Nikolaus Kockel

Doctorate and research assistant

Riccarda Weih

000 9451xx
Kockel portrait
Foto riccarda

Today, aesthetics faces especial challenges, as the boundaries of what classifies as aesthetics are becoming increasingly blurred. This is evidenced by the talk among art critics of the “transgression of art and the arts” and among cultural critics of the “aestheticization of the lifeworld”. The mention of the transgression of the arts is meant to indicate that today we increasingly face hybrid works that can no longer be duly explained by relying on the development logic of a specific genre. Moreover, art has ever more absorbed elements alien to art, has opened itself out to everyday life. Both trends emphasis the fundamental issue: What is art? And this issue has always been connected with other fundamental questions: Is there an intrinsic logic of the aesthetic that can be distinguished from that of the non-aesthetic in the first place? And if so, what does this imply for the talk among cultural critics of an aestheticization of the lifeworld? For this relates to a diagnosis that perfectly complements that of the transgression of art and the arts. Aestheticization refers to a process in which formerly non-aesthetic areas, such as ethics and politics, are changed by aesthetics making pronounced inroads into them. And, or so the critics suggest, this is not just beneficial: because aestheticization by no means merely refers to a surface phenomenon. On the contrary, the process in question is assumed to affect the deeper structure of our ethical view of ourselves and our political culture. Ethics thus gives way to an individualistic aesthetics of existence; politics is replaced by its spectacular performance. The concept of aestheticization thus designates a profound transformation of ethics and politics, namely a transformation that alienates ethics and politics from themselves by dint of being aesthetic. Here, the aesthetic does not seem to be a threat from the outside and instead a form of distortion that undermines ethics and politics from within, gnawing away at their normative substance.

While the diagnosed transgression of the arts thus questions the line dividing the aesthetic and the non-aesthetic as regards the field of the aesthetic, the diagnosed aestheticization of the lifeworld focuses on the line dividing the aesthetic from the non-aesthetic as regards the field of the non-aesthetic. This also means that the two can clearly not just be juxtaposed at the external level. This does not, however, render the question on the relationship between the aesthetic and the non-aesthetic obsolete. Far from it, it simply reframes it: The thrust must now be on gaining from these two diagnoses a better understanding of how they differ.

A closer look is therefore required. As in both debates, the aesthetic functions as the superordinate concept for highly different phenomenon, whose interrelationships bear examining. For example, and this is reinforced by the reciprocal transgression, the question needs to be asked as to the relationship now between art and design. How do these two forms of aesthetic practice relate to each other? Is there a unique politics of art, and one for design that is somehow complementary? As regards the cultural critics’ talk of aestheticization, we need by contrast to establish whether the designation aesthetic does not at times simply get used as a rhetoric device to exclude elements from politics and ethics that are not originally aesthetic anyway. To clarify this not only must we take a careful look at all the purportedly aesthetic phenomena that are discussed under the label of aestheticization. One must also examine the ethical-political problems that prompt the critique and highlight the linkage between the highly different motivations involved. Finally, the current debates on transgression need to be put in an historical perspective. Are these really new phenomena? And is this true of both critical contexts? If so, then what role do technological and economic factors play in each of the two trends?

Depending on how one approaches these questions, and so much is obvious, then the impact this has on how aesthetic practice should see itself today is immense. I see my role at the HfG Offenbach not least to entail encouraging such fundamental debate and contributing to it. Put differently, I believe the oblique stroke between philosophy and aesthetics in the professorship’s description (Philosophy/Aesthetics) is a permeable membrane. For given the current issues of the limits of the aesthetic what we encounter is something that has always been the case: One cannot conduct a meaningful aesthetics if one refuses to include issues from the fields of theoretical and practical philosophy. This also applies conversely in that key ideas from theoretical and practical philosophy would get ignored if one did not explore the aesthetic dimensions to our theoretical and practical relationship to the world. My work is interested in exchange with others in both respects and therefore seeks to prevent any self-curtailing of philosophy such as arises by its customary division into specialist fields.

