Qualities of immersion in a biological brew

The essay “Qualities of immersion in a biological brew: Air in Bachelard’s poetology and Vernadsky’s biogeochemistry” will be published soon

Approaching the material-discursive vortex

From the Proceedings of the 9th SAR – International Conference on Artistic Research
April 2018, University of Plymouth, UK



Against the backdrop of discussions around New Materialisms, art-based research can provide a rich expertise in linking the material and the discursive realm through a combined conceptual and practical approach. Its inventiveness in the field of methods suggests that it can be a good source for finding productive ways of confronting the „material-discursive vortex“ and immersing oneself in it. This paper presents specific methods, their open-ended development and their application from within the plastic arts. These methods were used to collectively explore and evolve multiple interwoven layers of understanding and working with „stuff“, especially focussing on material performances and activities. The mentionned layers span from intimate studio work to shared bodily experiences, collective contextualizations in contemporary discourses and further to the wider networks of materiality. The presented insights and examples are drawn from recent art-based research projects and theoretical-practical seminars.



About the conference topic

If artistic research eats itself, digests itself and then releases its own waste, does it stink and linger, fertilise new growth or invade new destinations on the bottom of someone’s shoe? If we are to constantly defend and define, are we in danger of having no art left, only the claims for its ability to embody knowledge? When we bite off our own heads do we grow new tails?
Critical perspectives on the discourse surrounding artistic research might be argued to already be too formulaic or self-defeating. Making a case for its own institutional legitimacy could unwittingly reinforce some of the very things artistic research aims to critique. Yet such onto-epistemological paradoxes can offer a rich territory for exploration along with generative practices that involve reflexivity, automorphogenesis, and recursive feedback loops. In recognising auto-cannibalism as an analogy for broader socio-political and environmental concerns, one of the challenges for artistic research is to respond imaginatively to the dynamic tensions between self-destruction and regeneration.

Towards the Paradigm of Material Activity in the Plastic Arts

Dissertation at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne (GER)



Materials are active. They do something. Materials are in constant exchange with their environment with which they act. They can transform themselves and other materials. Thus, the Plastic Arts have to face the fact that materials are not just passive or mere recipients of formal ideas conceived by humans. By acknowledging material acitivities, the arts’ repertoire can be extended significantly. This also leads to more complex ways of creation, participation and reception.

This dissertation develops the theoretical foundations for a paradigm of material activities in the Plastic Arts grounded in intense personal art practice. It investigates the effects on thinking, imagining and acting with active materials through art. The result is a conceptual toolbox for artistic production and reception. In the three main parts, the dissertation discusses contemporary conceptions of materials and stuff, explores the exchange between imagination and material environment, and develops guidelines for ways in which material components become and stay active. The conducted investigations concern themselves both with concrete material activities and with phenomena emerging from the interplay between stuff and imagination. Numerous examples help with navigating the complex layers of materiality, while new ways of working like “conversation” or the “mangle of artistic practice” support approaching materials as partners.


Simplified table of contents

1 Introduction
2 Matter/Material in becoming
3 Imagination and the material world
4 The Paradigm of material activity in the plastic arts
5 Conclusion


Zum Paradigma materieller Aktivität in den Plastischen Künsten
Schriftenreihe: Dissertationen der Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln (KHM DISS 8)

Date: 2017
337 pages
num. color figs.
Language: German

Raw Flows


Matter is in flux. Its flows can be encountered on different scales of space and time. The characteristics of these flows influence researchers in their active and direct material engagement. Raw Flows investigates how fluidity and flow carve their specific paths into experimental practices and thinking patterns.

This book is a result of the art-based research project Liquid Things. It gathers contributions from arts, history of science, fluid dynamics, design, art history and cultural studies. The inclusion of these fields offers a diversified perspective on the material property and general phenomenon of fluidity. Within this spectrum, the book explores fluidity’s entanglement with becoming and change, asking which roles it plays in relation to the epistemic, the aesthetic and the experiential.

Browse/buy via DeGruyter


Table of contents

Hans-Jörg Rheinberger – “In constant flux: Thoughts about the epistemic”
Benjamin Steininger – “Lubricants as liquid agents in machines”
Inge Hinterwaldner – “Surfing the waves: On the Role(s) of Tracer Materials in Turbulence Experiments”
Jean-Marc Chomaz – “The Flow”
Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand – “Winding the Vacuum”
Documentary section about the exhibition „Kontinuum“
Roman Kirschner – “The coupling of matter and imagination in fluid ecologies”
Esther Moñivas Mayor – “Observing from inside the drift: the studio as a flux condenser”
Karmen Franinovic – “Thinking Active Materials: Actively Thinking Materials”

DeGruyter 2017
148 pages
num. color figs.
Language: English




The conception of Material has gone through fascinating and radical transformations in art history during the last 50 years. This paper gives a short overview of some of the more relevant positions, like e.g., material as a product of industrial processes, as raw material of globalized production, as abundant commodity, as trash, or more general as an object of entropy. Furthermore, results from most recent discourses are presented for the use in contemporary art-based research. Among these are the notion of materials as counterparts to dematerialization, as mediators between actualized and imaginary dimensions in human action and experience, and materials as active entities.


