Freitag, 14. Juni 2024

PhD life: Way to find closure

The PhD journey is coming to an end and new paths will be explored. What gave me closure is having a plan about what to do next and knowing exactly when this new idea would begin. 

Closure comes with a sense of security and confidence. All hurdles I jumped over were part of my "Routes" in the sense of active uprooting, rerooting, rooting (Clifford, 1997). James Clifford writes "roots always precede routes" (ibid, p. 3) which is certainly true in my case. I could not have done this project without reflecting on where I started off. 

I wrote articles, like ‚Immerse Yourselves!‘ a book review and did several workshops as outputs. I here now also publish my podcast which is an interview with sociologist, art historian and art activist Pelin Tan with sound editing by Georgios Varoutsos:

We talk about how important socially engaged art is for surviving in the metropole, like contemporary Istanbul, we talk about her pathway to "action research" and we talk about getting engaged in changing urban spaces.

Podcast: Against the Tide Episode #1 with Pelin Tan



Article by Pelin on ‘uncommoning’ knowledge>: 


Book recommendation ‘Refugee Heritage’ (2021) by Daar Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti: 


Visible‘, research initiative on socially-engaged art founded by the Cittadellarte – Pistoletto Foundation: 

Publication to download: Judith Wielander, M. L. (2020). ‘Collectively Annotated Bibliography ‘On Artistic Practices in the Expanded Field of Public Art’. Merano, Italy, Art Agency Sweden. URL: 


Publication: Florian Malzacher, Ahmet Öğüt and Pelin Tan (2016). The Silent University: Towards a Transversal Pedagogy. London, Sternberg Press. 


Autonomous student initiative ‘Interflugs’ in Berlin: 


Campus in Camps: 


Arazi Assembly: 


YouTube channel of Kırkayak Kültür: 


Samstag, 3. Februar 2024

My life is an alternating loop

I will not change anything in the text of my dissertation anymore. I have sent the form for the exact word-count and as soon as my supervisors sign, I will send it off.I thought of myself as being in transit first, but I feel more like being in a loop. I re-experience earlier transitions of ending one job and starting a new one or moving from one place to another. 
It seems as if I always need to change place to get closure. 
I always feel a bit burnt out and alone because I could not yet share the happiness with people around me who seem to be excited about my ­– what they consider – accomplishments. 
I feel ­– not afraid, that’s too strong – but restless und uncertain, because my goal is to travel and be able to keep my lifestyle. I think of myself as not being the kind of person who can easily let go of my comfortable living situation (despite all its downsides), my academic work; the idea to find a stable job, a new home in a new city. I wonder where I will get the energy from, but again I remind myself that I am in a loop.
I have done this before, I left people, places, countries, jobs behind and even though I am not in my twenties anymore, I know I can do it. It won’t be harder, but slower and even more relaxed, because what I gained is a sense of calmness and kindness towards myself.
I won’t settle anymore for a flat with no furniture and electricity to live in London.
I won’t choose to live with people who rent out cells in Berlin only for the money.
I will not pick a job with sexist colleagues.
I will not move to a city where I do not have at least one friend or family member.
I won’t share my dreams and ideas about an ideal workplace or place to live. I like to keep things to myself.
If I manage to remain in my loop with slight adaptions, things can’t go wrong. I like to look into the future. I rarely look back. I appreciated my PhD much as long as I did it but, although I still have my oral examination ahead, it already seems to be a thing of the past. I know that I am not the only one thinking that way. It’s this phenomenon of doctoral students who finish their thesis, disillusioned, and seem to somehow delete this chapter temporarily from their memory.
This thesis was more about the process than the final outcome. My life is an alternating loop.


Donnerstag, 28. September 2023

What is the ‘Gestalt’ in art?

Wassily Kandinksy, Komposition VI, 1913, oil on canvas, 195 x 300 cm @wikicommons

‘One is frightened by the poverty, the drought, the remoteness from life, by the utter insignificance of everything that is said about it’[1] [own transl.], is how Max Wertheimer, a co-founder of the Berlin School of Gestalt theory, described the basic problem of the scientific approach to a ‘living event’ in a 1924 lecture[2]. He advocated a psychological approach focusing on the ‘inside of the problem’ instead of abstracting. In this way he advocated for abolishing the radical separation of science and life. 

The ‘Gestalt theory’, of which he was a representative, can be traced back to an essay by the philosopher Christian von Ehrenfels: ‘Über Gestaltqualitäten’ (1890)[3] [on the qualities of Gestalten, own transl.]. Von Ehrenfels defined Gestalt as a "wholeness" to which certain Gestalt qualities were attributed, which "are neither to be found in constituent parts nor can be reduced to these parts"[4].  Aristotle’s well known words: "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts"[5] [own transl.] describes the synergetic combination of individual parts in the sense of Gestalt theory and was subsequently used by Gestalt theorists such as Wolfgang Köhler[6].  In the scholarly works of one of Köhler’s students, Rudolf Arnheim, Gestalt theory is applied to the image or artwork and the Aristotelian definition is extended by a dynamic notion. Arnheim defines the ‘Gestalt’ as "a field made of equal forces that are organised in a self-sufficient whole."[7]  [own transl.]
These forces originate in the object itself, which in the case of a work of an artwork refers to its material qualities. According to Arnheim, these are, for example, the grain of the wood or the thickness of the oil paint. However, since the artist prefers "amorphous material", which can only be perceived visually, the artwork is classified by Arnheim as a "weak Gestalt"[8].  That is, "[...] that art exists only as psychological experience [...]"[9] [own transl.]. External forces, which are synaesthetic effects, penetrate the organism (the "Gestalt") and disturb the balance, according to Arnheim.[10]

Looking at 'Composition VI' (1913) by Kandinsky above exemplifies how a painting can disturb the 'balance' and create a visual language, potentially resonating with our perception.

