intended to be an investigation of the long-term effect of perceptual patterns, which often have a greater impact than the reality of what is actually designed, built or produced.​


Prof. Dr. Klaus Klemp

Prof. Petra Kellner

[1] D. Batchelor (2000): Chromophobia, London. Deutschsprachige Ausgabe: D. Batchelor (2002): Chromophobie – Angst vor der Farbe. Übersetzt von Michael Huter. Wien: WUV, p. 62.

[2] B. Taut (2000): Der Regenbogen – Aufruf zum farbigen Bauen [first 1919 in: bauwelt, o.A, 1919]. In B. Taut: Frühlicht 1920-1922. Eine Folge für die Verwirklichung des neuen Baugedankens. Berlin/Frankfurt/Wien: de Gruyter, p. 97.

Gebert gestalt 1

Gestalt 1

Other-worldly things. Photography, New Objectivity and relationship to the world

Ulrich Gebert

Gebert gestalt 2

Gestalt 2

Other-worldly things. Photography, New Objectivity and relationship to the world

Ulrich Gebert

Ulrich Gebert

Other-worldly things. Photography, New Objectivity and relationship to the world

(School of Art)

Photography’s relationship to the world only seems simple as first glance. Photographic theory has followed many a trail, only to end – in most cases – with the metaphor of the vestige. And yet, after almost 200 years of photographic practice, evidence of a dilemma, an uneasiness, something inexplicable, eerie, sometimes even magical can be found in works and theoretical approaches equally: the perceived otherness of photography. 

Students explore the abstracting effect of photography by looking at the example of New Objectivity in photography. The objective and subjective aspects of the medium are critically examined in order for students to gain a contemporary understanding of photographic relations to the world. Here, classic texts on phenomenology as well as later philosophical interpretations of the medium (Francois Laruelle’s concept of non-photography in particular) will be called upon.

The programmatic failure of New Objectivity in photography, which sought its media specifics in the emphasis on objectivity, can be given a productive aspect with a view to the abstracting qualities of photography. It is precisely through its (unintended) ability to present things as being not closer to us, but strangely distant, that a fundamental virtue of photography is revealed, whose allusions reach beyond notions of world, subject and object.


Prof. Juliane Rebentisch

2 dominikgussmann

Dominik Gussmann

The poetry of translation

A theory of contemporary prints from the viewpoint of image tranmission
(School of Art)

From about the 1960s onwards the concept of what was described as an original or fine art print was considerably expanded and the process continues to this day. It was the era when in addition to the classic printing techniques, artists began to employ industrial methods such as silk-screening and offset printing. They resorted to them not only as a means of reproduction under the influence of the art print, but because of the specific characteristics of these printing methods such as the normative quality of the print raster. How does this situation compare to today’s practice? As these industrial methods became outdated their use in and significance for the field of conceptual fine art prints has declined.

However, aside from these techniques a form of print developed that subverts the claim of so-called artist or original prints. Such prints were promoted above all in the 20th century by art historian Walter Koschatzky; they are characterized by the fact that the artist not only produces the printing block but also its design, and then has to engrave the copper plate, cut the wooden block, etch the grid plate, and ideally even carry out the actual process of printing. However, this orthodox view also excludes the expansion of printing processes say through the creation of digital images and photochemical image transmission. My research focuses precisely on these forms of printing that fall within this expanded concept and are no longer included in the classic concept of fine prints.

The common element shared by the relevant printing positions is what I shall describe as the poetry of translation. In this context poetry in the proper sense means the creatve element that only comes about through the process of translation and is applied here to visual forms of image transmission. An analysis of these varying forms of translation will be conducted using different positions in contemporary fine printing, which are to be compared with regard to the language inherent to the respective printing medium. Current examples are the woodcuts by Christiane Baumgartner, which are informed both by photographs from newspapers, but also stills from her video works. Baumgartner uses a computer to cut up these source images into a horizontal grid of lines that she subsequently transfers to a wooden block, before in a process taking several months cutting out the non-printing sections by hand. This produces the actual printing block from which in a final stage Baumgartner’s woodcuts are printed. (800) Parallel to the analysis of exemplary works by contemporary artists another focus of my research is directed at historical pieces by so-called reproduction artists like Marcantonio Raimondi and Cornelis Cort. By examining the copperplate prints I shall highlight an historical position that is not restricted to the slavish reproduction of a previous design and is instead characterized above all by a particularly intelligent translation. From a current perspective the works by Marcantonio and Claude Mellans cast an anticipatory and informative light on contemporary forms of printing, which in a very similar manner create autonomous works through a wide variety of strategies.


Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch

Prof. Susanne Winterling

3 dominikgussmann

Falk Haberkorn

An experiment on the gesture of photographing

(School of Art)

The old question “What is photography?” must constantly be repeated. In the 180-year history of photographic theory answers were found whose validity was determined by the respective historical state of the techniques, processes and uses but above all by the social conditions under which the photographs had a function and impact.

That is no different today. As such, the history of the reception of photography is only one of the many chapters of Modernity. The question about the (ontological, social, media etc.) position of photography becomes ever more compelling, something that is doubtless due to the medium’s exponential expansion in the digital age and its penetration into all areas of our lives; this not only alters our concept of images, but perhaps even fundamentally changes how we perceive things (or so the pessimistic strand of cultural critique claims) so that seemingly only the aesthetic experience addresses the pertinent epistemological and moral issues.

Not only are we hardly able to gauge what long-term repercussions digitisation will have for our society, we are equally not in a position to understand the impact of something that seems like the most natural thing in the world to us today (but which we could not have conceived of even in our wildest dreams 200 years ago): We succumb to the impact of technical images at every turn without seeing the reason. The fact that on Facebook alone (currently) around 250 million images are uploaded every day is a clear indication that we have a strong need for these images (be it their production or their consumption). But why is that the case – where does this need for technical images and our identification with its technology stem from: That is the basic question that still requires clarification, and also the zero point or starting point for a contemporary criticism of the technological image. As the first historical image, the photograph is as it were the archetype of the digital image and to quote Roland Barthes, a “completely new, anthropologically new” image. If you now accept image representation (mimesis) as one of the anthropological constants per se then an “anthropologically new”, in other words, non-mimetic image produces a deep fissure whose darkness conceals what photography brings about. It will not be possible to throw sufficient light on this darkness within the framework of his dissertation. However, an effort at least needs to be made; otherwise even the right question would not be properly formulated.

Consequently, the project will approach the problem from two diametrically opposite points, which are present in the title (borrowed from Vilém Flusser) and whose alleged dichotomy needs to be established: from the “photographic” and the “gestural”. The latter will be interpreted as the matrix of imagery per se – as the physical residuum of mimesis. Sharing Roland Barthes’ view this will be juxtaposed, with the technical image (notwithstanding its many varieties) as a totally “new” image, i.e., as an image form sui generis. This poses the question as to whether the “anthropologically new” image can still be considered an image and what consequences this would have – or already has. In search of an answer there will be no avoiding venturing a little into the aforementioned darkness, beginning with a short passage of Walter Benjamin, before continuing on a path already prepared in psychoanalytical terms by Christoph Türcke, carefully feeling our way towards the phylogenesis of the “anthropologically old” image, which would then allow an ex negativo outline of several aspects of the ontology of photography that is so often debated and yet equally frequently its validity questioned. That would not be productive if the sociological component were not taken into account. And yet for all the diversity of intentions and usage, the images and their purposes it is possible to find a common denominator for all photographic acts and all photographs: namely the recording. It is hoped that via the ambiguous term of “recording”, (of “being recorded” and of “having been recorded” it will be possible to provide social psychological arguments to substantiate what would otherwise remain ontological speculation.

I will have been in transmatter  julia hainz 2018

I will have been transmatter

I will have been transmatter

Julia Hainz

Aesthetic of fluidity

About performative difference beyond capitalist flexibilization
(School of Arts)

Besides producing new representations of the self and their structural contextualization since the 1990s, current performative practices are, according to Catherine Wood, increasingly concerned with questions of alienation, otherness, fluidity and diversity. (Wood, 2018) The Venice Biennale 2019 seems to confirm this emphatically. A large number of nonbinary performance art positions can be seen there.

Due to the inherent focus on questions of (subjective) agency, working on subjectivity via a performance oriented aesthetic practice seems to be obvious. In the present the subject sees itself in a contradiction, which requires a permanent fluidization of the form with a constant claim for compatibility. Difference remains within the limits of its utilization. Regarding the current urgency of this debate, my project for an aesthetic of fluidity asks for possibilities and limits of difference within the present capitalist flexibilizations. So how can this become visible, as something that is not already fixed, if difference becomes readable only on the basis of its functional forms?

The idea of a subject that is constantly transgressing its solid form in fluid motion, emerged as a radically anti-bourgeois model at the beginning of the twentieth century. This contrasts, as Andreas Reckwitz states, with an effort to moderate movements, in a sense of continuity, concerning the morality of a bourgeois culture that formed in the eighteenth century. Reckwitz describes the present subject as a hybrid of these two opposing forms of motion, combining them in a specific interaction. (Reckwitz, 2004)

In her Trans*Manifestos the writer and performance artist Verity Spott tries to write from a lived practice that takes the self in a constant exchange. She emphasizes that concepts of fluidity still contain identity producing norms and social constraints, although they try to transgress them. In particular Spott describes this in relation to the term trans*, which refers to a transition that implies a from and to. This implements a binary form that refuses any kind of movement. As a consequence, she pleads for occupying the through space permanently. (Spott, 2018)

So the trough space is not an utopia, a nowhere, but another space, a heterotopia (Foucault). If we envision difference, according to Spott, not as a form of mobility in the sense of fluidization of our self, but as a genuine heterotopia which always already pervades us: then, instead of asking for an opening of such a room, it is the question of its navigation. In my PhD I will conceptualize this within a critical analysis of contemporary positions and in my own artistic research.

  • Wood, Catherine (2018): Performance in Contemporary Art, Tate Publishing: London
  • Reckwitz, Andreas: Die Gleichförmigkeit und die Bewegtheit des Subjekts: Moderne Subjektivität im Konflikt von bürgerlicher und avantgardistischer Codierung. In: Klein, Gabriele (2004): Bewegung, Sozial-Kulturwissenschaftlie Konzepte: Bielefeld
  • Spott, Verity (2018): Prayers, Manifestos, Bravery, Pilot Press: London


Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch

Prof. Kerstin Cmelka


© Christian Schuller

Eleonora Herder

IN SITU] - Situative Artistic Action as Resistant Practice

(School of Art)

The dissertation project comprises an interdisciplinary investigation at the interface of performance studies and spatial sociology. It examines artistic processes in public space that oscillate between scenic assembly and urban intervention.

Since the 1990s, a social, situational and above all scenic art form has developed in both the visual arts and the free theatre scene, the spatial terminology of which this dissertation seeks to differentiate. It is questioned with which social space categories the contemporary performance works operate and how these determine the aesthetic character of the works on an infrastructural production level. When does an artistic work in public space overcome more than just the physical space of the institution? When is it not only site-specific, but also situational? Which institutional conditions of production and which cultural-political demands result from such working methods? And what does the urban localization of artistic production mean for the transnational space of globally active contemporary art? Does this create a friction surface?

So far, the connection between production aesthetic theory formation and spatial sociological theory has not been very pronounced. In fact, however, site-specific performance works are particularly suitable as a focal point for a socio-spatial analysis of the production conditions of contemporary art, since in them the topographical, social and atmospheric space overlap and interact with one another. 

The artistic research project focuses on their own curatorial practice: the site-specific performance festival IMPLANTIEREN.

​Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch

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Aprés une Architecture

From the serie »Aprés une Architecture«, 2012 - 2014, C-Prints

Margret Hoppe

Unite marseille 6

Aprés une Architecture

From the serie »Aprés une Architecture«, 2012 - 2014, C-Prints

Margret Hoppe

  • Expo essen 1

    Was war und was ist

    Installation view »Was war und was ist«, Museum Folkwang Essen, 2014

    Mar­g­ret Hop­pe

  • Expo essen 2

Was war und was ist

Installation view »Was war und was ist«, Museum Folkwang Essen, 2014

Mar­g­ret Hop­pe

Margret Hoppe

The photographer’s architect – on the relationship between the photographs of Lucien Hervé and the architecture of Le Corbusier

(School of Art)

The collaboration between photographer Lucien Hervé and architect Le Corbusier lasted for almost 20 years. Hervé was Hungarian and emigrated to Paris in 1929. Le Corbusier, real name Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, was born in Switzerland in 1887 and moved to Paris in 1917. Lucien Hervé worked with the Swiss architect from 1949 until Le Corbusier’s death in 1965.

I want to explore the reciprocal relationship between architecture and photography in the theoretical part of my doctoral studies entitled »The photographer’s architect – on the relationship between the photographs of Lucien Hervé and the architecture of Le Corbusier«. By looking at the relationship between photographer Lucien Hervé and architect Le Corbusier, I aim to investigate to what extent photography influences architecture and vice versa. As Le Corbusier’s work has already been extensively analyzed in an art-historical context, the focus of my thesis will be on the photographs by Lucien Hervé. Despite architecture being internationally disseminated and received via the depiction and reproduction made possible by the medium of photography, the photographer is often overshadowed by the architect. And so, the work of Le Corbusier is internationally acclaimed while Lucien Hervé’s photographs have primarily been acknowledged in France, where the Lucien Hervé Foundation is based. Hervé was awarded the Grand Prix de la Photographie de la Ville de Paris there in 2000.

Looking at short biographies and publications, we can imagine just how intense the relationship between Hervé and Le Corbusier must have been. The first time Hervé worked for Le Corbusier in 1949, photographing the Unité d’habitation in Marseille, he took 650 photographs in one day. After Le Corbusier had inspected the photos, he wrote to Hervé: »You have the soul of an architect and know how to look at architecture. Be my photographer«.

In the last two years I have developed the series »Aprés une Architecture« as the practical part of my doctorate. It can be read as an homage to Lucien Hervé and Le Corbusier, or to the special relationship between architecture and photography. The series shows photographic perspectives on Le Corbusier’s architecture that demonstrate his idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk. Its title references Le Corbusier’s »Vers une Architecture«, published in 1923, in which he poses fundamental questions on the modernity of construction, challenging the traditional views on architecture held at the time. The question of what remains of the visions for modern building today is pertinent in this context, as this kind of architecture is now seen as monumental rather than functional. Here, photography is not merely architectural documentation, but transforms the structures on the surface of the photograph into a sign that exhibits painterly and sculptural elements in its aesthetic – showing us the many perspectives in reading Le Corbusier’s work today.


Prof. Marc Ries

Prof. Martin Liebscher

Eidenbenzschriften 5134

Sarah Klein

Fundamentals of design

Graphic design education in Switzerland
(School of Art)

From the classic poster or the design of a ballot paper to the creation of a complex interface or an airport’s orientation system – visual design draws our attention, guides, informs, seduces or irritates us. It shapes our everyday lives and influences our behaviour. The disciplines of graphic design, communications design or visual communications critically address image and text-based communication, and develop or advance it. Straddling artistic expression and expert service provision, manipulation and social responsibility, science and the trade, models of education/training in these subjects tend to adopt different positions.

Ever since the institutionalisation of graphic design education in the early 20th century various designers have attempted (following the model of a written language) to compose a theory, binding rules and indeed even a grammar for visual communications. However, to date none of these attempts have succeeded in achieving unconditional validity. Retrospectively, these approaches were assigned to certain styles or epochs that the theorists sought to overcome.

Nonetheless, so the theory, in many cases comparable methods for teaching visual design were established. If you consider the basic courses during the first semesters down through the decades and institutions, certain exercises crop up again and again. In a series of exercises involving the elements dot, line and surface students practiced the fundamentals of design. Considered superficially all these exercises seem identical. But a closer examination reveals that the aims, methods and what the instructors deemed to be 'fundamental' did differ considerably.

In this project I address the development of graphic design education at the applied arts colleges in Switzerland and their international setting. My focus is on the design fundamentals. I examine and compare the technical, formal design and didactic aspects of the materials, tasks and projects the students had. By appraising the estates of instructors (that have not been previously studied) such as that of Hermann Eidenbenz I will access the very documents that the students used. The main focus is on the peripheral or even incomplete but widespread exercises and projects of students. Rather than concentrating on the great successes of a few individuals this approach permits a view of the development of graphic designs and its didactics, that challenges customary narratives.>

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Eidenbenzschriften 5131

Annalena Kluge

Pattern-based structures for sustainable mobility design.

(School of Design)

According to Bernhard Bürdek, genuine design knowledge1 generated by the process of design and creation in the sense of practical research will in the future need to be increasingly developed both vertically and horizontally,2 will need to be collated, made available and communicated. This is what Bürdek sees as being the disciplinary and interdisciplinary communication of design knowledge.

Paths must be identified to make our knowledge accessible to others working in different fields and to this end methodological and content-based solutions developed in theory and practice. The question arises: How and through which mechanisms is practice-oriented design knowledge communicated today both within the field of design and beyond, in order to make it fruitful across the disciplines?

A designer’s practical routine looks at a great spectrum of knowledge communicators in the form of manuals, handbooks, style guides, guidelines, design tenets, compendia. However, we must draw attention to a gap in the design-theoretical reflection of these practical rule books.3

For this reason, the focus of this work is on the analysis and conceptualization of relevant instructional literature that fosters design-specific creative and planning processes in particular in the context of current and future urban development and mobility themes.

The goal is to penetrate deeper into the heterogeneous spectrum of collections of knowledge from a design-theoretical viewpoint, to identify, systematize and classify specific properties. The identification of embedded ordering structures, in particular interconnected pattern structures, makes up the heart of the investigation.

The question is: How can pattern structures be developed and applied with the goal of combining on a transdisciplinary level the design knowledge developed for the shaping of mobility spaces on a multi-disciplinary basis, and fostering sustainable mobility behavior?

1 Cf. Claudia Mareis: Design als Wissenskultur. Interferenzen zwischen Design- und Wissensdiskursen seit 1960, (Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 2014 ) and Nigel Cross: Designerly Ways of Knowing, Springer Science+Business Media, 2006)
2 Bernhard E. Bürdek: Design: Geschichte, Theorie und Praxis der Produktgestaltung, (Birkhäuser, 2015)
3 Pierre Smolarski: Rhetorik des Designs. Gestaltung zwischen Subversion und Affirmation, (Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 2017)

Nikolaus Kockel

Relevance work

(School of Art)

Since Modernism, art has been expanding and opening out in all directions and in a variety of ways: Nevertheless, it remains an exclusive and elitist field. How can it be that apparently everything can become art, everyone can be an artist, and yet the boundaries of the art world are in most cases clearly delineated?

The PhD project examines inclusion and exclusion in the art sphere, not by means of the avant-garde positions of artists who make new objects, forms of work, or concepts suitable for art, but rather through the observation of phenomena that initially appear weakened in their legitimacy as art: One example might be Vivian Meyer, who didn’t make any of her works public during her lifetime and who, posthumously (and quite possibly against her will), was declared a clandestine artist. Other examples include forms of art discarded by the conventional critics and museums, but which generate their own intellectual chains of exploitation and discourse, such as the Trump propaganda painter Jon McNaughton. Under such aggravated conditions (with Meyer, for example, the absence of artistic self-mythologization), the work of the “assigners of relevance” as Dietrich Diederichsen termed it, is more clearly discernable, allowing conclusions to be drawn about the seemingly eternal glory of so-called masterpieces.


Prof. Dr. Rebentisch

Lina Louisa Krämer

What has never been.

Lecture performance as a place for scientific analysis?

Today, the term lecture performance is used inflationary in the visual arts for lectures by artists who deal with a certain topic or question and thus recall a classic scientific lecture. What lecture performances have in common is that they are designed and staged as a performance, as an ephemeral event, in front of an audience and they address themselves to a public. The address to the public is immediate but cannot be viewed as more relevant per se compared to the performative elements. In the lecture performance, process meets the moment of a performance, a (targeted) action that is connected to a lecture; both can merge in a joint sequence, or clearly be delimited from each other.

The attempt to classify and thus also to differentiate the lecture performance from other types of lecture (e.g. spoken word performance), as an independent genre in the visual arts, is the concern of my doctoral project, which is based on the three leads - the act of speaking, the performance at the moment of its staging and the cultural-historical context of the format. The doctoral project is intended as a framework analysis that does not want to look at lecture performances in isolation but wants to critically question the contexts in which they are discussed and performed. What relevance and role do lecture performances have in the visual arts? How are ideas for the production and transfer of knowledge and evidence negotiated in lecture performances, how are rhetorical means used? Can the act of speaking be understood as a political act? Lecture performances can not only be described as a variety of visual arts, but also renegotiate the relationships between art and science or teaching and show interfaces between different disciplines, including applied theater studies.

Tutor: Prof. Dr. Christian Janecke

Annie Kurz

Offline, Unplugged, Disconnected…

A postphenomenological inquiry into absence-relations to technologies
(School of Art)

How do we relate to technologies when absent, turned off, not in use? How to think of mediation of disconnection? Apps that are designed to keep us away from aps such as Freedom (2008), AppDetox (2013) or Digitox (2019) promise to provide more »off time«, they also mark a paradigm shift within public attitudes towards technologies. Even when dystopian panic and utopian hysteria are put aside, nostalgia towards the analogue can be observed. Conditions of »offline, unplugged, disconnected…« have become an almost trendy desire of a temporarily Internet-free being. The quantitative qualities of being with the virtual OR the natural body can be felt but not separated within self-identity constructions. We have come to understand our technological gadgets as more than just objects of utility or objects to be studied separated from us. Rather, we acknowledge their relational character.

Well-known American philosopher of technology Don Ihde’s concept of Postphenomenology grew out of Experimental Phenomenology (Ihde, 1986) and offers a systematic approach to decode human-technology-world-relations. He rejects the search for essence while emphasizing the plurality of technologies and technics as well as their non-neutral nature. Functionalities are multi-stable and cannot be fully anticipated within the design process. Ihde’s formulas open up methods especially useful for designers and increasingly fruitful amongst artists. His work is known but not broadly represented in the German language nor design schools. How can the phenomenon – the experience of the absent technology – be conceptualized within Postphenomenology and can it be put under the lens of historical variations? Consciousness of a technology is enough to alter the lifeworld – that is not whole until disconnection becomes part of it. Through a speculative artistic methodology I aim to coin down the term »absence-relations« to describe phenomena of unintended or purposeful disconnection of the self from the technics of a network.


Prof. Dr. Marc Ries

Bildschirmfoto 2020 07 15 um 09 48 48

Lola Läufer

The mechanical Stain

Interferences in contemporary Image Techniques

(School of Art)

The fundamental aim of printing and reproduction processes is to create precise and accurate copies; the focus of my thesis is to spotlight artistic approaches that deliberately trigger or harness unpredictable results when applied to digital imaging techniques. I consider contemporary works which rely on a process of creation and image transfer which leverages intended error generation, thereby rendering its uniqueness impossible to recreate.

In handing the execution to any mechanical device, the artist transfers authorship at least in part to the machine. Creative control and mechanical action co-exist at this point. While the artist relinquishes conceptual execution to the machine, he nonetheless still remains vital as originator.

The artist can invoke malfunction, by intentionally using a technique in a manner contrary to its intended purpose. Irregularities arising from this are highlighted against the regularity of the mechanical structure in normal use. This creative misuse incorporates both deliberate intent and uncertainty of outcome. The artist indeed is in control of the starting point but not the eventual result. While he certainly intends the derailment of normal process by introducing a “fault”, he is unable to predict what

actually happens as a consequence. By means of this interference, the artist is able to play with disrupting mechanical alignment and against the uniform flow of the devices. Stains, gaps and misalignments increase the artistic and pictorial dimensions of the piece.

