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
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
- Complementary studies for doctoral candidates: three years, from the spectrum of scientific/theoretical subjects, complementing the respective research projects
- 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
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
If you are interested please send the following:
- 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)
in digital form to
Should you not be able to send us your portfolio in digital form then we would ask that you mark the package carefully with your name and details and send it by post to:
Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach
– Reference: Promovieren –
We would ask you to understand that we can only accept application documents in a digital format.
The next application deadline is May 18, 2018.
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.
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.
Das imaginäre Restaurant
Visuelle Inszenierungsstrategien in Kunst und Küche
Essen gewinnt zunehmend an Bedeutung im gesellschaftlichen Alltag. Politische Diskurse zu Gesundheit, Nachhaltigkeit und Verbraucherschutz werden über Ernährungsstile geführt, gleichzeitig bestimmt Essen die genussorientierte Freizeitgestaltung, was sich in vielfältigen Angeboten zum Thema, wie Food-Weeks, Food-Festivals, kulinarischen Messen und neuen oder wiederbelebten Markthallen und Erzeugermärkten offenbart. Zeitschriften, TV-Formate und Onlinemedien belegen außerdem das große Interesse an Essen und Kochen.
Diese gesellschaftliche Relevanz schlägt sich auch in einer wissenschaftlichen und künstlerischen Auseinandersetzung nieder. Künstler und Ausstellungen kommentieren den Trend und sind selbst Teil des Phänomens: Die Art Basel engagierte 2015 Rirkrit Tiravanija, um Thai Curry an Besucher zu verteilen. Für die im selben Jahr durchgeführte Expo in Mailand, die unter dem Titel Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life stand, kuratierte Germano Celant die Ausstellung Arts + Foods, die Verbindungen von Küche, Kunst und Design thematisierte.
Während sich die Verwendung von Essen im Rahmen der künstlerischen Praxis als Eat Art oder in performativen Esssituationen etabliert hat, steht eine wissenschaftliche Untersuchung des angerichteten Essens überhaupt, in seiner komplexen ästhetischen Bedeutung zwischen Kunst und Alltag, noch aus. Diese Lücke zu schließen und Essen als eigenlogisches, gestalterisches Medium im Spannungsfeld von Kunst und Alltag, Küche und Design zu verstehen, ist der zentrale Ansatz dieses Promotionsvorhabens, das angerichtete Speisen von Künstlern und Köchen betrachtet. Der rein kulinarischen Bewertung enthoben, wird Essen dabei auf gestalterischer und stilistischer Ebene diskutierbar. Die visuelle Dimension des Essens kann dann als Ausdrucksmedium begriffen werden, das sich mit Blick auf historische Entwicklungen verorten und analysieren lässt.
Darüber hinaus werden Rahmenbedingungen der Präsentationsformen analysiert. Dazu ergänzen sich gastronomisches und kunsthistorisches Wissen, um Besonderheiten der Darreichungssituation zu verstehen. Das betrifft beispielsweise die Bedeutung des Raumes sowie die Verzehrsituation, die – in der Interaktion der Beteiligten – einer Performance gleicht.
Prof. Dr. Christian Janecke
Prof. Heiner Blum
Über Humor in der zeitgenössischen Kunst
Immer wieder verführen künstlerische Arbeiten zum Lachen, Schmunzeln oder Lächeln. Und oftmals, obgleich es zunächst als widersinnig erscheinen mag, sind es gerade jene Arbeiten, die über einen bitterernsten Kontext verfügen. Diese Vermengung der Zutaten des Ernstes und des Unernstes ergeben eine spezifische Mixtur von Affekten, die sich in der Begrifflichkeit des Humors fassen lässt.
