We unite art, theory and design to redesign freedom in a digitalized world.

We all feel that we have to change our way of life. We are living in a moment of transition where old world orders, economic systems, social contracts, ideologies, authorities, and political institutions are at the end – and new ones are yet to grow. At the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design we analyse, shape, debate, and design… what is to come.

Education and Curriculum

The first year students start with orientation courses where they exercise different ways of intuitive and analytical understanding of digital and other media and learn different and new ways of communicating through them. The students start to navigate between different dimensions, from 2D screens and surfaces, 3D objects and spaces, moving images and performances (4D) to intellectual exercises fighting the reduction of the world and our life to one dimension (towards minus1D). During the orientation year, students explore their talents and affinities of appropriating the media as extensions of their bodies. A structured programme of project based modules acquaint you with the workshops, the studios, the libraries and various tools, techniques and resources. First year students are given a shared space where they design and develop their own learning environment.

While modernisation instigated specialism and atomisation, at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design we revert this by reconnecting, reconfiguring, and recontextualising. The contemporary world is not lacking specialists, but the ability to synthesise diverse specialist perspectives and solutions. Our world also needs professional non-experts, capable of continuously switching between perspectives and dimensions, in order to visualise the field of action and ultimately reorganise the world. At the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design, this is the moment for art (4D), critical theory (-1D) and design (2D, 3D) to unite. Building further on the legacy of the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design, we call on art – as a continuous performance of switching perspectives; critical theory – as a never-ending dialogic exercise of switching perspectives; and design – as a continuous project to produce individual and social life through objects – to merge.

In the second to fifth year after the first year orientation phase, students, teachers and guests from various backgrounds work their way through common but also individual projects. Through these projects the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design works as a self-commissioning studio as well as a cooperation partner for projects with external partners, a research and resource center for urgent issues, a networked platform where we invite specialists to challenge us, a stage for performing utopian prototypes of society. The projects convene collaborators with contrasting perspectives and from complementary disciplines (i.e. from the 7 degree programmes). The content of a project can be contextualised and critically analysed by theory, questioned through artistic practices, prototyped by different design disciplines and technologies and finally staged or published as an open Gesamtkunstwerk. 

Already from the second year of study, the students explore different modes of research and investigation, enabling them to create their own way of working and to develop their practice. We expect graduating students to take a clearly articulated position and a strong critical, relational or speculative attitude that contribute to the international discourse of art, design and or critical theory. The graduating students are therefore coached in their projects by mentors with the most diverse perspectives.

At the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design, we do art by theory. We do theory by design and design by art and theory. We consider theory as a tool to make the world and use design objects as tools to create new world views. We see art, theory and design as attitudes that become form that become attitudes that become form …  

Program or be programmed!

At the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design, we choreograph and perform research through continuous exercises of performing a u-turn, of switching perspectives: reading the individual as a collective and the collective as an individual; seizing constraints as opportunities; detecting the poetic in the cracks of reality; discerning the utopian in the dystopian and the dystopian in the utopian; finding high values in the lowly valued and vice versa; considering the expert a non-expert and the non-expert an expert; seeing through the potentials of digital technologies to the dangers and through the dangers to their potentials. In the research flow of the temporary projects and studios, everyone is a student, and everyone is a teacher. All participate in an ongoing process of learning and unlearning, of mutual schooling and continuous self-education. 

We understand society as a complex phenomenon where we have to open echo chambers and escape comfort zones. We encourage ourselves to continuously exercise switching perspectives and exchanging one-dimensional standpoints for the most inclusive perspectives, embracing diversity from gender and generation to background and ability.

In the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design we explore and experiment with the performative and affective dimensions of discourse. We use objects and technology from printed matter to exhibitions and digital media as tools of reflection and research. The Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design is a design school that does not aim to produce more of the same solutions, but to question the function and implications of design for producers and consumers. The relations between individuals and objects are social relations that can be changed by redesigning the objects. We read all objects as hyper-objects, as networked and networking objects. Hyper-objects point to a bigger picture beyond themselves; they make their multiple connections to the world explicit; they reflect the social, economic, and political conditions of their production and use; they compel us to continuously switch perspectives; they become keys to enter and change reality. We expect that graduating students become active citizens and masters in being comfortable with doubt and conflict, debating, provoking and conflicting ideas. We expect them to programme before they get programmed.

Together, at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design, we look at the world not as something given, but as something made – that can be remade, and which urgently needs to be redesigned. We radically look inwards and explore ourselves – dreaming, speculating, longing, fearing, dealing with issues of isolation, depression, and melancholy, love and recognition, self-indulgence and self-control. We look radically outwards and explore the world, zooming in and zooming out, from individuals to societies, from agents to networks, from the microscopic to the cosmos. Together, we see how both perspectives, inward and outward, mutually contain each other. We find ourselves all over the world, and we find the world inside us. We understand freedom as something that is not given, but made through self-reflecting, self-organising, and reappropriating our media. In a world increasingly permeated by surveillance and control technologies, we renegotiate freedom.

We cherish a culture of self-reflection and applied scepticism and we are aware of being in a privileged position. As members of an organisation with a public mandate we are all supposed to serve each other – the students by taking risks in their work, the teachers by challenging the students, the workshop and studio mentors by fostering students’ autonomy, the administrative service by making things possible, the facility support by embracing change, the heads by connecting minds and hands, and the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design by serving society. This serving attitude of mutually taking care implies constructive critique aimed at improving the quality of what we do. 

Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design graduates will be able to consider the production of the social and the individual as a design process, in which they are needed to unfold the bigger picture. As professional non-experts, they will be able to work with specialists from different disciplines, from science and technology to design, art and theory. Our graduates will be able to synthesise and convene interdisciplinary teams that are able to embark on radical change, and engage with changing world orders.

HfG Research

As an institution committed to enhancing this interdisciplinary knowledge we will by 2023 establish HfG Research, a design and art research platform within the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design. HfG Research brings together the research conducted at the HfG, originating within the framework of teaching and feeding back into teaching as well as into projects, exhibitions, events, and public interventions. This approach also enables creating strong and substantive ties between the projects and forming a sustainable network of experts and peers around a specific theme.

In the future, the majority of projects at Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design will be developed even more towards a research-based approach to art and design. Part of this process is developing the concept and strengthening the role of HfG Research within the institution. In 2023, the ongoing development process of HfG Research will extend the research platform towards strong, international online presence that will function as a platform for knowledge transfer and exchanging ideas, resources and research between artists, designers, curators, writers and other experts and share it with the wider public, both locally and internationally, in both digital and print publications.

We see democracy not as a static object but as a dynamic project that has to be reevaluated, reworked and redesigned continuously. In times in which democracy is disrupted and in which economy is socially and environmentally extractive, we want to create alternative processes of collective decision making as well as alternative and sustainable ways of exchanging values. Within the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design and in partnership with the ZKM (Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe) and other partners, we will instigate transversal projects: multidisciplinary platforms for convening agents from all parts of society.

Through these projects we build an ecosystem including our alumni, partners, companies and other universities, and act as an incubator for addressing, facing and answering future challenges. Schooling for analysing, debating, designing and shaping what is to come.

The Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design is the place where art, theory and design meet technology. We offer experts from a wide range of disciplines and laypeople a platform on which future models of life can be negotiated and prototyped.