While deliberately avoiding certain interferences and harnessing others, the artist takes aesthetic decisions within the mechanical process. Artistic ability and technical potential exist in cooperation. The work presents its own dynamic within an open process of manipulation, strategy, contingency and implementation. The artistic piece reflects its own genesis to the observer, while disruptive interference account for its immediacy, and thereby its transparency indicates the specific materiality.

Although art aims to make things visible, here it is achieved by means of triggering dysfunction and incoherence, by visualising the intrinsic characteristics and weaknesses of the machine, and these manifest themselves as surprisingly formal-aesthetic details within the work.

​Prof. Dr. Christian Janecke 
Prof. Heiner Blum.

Anna-Lena Moeckl


The body surface as an interactive interface for medical applications – a design scientific investigation

(School of Design)

What happens when products (apparently) merge into the skin and the human body, and how is it influenced by design? The doctoral project investigates interactions with the human skin and regarding this a communication with the body and the invisible internal body. Between the poles of design – body – technology, health and medical products worn close to the body, that react to or interact with the human body and its functions are considered.

The focus is on the human skin, which is located between the inside and outside of the body, and serves as a mediating membrane for the body by means of its functions. With the limitation to non- or minimally invasive medical devices and systems, those are considered that are intended for (everyday) home use as well as for use in a medical or clinical context for diagnostic, therapeutic or preventive purposes.

The human skin has always communicated with the outside of the body on different levels – but this is not always directly perceptible to us humans. Design creates, with the help of technology, access to otherwise »hidden« information and enables a tangible connection to the body's internal system. It has the effect that this information about internal body processes becomes usable for people in their everyday life and allows a reciprocal interaction with the body's interior. Through the skin as a mediating membrane, a communication between »inside« and »outside« is created: the invisible becomes visible and the visible becomes invisible.

In the products that interact with the skin and thus enter into a connection with the body, on the one hand an extension of the body takes place, and on the other hand, human and object »merge« with each other, so to speak. This merging design allows new interactions (in an extended form than before) with the skin and holds design tasks.

What influence does design have in this context when skin-transcending interactions are used for medical applications, and how does design deal with these interactions? How does design change not only medical functions and psychological aspects, but also body sensation, the relationship to the body and the view of the self through a stronger integration into life and into daily routines of users? How do human-object relationships of these novel medical applications have an impact on networking with other systems and in exchange with various stakeholders? And what are possible obstacles, critical aspects or limits?

The practical part of the dissertation deals with a specific area of this topic and the design of functional tattoos, and the question of how a direct visualization on the skin can serve not only aesthetically but also functionally as an interactive interface for medical products and (connected) systems. The design of these human-skin-object interactions holds new possibilities for diagnostics, therapy and prevention, which have not existed to this extent so far, and will be investigated and reflected in a design-scientific way in the phenomenon area described. 

Prof. Dr. Martin Gessmann
Prof. Peter Eckart

Patrick Raddatz

New Jack Cities

City-sound relations and structures of House and Techno in Germany’s early years

(School of Art/Art and Media Studies)

Around the mid-1980s, the growing electronic club music cultures of House and Techno were predominantly defined by urban and contingent scenes, with only a few dedicated spaces, means of distribution, media, and marginal reception. As such, those scenes cultivated discrete city-specific (sub)cultures which, in their city-specificness, became increasingly independent: Anonymity in the metropolises facilitated the emergence of new and dedicated, free and LGBTQIA+ safe spaces, whose urban night-time intersections fostered new qualities and an attractiveness of going out at night in an age, when House and Techno were yet to gain popularity, definition and tradition.

Aside implicit multilayered meanings and cultural references of Jack as a first name and term in the english language, New Jack Cities explicitly contextualizes in these genres: Jack is the unmarked fictive character of House music, referenced by numerous tracks of the early years. In heralding an underground sound avantgarde, Chicago’s nascent House scene soon became rivalled by Detroit Techno, as the Chicago infused UK Acid House hype soon set european dance floors ablaze; and in the reverberating aftermath of Disco, New Jersey and New York City merged into New Jack City. Subsequently, both conceptual and cultural claims were soon to be raised—between continents, nations, metropolises, and also in Germany too.

Long before House and Techno, non-permanent or shorter-service members of the Allied Forces (and their media) based in West Germany were key to an accelerating intercultural exchange (see Huck, 2018) of musical codes between urban music scenes of the US, UK and mainland Europe. In Cologne, the conceptual musician Wolfgang Voigt released New Jack City on Frankfurt am Main based record label Force Inc.—a symbolic soundtrack to a scene presenting itself open to all.

Jack to the Sound of the Underground: The title of this doctoral research project refers to emerging hot spots of the german House and Techno scene, an expanding research on cities as a category of analytic research (cf. Berking & Löw, 2008, et al.), as well as on the city as a topos for research on club culture within Electronic Dance Music Culture Studies.

The first part of the doctoral project comprises of city-specific and city-overlapping research on behalf of Sound- and DIY-Cultures (Lowndes, 2016, et al.), covering the differentiation of interdependent and competing scenes which took place in the constitutive timeframe of ca. 1985 up to 1995, at which significant developments and characteristics came about. Which sociological findings and mappings does »The City« provide within an approach based on praxeology and qualitative-empirical research on club culture (cf. Reitsamer, 2016)? City-specific differentiation manifests itself in the music and becomes significant beyond its urban space; rendering a city-specific cultural construction of urban identity, of musical idiosyncrasy according to its elemental Sound Signifiers. What are the Sound Signifiers, and how can they be differentiated?

Musical precursors such as Punk, Disco, Wave (among others) with subsequent sub-genres demonstrated how independent spaces, structures of exchange and distribution, were integral and assertive to counter-cultures and scenes commonly being negatively framed, marginalised and generally disapproved of. Protagonists of House and Techno in particular benefited from prior subcultural experiences (cf. Thornton, 2013, et al.), quite often in distinction to their precursors and even more so to mainstream cultures and their structures, as well as from technical obsolescence of means of production and accelerationism—both driven by capitalism (Fisher, Ambrose & Reynolds, 2018).

This leads to the second part of the doctoral project focuses on the formation and order of DIY- and non-structure structures and their city-specific markings and framings, which were driven by an irrepressible craving for self-empowerment and independence in reception and distribution.

  • Christian Huck (2018). Wie die Populärkultur nach Deutschland kam. Transatlantische Geschichten aus dem 20. Jahrhundert. Hamburg: Textem Verlag.
  • Helmuth Berking & Martina Löw (Hrsg.) (2008). Die Eigenlogik der Städte. Neue Wege für die Stadtforschung (= Interdisziplinäre Stadtforschung, Band 1), Frankfurt u.a.: Campus.
  • Sarah Lowndes (2016). The DIY Movement in Art, Music and Publishing. Subjugated Knowledges (= Routledge Research in Cultural and Media Studies). Taylor and Francis.
  • Rosa Reitsamer (2016). Die Praxis des Techno. Zur theoretischen und methodischen Erfassung elektronischer Musikkulturen. In: Kim Feser & Matthias Pasdzierny (Hrsg.), techno studies. Ästhetik und Geschichte elektronischer Tanzmusik. Berlin: b-books, S. 29–41.
  • Sarah Thornton (2013). Club Cultures. Music, Media and Subcultural Capital. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Mark Fisher, Darren Ambrose & Simon Reynolds (Hrsg.) (2018). K-Punk. The collected and unpublished writings of Mark Fisher (2004–2016). London, UK: Repeater.


Prof. Dr. Marc Ries

Prof. Heiner Blum

Steffen Reiter

Material Computation

Material as medium
(School of Design)

Beginning with today’s technological options a move can be detected in the design process away from the traditional route of simply choosing the material and towards the design-initiated generation and manipulation of material. In other words, design methods already come into play in the development of the materials. This opens up diverse approaches on the macro, meso and micro-levels and in their overlap; these result from the properties specific to the respective materials and how they are processed especially by including the properties in the programming. After all, given the options provided by digital, parametric generative design tools and new computer-driven manufacturing technologies such as additive production methods it is conceivable to consider programmable, physical dynamic material (see 4D-printing, Voxel).

The divide between materials and the digital is becoming increasingly more porous – terms like (post-)digital materiality, physical computing or computational composites are the result of this new linkage of code and material. Consequently, materials act partly as software and can realise different functions depending on the programming code. Artefacts come about as the emergent agglomerations of specifically employed multi-dimensional “material pixels”.

One aspect of the project is to explore the question of how material systems can be programmed so that functions (actuator and sensor technology) can be specifically and precisely controlled and implemented. The role models here are not least of all structures and processes of self-organising biological systems. By controlling the embedding of information in a material structure self-active, adaptive properties can be produced in it effectively blurring the divide between artefact and organism. I will first examine the potential of this approach and then summarize the insights as regards theory formation. I shall then analyse selected examples from design history so as to highlight the nucleus of programmable materials. The results will be placed in relation to existing theories of human-object interaction with an emphasis on the material itself and its articulation.

Moreover, it is necessary to consider the design process within the aforementioned contexts; after all, how can designers, for example, represent dynamic and time-dependent material behaviour in static design drawings? The practical part of the project will involve generating designs and prototypes that serve as a basis and enable a reflection on human-object interaction using empirical methods with regard to current technologies and design processes but also the practical applications of mingling the digital and analogue. Based on this analysis I shall explore possible expansions and updates that do justice to the altered conditions with a view to modifying the theoretical models and complementing them with regard to materials.


Prof. Dr. Markus Holzbach

Prof. Dr. Klaus Klemp

Julia Rommel

Ubiquity – constituting space in the context of information and communications technologies

(School of Art)

Ubiquity is a kind of vision in practice, at once a concept and something which we live by in everyday life. A capacity for being in several places at the same time has positive connotations in our society, corresponding as it does to the ideal of a mobile, flexible and globally networked individual.

In the context of Euclidean space, so firmly anchored in the culture of our society, ubiquity appears an unattainable utopia as it presupposes a corresponding distribution of our bodies over several locations. To us humans, ubiquity would appear, in line with the theological origin of the term, an exclusively divine attribute. Nevertheless, presence, which cannot solely be defined by location, is practiced in everyday actions by transcending Euclidean space through our use of information and communications technologies, for example, when we see or hear another person located beyond the kind of distance covered by direct sensory perception.

When we contrast these two positions the question that arises is one of arrangement: What is it that is moving – the individual in space or the space around the individual? In order to allow for a discussion of this nature, a shift is required from the idea of absolute space to one of a relational kind. This makes it possible to focus on the presence of the individual who informs the description of a space. When we use technologies the result is different, often ambiguous qualities of presence. My objective is to investigate this nascent potential presence on the basis of Merleau-Ponty’s notion of body and his idea of differentiating between the body as a thing and the body as a functioning organism. Moreover, analyzing various forms of presence requires a precise investigation of the relationship between the individual and technology.

Within the framework of the tension between the logic of power and that of desire displayed by the media, ubiquity assumes the dimensions of a kind of vision in practice of concepts initiated by technology itself and those ways of acting by which the individual lives. Ambiguous presence is the result of using technology in a manner that has become routine, whereby we integrate technology into our self-perception without any concrete reflections on the subject.

On the basis of technology protocols (the documentation of personal experience of situations using different technologies), the principal aim of this dissertation is to analyze the transformation of this changed self-perception with a reference to space and the way that people communicating perceive one another. I also wish to highlight the consequences of this as the development of a cultural technology, a notion of space derived from self-perception and forms of social behavior that are established within this kind of space.