Doctoral candidates

Helene Deutsch

On humour in contemporary art

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch, Prof. Dr. Christiane Voss (2nd supervisor)

Thomas Dierkes

Rationality and Annihilation. On the Aesthetics of the Reich Security Main Office 1939-1945
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch, Prof. Heiner Blum

Jonas Englert

Event and appearance

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch, ​Prof. Heiner Blum

Nils Fock

Contestation. Negative Aesthetics after Georges Bataille

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch

Ul­rich Gebert

Other-worldly things. Photography and the relationship to the world

Supervisor: Prof. Juliane Rebentisch; Prof. Dr. Bernd Stiegler (2nd supervisor)

Magdalena Hengst

Experience, body, vulnerability. The phenomenology of Jean Améry's physical vulnerability

Dominik Gussmann

The poetry of translation
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch,

Nikolaus Kockel

Relevance work

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch

Johanna Laub

Ambivalenzen der Vergegenwärtigung. Geschichte und historische Erfahrung in hybriden Bewegtbildern der Gegenwartskunst

Betreuende: Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch, Prof. Dr. Marc Siegel (2nd supervisor)

What Are We Waiting For? The Time of Waiting in Queer, Decolonial and Feminist Aesthetics

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch, Prof. Dr. Marc Siegel (2nd supervisor)

Nina Wood

Autotheory. Writing from Fragments as Queer_Feminist Practice
​Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch, Prof. Dr. Heinz Drügh (2nd supervisor), Prof. Heiner Blum

Adrian Williams

The Horses Mouth: Unmasking the Vocal Surrogate

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch, Prof. Dr. Marie-Hélène Gutberlet

Further information

Completed doctorates second supervision (external)

  • Dr. Rebecca Boguska
  • Dr. Leonie Hunter
  • Prof. Dr. Marina Martinez Mateo
  • Dr. Jochen Schuff
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Annika Frye
Design und Improvisation
​Transcript, 2017

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Anne Kersten
Kunst und Landwirtschaft. Realitätsbezüge in der Gegenwartskunst
Transcript, 2021

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Felix Kosok
Form, Funktion und Freiheit. Über die ästhetisch-politische Dimension des Designs
transcript, 2021

  • Bildschirmfoto 2022 10 10 um 10 37 30

    Craig Leonard
    Uncommon Sense. Aesthetics after Marcuse
    The MIT Press, 2022

  • Craig leonard halifax conference

    Craig Leonard, Jeff Khonsary (eds.)
    The Halifax Conference
    New Documents, 2019

Craig Leonard
Uncommon Sense. Aesthetics after Marcuse
The MIT Press, 2022

  • Sebastian muehl

    Sebastian Mühl
    Utopien der Gegenwartskunst. Geschichte und Kritik des utopischen Denkens in der Kunst nach 1989
    transcript, 2020

  • Satellites muehl 913x1400

    Sebastian Mühl
    ​HfG Offenbach, 2019

Sebastian Mühl
Utopien der Gegenwartskunst. Geschichte und Kritik des utopischen Denkens in der Kunst nach 1989
transcript, 2020

Ellen wagner

Ellen Wagner
Falsche Signale. Strategien der Mimikry in der Post-Internet Art
​Diaphanes, 2021


Cordriechelmann brot butter

02 god s golfball website 300dpi

God's Golfball. Das Erhabene, das Planetarische und die ökologische Kunst

Diedrich Diederichsen
HfG Offenbach, 2023
Plakatgestaltung: Paula Heinrich

20190529 kempkes

180112 kongress dgaex poster rgb 02 fin web kopie

  • Gegenwart 3

    Gegenwart der Gegenwartskunst

    Lecture series

    Poster design: Sascha Lobe

  • Gegenwart 1

  • Gegenwart 2

Gegenwart der Gegenwartskunst

Lecture series

Poster design: Sascha Lobe



Annual conference Gesellschaft für Medienwissenschaft, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt / HfG Offenbach / Hessische Film- und Medienakademie, October 4, 2012

Poster design: Jan Münz und Benjamin Franzki, Photo: Patrick Raddatz


Geniale Dilletanten

Event with Rotraut Pape

Plakat kuratoren

Kuratoren: Künstler, Kritiker, Kollaborateure?

Lecture series together with Julika Rudelius

Poster Design: Eike König


18 June 2019
18 June 2019 Tuesday

Anke Kempkes: Invisible Avant-Garde. Women Artists 1964-1979

06:00 PM, Isenburger Schloss, linke Kapelle
20190529 kempkes
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8 years ago

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ästhetik

For the next three years Offenbach University of Art and Design will be the seat of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ästhetik.