The Akademie Schloss Solitude

Since 1990, the public foundation Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, has offered an international residency program for the funding and support of young artists. Today the academy is the center of an international network of young artists in the areas of architecture, visual and performing arts, design, literature, music/ sound, and video/ film/ new media. Hundreds of fellows from more than 100 countries have availed themselves of the academy’s resources to develop and realize their work and projects. In addition, young business people, scientists, and scholars can take part in this network through the art, science & business program. The academy founded this program in 2002 because it is convinced that the linking of the three big social sub-systems of art, science, and business is one of the most important avant-garde themes of the present.

From 2007 to 2009, following the proposal of Philip Ursprung, Professor for the History of Art and Architecture at ETH Zurich, exhibition organizer and curator, and the academy’s jury chairman, the academy devoted part of its program to the research topic “Dealing with Fear.” In this multi-disciplinary project, jury members, artists, scientists, scholars, and representatives of the business world explored the causes and consequences of states of fear and analyzed both individually felt fear and the diffuse social anxiety toward the future. As a continuation of this successful project thus far, the academy, together with Philip Ursprung, announced the following central topic “Design of the In/Human” for the years 2009 and 2010.

About “Design of the In/Human”

With the project “Design of the In/Human,” Akademie Schloss Solitude devoted itself to concepts of the human and the inhuman in the discourses of natural sciences, life sciences, philosophy and cultural studies, in economic theories, and particularly, in the arts. The focus of interest was as much the tensions between, as the interfaces with biological and technological reality, globalized economy, and philosophical reflections that raised once again the question of humanism from a contemporary point of view.

The question of the opposition of the human and the inhuman, but also the question of their entanglement have been concomitant with the history of mankind for time immemorial. Since man’s discovery of the tool, and increasingly, since the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century, man’s biological reality has been closely bound up with technological reality. A visible sign of this in an extreme form are the bio-political utopias of Russian artists, scientists, and philosophers who envisaged the radical redesigning of man. We may think, for example, of Nikolai Fedorov’s “Project of Concerted Action,” which aimed at using modern technology to artificially resurrect the dead, or Alexander Bogdanov’s Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion, which was to supply all mankind with fresh cell material and thus transform it into a collective body.[1] The alteration of the human and its intertwining with the artificial are not a novelty—Michel Serres has called this congruent evolution “exo-Darwinism.”[2] Despite questioning the humanist idea following the Second World War, faith in the future of the mankind and in technological progress continued unbroken. At that time, art machines (such as the “méta-matics” produced by Jean Tinguely) were regarded and celebrated as new achievements.

By the beginning of the twenty-first century, however, man increasingly felt a diffuse anxiety toward new technologies and their inhuman character. What is the origin of these feelings that technologies ontologically threaten man, even though the relation between the animate and technology antedates the existence of Homo sapiens? One hypothesis is that technology itself is not a threat to mankind, but rather, that it has brought about a new view of man that has questioned our traditional understanding of humanity. Man’s anxiety is rooted not in the ubiquity of technology, but in a new reading of reality forced upon him by technology. Ultimately, technological reality uncovers a universe whose meaning is no longer in harmony with man’s immediate biological perception. In the end, there remains the unease that humanity feels toward its dual membership in biological and technological reality. This question is at the center of the work of many younger artists, as may be seen, for example, in the automatic works of Olafur Eliasson or Damien Hirst. Following Martin Heidegger and Michel Foucault, intellectuals such as Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri have also engaged themselves with this development: “Through the process of modern technological transformation, all of nature has become capital, or at least has become subject to capital.”[3] For Hardt and Negri, “the production of subjectivity has always been part of a process of hybridization, of extravagation. Currently, this hybrid subjectivity is increasingly originated at the interface of humans and machines.”[4]

Recent findings in biology have also placed the traditional definition of the human in question. How can man be defined as an autonomous being when she/ he is the home of millions of microscopic organisms? When it can be shown that intelligence and consciousness are not marks of the individual but rather of the collective? What becomes of the human when stem cell research enables crossings of man with animal cells and therefore the generation of chimera? All of this blurs not only the traditional and supposedly secure boundary between man and animal, but also that between man as an individual and as a collective. Friedrich Nietzsche’s theory of the will to power, or his critique of the human subject as the constitutive fiction of a species that cannot conceive of itself as a loose composition of numerous drives and instincts, thus receives a scientific and biologic foundation.