Prof. Marc Ries

Julia rommel

Documentation communication

Julia Rommel

Marian Rupp

Figural Fabulation:

Graphic Philosophy and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning
(School of Art)

Ecosophical Metamodeling, Gaia-graphy, Speculative Fabulation, Diffractive Patterning, Diagrammatic Writing....
Efforts of the last two decades seek to counter traditional narratives with alternative modes of expression amidst the complex conglomerate of technological innovation, social change, and planetary crisis. They are concerned with the urgency of renewed representational methodologies that can responsibly figure the specific material-semiotic heterogeneities of a shared cosmos. To this end, they open themselves up to transmedial and transdisciplinary experiments that on the one hand lead to a kind of indistinguishability between science, art, politics, theory, design, etc., and on the other hand are intended to resingularize a possible reinvention of these modes, or livable modes of existence.

These are semi-theoretical practices from New Materialism, Science and Technology Studies, actor-network theory, and the vicinity of Deleuze and Guattari. These combine geopolitical questions with the question of representation. In doing so, they are particularly attentive to how they themselves represent representations. Haraway writes that it makes a difference which figures figure figures: "It matters which matter matters matter.“ Among other things, this means that any presentation (including that of theory) always harbors an ideological visualization practice that conveys a particular worldview that can include, but also exclude, perspectives as well as actors. It means that by drawing lines, arranging words, and distributing surfaces, we simultaneously make divisions of communal space.

Using Lyotard's notion of the figural to instigate a critique of the homogeneous space of the siginificant or the figurative, a space of heterogeneous assemblages can be unfolded that takes us from a mere focus on working on the text into a moving texture. Lyotard has pointed out that if the event of meaning and sense is never produced by language alone, theory must methodically relate to its concrete representation. This behaving toward the (not merely reflexive and sometimes accidental) event of its own entangled materialization can be captured in the notion of fabulation. Henri Bergson initiated this in order to think an eventful becoming-other of social collectives. Gilles Deleuze had taken up the term in several writings, transforming it around a political-aesthetic function. Most recently, Haraway re-actualized it as 'speculative fabulation' and extended it to a responsive becoming-together. This is about creating eventful patterns of interference, textures from and with textures that deal with their own constructedness. In the same way, Karen Barad proposes the methodological figure of 'Diffraction Patterning', which she contrasts with the classical model of reflection.

Through the prism of the two terms figural and fabulation, the dissertation aims to 1. make recent concrete attempts of responsible material-discursive representation in theory, which as such have received little attention, further connectable through transversal links 2. against a bifurcation into form and content, design and text within theory that persists despite a general recognition of the powers of representation, sensitize to a thoughtful approach to one's own materializing practice 3. respond to the urgency of new narratives in entangled times.

Prof. Dr. Marc Ries

Gilles deleuze  foucaults diagramm

Deleuze, Gilles: Foucault, Frankfurt a. M. 2013, S. 168 f.

Donna haraway  speculative fabulation

Haraway, Donna: Staying with the Trouble, Durham/London 2016, S. 9.

Pia Scharf

Learning systems and the user interface

(School of Design)

The user interface is undergoing a dramatic change. Thanks to Industry 4.0 and owing to a universal networking of digital equipment designers are influencing the control of technical functions in technoid devices.

The classical interface that Peter Sloterdijk more recently understood as the “make-up” of machines – make-up because overly complex functions are reduced until the user has the feeling of being in charge (Peter Sloterdijk, “Der Welt über die Straße helfen”) is now a matter of debate. After all, technological developments have advanced far beyond the point where user input is necessary at all, even though this is down to a sophisticated simplification. From this point interfaces no longer function as an input box into which you make your entries line by line, gesture by gesture. Classic interfaces are giving way to technoid counterparts with new abilities to anticipate entries, set in motion automatic interaction chains and anticipate users’ decisions. Using artificial intelligent learning behaviours (or deep learning) (decision) structures will be formed that entail fundamental changes for interface design.

The new design task given the autonomously operating counterpart lies not so much in designing the interface as some ping-pong game played by the user making his entries, the processing of the device or subsequent display on its surface. Rather it is a matter of designing characteristics through which the technoid counterpart – in interplay with the user – reveals itself. After all, if the learning system processes on a continuous basis, then the interface can no longer be sequentially conceived. Where now in classic interface design a differentiation between display and control results from interplay with the user, in the future users and technoid counterpart will in principle operate simultaneously, in the final version even synchronously; in other words they will operate autonomously yet be perfectly attuned to one another –  providing we consider a best version of ‘deeper learning’ as possible in the foreseeable future. The consequence for the interface: it is no longer a needle’s eye through which communication from the bits & bytes-world is translated into the carbon world (and back). As the processes in the technoid counterpart run continuously and the user experiences his world continuously the interfaces will in future be assigned a completely new role. They will then serve less for the exchange of information and rather offer a means of sensitively comparing process chains. What is conceivable would be something similar to the ‘prestabilised harmony’ of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, in which “the soul [follows] its own laws, as does the body;” (Gottfried W. Leibniz, “Monadologie”), namely two fundamentally different entities that are attuned to one another so that they intermesh like the metaphorical clock movement. User and technoid counterpart do not pervade each other but are rather in a situation in which they stand next to each other as equals: It is not for nothing that “side by side” is the maxim for an industrial culture 4.0.


Prof. Dr. Martin Gessmann

Prof. Dr. Klaus Klemp

Prof. Frank G. Zebner

Julian Schwarze

Product semantics and mobility space. 

Investigation of and theoretical groundwork for the prerequisites and limits of a product-language analysis of spaces and processes in mobility systems.

(School of Design)

Julian Schwarze’s Ph.D. project examines the preconditions and limitations of applying a product-language-based analysis to mobility spaces. The theory of product language analyzes design objects, which are understood as “communicative media of meaning,” with a view to their product semantics. Product semantics can be observed in users’ interaction with objects. If we are to extend this space of interaction to mobility spaces, in which users, who either move about themselves or are transported, interact not only with things but also with virtual as well as physical spaces in a time-based utilization process, then the question of the applicability of the theory of product language arises. As a theory, is it able to constitute the basis of the analysis as well as the definition and development of the design parameters derived from it – and where are the limitations?

In product semantics, interaction and communication between objects and users are conceived as a process, yet the position of those interacting remains static. Furthermore, products are understood as things that may be delineated. Mobility spaces feature two fundamental differences when compared to this definition – firstly, the users are mobile, meaning they move or are moved, and secondly, these are not things that may be isolated, but complex spaces, which further manifest a specific interaction context through their mobile, time-based use. This raises the question as to whether the theory of product language is still adequate when it comes to analyzing this specific context, and where it may be limited or require expansion. In order to answer this question, design-theoretical and art-critical literature must be evaluated, yet an analysis based on architectural theory must also be included. The dissertation takes a critical look at the methods and instruments of analysis of the theory of product language and intends to examine it in terms of the practical application to mobility spaces with a view to a possibly necessary redetermination, and to categorize the insights ensuing from this.

In the practical part of the work a separate section of the study of a mobility process will serve by way of example. It will center on a mobility node to be observed, whereby the application of product language shall allow for the latter’s potential and limitations to be defined.

Prof. Kai Vöckler
​Prof. Peter Eckart

Offenbach marktplatz schwarze julian hfg

Jsd 6935

José Segebre

What Are We Waiting For? The Time of Waiting in Queer and Postcolonial Aesthetics

(School of Art)

What we wait for conditions our expectations and hopes. When we wait for the bus, we expect it to come. If it fails to arrive, the time spent waiting seems indefinite and endless; it can become a burden and a disappointment. The perceived intensity of this time is very subjective and situation-specific. Waiting thus becomes existential.

My research focuses on contemporary installative and performative art practices and interrogates the extent to which they structure space and time–and therefore experience, aesthetic or otherwise. I ask myself: what are we waiting for when artworks bring the time of waiting to bear? What does it mean to experience art as waiting time? What consequences does this temporalization of aesthetic experience have? What happens to hope and expectation during this time? I understand waiting as a phenomenon of power: to wait and to make others wait.   

The time of waiting seems particularly important in the context of the latter twentieth Century, which in the aesthetic realm signals a departure from high modernist objecthood towards the fraying of genres. While also simultaneously marked by Cold War politics and shifting market policies, these times bore witness to a radical mobilization of revolutionary, decolonial and political strategies–a global proliferation of emancipatory movements. Under this schema, I contextualize my research project in queer and postcolonial times of upheaval, which are to be regarded as highly specific, overlapping spatiotemporalities.

My current thesis argues that queer and postcolonial artistic practices around times of sociopolitical and economic upheaval countervail the temporality of waiting in installations and performances, thus undermining hegemonic power structures. The artists Jack Smith (1932-89) and Hélio Oiticica (1937-1980) are key figures for these considerations.

Smith's work from the 60s and 70s plays havoc on the time of waiting. In his performances so little takes place over such long time periods–a record plays, a joint is lit, or the piece simply starts over–that the experience of the performance becomes an experience grounded in waiting. In his pieces, Smith incorporates neither a clear beginning nor a foreseeable end. To what extent does seemingly relentless and incessant waiting morph into a determined aesthetic experience; or vice versa: an aesthetic experience with apparently no end in sight into a defined waiting time?

During his exile in New York, Oiticica attended his performances and went so far as to declare Smith precursor to his Cosmococas (1973-74), conceived with Neville D'Almeida (1941-). These participatory installations transform music, moving images and drug culture into an idle, leisurely time conceived for inspiration and creation, which Oiticica condenses into the neologism "Creleisure." These simultaneously overwhelming and meditative spaces were created after the disappointments of thwarted revolutionary movements in '68, including the violent intensification of the Brazilian military dictatorship (1964-85). How does waiting for a better time or fundamental change relate to the leisurely idleness of "Creleisure?" How does the Cosmococas' spatiotemporality compare to a wait without a clear beginning or end? How does the temporality of waiting differ from boredom, melancholy or leisure, and what parallels are there between them? Is the soldering of expectation and hope most particular to the experience of waiting?

My doctoral thesis hones in on performative, installative, queer and postcolonial artworks created in times of upheaval with seemingly unknown and endless durations. What Are We Waiting For? collects artistic positions whose aestheticization of the temporality of waiting seeks not so much a fleeting escape from the here-and-now but rather a reflexive, strategic and playful approach to structures ruling over time.

​Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch, Dr. Marc Siegel


Tiny Tim [born Herbert Butros (1932-1996)] plays the guitar in Jack Smith’s The Yellow Sequence (1963-65, 16mm / color / sound / 1S / 15'00''). Courtesy of Jack Smith Archive and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.


Detail of Hélio Oiticica’s and Neville D’Almeida’s Bloco-Experiências in Cosmococa— progama in progress, CC1 Trashiscapes (1973).


Installation view of Hélio Oiticica’s and Neville D’Almeida’s CC4 Nocagions (1973, Centro de Arte Hélio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro, 2005). Photo: César Oiticica Filho.

Maria Sitte

The role of investigative and criminological strategies in contemporary art (working title)

(School of Art)

Investigative and criminological strategies currently constitute a trend in the visual arts that cannot be overlooked. We are seeing contemporary works exhibiting significant characteristics of journalistic research work and these being linked to criminological and forensic visualizations that pursue an epistemological interest.

Attempts are being made to uncover and investigate human rights violations, murders, corruption and environmental crimes. Artistic analysis thus responds to socio-political and media-based everyday life: magazines, radio broadcasting and online media attest to the great interest in investigation that is assuming manifest form in the (re)formation of numerous investigative departments. At the same time, socio-political discourses on the credibility of information and images are conducted with the recently fashionable terms “fake” and “post-factual.” This highly ambivalent trend is also reflected in artistic investigations addressing said topics.