Grundsätzlich kann sich eine humorvolle Entgegnung überhaupt erst auf einen widrigen, Empfindungen wie Peinlichkeit, Verletzung oder Trauer auslösenden Umstand hin entwickeln. Der misslichen Gegebenheit zum Trotz weiß nun der Humor den negativen Affekten eine Belustigung hinzuzufügen und auf diese Art dem empfundenen Leid seine Wucht zu entziehen. Durch dieses schützende Gebaren ist das Phänomen des Humors zu unterscheiden von den ihm verwandten Erscheinungen des Lustigen wie der des Scherzes, des Witzes, der Komik, den Gattungen der Ironie, der Parodie, des Zynismus oder der Satire, die durchaus auch dem Ausdruck der Aggression dienen können. Jedoch ist der Humor dicht mit verschiedensten Ausprägungen des Lustigen verflochten – zum einen kann sich der Humor durch harmlose Erscheinungen der Komik und des Witzes überhaupt erst ausdrücken, zum anderen versteht er sich mitunter eindrucksvoll darauf, Raum für die Entfaltung unterschiedlichster Phänomene des Lustigen vorzubereiten. Um also die spezifisch humoristische Leistung in ihrer Methode und Wirkung zu begreifen, ist ihre Einbettung in den Komplex des Lustigen stets mitzudenken.
Da die humoristische Leistung also eines vorangegangenen Unbehagens bedarf, handelt es sich bei den innerhalb des Projekts zu untersuchenden künstlerischen Positionen um solche, die auf negative Affekte auslösenden problematischen Gegebenheiten reagieren. Dabei erscheinen nun jene künstlerischen Erzeugnisse als interessant, die sich nicht im Kontext privater Betroffenheit erschöpfen sondern sich den gesellschaftspolitischen Tendenzen ihrer Zeit öffnen und damit einem zeitkritischen Anspruch nachzukommen imstande sind. Insofern wird die Auswahl der zu untersuchenden Positionen, zwar selten auf den ersten Blick erkennbar, und dennoch stets innerhalb gesellschaftskritisch agierender Kunst verortet sein. Dass sich die Auswahl aus zeitgenössischen Erzeugnissen speist, ist dem Umstand geschuldet, dass die Empfindung von Belustigung stets abhängig ist von ihrer Aktualität, die zeitliche Nähe also eine Erleichterung der Betrachtung verspricht.
Anhand der künstlerischen Arbeiten wird es einerseits darum gehen, die Verwendung des Humors als ästhetischer Strategie herauszuarbeiten und andererseits die durch den Einsatz dieser strategischen Methoden generierte humorspezifische Form der Aufmerksamkeit zu untersuchen. Ziel ist es auf Grundlage der daraus resultierenden Erkenntnisse eine humortheoretische Struktur im Ästhetischen zu entwickeln, während der Fokus auf der Frage nach einem möglichen subversiven Potential humoristischer Leistung im Hinblick auf gesellschaftliche Prozesse liegt.
Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch, Prof. Susanne Winterling
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
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
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
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. Christian Janecke
Prof. Wolfgang Luy
Design, Differenz, Demokratie
Eine Vermessung des Politischen im Design mit kritischem Blick auf dessen Grenzen
Bei der Frage nach dem Politischen im Design führt eine Betrachtung, die das Design als Gestaltung von alltäglicher Lebenswelt nicht ernst nimmt, zu zwei möglichen Positionen. Für die erste ist Design etwas zu Oberflächliches und Modisches, als dass es politisch verstanden werden könnte. Es ist immer schon in den Markt verstrickt, dient zur Absatzsteigerung und zum Ausstaffieren der eigenen Identität. Die zweite Position teilt diese Einsicht, kommt durch sie aber zu einem anderen Schluss. Vertreter dieser Position sehen nämlich eine Radikalisierung des Designs, eine Befreiung aus ökonomischen Zusammenhängen, als einzigen Weg, auf dem Design als Disziplin politisch werden könne. Sie fordern also eine Politisierung der Ästhetik, bzw. des Designs, und begründen dies mit ähnlichen Argumenten, mit denen an anderer Stelle vor einer Ästhetisierung der Politik gewarnt wird. Beide Positionen übersehen das Potential, das der Gestaltung von alltäglicher Lebenswelt tatsächlich von vornherein innewohnt. Denn in einer demokratischen Gesellschaft sind es die Dinge selbst – und insbesondere die Designobjekte – die durch die Zurschaustellung ihres aktuellen Gestaltet seins auf ihre potentielle Gestalt barkeit verweisen. Dadurch, dass Design sich als eine bestimmte Differenz aus einer nicht unendlichen, aber unbestimmten Anzahl von Möglichkeiten verwirklicht, schreibt sich durch das Design ein Bewusstsein für Kontingenz in den Alltag ein.