From a political point of view, the events of the twentieth century, particularly the calculated organization of mass murder, has made the humanist idea of the subject untenable. These events have torn open an abyss of the inhuman that still defies theoretical explanation and cultural reflection. The Holocaust resolved upon at the Wannsee Conference in 1942 and the systematic murder of millions of people in Stalin’s gulags in the 1930s have radically and irreversibly altered man’s understanding of himself. This inhumanity goes beyond the “industrial” dimension of the destruction of World War I, the “fragmentation” of the subject and of language, and the “crises” of the second half of the twentieth century.

The “design of the inhuman,” in the sense of the control and manipulation of life, environment, time, and space, describes the mechanics of this planning. Is it the reverse side of the “design of the human” rooted in the Enlightenment? Or has it supplanted the latter once and for all? How does this unfathomable menace change the situation of art, economics, science, humanities, and politics? What images and concepts of the human arise out of this?

In his collection of essays The Inhuman, published at the end of the 1980s, Jean-François Lyotard uncovers the dual meaning of the question of inhumanity. For him, social and technological development has condemned man to inhumanity: “and what if man, in the humanist sense, are of necessity inhuman? And what if, on the other hand, human ‘authenticity’ consists in man’s being inhabited by the inhuman?”[5] Lyotard’s thesis is that the inhuman haunts the human: it is the “state of a mind plagued by a familiar and unknown guest who agitates his host, drives him to delirium, but also makes him think”[6]—and also opens to him the world of art. 75 years ago, Guillaume Apollinaire already noted, “Artists are above all people who desire to become inhuman. With all their might, they seek the trail of the inhuman.”[7] Are not the inhumanity of civilization and the inhumanity of artistic thought two aspects of one view of the human and the inhuman that is rooted in the definition of man prevalent since the Renaissance? In 1966, Foucault concluded the final chapter of his book The Order of Things by pointing to the limits of the concept of the human: “Man is an invention, whose recent date is clearly shown by the archaeology of our thought. Perhaps too its speedy end.”[8] Could all these questions about the human and the inhuman, posed independently by individual disciplines, point to each other and be regarded and treated as diverse facets of one and the same question?

Perhaps we have just arrived at the point when the human will disappear “like a face drawn in the sand at the edge of the sea.”[9] More than 40 years after Foucault’s diagnosis, the project “Design of the In/Human” considered the question of the “speedy end” of the “human” epoch from the multiple perspectives made possible by an interdisciplinary and international cast of participants from the arts, humanities, sciences, and economics. By treating a theme of international scope in a multi-disciplinary manner and presenting the scholarly and artistic results to both a specialist and general public in events, and with this comprehensive online publication, the project aims at making the public more aware of the subject, stimulating a necessary social discourse on the question of the human and the inhuman.


As introductory treatment of the theme “Design of the In/Human,” a three-day international symposium was held from November 19 to 21, 2009 at Akademie Schloss Solitude. The opening event took up a theme of artistic discourse, threw light on its historical dimension, and investigated it for the first time by a comparative analysis employing approaches from philosophy and various arts and sciences. In addition to guest speakers, participants included the academy’s jury members and young scientists, scholars, and artists from Germany, Europe, and abroad. The symposium was organized in conjunction with the cooperation partner Collège international de philosophie, Paris.