Artworks in various media that address the uncovering of political murder crimes will be analyzed in the context of this research project. Of interest are current artistic works based on the adaptation of documentary, journalistic or criminological techniques. The research proposal thus centers on the interplay between aesthetic and criminological argumentation rationales on the one hand, and the rhetoric of conviction resulting from these on the other. In temporal terms, the selection of works will be restricted to 20th and 21st-century artworks. The goal of the project is not to provide a moral appraisal of investigative and criminological practices, but the analysis of artworks that in the context of a “forensic turn” are geared towards exposing political murders and with the aid of modern technologies and new visual aesthetics put forward specific counter-narratives. If the work systematically seeks to investigate image-based data (satellite images, diagrams, etc.) for the depiction of murder crimes, the research project is in methodological terms assume a position rooted in the realm of image studies.

Prof. Christian Janecke
Prof. Heiner Blum

Julia sefanovici tanzkleid 2014 a

Julia Stefanovici

Dance Dresses - Dress Dance.

On the phenomenon of textile architectures on the stage of contemporary dance.

(School of Art)

Clothing is a cultural practice and has developed over time into a sign-bearing medium of communication. Just as these signs convey information about gender, social position, cultural background, etc. in everyday life, they also have an effect on the image reception of stage productions. Furthermore it is precisely there that dresses appear again and again  where they elude this symbolism, make themselves the subject of discussion, and claim to be understood as an independent, artistic design element. The historical avant-garde represents a striking turning point for the visual and performing arts. It exerted a formative influence on stage concepts and favored a new approache to dance. Thus, in turn, effecting the use of stage clothes. One example of this is Loïe Fuller's "Serpentine Dances", which created ephemeral ornaments in space with their sweeping veil dresses. And at the same time, fuller initiated a new form of scenographic strategy that gave the dress, as a moving material, its own role on the stage.

The research work "Tanzkleider - Kleidertanz" (Dance Dresses - Dress Dance) is a direct example specifically refuting to those dresses that extend beyond their function as a medium of communication and as body-protection, body-adornment or body-extension, into the surrounding space and thereby temporarily unfold architectural qualities in the form of space formation. In the movement of the dance, the body transfers its dynamics to the dress it wears, and the textile material becomes a kinetic object. The resulting ephemeral and sculptural structures form short-lived spatial closures whose spatiality, cubature and structure are marked by transience. A tension arises between the constantly changing spatial bodies and the immobile stage space. The uncovering and revealing of bodies occurs in interaction with the kinetic properties of textile materials. The resulting structures lead to an altered perception of the apparent constants of dress, body and space. The clear separation of dancer and surrounding space dissolves, and the components space, dress and dancer merge into independent figures. These figures can be dress, stage set and actor at the same time. Their significance for stage productions is obvious, while the sculpturality also creates a direct reference to the visual arts.

 With this dissertation I would like to contribute to the discussion in art and dance studies about current forms of scenographic concepts on the stage of contemporary dance. More than one hundred years influences of the avant-garde, I want to investigate the role of textile architecture in the form of dance dresses. The intentions of choreographers and set designers of such object-like, wearable space dresses will be illuminated and possible interpretations will be discussed. The aim is to work out current tendencies, which are put into relation with contemporary aesthetics. For even if the dance, choreographic and dramaturgical performance are the leading components of success for a dance performance, stage design and costume directly are a massive influence that shapes the visual reception of the overall work dramatically.


Prof. Dr. Christian Janecke

Prof. Heike Schuppelius

Benjamin Vogt

The line in design

(School of Design)

Forms of presentation in design are undergoing rapid change. This applies to the entire design process from the first sketch through to the model; everything is becoming more or less digital. Admittedly, when it comes to the basic procedures it is still the designer providing the necessary mental and physical powers, especially when it comes to the first dealings with a design. However, here the new media are already impacting on these first steps as well.

Tablets and touchscreens now compete with paper as mediums for drawing on. The divides between the physical and digital world are becoming increasingly blurred. This is especially evident in CAD programs or design procedures in virtual reality. Although VR goggles rely on two-dimensional displays for displaying a design, the user is given the impression of three-dimensionality and can even interact on this level. One result of such interaction will be to make it increasingly difficult to conclusively separate the input by the human and that by the machine. This makes it all the more important to consider how a digital model is generated from that initial idea and the classic quick sketch. How will the leap into the new medium be possible? What transformations are necessary? And how will the nature of design alter at the interface of such a transition? The project will explore this issue using the topic of the line as an example, because it is the classic starting point for realising any idea. By examining how the line is transferred from the drawing to a new digital model it must be possible to clarify fundamental questions. And it can be assumed that it is too simplistic to assume simple correlations ­ and that you have to ask what form of configuration and calculation can be made responsible for the development of three-dimensionality.

In methodological terms the project will draw on the academic knowledge about line in art and architecture. The aim is to relate this to the specific requirements of design. Classic methods and techniques will encounter the prerequisites for cutting-edge digital drawing programs. So ultimately the key question for the dissertation project is: What happens to the line when it is translated from the drawing into a model? What set of rules is necessary, and how can we better reappraise the nature of the line and perhaps even understand it better in light of its new mathematical spin?


Prof. Dr. Martin Gessmann

Prof. Dr. Klaus Klemp

Prof. Frank Georg Zebner

Adrian Williams

The Horse’s Mouth: Unmasking the Vocal Surrogate

(School of Art)

“Don’t punish the messenger!” is a call to consider that the bearer of bad tidings and its author need not be one and the same person. The messenger is effectively a vocal surrogate. Using a relationship analysis of content and source of a piece of language information my research will provide a definition of the vocal surrogate and its characteristics and functions in contemporary artworks. 

From Sharon Hayes’ hour-long performances of all the speeches of Ronald Reagan “Addresses to the Nation” (vocal repossession) through to Mark Wallinger’s racehorse “A Real Work of Art” (vocal squatting) my aim is explore the difference between what is said and what is ultimately perceived. In the same way that voice is an expression of our human will the vocal surrogate enables us to discover who or possibly what is behind the message transferred by the voice.

This research does not represent a complete catalogue of contemporary artists whose work focuses on the human voice, nor do I attempt to develop an encyclopaedia that unites all ideas and theories on vocal surrogacy. Rather my intention is for “the tooling of the tool itself” be perceived as an independent research topic.


Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch

Prof. Maria Fusco

Windelberg kabinette 1screeningreihe

Das Zeigen zeigen (Showing the showing)

Series of screenings I of IV: Temporal transformations

Windelberg kabinette 2kronos

Hanging Cronus

Windelberg kabinette 3screeningreihe

Das Zeigen zeigen (Showing the showing)

Series of screenings II of IV: Power/knowledge

Windelberg kabinette 4darmstadt

Universal museum

Windelberg kabinette 5cafemuseum

Museum café

Windelberg kabinette 6screeningreihe

Das Zeigen zeigen (Showing the showing)

Series of screenings III of IV: Criticism of elitist institutions

Windelberg kabinette 7label

Excerpt from a critical text at the entrance to the room

Mathias Windelberg

Cabinets of showing

Institutional critique in expanded cinema
Expanded cinema in institutional critique

Faculty Visual Communication

My art dissertation will deal with the relationship between exhibiting in the museum context and contemporary video art that takes a critical stance on the practices of exhibiting. A particular focus will be on necessary transformations of museums into artists’ films and on media differences and the resulting possibilities for exhibition films.

To this end, in a first historical thread reference is made to expanded cinema – by this term art theorists normally mean those forms of cinema and film which were appropriated by artists as of around 1960 and which, after undergoing transformations, subsequently found their way into exhibition halls. It was now not only the case that black boxes with projection screen(s) achieved the status of new media, locations or conventions in showing. Indeed, the cinematographic installation itself quickly became established as an autonomous work of art in the perception of the critics.

For my investigations I will also refer to a second discourse pertaining to the historical theory of art, one which has to date been seen as independent of that on expanded cinema: likewise as of the 1960s artists also enabled galleries and museums to rediscover their roots within artworks. Convinced that the context of an artwork always influences its reception, they started by questioning the conditions in exhibition halls. They rapidly turned their attention to reflections on the way that the different art institutions function. Strategies, presuppositions and mechanisms of inclusion or exclusion, in short, the practices of exhibiting also became the subject of the works they produced, works that were often conceptual in nature. In these, the artists displayed an emancipatory potential, distorting and expanding the mechanisms of display and questioning existing boundaries. This critical discourse on methods of artistic procedure in the public eye is subsumed in the expression institutional critique.

However, nowadays something remarkable appears to be happening. For around a decade now, the term institutional critique has been extended to include expanded cinema; in other words, those works of art that are only transformed into moving pictures through the power of the imagination and the sluggishness of our retinas in what is in fact a particularly intimate relationship between recipient and screen(s) in a darkened room. This does not at all negate or even represent the end of the expansion of the cinematographic into art and its appropriation by it. New and interesting works of video art are repeatedly being presented and nowadays even being shown in cinemas. Alongside this there are countless useful kinds of film also relating to museums – trailers, documentaries, feature films and educational films. Not all of these by any means question the locations, conditions and conventions of the way that they themselves are exhibited following in the tradition of institutional critique. For my part, I do not wish to make any demands of the kind on any work. Here however, the focus will be exclusively on that glittering fragment from the great treasure trove of cinematographic art that links both narratives, namely institutional critique and expanded cinema. Released from the original function of film (conveying advertising messages, representing an entertainment medium or teaching material) in exhibitions, works of cinematographic art had become a medium of self-reflection at exhibitions. Accordingly, the subject of my investigations at the point of intersection between the museum, art and film presents itself as expanded cinema in/as a form of institutional critique. With this in mind, I am conducting my investigations on the basis of five contemporary case studies. I will be looking at the following exhibition halls: MMK Frankfurt, Tropenmuseum Amsterdam, Wilberforce House Hull, the Archaeological Museum of Lavrion and the Numismatic Museum of Athens. The corresponding artists’ films are by Danica Dakic, Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Isaac Julien, Anja Kirschner and David Panos.

I will be conducting a comparative analysis of these cinematographic artworks with the aim of examining whether shifts or transformations have occurred at the museums, whether there have been any noticeable mutual effects or influences. Findings will be interpreted in terms of consequences with regard to museum policies. However, it is definitely not my intention to land a crushing blow to the institution of museums as such at the end of this institutional critique of the kind sometimes to be observed in pessimistic readings as the »assimilation of critical work or institutionalization of criticism«. On the contrary, usually the museums themselves, in what is very much an open and often supportive gesture, are both the sponsors of and the projection locations for the works investigated. The institutions’ attentiveness to the kind of critical comments expressed in the works of art to be discussed can thus be seen as a sign of progress. The museums deserve credit for the fact that they collect and sort even criticism of their function and make this available to the public in the form of exhibits without displaying any commercial interest.


Prof. Dr. Marc Ries

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Das Leben und die Meinungen des Tristram Shandy

Laurence Sterne

München: Winkler Verlag 1963. Translated from English by S. Schmitz, on the basis of the transfer of J. J. Bode 1776

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Nichts von Euch auf Erden

Reinhard Jirgl

München: Carl Hanser Verlag 2012

Nina Wood

The graphical side of contemporary literature

(School of Art)

What if contemporary literature breaks with the dictum of meaning and narrative structure not only in terms of content – i.e. syntactically, intertextually, poetically – but also in terms of form, typographically or graphically? Researching The graphical side of contemporary literature requires a comprehensive reflection on the interdependence of graphics and literature. The focus of this research is the discourse of the concepts of graphic and contemporary literature, the interpretation of empirical examples, that demonstrate the specifics of graphic and contemporary literature, and the examination of such theoretical positions, with which to ascertain to what extent writing and literature, text and image, form and content, in short, graphic and contemporary literature relate to one another. At the same time contemporary literature is not understood as a type of literature defined by its period of origin - as being written, edited, published in present time - but rather as a literature, whose characteristic it is to emphasize temporality and as such reveals itself to the reader only through the act of reading.

