Biographical Work and Contemporary History:
A Practical, Project-based Introduction to Auto-Ethnographic and Artistic Research
Potsdam University of Applied Sciences (FHP)
Department of Design & European Media Studies
What are the special features and qualities of a research approach that uses artistic means to ask questions about one's own biography and to critically examine contemporary history?
Students of the master program of European Media Studies at Potsdam University dealt intensively with that question during the winter semester of 2021/22. They developed their own artistic research projects over a period of six months and finally presented the research findings in an exhibition at the beginning of April 2022 at Potsdam University of Applied Sciences (FHP).
The aim of the seminar "Biographical Work and Contemporary History" was to get to know the basics, methods and potentials of artistic research, to discuss them together and to apply the newly gained knowledge to aspects of one's own biography using practice-based exercises.
In addition to studying basic theoretical texts on artistic research by contemporary authors such as Erin Manning and Brian Massumi, Henk Borgdorff, Efva Lilja, Giaco Schiesser and Henk Schlager, various artistic research works were presented and discussed during the course of the seminar. These included, for example, works by Spanish artist and researcher Cristina Lucas whose work was explored by the students as part of an excursion to her solo exhibition at Chemnitz Art Collection. We discussed works by the French documentary filmmaker Claude Lanzmann and texts by German writers such as Walter Benjamin, Alexander Kluge and W.G. Sebald. I also introduced the students to artworks by Belgian photographer Anton Kusters, US-American artist and photographer Monica Haller, Norwegian photographer Jonas Bendiksen, US-American documentary filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer, and finally to films by Ukrainian and Austrian filmmakers Masha Kondakova and Ruth Beckermann.
A second excursion led us to visit the show of the research project on the German neo-Nazi NSU complex entitled "Open Trial" which was shown at Maxim Gorki Theater Berlin.
At the end of the seminar, we had a close reading of original texts and German translations of selected works by British poet and spoken-word performer Kae Tempest and compared these texts to video recordings of her live performances.
The ongoing presentation of research strategies by various international artists and researchers was intended to show the variety of possibilities for artistic engagement with current topics and issues. The aim was to make the research concepts behind the different methods more comprehensible for the students. Of course, this part of the seminar was also intended to provide a wide array of inspiration for the students. They were invited to define their own research questions and to develop their own individual artistic research methodologies by means of open-ended experimentation.
When supervising the resulting artistic research work, it was important to me as an educator to work out the peculiarities and specific qualities of each of the individual authors and to promote them in a targeted manner in order to enable the students to develop their own distinctive voice.
The research results presented below show the students’ mindful and sensitive handling of rather heavy topics such as isolation, housing shortages, fear of old age, the passionate search for a long-gone glacier and the post-pandemic life in the backyards of German cities.
Each of the authors represented here rethinks their topic and thus finds surprising solutions and answers to questions that are not always easy to ask.
Therefore, each of these artistic research works can also be read as a successful attempt to tell personal stories in a non-linear way, because achieving said goal was another important part of the work in the seminar.
Kudos to you, dear students, for getting involved with the seminar topic so convincingly and for taking the risks involved. What you have worked out together in our seminar is both impressive and moving!
I would like to express my gratitude to the editors of the [anthro]metronom blog for their interest in the student´s artistic research work and the opportunity to publish the results here!
Thank you very much for your support and trust!
Kai Ziegner, Ph.D
Artist & Lecturer
Department of Design/European Media Studies (EMW)
Potsdam University of Applied Sciences (FHP)
An Animated Short Film
by Josephine Horvath
The short film »wüst und leer« deals with limits of living together and the representability of the inner world of feelings. Drawings that play with excerptness ended in 293 images that merge and overlap in frames as an attempt to visualize anger. The film is questioning the fragmentary nature of the personal point of view. It is inspired by motives of the historical artworks The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things (1505-1510) and The Seven Vices: Ira (1558).
by Georgia Haubrok
My work is an attempt to approach the topic of female friendship and its essential meaning for myself. This is converged on different textual and visual levels: An academic examination of (female) friendship is accompanied by personal stories and observations, a continuing dialogue and analogue photography.
An Audiovisual Simulation of the Feeling of Being at Home
by Lale De Boer
How do I want to live?
Where would I feel at home?
What does it mean to feel at home? These are the questions I asked myself when we decided to stop living together. When I decided to look for my own apartment.
Reflections on Glacier Archipelago – Photographic Views on a Melting Landscape
by Vanessa Clara Engelmann
This project is a continuation of my research on the geological and recent history of six ponds which are witnesses of the glacier that once covered nowadays Berlin and shaped its landscapes. Through photographic experiments and intuitive writing, I tried to investigate ways of relating to it, which is too big to imagine and seems to disappear when I try to touch it.
An Explorative Walk Through Semi-Private Spaces of the Dresden Neustadt
by Clarissa Lütz
How do people use their backyards? Is it private or public? Can I hang out in other people’s yards? Go on an experimental, explorative walk through the backyards of your neighborhood!
From the ruins of patriarchy is an installation about the violence and dynamics of patriarchal
masculinity, that boys learn to perform and suffer from as they grow up to become men.
An Artistic Research on the Fine Line Between Being Young and Growing Old
by Linos Ullmann
I was 14. First job, first money. As a courier driver of medicines. Old people‘s homes, people and me. I listened and replied. I got one-sided insights into ageing. Of old, isolated, sick bodies. And fear.
12 years have passed. I‘m 26 now and ask myself the question.
What is ageing all about?
How does it feel?
by Sophia von Wassenberg
What does home mean to you? What happens when it is suddenly out of reach?
This work is
about remembering isolation and childhood memories from a personal perspective.
A Communication Game
by Johanna Bölke
The game “Flash – Shared Memory“ enables conversations about personal memories using fragmentary picture and word cards, which can be chosen individually or together. The game can be used as a communication tool.