Ziel des Forschungsvorhabens ist es, dieses Potential genauer zu beschreiben. Allein die Erkenntnis, dass die Dinge nicht zwingend so gestaltet sein müssen, wie sie es aktuell sind, reicht natürlich nicht aus, um das demokratisierende Potential des Designs zu entfalten. Diesem geht ein erweitertes Verständnis von Design voraus, das als Gegenentwurf zu dessen historischen Vorläufern verstanden werden kann. Die totale Gestaltung der Moderne optierte bei der Lösung der Probleme der sozialen Ausdifferenzierung der Gesellschaft für eine funktionale Formensprache, die das Wesen der Dinge in ihrer Gestalt nach außen kehren und damit auch das Wesentliche der Gesellschaft formen wollte. Dabei homogenisierte und beschränkte der auf Allgemeingültigkeit beharrende Funktionalismus den Möglichkeitsraum des Designs und der Gesellschaft. Im Gegensatz dazu erhält ein offener Designbegriff im Kontext eines Verständnisses von Demokratie, welches von der jüngeren politischen Philosophie vertreten wird, sein erweiterndes Potential. Zentral für dieses Demokratieverständnis ist die Differenz zwischen dem Politischen und der Politik.
Der politische Streit um Anerkennung und darum, gezählt zu werden, muss die Institutionen der Politik immer wieder zu Revisionen und neuen Rechtfertigungen zwingen. Design kann diesen Streit in den Dingen der Alltagswelt ausstellen und ihn so im Bewusstsein halten. Dieses Potential des Designs muss sich aber in den verschiedenen Designdisziplinen spezifisch artikulieren. Überdies sind die Bedenken der anfänglich als Gegenposition ins Feld geführten Zweifler an ihm nicht unbegründet. Denn das Potential verliert sich, wird die Differenz als Zweck für sich genommen. Wenn es egal ist, wie die Dinge aussehen, solange sie nur anders sind, verkehrt eine bestimmte Differenz sich dialektisch in postdemokratische Indifferenz. Dies ist die angesprochene Grenze, die bei der Beschreibung des Potentials kritisch berücksichtigt werden soll.
Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch
Prof. Klaus Hesse
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
Aesthetics After Marcuse: What's Left of Anti-Art?
(School of Art)
In his short book on Arnold Schoenberg, Charles Rosen states, »The primary means of musical expression is dissonance.« In musical form, dissonance may occur vertically (i.e. through simultaneous tones) or horizontally (i.e. through sequential tones). In either case, a dissonance is any musical sound that postpones resolution, where resolution is determined by consonance, or a musical sound that can act as the final note. As Rosen points out, »Which sounds are to be consonances is determined at a given historical moment by the prevailing musical style, and consonances have varied radically according to the musical system developed in each culture.« The extra¬-musical implications of this observation find a profound intertwining of aesthetics—the determination of dissonance and consonance, formally derived from a »musical objectivity«—with social and historical forces, though still separate. »The composer’s struggle with the material is a struggle with society precisely to the extent that society has migrated into the work« (Theodor W. Adorno, Philosophy of New Music). We are left with material and extra-material dissonance, and therefore »expression«, along a scale ranging from a dialectical (Adorno) to dialogical (Bakhtin) relationship with consonance and, either way, in a state of historical reassessment and movement. The concept of dissonance is to be examined through its relative uses uses in Adorno and Bakhtin in order to locate dissonance once again in a contemporary context.
Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch
Prof. Heiner Blum
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
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
The role of materials in the design process – from the material to its use
(School of Design)
If we take an in-depth look at design practices in product design in terms of materials, we will see that although great importance is attached to materials in product development they retrospectively become subordinate to a particular form. At times, design processes are product oriented, however, they are diametrically opposed to the growing significance of both new and traditional materials and methods of handling them. Now, in product design, what happens when the material itself triggers a certain creative activity, directly influencing the subsequent forms, forms which can, at the end of the day, give rise to a large number of products? It is this question that is investigated in this doctoral project. After all, the aim is to demonstrate how, in principle, design processes can be initiated on the basis of certain materials. Here, a focused, concerted examination of the relevant materials by the designer provides the requisite knowledge for designing forms, functions and uses. Materials, so the theory goes, form the motive for developing and designing new products. This argument is supported by looking at the history of design with a focus on product design and can be traced from the establishment of the Deutscher Werkbund (German Association of Craftsman) and the Bauhaus all the way to HfG Ulm, the Ulm University of Art and Design. It then becomes clear that a lasting effect on the form, function and aesthetics of a product can be discerned if the design process is characterized by an examination of materials such as steel, glass, plywood, concrete, plastic and the relevant ways of handling them. Substantive notions such as suitability for a particular material, genuine materials or designing to take account of manufacturing processes are testimonials to the discourse on materials/form/purpose within the creative disciplines in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Once a seal of approval for the highest design achievements in serially produced industrial products, these notions are now considered outmoded. Nevertheless, materials still possess unbroken powers of persuasion over the creative industry. This can be seen both in the case of new materials with complex characteristics and with conventional materials. These observations form the starting point for renewed deliberations on material-oriented approaches to design and consequently for formulating approaches to solutions in terms of designing appropriate forms. At the interface between material and design, the design process can be thoroughly investigated both in terms of the theory of design and with regard to the aesthetics of design, technology and the sustainability of the relevant materials. This doctoral project seeks to highlight pathways to a sustainable design strategy in which the system of materials used influences the entire design cycle, as an intrinsic part of it.
Prof. Bernhard E. Bürdek
Prof. Markus Holzbach
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
Die Linie im Design
Die Darstellungsmethoden in der Gestaltung sind in rasantem Wandel befangen. Dies betrifft den gesamten Gestaltungsprozess, von der ersten Skizze bis zum Modell, alles wird mehr oder weniger digitalisiert. Wesentliche Vorgänge sind zwar noch physisch und mental bei den Gestalter_innen zu verorten, besonders die erste Auseinandersetzung mit einem Entwurf über eine Skizze. Die neuen Medien haben jedoch auch schon Einfluss auf jene ersten Anfänge. Das Papier als Zeichenuntergrund steht in Konkurrenz zu Tablets und Touchscreens. Die Grenzen zwischen physischer und digitaler Welt verschwimmen dabei zusehends. Dies lässt sich besonders bei CAD-Programmen oder bei Designvorgängen in der Virtuellen Realität nachverfolgen. Die Darstellung eines Entwurfs mittels einer VR Brille arbeitet zwar mit zweidimensionalen Bildschirmen, den Nutzer_innen wird jedoch eine Dreidimensionalität vorgespielt, und mit dieser kann sogar interagiert werden. In der Folge solcher Interaktion wird es immer schwerer, die Anteile von Mensch und Maschine schlüssig auseinanderzuhalten. Umso mehr gilt es grundsätzlich zu fragen, wie aus dem ersten Gedanken und der klassisch hingeworfenen Skizze ein digitales Modell entsteht. Wie wird der Sprung in das neue Medium möglich? Welche Transformationen sind nötig? Und wie verändert sich das Wesen der Gestaltung an der Schnittstelle eines solchen Übergangs? Jenen Fragen wird entlang des Themas der Linie nachgegangen, weil sie klassischer Weise den Ausgangspunkt einer jeden Umsetzung einer Idee bildet. An der Art und Weise, wie sie von der Zeichnung in die neuen, digitalen Modelle übertragen wird, müssen sich grundsätzliche Fragen klären lassen. Dabei darf man davon ausgehen, dass die Annahme einfacher Entsprechungsverhältnisse viel zu kurz greift und man vielmehr nachfragen muss, welche Form von Konfiguration und Berechnung für die Entfaltung von Räumlichkeit verantwortlich gemacht werden.