Of interest to this study especially are examples in which the break with tradition becomes apparent in the ways in which it disrupts the present reading or viewing habit within the text, where a narration that goes hand in hand with a reading habit and temporality remains present and therefore can be broken within the text. The graphic side of contemporary literature has the potential to break from the conventional reading or viewing habits in different ways. If one were to traverse the pole between a functionality that makes typography subservient to content and the pole of a radical break this potential generates, the graphic can work inter-punctually, figurative-formally and performatively. With this understanding, if one were to view graphic and contemporary literature as similar a great arsenal of movements reveals itself dating back to the 18th century, including not only literature but artistic movements in a broader sense. Symbolism, Lettrism, Concrete Poetry, Futurism, Dadaism and some Conceptual Art, to name just a few examples, are movements dedicated to exploring the tension between (non)sense and sound, concept and form, image and text, and form and syntax, and which are still to be explored through research. Consequently, this work seeks to approach the subject of research with an understanding of literature and its modes of disposal which overlap with theoretical strategies of contemporary art.

That literature nowadays can be understood as art and thus can be assessed with the means of philosophical aesthetics is something that Wolfgang Iser emphasizes when he writes:

»Aesthetic response is therefore to be analyzed in terms of a dialectic relationship between text, reader, and their interaction. It is called aesthetic response because, although it is brought about by the text, it brings into play the imaginative and perceptive faculties of the reader, in order to make him adjust and even differentiate his own focus.“1  

The graphic side of contemporary literature thus opens up a field of research that is as rich as it is sometimes inadequately examined.

1 ​Wolfgang Iser: The act of reading: a theory of aesthetic response. London: The Johns Hopkins 1 University Press, 1978, Preface X.

Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch
​Prof. Heiner Blum

Bild 3 web ernaux fuer homepage

Der Platz

Annie Ernaux

Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag 2019

Bild 4 web fichte fuer homepage

Die Palette

Hubert Fichte

Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowolth Verlag, 1968

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Eiscafé Europa

Enis Maci

Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag 2018

Sv adorno 2

Carsten Wolff

Willy Fleckhaus and the coolly calculated intoxication of colors

(School of Art)

Willy Fleckhaus (1925–1983) features alongside Otl Aicher and Anton Stankowski as one of the defining figures in German graphic design in the second half of the 20th century. After his death, his work was rapidly dispersed. Since the early 1990s, intensive research work and targeted collecting has led to the formation of a unique archive of Fleckhaus’s body of work in Frankfurt/Main, accompanied by regular publications and exhibitions. In this way, his status in the history of design has been asserted and his work also made known to a wider audience. The research project addresses various questions, including the following:

DESIGN HISTORY. It is undisputed that Fleckhaus is one of the most important and influential figures in German design history. But what distinguishes him from other important protagonists of German and Swiss graphic design, such as Otl Aicher, Anton Stankowski, Josef Müller-Brockmann, Emil Ruder, etc.? What is the role and significance of Fleckhaus in German-language graphic design during the period from 1950 to 1985? Where are there parallels and where contrasts with other great designers of the German-language graphic design scene? Where does Fleckhaus follow similar paths to his colleagues and where is he unique? How did Fleckhaus organize his work? What was the structure of his office and what were those of his colleagues? What did he adopt from Swiss design and what from the Americans? Outstanding design personalities have hitherto been regarded primarily in isolation in design-historical accounts. What additional insights are offered by direct comparison of the works and the comparison of the design principles of their creators?

SERIALITY. Art director Willy Fleckhaus was one of the first designers to realize strictly serial graphic concepts. Milestones were the Bibliothek Suhrkamp series (from 1959), the edition suhrkamp series (from 1963), twen (1959–71), and later on Frankfurter Allgemeine Magazin (from 1980), which were characterized by formal, partly minimalist elements and yet always radiated a great sensuality. Part of the research will address where there were parallels with the art of the post-War period that could have influenced Fleckhaus’s design, and where designers in the German-speaking world dealt with similar concepts.

THE GRID. Fleckhaus became familiar with the design grid at the latest during his visit to Max Bill at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm in the mid-1950s. He often used the layout grid as an efficient tool to simplify day-to-day layout work, but occasionally also pushed it to its limits and indeed surpassed them to enhance the effect of double-page spreads, font design, or a series of images. Does the design of the media for which he did the layout enable us to identify the point in time from which he began working with the grid? Which screens are identifiable in which media and how are they applied? What development in grid application can be discerned in his work between the 1950s and 1980s? How do other outstanding design figures of his time use the grid?

DESIGNING MODERNISM – THINKING MODERNISM. During the polarizing late 1960s and early 1970s, the edition suhrkamp series became “the proverbial bi-program of student unrest”[1]; it was considered a “sounding board for the Frankfurt school”[2]. Writer Klaus Horn commented on the phone call he received, asking him for a manuscript for edition suhrkamp, as follows: “My heartbeat was pounding right into the earpiece of the telephone. I was to write something for the edition, to have already written it! That’s where the books were published that were written and read by the New Left that was coming into its own. [… ]In terms of content, but also in its form, this series signaled hope, a breakthrough.”[3] Modern thinking and modern aesthetics evidently entered into an almost ideal alliance in the edition. Does this paperback series, and perhaps also other series published by Suhrkamp, enable us to identify an influence of form on the attitude of the authors publishing in it and an effect on the texts published there?

TECHNIQUE. Fleckhaus’s characteristic style would have been unthinkable without phototypesetting. His closely-set typefaces, the sometimes complete lack of spacing between lines, and the merging of letters to form word pictures were possible only thanks to this new technological innovation. The rainbow colors of the edition suhrkamp series were based entirely on the printing color fan recently released by the firm Hostmann. What technical processes did he apply in his design and realization and what new creative possibilities did the new techniques open up for him?

ARCHIVE. Collecting, preserving, evaluating. These, roughly speaking, are the tasks of an archive in the traditional sense. Yet with the all-encompassing wave of digitization at the latest, the self-perception of an archive has also begun to change. What are the advantages of presenting the works by Willy Fleckhaus in a web archive over classic archives or presentation in print publications or exhibitions? How can the resonance of his work, which often still applies today, be linked up with the current discourse on design? How can the sensation that accompanied many of Fleckhaus’s works when they first appeared be brought back to life for laypersons and experts alike? How can the traditional notion of an archive be expanded to make the quality and exceptionality of these works (inter)actively perceptible to users? Which criteria apply to the evaluation of Fleckhaus’s work? Where is the archive’s claim rooted in spatial and temporal terms? Is it only of value retrospectively or can it play an active role in the present and for the future of design, too?

The research project develops the concept of a comprehensive archive on Germany’s first Art Director, presents the history of of Fleckhaus design in the realization of style-defining works, and assembles and demonstrates the necessary technical, aesthetic, social, and intellectual basis for this fundamental rejuvenation of advertising art after the Second World War.

Prof. Dr. Marc Ries
Prof. Heiner Blum

[1] Arnd Rühle: “Literatur unterm Regenbogen,” in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, August 14, 1993.
[2] Ibid.
​[3] See Hans-Martin Lohmann: “Machen Sie weiter, noch lange!,” in: Der Autor, der nicht schreibt, (Frankfurt, 1989), p. 162.

Caption: See website

Wfa twen 1966 12

Wfa edition suhrkamp stapel

Bild 1 mail

Christine Würmell

Image Sharing and Activism

(School of Art)

Our current world situation within global capitalism--in which "all aspects of life in common [are subordinated] to the laws of the market" (Rancière, 2012)--could be described as lacking in
political vision. At the same time images increasingly operate in and shape all aspects of life, while the internet, which allows access to vastly diverse worlds of images and information, embodies our present paradox—that of a digital realm that produces the 'fantasy' of a functional participatory democracy (a 'true' public realm) and the Orwellian nightmare of a monolithic "surveillance system ... [which is] ... a tool of repression" (Greenwald, 2014). Within and aided by such a networked-world, image sharing-practices have taken on a common role within diverse communities. These new practices are widely believed to be a tool to actively change social reality and the exploration of this claim is central to the project. If, how and what kind of change these tools and practices produce will be explored through a combination of research, theoretical reflection and practical experimentation.

The participatory practice of image-sharing corresponds to a general "desire for collectivity" (Dean, 2014) specifically with regards to the way in which people relate to politics today. Such embodied forms of gathering, on- and offline, imply also a new understanding of Hannah Arendt's notion of the "space of appearance" by assigning the body (instead of only speech) a role in politics (Butler, 2015), and this new understanding is full or theoretical paradoxes and implications to explore.

As with the revolutionary avant-garde of the early twentieth century, the international movement of worker-photography and the Militant Cinema of the 1960s, such movements are based on a perceived urgency to fundamentally transform reality, yet on another plane they have much in common with the contemporary networked world in which reality is turned into images, sets of manipulable digital data available for world-wide circulation by everyone at anytime, and for immediate consumption.

In this "accelerated info-sphere" (Berardi, 2012) documentary images or eye-witness-videos in specific instances can become themselves actors in symbolic and real politics. And this might also mean the foreclosure of the possibilities for an experience of deferral or lags in reception of images/stories from the recent past. And "glancing around ... [might] substitute a view (of the past) ... that had been inspiring the dialectic image." (Aurora Fernández Polanco, 2014).

Hence, instead of the one-directional, educational and emancipatory characteristics of single images which were (often) created by artists (for example the Russian 'Rosta Windows', 1919-1922), the 'undirected' communalization of images through user instantiation and "processes of identification and empathy (or the lack of it)" (Dean, 2014) and their capacity to produce immediate feedback-loops into unfolding political events present a significant shift in the use of images. This means that the circulating digital image, which in the context of social change oscillates (unpredictably) between representing and producing political events, gives a new twist to the old dilemma of the historic avant-garde which is how to respond to the task of not only interpreting the world (differently), but to change it.


Prof. Dr. Marc Ries

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Tai Zheng

Made in China

Mimicry as a design strategy in the post-colonial modern age – cultural & aesthetic hybridisation in China

German engineering art was not always the best in the world. In fact, before the 20th century German manufacturing was described as lacking in substance and taste, cheap and an unworthy copy of the original British art of engineering. And indeed, the designation Made in Germany was originally introduced in England to mark German products as cheap ones. This motivated the formation of a design consortium known as Deutsche Werksbund (DWB), a lobby group that took on the task of improving the poor image of German design. The results were astounding: Design standards were introduced across industries and within the space of around 20 years objects such as stairs, ball bearings, windows or handrails were standardised and intelligently designed. This collaboration between art, industry and craftsmanship led to a reform of German design, and not only did the image of German products improve drastically, but also the image of Germany as a whole! Today, the designation “Made in Germany” continues to be the epitome of good quality and design.

Is the term Made in China possibly undergoing a similar development? This question forms the basis of his project. This requires a macroscopic analysis from both a design and a cultural perspective but also a cultural one. Philosophic, art-specific and historical research about China’s imitation behaviour, the parallels to the west and a comparison of both perspectives will form the core of this dissertation project. The aim is to examine the cultural and aesthetic development of China as a response to (post-)colonialism with the help of the cultural science term “mimicry”. Specifically, I will examine to what extent this imitation behaviour can be attributed to a post-colonial adaptive reaction. Apart from the western colonialist interventions you must naturally also consider China’s own dynamic development such as the cultural revolution, in order to understand the various influences on Chinese designers.


Meri Zirkelbach

Cell Diversity

Cellulotic material composites - collaborative processes in the field of design and science

(School of Design)

The development of our future society has a clear trend towards a more sustainable resource policy (UN, 2016) This social transformation runs parallel to the technological process of change and the change in the fields of activity of the people (WEF, 2016, 2019). These general conditions change slowly but constantly. There is a growing awareness that the development of new innovative materials requires cross-sector collaboration with the involvement of the creative industries (BMWE, 2016).

This is where the research project CELL Diversity steps in. Due to their complexity, problems such as the replacement of materials from fossil raw materials can increasingly only be solved in interdisciplinary collaborations. This challenges many disciplines to work together in order to achieve compatibility with other disciplines - this applies equally to the design discipline. Designers* must therefore learn new skills in order to become active at these new interfaces. Which of these competencies are represented in detail will be analyzed in cross-sectoral research and development projects in the field of scientific materials research, especially cellulotic material composites. Common working methods of the respective discipline (design / science) in practice will be analysed and questioned and demonstrated by comparing different case studies.