In the context of its focal theme, the academy organized two internal workshops: a one-day workshop with Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, the academy’s juror for humanities for the years 2009 to 2011, on texts by Jean-François Lyotard and his own essays in January 2010 and a three-day retreat together with the Zukunftskolleg, University of Konstanz, in July 2010. Furthermore, a lecture series accompanied the exhibition: on each of the five evenings, an artist of the exhibition Territories of the In/Human was in conversation with a guest speaker, amongst the pairings Matilde Cassani and Michael Guggenheim, Lukas Einsele and Ritta Baddoura, Björn Franke and Frieder Nake. In presentations and discussions, they picked up and engrossed different aspects of the topic.


As the core of the project, the exhibition Territories of the In/Human was shown from April 30 to August 1, 2010 at Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart. The thematic group exhibition was curated in the framework of the academy’s twentieth jubilee and its central topic “Design of the In/Human.” The 20-year history of the academy coincided with a series of far-reaching political, social, economic, and cultural upheavals. Thus envisaged was a direct and alternating discussion between different contemporary tendencies in art on the subject of the human/ inhuman with works that were created between the 1990s and today. In accordance with the adopted approach, the exhibition featured diverse artistic practices from both current fellows of the academy at that time and the worldwide network of former fellows.

Film Program

Planned along with the exhibition Territories of the In/Human was a film program on four evenings in July 2010 at Württembergischer Kunstverein. Each evening was dedicated to a specific theme: “Specters of Postcommunisms” showed films by Elena Kovylina, bankleer, Helene Sommer, and Damir Ocko; “Empathy” was dedicated to the homonymous 92-minute film by Amie Siegel; “Magical Constructions/ Constructions of the Magical” comprised of works by Patricia Esquivias, Monika Oechsler, and Olivier Menanteau; and “Narratives of Migration” included films by Christine Meisner, José Carlos Teixeira, and Ingrid Wildi Merino, the academy’s juror for video/ film/ new media for the years 2007 to 2009.

Performance Series

The performance series at Württembergischer Kunstverein from September 28 to October 21, 2010 completed the examination of “Design of the In/Human.” It comprised of diverse arts by the academy’s fellows working across disciplines: a three-week performance by Ivan Civic; a staged exhibition by Herbordt/ Mohren; a multi-media performance by post theater; a performative reading by Norbert Schliewe with Liliana Corobca and Wannan Tang; performances by Michl Schmidt, Ines Birkhan together with Bertram Dhellemmes; theater plays by Bernhard Dechant and Hamed Taheri; and installation-performances by Ole Aselmann and Maren Antonia Geers. The series was dedicated to Christoph Schlingensief, the academy’s juror for performing arts for the years 2009 to 2011, who passed away in August 2010.

[1] See Boris Groys, Michael Hagemeister (eds.): Die Neue Menschheit. Biopolitische Utopien in Russland zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts [The New Humankind. Biopolitical Utopias in Russia at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century]. Frankfurt am Main 2005.

[2] Michel Serres: Hominescence. Paris 2001.

[3] Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri: Empire. Cambridge, London 2000, p. 272.

[4] Antonio Negri, Michael Hardt: Die Arbeit des Dionysos. Materialistische Staatskritik in der Postmoderne [Labor of Dionysus: A Critique of the State-Form]. Berlin 1997, p. 19. All translations from the German and the French by Jonathan Uhlaner.

[5] Jean-François Lyotard: Das Inhumane [L’inhumain, 1988; The Inhuman]. Vienna 2006, p. 12.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Avant tout, les artistes sont des hommes qui veulent devenir inhumains. Ils cherchent péniblement les traces de l'inhumanité [...].” Guillaume Apollinaire: “Méditations esthétiques. Les Peintres cubists” [1913], idem: OEuvres en prose complètes. Paris 1991, pp. 3–52, p. 8.

[8] Michel Foucault: Die Ordnung der Dinge [Les mots et les choses, 1966; The Order of Things]. Frankfurt am Main 2003.

[8] Ibid.

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