Curatorial Statement

The exhibition Shared Habitats focuses on the influence of technology on socio-cultural processes through fourteen works of a digital, biological, and interactive nature. The exhibition deals with the roleof organisms in their environment, the effects of humans on their habitats, and biomaterials and technologies as artistic material. Many of the works on display are based on scientific experiments that are scrutinized in a cultural context. Interactions of humans with non-human creatures and with machines and technology will be examined in equal measure. In order to develop new ways of understanding, the exhibition proposes continuous, evolving feedback processes between the respective actors.

It seeks the expansion of seeing, thinking, and acting.

Shared Habitats refers to the ideas of the biologist Jakob von Uexkull — his respect for the world of the individual and perception of a being — and develops an aesthetic of exchange. We develop visions and new spheres of shared environments. At the same time, the exhibition wants to present the Bauhaus University as a place of continuous innovation in art, technology, and science.

At the beginning of the last century, the Bauhaus developed methods of abstraction, formalization and general concepts to understand, describe and change the world. This resulted in production methods of unique efficiency and variability. The aesthetic view also changed: clarity and transparency, but also a focus shift on the people, their perception, competencies and needs are characteristics of its tradition.

Today we work with highly differentiated digital tools. And anyone familiar with these tools knows the difficulties of creating in the synthetic worlds a dense atmosphere equal to our analogue world. An unprecedented loneliness had settled into digitally generated artifacts that tell us that until today we have not grasped the entirety of the surrounding atmosphere or even its essence, so we could adequately grasp it. “We are not alone” consoles and warns us: it promises an answer from the ecosphere – animals, plants, cosmos, which speak to us in an old-fashioned way – just as it reminds us that we still do not understand enough of this ecosphere. Just as we overlook many other humans who do not live in our culture, our sphere of life or our social class. And it reminds us that the world does not end with the Earth or even our own limited field of vision. At the same time, the title points out that our technologies are not passive tools that we use with our hands. Rather, they have mutated into co-creative teammates who make predictions, take decisions and not only generate their own suggestions for action, but also implement them. We are not alone!

As artists and descendants of the Bauhaus, we recognize that our role is changing. We no longer live the heroic genius of the master who forms the world in a state of intuition. Embedding and feedback reveal that responsible action requires diverse cognitive variations that involve the counterpart in a performative way. We are looking for practices that place us in a manageable field of action and uncover a variety of our perceptive abilities. We open the black box to a knowledge-based view of our environment and attempt to take direct action within hearing and sight range. Techniques that we use experience their horizon at the perceptual threshold of the senses. System configurations make it possible to shift this threshold by opening up a space of resonance made of objects, tools and networks within this sensual range.

In order to leave the human-centered habitat, we synchronise our actions with our perception, separating seeing, hearing and feeling from its purposefulness, to become attentive to the world’s expressions as such. This is the starting point for a revision of scope of action, control strategies and future visions.

Here we meet Lazlo Moholy-Nagy again today, who lamented 100 years ago that man has lost his manifold sensual and craft skills through modern relations of production. “In constant struggle with his instincts, he is raped by external knowledge,” says Lazlo Moholy-Nagy in his book “From Material to Architecture.” Recognizing his statement as an impulse, we would like to recapitulate what forms of cultural design we would like to deepen today.

Ursula Damm

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