The focus is on the validation, testing and adaptation of the theoretically developed material diversity approach (MD approach) (Zirkelbach, 2019). The basis for this is the linking of the different roles and work areas of design according to Peralta (2013; 2018) and the sharing of knowledge right at the beginning of a collaboration. The core element of the MD approach is, in addition to the diverse ways of representing a material, the development of objects or artefacts with interpretation possibilities. Thus, the aim of the thesis is to test whether the "design of open interpretations" (Mattelmäki et al., 2011, p.90) presents itself as a potentially promising approach for bringing new sustainable materials faster from the laboratory into broad economic implementation. The question is, which methods and practices in the realization or design with materials a designer* needs. Which competences are necessary for the constantly changing and more complex future world.

Findings gained from practical design collaboration with Empa Dübendorf (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research, Switzerland) and the Group Celluloses and Wood Materials will be validated in parallel on the basis of further case studies and combined in a multi-method approach.

Prof. Dr. Markus Holzbach
​Prof. Dr. Klaus Klemp


Dr. Florian Arnold

Dr. Florian Arnold

Logic of design

(School of Design)

The current concept of the design process is dominated by two myths. On the one hand, the designer as a genius, who relies simply on inspiration, rather like an artist, and on the other the designer as an engineer of a communicative automatism. Both concepts are extremes because they distort our view of the actual design procedure by either romanticising it or overemphasizing its cybernetic nature while the actor or designer appears in the one case to be a black box and in the other a glass box of research – and is accordingly simply dehumanised in a contrary manner to a design medium. To counteract these common views what is needed today are methodological ideas that understand designing as an independent and specific creative shaping of items and do so against the background of a special understanding of the world that is simultaneously universal. Design is consequently embedded in an environment of designs as are already conceived or realised in the social framework disciplines of technology/ethics/politics and not least of all culture. This internal relationship between object design and world views can be methodically pursued and formulated. Consequently, a design logic is to be evolved in which the practical execution of human environmental design is part of critical imagination that drives it as a whole. This design logic is less concerned with individual ideas and items and more with the manner in which objects in the world we live in only become suitable for human use thanks to the designer.


Prof. Dr. Martin Gessmann

Prof. Dr. Klaus Klemp​

Prof. Frank Georg Zebner

Improvisation machine annika frye

Machine to improvise

Annika Frye

Claude rotomolded light by annika frye


Rotomolded light

Annika Frye

Premold lamp annika frye

Premold Lamp

Annika Frye

Prof. Dr. Annika Frye

Improvisation in Design Processes

(School of Design)

For designers, improvisation is part of their everyday work. Improvisation comes into play again and again in the design process, sometimes even in subconscious ways. For example, a typical improvisatory strategy would be to temporarily fix individual parts of a model with a screw clamp. Beyond its practical use in everyday work, improvisation can be seen as a skill in design. Here the concept of skill is not meant in terms of an artisanal, reproducible action, rather, it is a creative competence that gives rise to something new – based on the repertoire of the designer (virtuoso). In the everyday work of designers, this form of improvisation is mostly overlooked. Yet improvisation has always been used as a strategy for generating ideas and works, especially in a number of artistic fields.

The doctoral research project aims to address the concept of improvisation and its significance for design. Here the focus is on the creative, productive aspect of improvisation, as opposed to emergency or makeshift solutions as often come about in everyday life. Models and drawings as well as conversations in the studios suggest that designers have an implicit knowledge that influences improvisation. This is to be documented and examined with a view to improvisation and its implicit knowledge. The objective of the project is to demystify the phenomenon of improvisation and possibly even find sub-strategies that can be used methodically.


Prof. Juliane Rebentisch

Prof. Bernhard E. Bürdek

Prof. Peter Eckart

  • Konferenz

    Conference »Differenzen bezeichnen – Zur Gesellschaft des Designs«

    Offenbach, 2013

    San­dra Groll

  • Konferenzdiskus
  • Konferenzred

Conference »Differenzen bezeichnen – Zur Gesellschaft des Designs«

Offenbach, 2013

San­dra Groll

Dr. (des.) Sandra Groll

Serial Aesthetics. A design theoretical study on the social function of design

(School of Design)

Design is always also the design of society. It models the objects in our environment by giving them their shape, and shapes the visual self-conception of society as a perceived phenomenon – and in all this, it remains entirely founded in the structures of the society in question. It is precisely this fascinating relationship that needs to be adequately described.

The culturally relevant aspect of design is to be conceived not just in a continuous improvement of individual artefacts for the benefit of the consumer or producer, but equally in its function of making communication within a society possible. Thinking about design then has to mean not merely understanding it in terms of shaping, production, consumers’ desires or market requirements, but rather understanding it in terms of the evolution of the society determining it.

Design theory should be able to place both fundamental social conditions as well as individual phenomena specific to the discipline in a coherent correlation and provide explanatory models. As a social phenomenon among others, design as a discipline, job description and promise did not emerge from a culturally void context, but is rather contingent upon social developments through which its specific cultural function is differentiated.
According to the hypothesis, this function is not to be seen merely in the specific shape of objects or the provision in the discursive context of various design principles or aesthetic seduction motifs, but starts by grounding this cultural function in its topical, temporal and practical orientation in light of the demands made by all kinds of inter-penetrative relationships in social systems.

These reflections are in no way meant to lead to the conclusion that the classic questions and topics of design become irrelevant in theoretical examination, rather, they have to be reclaimed against the backdrop of a theory of social systems.

The underlying hypothesis assumes that design can be described, on the one hand, as a system of social functions with specific processes, discourses and modes of operation, and on the other as a symbolically generalized communication medium. The evolution and future of this system can thus only be comprehended against the backdrop of the evolution of the social system it is dependent upon. Consequently, the theoretical frame of reference will be provided by social systems theory.

The complex manifestations of design point to an object whose fuzzy edges make it hard to grasp. It will be necessary to differentiate between those phenomena that can be counted among the subsystem of design and those which must be counted as phenomena of design as a symbolically generalized communication medium.


Prof. Hans Zitko

Prof. Bernhard E. Bürdek

Prof. Frank Georg Zebner

Kersten kunst landwirtschaft kultivator ausstellungsansicht hungry city foto thomas bruns

Hungry City

Exhibition view, Kunstraum Kreuzberg, Berlin, 2012

Foto: Thomas Bruns

Dr. Anne Kersten

Sowing and harvesting – strategies, intentions and effects of contemporary art in the agricultural sector

(School of Art)

Since the mid-2000s, artistic and curatorial practices have increasingly been engaging with the rural sphere and agricultural practices. Artists are addressing the sociocultural context of rural living environments, the culture of farming and its economic conditions today and in the past as well as new forms of agriculture and rural life. From an art-historical perspective, references can be made to almost all subject areas of contemporary art focusing on the relationship between man and nature, for example art & ecology, environmental art and landscape painting. These creative projects are gaining attention as politically driven art through their close connection to pressing sociopolitical questions concerning food production and consumption and global food supply. Many of these works are made with the participation of members of the rural community and can be categorized as socially engaged art, some document existing circumstances, and in yet others artists turn farmers themselves. The research project »Sowing and harvesting« aims to investigate these different artistic strategies in view of their sociopolitical concerns and their effects by looking at selected international art projects with a focus on agricultural topics in the city and countryside. This categorization is to include various questions on participation, reception or results with regard to producers, organizers, participants and viewers. Further, larger curatorial projects are to be examined in terms of their intentions in promoting art projects in rural contexts as well as their promotion of this context as a starting point for artistic work. It is precisely the distance of the subject of agriculture to art that opens up a suitable exemplary space for investigating artistic work at the point of intersection between art and society. As well as defining the subject area, it is to be expected that the comparative analysis will be able to contribute to the debate on politically motivated art by citing specific examples in its examination of the relationship between art and agriculture. Parallel to the research being carried out, the exhibition »Hungry City« (Kunstraum Kreuzberg, Berlin) was held in 2012 as the practical part of the doctorate.


Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch

Prof. Wolfgang Luy

Kersten kunst landwirtschaft ausstellungsansicht hungry city  foto thomas bruns

Hungry City

Exhibition view, Kunstraum Kreuzberg, Berlin, 2012

Kersten kunst landwirtschaft asa sonjasdotter ausstellungsansicht hungry city foto thomas bruns

Hungry City

Exhibition view, Kunstraum Kreuzberg, Berlin, 2012

Photo: Thomas Bruns

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    Collaboration between Felix Kosok and Ollanski

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Collaboration between Felix Kosok and Ollanski

Dr. Felix Kosok

Form, function and freedom

On the aesthetic-political dimension of design

(School of Art)

The relationship between design and democracy is not only a matter of the efficient, transparent or participatory structuring of political institutions and their processes. Rather, design must be defined in its interaction with a culture of freedom that is constitutive for democracy. Thus, a negotiation of the political dimension of design, which this work pursues, shifts to a fundamental level. Design, as design, has a political significance that cannot be separated from its aesthetic dimension. Design interprets a functional context, a function, which it concretizes in form - but it does so in a way that keeps the special nature of the respective interpretation present. In a freedom for the function, design in its concrete form therefore always implicitly refers to a fundamental designability of all things. If one understands design in this context as a reinterpretation that can only ever be found in the mediation of form and function, this potential capacity of design to shape extends to precisely those social purposes that in their conventional form appear to us as second nature and as unchangeable. At this stage, the question of good design that keeps this designability present returns in an anti-essentialist way.

As a reaction to the loss of the contestability of decisions on the one hand, and the loss of the significance of differences on the other, design establishes its own kind of criticism as part of a dispute about the design of our living environment and in this necessarily remains related to a public, debating culture of design criticism. In its efforts to realize good things, design is at the same time aiming at keeping its own contentiousness as design conscious. To maintain this controversy about good design is the task of a critical theory of design to which this examination makes a contribution. 


Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch

Prof. Klaus Hesse

Kugel png

Dr. (des.) Fabian Kragenings

Parameters of design

(School of Design)

A design is never finished. A product, on the other hand, has to be. A designer’s work consists of blending influencing factors in iteratively staggered versions and making creative decisions according to his or her individual judgement. To a large extent, decisions are then based on various factors relating, for example, to production, technology, politics or culture, and these are decisive for the shaping of a product in the context of its temporal production conditions. On the one hand, these parameters (Greek: para = Eng.: »side«, metron = Eng. »measurement«) provide the creative space and framework in which design takes place; on the other, and this is the guiding proposition of this doctoral project, they influence the act of designing itself. Design, as well as the thinking in and about design, has changed since the mid-20th century through the advent of computer-based, parametric programs. The possibility of entrusting a digital (calculation) medium with relevant design process components ultimately constitutes a gain in efficiency. However, within this development the influence of design activities must also be reinterpreted, as decisions are now being planned, provoked and evoked abstractly. Work being delegated in this way is leading to a meta-level of design evolving – the effects of which must also be considered. This paper stipulates that within such a framework of meta-effects, the designer must not lose sovereignty over the medium/the program. What is needed instead is a configuration of design that not only sets parameters and stipulates default values but also supplies a body of rules or guidelines connecting these – a body of rules in which relevant factors are coordinated in complex ways.

On which levels and to which degrees of effectiveness the parametric can be experienced is to be investigated further. An analysis of select historical examples will provide the necessary foundation for clarifying the characteristic aspects of the parametric and to finally apply these to product design. It can be assumed that parameters remain constant in each individual case only, but that they can be modified and re-evaluated in each new application. Parameters can be affiliated on the one hand with a certain dynamism and the fast-moving nature of designs and their diversification, on the other hand with a kind of consistency that is characterized by an evolutionary expansion in design activities.  