Methodisch wird bei der Arbeit auf das akademische Wissen über die Linie in der Kunst und der Architektur zurückgegriffen. Es gilt dabei, jenes auf die spezifischen Anforderungen des Designs zu beziehen. Klassische Methoden und Techniken werden dabei mit den Voraussetzungen neuester digitaler Zeichenprogrammen konfrontiert. Im Zentrum des Dissertationsprojekts steht zuletzt also die grundlegende Frage: Was geschieht mit der Linie durch die Übersetzung aus der Zeichnung ins Modell? Welches Regelwerk ist dazu nötig, und wie verstehen wir das Wesen der Linie im Rückblick solcher Mathematisierung neu und womöglich sogar besser?
Prof. Dr. Martin Gessmann
Prof. Dr. Klaus Klemp
Prof. Frank Georg Zebner
»… 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. Christian Janecke
Prof. Gunter Reski
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. Juliane Rebentisch
Prof. Rotraut Pape
Logik des Entwurfs
Der Entwurfsprozess in der gegenwärtigen Vorstellung ist beherrscht von zwei Mythen. Auf der einen Seite der Designer als Genie, der wie ein Künstler aus freier Inspiration heraus entwirft; auf der anderen Seite der Designer als Ingenieur eines kommunikativen Automatismus. Beide Auffassungen sind Extreme, weil sie den Blick auf den eigentlichen Vorgang des Entwurfs verzerren, indem er einerseits romantisiert und andererseits kybernetisiert wird, während der gestalterische Akteur selber im einen Fall als eine Black Box und im anderen als eine Glass Box der Forschung erscheint und damit bloß auf entgegengesetzte Weise zu einem Medium des Designs entmenschlicht wird. Im Gegenzug zu diesen gängigen Auffassungen braucht es heute methodische Überlegungen, die das Entwerfen als eigenständige und konkrete Formung von Gegenständen begreifen, und dies vor dem Hintergrund eines besonderen, zugleich aber generellen Weltverständnisses. Gestaltung ist damit eingebettet in eine Umwelt von Entwürfen, wie sie in den gesellschaftlichen Rahmendisziplinen Technik/Ethik/Politik und nicht zuletzt der Kultur bereits konzipiert oder realisiert werden. Dieses Binnenverhältnis von Dinggestaltung und Weltentwürfen lässt sich methodisch nachvollziehen und ausformulieren. Auf diese Weise soll eine Logik des Entwurfs ausgearbeitet werden, bei der die praktische Ausführung der menschlichen Umweltentwürfe Teil einer sie im Ganzen treibenden, kritischen Einbildungskraft ist. Dieser Gestaltungslogik geht es im Resultat weniger um einzelne Gedanken und Gegenstände, als um die Art und Weise, wie Gegenstände in der Lebenswelt durch die Hand des Designers allererst eine menschentaugliche Gestalt annehmen.
Prof. Dr. Martin Gessmann
Prof. Dr. Klaus Klemp
Prof. Frank Georg Zebner
Dr. des. 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
Calendar20 May 2015
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...
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.