About the Handbook (german only)

Die Debatte um »Künstlerische Forschung« hat einen hohen Grad an Differenzierung erreicht, sei es in ihrer allgemeinen, theorieorientierten Dimension, sei es auf der Ebene der Praxis des künstlerischen Forschens selbst. Alles deutet darauf hin, dass sich die Künstlerische Forschung an der Schwelle zu einer Institutionalisierung befindet. Ziel des Bandes ist es nicht nur, eine Bestandsaufnahme der unterschiedlichen Frage- und Themenstellungen zu erstellen, sondern auch jene Kontroversen abzubilden, aufgrund derer man den Prozess einer vorschnellen »Disziplinierung« der künstlerischen Forschung kritisch betrachten mag. Entlang einiger Leitfragen (Auf welche Art von Erkenntnis zielt künstlerischer Forschung und in welchem Verhältnis stehen diese zu anderen Formen der Erkenntnisbildung? Was ist das Spezifikum im Vorgehen künstlerischen Forschens? In welche Rahmenbedingungen historischer, institutioneller, politischer Art ist der derzeitige Diskurs zur künstlerischen Forschung eingebettet; welche Rolle spielen hier Kunsthochschulen, Forschungs- und Kunstförderung?) entwirft der Band eine Topographie des gesamten Feldes der Debatte um künstlerische Forschung.

Maelstrom (the book)


Maelstrom’s travel

Maelstrom is a dynamic object. It shows a drawing process in a liquid medium. On closer inspection it is a sculptural process using tiny particles of a granular material that accumulate temporarily to form clusters and lines. But just moments before shapes become evident, they are overwritten or fall apart and disappear. They vaporize. And although Maelstrom is very material, it travels between two realms: between what is there and what seems to be absent. It moves between these two domains to play with the unanswerable and constantly developing questions of how we perceive and shape the world in our minds and how our imagination transforms it. Maelstrom investigates if there is some resulting feed-back on the world around us and how matter and imagination might be entangled with each other.

After a considerable contribution to epistemology, the french philosopher Gaston Bachelard shifted his interest from science to the psychology of imagination. He contrasted rational thought with the imaginary. Thereby he did not discuss so much how the structures of poetic images look like but rather pointed out that these images can move and transform. They are liquid. And they are attached to matter – the four elements in his case. In Bachelard’s description of the most important travel of human beings, namely the one between the real and the imaginary, he states that when art takes us to this travel, it is not about the stay in one of the two realms. But instead thejourney, the movement, the border crossing and the mutual exchange is what we should pay attention to. The dark line in Maelstrom is the vehicle of this travel and the border at the same time. It doesn’t show us one of the two realms. It shows us the process of trying to make sense, its materiality, its movement, its buildup, decay, turbulences, and fluidity. (excerpt from p. 12)


Table of contents

Roman Kirschner – Maelstrom’s travel DE (Orig.) / FR / EN
Pieter van Bogaert – Image House Chaos DE / FR / EN / NL (Orig.)
Lucía Ayala – Fluid Mechanics in Maelstrom DE / FR / EN (Orig.)
Image Sequence
Appendix: Edgar Allen Poe – A Descent into the Maelstrom EN

Revolver Verlag 2012
67 pages
num. color figs.

Roots – Experiences in the Making

in “Exkursionen ins Undingliche”, Springer 2010
Pages 142-151

Process as paradigm

Catalogue of the exhibition “Process as paradigm – art in development, flux and change”, Laboral, Gijón, 2010
Curators: Susanne Jaschko und Lucas Evers


Between simulation and fiction

For complex processes that are at the edge of being describable, understandable and predictable for the human mind, science has developed a useful tool: simulation. Simulation is a construction of a system and its process with the purpose to mirror or construct parts of reality. In design and science fiction literature, simulation is not confined to the imitation of reality, but extends to the construction of fictional worlds, forms and products, and in correspondence to the growing mechanisation and mediation of the world, the extent of fictionalising and simulating increases. lt can reach such a degree that the difference between reality and simulation collapses. Borges, Eco and Baudrillard have unremittingly reported on this porous border between reality and fiction. But because simulation does not share reality’s complex conditions, any simulation can only be an approach to the real: a model world, a sub-world . In a similar way, also visualisations of processes are always abstractions and interpretations of reality, as they focus on particular aspects and can only depict a selected set of dato, and can never represent large-scale processes in their entirety. A number of artworks in the exhibition could be interpreted as simulations, since they (re-)construct a complex natural process in the small format of an installation. Maybe Driessens & Verstappen’s Sandbox most prominently evokes the impression of a simulation. By looking inside the box, the visitor can observe the continuous formation of three-dimensional sand images. Because this en miniature landscape resembles so much the formation of dunes, it suggests itself easily as a simulation of this natural phenomenon. Yet the artists claim the opposite.
In a similar way, the artworks Roots by Roman Kirschner and Warden Sprites Raum#3 by Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntag reference to processes in nature without necessarily intending to simulate them. What differentiales these works from exhibits in science museums? ls it the transfer of natural events into artistic processes? lt is not the representation of the world that these artworks aim at, but the creation of intensive experiences, in the form of audiovisual situations. These processual spatial installations can be interpreted as immersive worlds, as worlds within the world, thus continuously alternating between simulation and fiction.
Excerpt from the catalogue (p.83) by the curators