Parametrization processes can be found most notably in cases where seemingly mundane processes and behavioural patterns are understood in terms of information – finally also being mathematized. What is required here is a consistency, a basic form or a fundamentally secure platform, so that variance can even arise in the first place and lead to new results – which in turn may be rejected or followed up on. The parametric then does not distinguish itself merely through the erratic or seemingly arbitrary selection of new values and contents, but also through its evolutionary character while creating an impression of substantiality. The intricate interrelationships, in which these metric fields of tension exist, as well as the role of the designer subjected to these metrics, will be determined extensively in this doctoral project. Ultimately, the aim is to record new insights and forms of use for product design.


Prof. Dr. Martin Gessmann

Prof. Frank Zebner

01 cleonard 2019

Dr. (des.) Craig Leonard

Aesthetics After Marcuse

This dissertation has six key aims: (1) to clarify Herbert Marcuse’s multilayered understanding of anti-art; (2) to explain art’s effective, yet limited, role in social transformation; (3) to resituate Marcuse’s aesthetic theory in conversation with the art discourse of the 1960s and early 70s; and (4) to recuperate Marcuse’s aesthetic theory as a relevant counterforce to neoliberal rationality today. Critics of Marcuse’s aesthetic theory have suffered from varying degrees of misinterpretation by judging his aesthetics as a (failed) reflection of the call-to-arms of the socio-political critique in his books like One-Dimensional Man and An Essay on Liberation. There was a general misunderstanding, and common dismissal, that Marcuse was making an impractical and merely analogous connection between the indirect effects of autonomous art and direct political change. On the contrary, where Marcuse demanded direct political resistance of the repressive Establishment, he argued for the defamiliarizing effects that art indirectly has on the everyday through a transformation of human instincts. However, Marcuse failed to communicate this substance of his aesthetic theory due to his abstract or anachronistic discussion of art, instead of using concrete contemporary examples to support his position. The exceptions to this are his cursory references to emblematic examples of what I argue are various paradigms of anti-art: The Living Theatre as harmonic anti-art; Samuel Beckett as dissonant anti-art; and Karlheinz Stockhausen as microphonic anti-art. In general, Marcuse looks to Surrealism for its representation of art’s defamiliarizing character as a catalyst toward aesthetic experience. I compare Marcuse’s instinctual materialism to the aims of Conceptual Art, institutional critique and Fluxus. I also respond to the critics of Marcuse’s aesthetic theory in order to rebut their misleading interpretations which have claimed that his aesthetic theory is consigned to an idealistic, impractical and analogous relationship with the everyday. Finally, I suggest a move through and beyond the limits of Marcuse’s aesthetics with reference to a theory of vagueness.


Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch

Prof. Heiner Blum

02 cleonard 2018

The Halifax Conference

published with New Documents (May 2019)

  • 03 cleonard 2018

    Maquettes for Non-Trivial Characters

    installation, Double Happiness Projects, Toronto (March 2018)

  • 04 cleonard 2017

    A good perch for a stretch

    installation, Central Art Garage, Ottawa (February 2017)

  • 05 cleonard 2017

    A good perch for a stretch

    installation, Central Art Garage, Ottawa (February 2017)

Maquettes for Non-Trivial Characters

installation, Double Happiness Projects, Toronto (March 2018)

06 cleonard 2004 19

Contemporary Art in Your Home

advertisement, ongoing since 2004

Thamesmead muehl hgb leipzig 2

Living at Thamesmead

Exhibition view, HGB Leipzig, 2015

Sebastian Mühl

Dr. Sebastian Mühl

Concepts of utopia in contemporary art

(School of Art)

Utopia is today still a major topic of reflection in art. Concepts of utopia are points of reference for artistic practices which articulate a political self-image and they offer alignment as regards formulating political and aesthetic convictions in the relationship between art and society. Whereas an optimistic view of progress and presenting perspectives of emancipation were still essential for the cultural self-image of Modernism, in late-modern society there is often evidence of the disappearance or loss of an awareness of utopia. With the end of major narratives, the very legitimacy of utopian thought seems to be being questioned. Is art’s on-going interest in utopian designs a matter of compensatory reaction? A reflection on political content in an aesthetic medium? A strategic link between art and politics? The migration of utopia to aesthetic discourse and experience can neither be seen as totally new, nor as a phenomenon that is foreign to the terms art, aesthetics, and politics. It needs to be explored with regard to the relationship of each of the concepts to one another, and to the entanglement of different problems and objectives in the individual fields.

The dissertation aims to pursue the question of how utopia functions as a fundamental theme in how some forms of contemporary artistic practice see themselves. The perspectives adopted are extremely contradictory: from analytic references to the utopias of the historical avant-garde to empathic new formulations of political utopias in art activism, from the microtopias of “Relational Aesthetics” to critical art practices that insist on negativity of the aesthetic. In view of such competing approaches the utopia problem remains a slide, which must not only investigate the possibility at all, but also the systematic location of utopia between aesthetic and political deliberations.

Alongside a discussion of political and aesthetic concepts of utopia in the work of, among others Debord, Adorno, Badiou and Habermas, forms of artistic practice and the discourse accompanying them will be explored: the focus will be on the debates about participation and “Relational Aesthetics”, contemporary reception of Modernism, the paradigm of critical art and recent forms of politically committed, interventionist artistic practice. The analysis will clearly establish the relevant alternatives and subject the relationship between art, utopia, and politics to a reappraisal.



Prof. Juliane Rebentisch

Prof. Rotraut Pape

Thamesmead muehl hgb leipzig 1

Living at Thamesmead

Exhibition view, HGB Leipzig, 2015

Sebastian Mühl

Dr. Tania Ost

Long-term projects in portrait photography

(School of Art)

Long-term projects accompany a subject for a prolonged period of time, though its length must be defined in relation to the motif depicted. In comparison with other projects, which likewise take a long time, the passing time itself becomes a topic. My particular interest is in portrait photography.

Long-term projects in portrait photography range from authenticity to orchestration: Depending on the intention, the photographer initially chooses a rigid concept, or allows an open outcome. As such, some long-term projects come close to a strict academic study. Whether or not, over time, the photographer becomes closer to the person or the latter grows in confidence with regard to media – the facial expression always ranges from natural to posed.

Only the collected works, not individual photographs, represent the actual oeuvre: Whereas with works comprising a single piece the question of arrangement can arise, with series in general and long-term projects in particular it must be addressed. The volume often exceeds the scope of or space available for an exhibition, thus presenting the curator with the task of making a selection. For this reason the catalog, which otherwise appears as a side product of an exhibition and serves as documentation, enjoys a special position in long-term portrait photography projects. While catalogs for the most part only reproduce parts of exhibitions, vice versa exhibitions only reproduce sections of a long-term project. An illustrated book is the only appropriate place for the complete series. In some cases, books such as these often precede public display in an exhibition context. Though, in comparison with the time it took to compile the collection, leafing through the book takes just a moment, it gives the subject a befitting intimacy, especially as the series of photos corresponds with the subject’s chronological development – the aging of the person portrayed. Photographers are increasingly also portraying family and friends – as family members are mostly always available, whereas other models always need a fixed appointment. This also raises the question of the extent to which these illustrated books differ from family albums.

The observer has no memories of the person portrayed: Within the series he looks for changes, or the constant in change and, on the basis of the individual snapshots, the implied time, and his own experience of life, creates an in-between narrative.


Prof. Hei­ner Blum

Prof. Dr. Chris­ti­an Ja­n­ecke

Prof. Klaus Hes­se Hes­se

Dr. Nico Reinhardt

The role of material in the design process – from material to consumption

(School of Design)

If you take a closer look at the design practices in product design from the perspective of materials, then it’s possible to see that although materiality is of major significance in product development, materials are post-effectively subordinated to a form. Sometimes design processes are product-oriented, and at the same time diametrically opposed to the growing significance of new and traditional materials and processing methods. So what does it mean for the design process in product design if the material is the trigger of the creative action and has a direct impact on the forms from which ultimately a large number of products can be derived? This question is to be address as part of the PhD project, in order to show how design processes can in principle be initiated from the material itself. The designer’s targeted, intense examination of materials provides the findings, here, for the creation of forms, functions, and utilization. Materials, so goes the thesis, form the motive for the development and design of new products. This claim is also supported by a look back over the history of design within product design, which can be traced from the foundation of the Deutscher Werkbund to the Bauhaus to the HfG Ulm. Here, it becomes clear that there is a lasting impact on the form, function, and aesthetics of products if the design process is characterized by examination of materials such as steel, glass, bent wood, concrete, plastic, and the respective processing methods. Substantive notions such as doing justice to the material, genuine materials, or designs that are appropriate to the manufacturing still bear witness to the material-form-purpose discourse within the creative disciplines of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Once a seal of quality for the highest design performance of industrially manufactured serial products, the terms are now considered to be outgrown. Nevertheless, materials continue to have an unbroken seductive potential on creative commercial actors, as can be seen both in new materials with complex properties and in traditional materials. Such an observation also provides the basis for rethinking a material-oriented design in order to formulate from it approaches to form design. At the interface of material and design, the shaping process can be examined in essence from the perspective of design theory, as well as creative aesthetics, technology, and material sustainability. The aim of the doctoral thesis is to highlight pathways for a sustainable design strategy, whereby the material system used influences the entire design cycle as an inseparable component.


Prof. Dr. Bernhard E. Bürdek

Prof. Dr. Markus Holzbach

Dr. Ellen Wagner

»… subject to change…« 
On non-final works of contemporary art

(School of Art)

One increasingly comes across artists who are the orchestrators of their own work for which they appear to have come to the visible conclusion that this is part of a comprehensive system. The more these systems of artistic work are perceived as self-evidently in a state of permanent flux, the more their constituent parts are, in turn, seen as non-fixed. If a work is never complete in itself, but can also, at any given moment, become a »replacement part« for use in other works, what is important in its genesis is not to lose sight of the possibility of its substantive or rather formal »suitability for connection to itself«. For instance, although in traditional sculpture ordinary plaster casts have always provided us with insights into intermediate stages in their creative process, because of the associations they evoke with the kind of collections of antiquities considered timeless, they have seldom renounced the idea of durability. On the other hand, the use of flexible materials in contemporary art does tend to include a notion of reversibility, one that is at least suggested. What exactly the artwork is supposed to be acting as a substitute for and whether it is able to do this convincingly is something that needs to be decided on individual merits. We should also ask whether a work that never reaches the end of its artistic transformations can be documented as an infinite sequence of transitional phases, or whether this could possibly also be considered as no more than a continuation of the work in question using another medium.

I would like to investigate works that operate using ephemeral materials and methods of working and presentation, looking at the extent to which a practice of continual adaptation and reformulation allows us to comprehend the artist’s search for criteria pertaining to his/her own work and how prefabricated or recycled items can cast light on the relationships between existing works or – perhaps intentionally? – retrospectively obfuscate them.


Prof. Dr. Christian Janecke

Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch


20 May 2015 until 18 July 2019
18 July 2019 Thursday
Flyer final
20 May 2015 Wednesday

Uneindeutige Präsenz / Delokalisierter Leib

until 21 May Isenburger Schloss, linke Kapelle
Tagung uneindeutige praesenz 1
2014 11 nachwuchkonferenz plakat
8 years ago

Borders of Orders

On 28 and 29.November, 2014 the young artist conference "Borders of Orders - Drawing Borders, Conflicts and Social Orders", organized by the excellence cluster "Normative Orders" takes place at Goethe University in cooperation with HfG Offenbach. On Ssturday afternoon and...

Einladung kunstpreis mhoppe fin rz
8 years ago

Schsen Bank Art Prize 2014 - goes to Margret Hoppe

Margret Hoppe who graduated from HfG with a doctorate will receive the Sachsenbank Art Award 2014. In connection with this her solo show in the Museum der bildende Künste Leipzig opens on 5 December.