[1] „Man erschrickt vor der Armut, der Dürre, der Lebensferne, vor dem völlig Unwesentlichen alles dessen, was dazu gesagt wird.“ Max Wertheimer: Über Gestaltpsychologie.  


[2] Ibid.

[3] ‚Über Gestaltqualitäten‘

[4] „weder in Bestandteilen anzutreffen sind noch auf diese Teile reduziert werden können.“ Günter Brucher u. Wassily Kandinsky: Kandinsky, S. 129–130.

[5] „das Ganze ist mehr als die Summe seiner Teile“ Aristoteles: Metaphysik 1041 b 10 (VII. Buch (Z))

[6] Ibid., S. 130.

[7] „ein Feld, dessen Kräfte in einem in sich geschlossenen und gleichwertigen Ganzen organisiert sind.“ Günter Brucher u. Wassily Kandinsky: Kandinsky. Wege zur Abstraktion. 1999, S.10.

[8] Rudolf Arnheim: Gestaltpsychologie und künstlerische Form. In: Theorien der Kunst. Hrsg. von Dieter 

    Henrich u. Wolfgang Iser. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1992. S. 132–148.

[9] „[…] daß die Kunst nur als psychologische Erfahrung existiert […]“ Ibid.

[10] Günter Brucher u. Wassily Kandinsky: Kandinsky, S. 10.

Mittwoch, 30. Dezember 2020

How arts challenge the relation of labour and leisure

Verena Niepel, oil on canvas, Istanbul, 2019

"I feel so bored during the holidays, I want to check my e-mails, but I am not allowed to." (Anonymous friend)

- Since we have all been forced to slow down these days, the meaning of 'holidays' and 'leisure time' seems to have shifted.

To begin with shedding light on the critical relation between leisure time and labour time, let’s take a look back to pre-industrial era, when family life and work, i.e. by keeping a farm, was inseparable.  Then, industrial regimes introduced a system of measurement in order to structure labour and leisure time and increase financial outcome which further developed into new forms of exploitation. [1] As a result, workers began to fight for more self-determined leisure time - Karl Marx as the voice of the working class regarded leisure as a space for the “full development of the individual”. [2]

Facing the development of an entertainment industry in the United States during the early twentieth century another anti-capitalist, Theodor Adorno, took a more critical perspective on the creation and commercialization of leisure time since it had been absorbed by the ‘culture industry’. [3] 

Advertisements for cigarette brands that link leisure time with buying products which would harm your health exemplify the paradoxical relation of business and private space. One delicate example is the "Fatima" poster from 1914, which promises 'exotic' pleasure while smoking the "Turkish-blend". [4]

The tobacco industry used visual design to convince people of a certain brand and like this, creative work became part of the process in which the economy increasingly focused on individuals as consumers. Companies strategically mapped out the potential of private life as areas of consumption while mis-recognizing its value as a space of independence, freedom and equality.

However, creative work can be a way to criticize the reconfiguration of private life into capitalistic units that can be analyzed and determined by others. Artists find ways to access and reflect experiences through their work which is not produced to satisfy certain needs but to open new perspectives – at least in an ideal world. Certainly, art and capital cannot be thought separately since artists depend on institutions, agents and other collective structures. [5] Still art works can shed light on the relation between work and private life.

Pop art is an example of a critical approach towards working processes and how they change our everyday lives. The art tendency has often been misunderstood as an ingratiation of mass production but the exhibition of art works that were known from daily life, like the popular cans by Andy Warhol were meant to show how an institutional context changes the meaning of things. [6] In the case of Warhol’s cans, products of mass production are no longer connected to work but reconfigured as an object of aesthetical perception. Like that they are can be enjoyed in leisure time, strolling through a gallery while not thinking about the working conditions related to the production of a cheap canned tomato soup.

Let’s take another contemporary example which relates to work and leisure more explicitly and focusses on effects of work on the psychological state of people. The short movie “Palace” by Luke Seomore & Joseph Bull is shot in London and follows a young paramedic after his shift before returning home. The pictures and the sound show how his state of mind is affected significantly by his work - hours after he finished. [7]

Not only since Covid-19, the fine line separating work time and leisure time became blurry and a clear demarcation seems to be missing. Only by reminding ourselves of our values we can keep track of what is important and why we do what we do. Art can help against forgetting how our lives are determined by systems, processes and decisions by others.

[1] Eva Swidler (2016, June 13). Radical Leisure. Retrieved December 30, 2020, from

[2] Karl Marx on Free Time – Time for the Full Development of the Individual. (2017, October 04). Retrieved December 30, 2020, from

[3] Admin. (2015, August 06). Theodor Adorno -. Retrieved December 30, 2020, from

[4] Werbung: Lungenkrebs?! Ach was! - Bilder & Fotos - WELT. (2014, January 10). Retrieved December 30, 2020, from

[5] Jen Webb, Tony Schirato, Geoff Danaher (2002). Art and Artists. In: Webb, J. Schirato, T. & Danaher, G. (eds.) Understanding Bourdieu. New York (NY): Allen and Unwin.

[6] Von Breven, J., 2020. Besser, man kauft ein T-Shirt. ZEIT, p.49. 

[7] Bull, L.S.& J., 2020. PALACE. Vimeo. Available at: [Accessed December 30, 2020].